Well when you live to race these are the key ingredients...all of which are my fault. I guess it would all start this past week as I was looking forward to the race today. I knew it was going to be a slopfest and I didn't want to destroy the drivetrain of my race bike so I opted for the 29'er SS. Ok so I'm going to run the SS and I have to pick a gear so I opt for the 32/18 as it's not going to be THAT bad. I figure I can power through the few slick sections and spin out the rest.
It continues to absolutely poor the rest of the week and I have my buddy's get together the night before so I choose to pound down a few and not place a whole lot of importance on the upcoming mudfest. My intentions were just to finish so I would have enough races to compete for the overall in the H2H series. But as a true competitor I really expected to be very competitive and in the top ten. So here's where all hell breaks loose.
Arriving at the race and doing the prerace warmup revealed just how this beast of a course was going to show itself. Massive puddles, entire trails worth of 5"-6" deep mud with roots and rock everywhere, and changing conditions were going to make it tricky. I LOVE these conditions as I am proud of my bike handling skills and think I have an advantage. Well that's keeps me entertained for a little while.
Lap 1 was pretty good. As the gun went off, of course the entire group rode away as it is flat for the first mile and the SS is a big disadvantage. But up the first fire road climb I used the SS to my advantage and stomped the big gear to get half way through my field. It was really tricky and tough but I stayed consistent and tried to stay smooth in the tough conditions. It was working. Lap 1 was great and I was probably in 5th or 6th and moving up through the other fields really well. Through a few sections I felt my brakes fading and hoped they would last the race.
Lap 2 came up and I maintained and started passing some more of the previous groups. I also had some of my group in my sights and was trying to bridge the gap. It was working but my brakes were severely fading. I blew through a couple of corners into trees and had to start playing with the handlebar adjustments on my mechanical brakes. Which worked for a little while anyway. On to lap 3.
Lap three came and just as it started my brakes started to fade to the final TKO. I had nothing left and no adjustments left. I was reduced to being very careful and trying to milk any of the brake pads I had left to hope they were going to provide any stopping power. Actually I think when I hit the brakes the bike went faster. Just when they went out I was shoulder to shoulder with a teammate with no brakes and we simultaneously tagged a tree and ended up toppling over on top of each other. We were both good and continued on.
If it was not bad enough that my brakes were gone, now my body was trying to take another crack at giving me some pain. I hit a root and was thrown off to the left and as I put a foot down my knee jammed backwards uncomfortably. I kept pedaling and it seemed to be ok thank goodness. So anticipating each downhill I had to ride some sections side saddle in preparation for a fast dismount in order to slow myself down and run down the downhills. This was so aggrivating as I knew it was only a matter of time before my group was going to catch me - AND I FELT GREAT!!! Those 5 beers and two shots the night before didn't seem to have any ill effects. So one by one competitors came up from behind and I spun backwards and many got through which shouldn't have happened. I finally got to the finish hill and stood up and had no one in sight to catch. It was too late. I went all the way from about 6th or so to 14th of 20. What a bitch...
Now here's the kicker. I know people say that hindsight is 20/20. But what a dirty motherf*cker it really is. After all my struggles I found out some really interesting information - once the race was over of course. I wasn't familiar with the brakes I was running as my hydros are usually the brake of choice. With my mechanicals they have handlebar adjustments as well as adjustments on the caliper itself. I totally forgot that the two red dials helped dial the pads in and out and with a few quick adjustments I had brakes again. Are you f'n kidding me?
The next a-ha moment came when I was cleaning out my car tonight and found my mud fender which I wished I had today as I had all this mud in my eyes. I was looking before the race to find something to make a fender out of but I didn't think it would help that much. It would have been SOOOO worth it. And it was in my car the entire time. SONOFAB*TCH.
It continues. After the first lap I was so happy that I was keeping contact with this fast racer from my category that I totally forgot to take my bottle feed from my feed table. So now I was out of water and on for a second lap of horror. Great. Idiot.
It's just so frustrating not being able to race well when everything was under my control and I messed so many things up. The SS was a great choice as the first couple of laps proved it. I was cruising in the heart of my field when the little setbacks killed me. Actually a 19 tooth or 20 tooth cog in the rear would have been better but just not having the brake issue would have been fine. I could have pushed the 18 tooth to the finish fine. It's not the good races that you learn from, but the bad ones, and boy did I learn a lot today. I feel pretty foolish for the easily avoidable mistakes I made and will put them right in the front of my memory to make sure that they never happen again. I will avenge this disaster.
Maybe this is just the motivation that I need as my next race on the calendar is the XC Nationals in Granby CO. This kind of motivation may really help me push myself to the limits and remind me why when things go right it just feels so right. I know my priorities lie in the endurance arena, but when you know you have a great race in the bag it's so hard to feel yourself spinning backwards and losing that many places. Chalk it all up to experience I guess...