Singlespeed, Cat 2
Rigid Surly Karate Monkey that is so old it's actually starting to rust. 34/18 gearing.
The Massasoit Lung Challenge used to be called the Lung Opener, which made me picture ribs spread wide open on a surgical table. Glad they changed the name.
Before I describe the race, I want to thank Kristy for supporting my racing and training. I'm so blessed to have someone like her on my team. Thanks honey!
So, where was I? Oh yes. So, the hour car ride up to Taunton from the Cape gave a preview of the conditions - pouring rain. In mt biking, that translates to mud, mud and more mud. As I warmed up for the race, the pros and Cat 1s were finishing and I saw my riding buddy Jim, who had just finished. He was covered head-to-toe in mud and was absolutely beat. I'd soon be just as mud-covered, and just as beat. Witness the post-race face carnage:
I met a really nice guy named Nathan at the start line. We chatted a bit, then the whistle blew and we were off. We'll meet Nathan again in a bit.
The Course: Each lap was 7.1 miles, and we Cat 2's did two. The start was on pavement for about a 1/4 mile and then went straight into very rooty, twisty, very muddy singletrack. There were a couple short-but-challenging roller hills at the beginning, though I think they would have been much easier if the ground was dry. Also a couple of bridges which held up really well (wet bridges usually turn into grease, but these were good). The middle miles flattened out and had a few long stretches of doubletrack. Towards the end, there were 2 or 3 sandy climbs (loved those), then 2 very steep and rooty hills (hated those) that I don't think anyone was making because of the mud and wet roots. After the last hill, it was a steep, curvy, muddy, rooty downhill that led out to the pavement and back to the start/finish.
My strategy was going to be to start really fast and try to get out in front early and try to hold a lead. No way. People kill themselves at the start. I entered the woods in about 8th place out of 15. And the mud and roots really made it difficult to pass people, especially with my rigid fork bouncing me off every root. But, like last week's race, I regulated my heartbeat a bit after the fast start, and then began trying to pick people off. About halfway through the first lap, I had caught up to a group of 3 riders who I figured were the top 3. These guys were going at a good clip, but I felt pretty good and suddenly got a little boost of confidence. I figured I'd pass these guys, take the lead, and ride a brisk-but-not-killer pace to the win. Man, I'm so stupid sometimes.
Just in front of me was that Nathan dude I met at the start line. I got on his wheel and said hi and asked if he and the two others were the top three. He said no, there was one ahead of them. Huh? Yikes - that one was nowhere in sight. I thanked Nathan, picked my way through the three, and started hunting.
I was pushing very hard, but seeing noone. When I got to that steep and rooty final hill of the lap, I saw my buddy Dave and he said I was about 20 seconds behind the leader. I said for real? or are you lying to make me feel good? He said for real.
I came out of the woods and onto the pavement and past a smattering of spectators who enthusiastically braved the elements. I definitely get energy from those kind folks, even if they're secretly rooting against me and anyone else who's not their family member.
So 20 seconds behind. I could make that up, I told myself, just keep the motor running and take some chances where you can. I got back into the singletrack and started pushing hard. I soon approached a rider who seemed to be having a mechanical issue with his rear wheel. Wait, I think that's a singlespeed! Hey, I think that's him! I passed him, but I knew he'd quickly be tailing me, so I put it in top gear and blasted as hard as I could for as long as I could. And that would have been fine, except I started cramping up. Right thigh, right calf, left thigh, left calf. I think even my spleen was cramping. So I had to dial it back a bit and ride that thin line between showstopper-cramping and max-effort-without-cramping. It was precarious, but I somehow managed it. I caught up to some geared riders in the middle of the lap and traded spots with them for a while, all the while looking back, and thinking ahead to that last climb - that would be the ultimate cramp test.
With so much muck and wet conditions, my brakes became near useless, and I know lots of other people had the same issue. So a couple downhills were spent hurtling over wet roots and sliding around mudded corners. And several times a splotch of mud would hit one of my eyes at the perfectly wrong time. I actually resigned myself to crashing, but it luckily never happened.
I finally, mercifully, got to the last very steep hill, got off my bike, and walked up it, using the roots like steps. Debilitating cramps threatened to erupt with each step, but I shifted and stretched and kept them at bay. Over the top, one last brakeless/near freefall descent, and I was back out on the pavement. With the win. Yay. 2nd place was that guy I passed at the beginning of lap 2 - he was a minute and a half down, which was probably at least what it took him to figure out his mechanical issue. Tough going.
What I learned:
> I have a hardtail on order (glossary entry: a hardtail has a suspension fork for the front wheel). Can't wait, I think I need it. Stupid roots. My full suspension (front and back wheel) Turner Sultan would have easily flowed over those roots.
> I need to work on my starts. I'm pretty happy with everything else, though some longer rides would help too.
> The cramping - much research to be done. I'd prefer a natural, rather than chemical, solution. I have 3 weeks break before the next race - lots of early mornings to play with.
> My wife rocks. But I already knew that.
Thanks for reading.