In what is becoming an ill fated and trendy theme among race promotion...we started in a quaint little town. I guess the goal of this is to hold up traffic, block residential streets, and THEN take a barely spectator friendly sport six miles away from the people whose lives we just interrupted. Davidson had given the race promoter a choice of 6am or 10am. He chose 10am. Great. Its nearly 100 degrees, a marathon event, and...hmmm..sure 10am sounds great. Toss in the single speed factor, and you have a fun 20 minutes of slowly losing site of your start group, just in time to get passed by the later start groups. Well, that's how it happened for me. Somehow Dejay, Timmy D, Shane, Rich, David and the "San Diego" guy were all able to stay tucked down in the midst of the geared pack for a greater period and got a nice little rid to the race course.
I was able to pass Rich on the later half of the road section, his weight loss program was having ill effects on the downward trending pavement towards Fisher Farm Park. The third start group served as great clogging material once we hit the singletrack, and rather than fight through it, I sat back and recovered a little from the high RPM spinning on the way in. Rich caught us as well, and now with a little more support, we "on your lefted" our way through some folks all through the singletrack and hit the open field furnace section of the course. I was able to leave Rich on one of the more gradual climbs, and kept looking over my shoulder for him, but didn't see him.
Second lap I got on the wheel of a BikeMan racer, and we worked our way through the woods. He'd flub a couple little technical sections and hold us up, then my 32 x 19 wouldn't make a little power move, but generally his pace was pretty good, and we talked a bit through the woods. Having someone to ride with helped keep my pace up even though I didn't know who was ahead of me, or how far they were. I caught the San Diego guy wearing a Carolina Bikes kit, whose name I'd know if they only posted the results, and rode with him through the final section of single track and out into the field. This was really the only comfortable place to drink, so the field meant a lot of one handed descending and drinking (sorry officer) and then trying to put some open power down on the climbs. I swear the last rocky grape vine climb had radiant heat flooring installed along its length. I've never felt heat like that. It was the worst 100 yds of the course for sure.
Lap 3. I think I passed Dave Hall somewhere in here? I'm not sure. I had one crash induced mechanical, and a loose cleat, both of which required pulling out a 4mm wrench and losing a few positions. After the cleat episode, I jumped on the bike with unnaturally fresh legs, and sprung into the field section, passing San Diego and Rich with ease, dropping them completely within one turn. I also passed my Asheville training partner and good friend Ed in the beginning section of the field. I had seen him in the woods the whole time, but was never able to get to him. The heat of the field was starting (if it hadn't already) to take a toll on everyone. As I passed him he said, "Dejay isn't far off." That's when I started playing the mental game. I had seen Shane and Shey across the fields many times (forgetting that Shey wasn't even riding SS) and thought they were next and that Dejay was up leading the race somewhere. So with Ed's comment, and my half awake thought of Dejay always winning, I figured I was working towards Shane. About 45 seconds after I passed Ed, we hit the steep climb after the paved bike path, and Dejay was there, 20 yards up and walking his bike. I was still feeling pretty fresh, stayed clipped in and climbed passed him. Got a little pat on the back and a "way to go" from Dejay and was on my way out of site. I was still feeling good, and stayed on it, trying to chase down Shane in the only part of the course where effort lead to speed. Up, down and around, through the rocky furnace climb, and through the start finish. That's where I found Shane. Sitting under a tent drinking a Coke. Great, now I'm winning the SS race.
Crossing through the pit area I was met with a lot of "where's Dejay?"s, Timmy was hanging in the shade of a technical rock section post Lefty explosion, and was surprised to see me before Dejay. In fact everyone I passed was surprised to see me before Dejay. At one point I passed Dickman out on course, and in a generally concerned way he asked how I was feeling. I wasn't too clear at this point, but I remember saying, "Good, except I'm in front of Dejay."
What the hell does that mean? It means that my lack of racing this year, and lack of any real success in the genre (minus the show up 5 times and get 7th overall NUE experience) had made me a little uncomfortable up front. Lost. I had come up on him on that hill, and never even hesitated about blowing right by. After learning that Shane was out, I really should have sat in and let Dejay catch me early in Lap 4, assuming I'd then be rested, and he'd be tired from pulling me back in. Instead I stayed out in front, racing kind of hard for most of the single track. There were a lot less bodies in the woods by this time, and I lost my rhythm. No carrots to chase, SS or otherwise, and I just didn't have the mental toughness to stay focused and "race" a mountain bike.
A lick of my upper lip revealed a tongue burning amount of salt, my stomach was turning over, and my brain was asleep. Lap four was all about cracking. Dejay got me back pretty early. Then Rich. Then San Diego. Then David Hall. If I lacked the mental toughness to continue winning a race, I surely lacked the mental toughness to continue when I was surely off the podium. I crawled through the pit area, and was met with a lot of concerned stares. I wasn't looking very good, was not responding to questions all that sharply, and I had to sit for a minute. I tried to go out for a 5th lap, but when the singletrack didn't wake my soul, and I saw the cars again, I pulled the plug.
Class is in session. Today we covered:
- Lapped races are mentally hard for my long day in the woods mentality
- If you aren't really racing, you shouldn't keep racing
- I changed my diet TOO much prepping for this race and over did it on electrolytes in anticipation of the heat
- I have no idea how to win a race
- I have bigger fish to fry, and continuing was going to dig a hole that would take precious days from which to recover
That's it. That's my race season. One race of walking my 100lb bike through the woods for 20 miles, and one race of pulling the plug 2 laps short in a Piedmont kiln.