Friday, September 15, 2006

Triumphant return?

Well, when last I wrote I was preparing to ride in the 24 hour race at Seven Oaks. Preparing might be saying too much. I didn't really do anything to get ready. That might explain my less than stellar performance.

The race started out well enough. I jogged to my bike in nearly last place (right where I wanted to be) and started up the first hill. Now Seven Oaks is a course more to my liking than 9 Mile. I climbed pretty well and, though I couldn't descend the hills like some others I was doing okay and actually passing some people and keeping ahead of them. I felt pretty good that I could ride so much of the course. I rarely had to dismount or even put a foot down. I think that if I put all of the best parts of each lap together I'd only have to dismount once (and I'm so close on that one too). This early confidence may have played a part in my demise.

After four laps I was feeling pretty good and I decided that since I had plenty of water left I'd go out for one more before stopping. This was contrary to my four lap rest strategy, but I don't think that it was a big deal. I did start to notice a bit of a hot spot on my saddle, but I didn't think much of it. The fifth lap went fine and after a quick refill of my Camelbak I went out for another.

On this lap it started to rain. Not much more than a sprinkle, but if you know Seven Oaks then you know how it can be when it's wet. Most of the trail is clay. Hard and fast when dry, but slicker than snot when wet. Think of wet clay in elementary school art class. Think of the way it would get underneath your fingernails and never come out. Think of what that would do if it filled in the tread on your mountain bike tires.

So yeah, I started crashing. On the first tough downhill switchback I took it a little tight and fast and ended up running down the slickening trail with my bike wrapped around my leg. I thought I was going to break my leg, but I just ended up with a bruised knee. I remounted, confidence shaken and continued to ride. I crashed several more times, none too severe, but it caused me to walk a lot. Many places it was as tough or tougher to walk as to ride. I got to a nice flat section of trail and thought to myself, "finally, I can relax for a minute." No sooner had I thought it though than I went down hard (for no apparent reason) and left a divot by the side of the trail with my shoulder. I didn't really hurt myself here either, but I was shaken to have fallen on such an easy part of the course. I rode/walked out the rest of the course and decided to take a break.

The rain quit pretty quickly, but once again, knowing the course I knew it would take hours if not days for it to go back to good riding conditions. I sat down for a while, then lay down, then slept. After dark I awoke and thought I'd try another lap. On my way out I ran into Squirrel and chatted with him about the race. I had only been out of the race for about an hour, but he was up to lap 10 on his single-speed. I had thought that I was doing pretty well, but finding out that someone on a single was four laps ahead of me was another blow.

After that I pretty much called it quits. I hung out for a while, called Eric for a ride and was back home by about one in the morning. I found out after I changed that I had what is perhaps the hugest saddle sore that I've ever had. I guess I'm glad I stopped. Time to look into a new saddle. 6 laps, 7 hours, 42 miles isn't too bad is it?

Thinking back I realize that I was doing pretty well up until the rain hit. I've ridden two other 24 hour races at Seven Oaks and at each one it rained more (much more) than it did this year. What was different? Well, I couldn't ride the course when it was dry the first year. Rain didn't do anything but bring the competition down to my level, walking. This year, since I could ride most everything dry, rain really slowed me down. Also, the rain freaked me out, I let it scare me. I kept picturing myself crashing and that was a huge mental toll. I thought I was going to hurt myself. I stopped having fun.

I'm not sure if I'm going to do any more 24 hour races. I don't think they're my style. Point to point races are much better for me. First, there's no going around in circles which makes the race seem interminable to me. I look at a landmark, say a tree, and then, ages later, when I think I've made some progress, there it is again. I haven't gotten anywhere and I still have to ride all day. In a point to point race there is new scenery at every corner. It's the same sort of thing for me as having a bike computer telling me how fast I'm going. I keep looking at it and saying, "I'm only going 7 mph, that's crazy, I'll never make it at that rate." If I don't look, if I don't know then I can just ride and have fun. Second, there's just no quitting in a p-to-p. If you're out in the middle of nowhere 20 miles from a town, you still have to go 20 miles to that town. In a 24 It's too easy to quit when the going gets hard. All you have to do is finish out the lap and stop. Not being able to quit makes me work through tough periods in the race and keep rolling. I end up enjoying it more. Finally, I don't pass or get passed constantly on a p-to-p. In a 24 you're always either coming up on someone (rare for me) or having to get over for someone else. It breaks my momentum and makes me feel like I'm going nowhere.

Which brings me to my next topic:

The Endurosnob Epic
Finally, a point to point race. 300 miles of gravel and dirt roads. There are some great photos on the Snob's blog. This sort of terrain really makes me want to get out and ride. Just, what, seven weeks to go? I'd better get rolling. And you'd better sign up. The deadline is October 15th and we need some more people to make this race go. Nick? Cory? Paul? get on it.

In order to prepare for the Epic, I am planning my own training/fun ride on Saturday, October 8th. I am tentatively calling it the Tour of Boone and Story Counties or TOBASCO (despite the fact that it touches Marshall and pokes into Hamilton Counties and there is no hot sauce involved). Here is the tentative route.

Everyone is invited, but bring both your cruising and climbing gears. The ride will start at perhaps 4am at Ledges State park and finish when it finishes. I figure we'll start in the dark so we don't finsh too much after dark. Perhaps there'll be grilling opportunities afterwards.

I will be checking out portions of the route this Saturday and Sunday to make sure they are actually there. Most of this route I have ridden before, but some parts are new territory. Check out the elevation maps! I've saved the best for last.

The Arrowhead is on!
I'm all signed up for the Arrowhead Ultra again this year. Hopefully I'll make it in. There's a 50 rider limit and those 50 will be determined based on a ride/training resume. I think this is the first time I've had to turn in a resume. And for a race no less. I hope to get some extremely slow riding in this December and January to prepare for the inevitable pace of the race.

Since I last wrote I've read one book twice, Wendell Berry's novel, Jayber Crow. This is a break from my usual routine. I usually read a book and then quickly move on to the next, but this one caught my attention so much that I had to read it again. This is certainly the best book I've read in the past couple of years and perhaps the best book I've ever read. I won't say too much about it since I can't do it justice, just read it yourself.


the recyclist said...

Saturday Oct 7 or Sunday Oct 8? Iowa Games MTB Race is the 7th and I'll be out of town on the 8th. I'd skip the MTB race for the TOBASCO ride though.

Paul said...

I would like to do it if it is that Saturday.

Matt Maxwell said...

I meant the 7th.

the recyclist said...

I'm in. Druther do that than ride around the Pits for 30 minutes and not place.

Paul said...

So, you guys are camping right? I will have to convince my wife, but I am sure she would rather have me camp than have her give me a ride at 3:30!

I hope we can get some people to come!

Paul said...


You should put this ride on the the bike iowa website.

Jeff Kerkove said...

Looks cool! I am very interested! But it conflicts with this.....
Looky looky!