I awoke this morning with my hips aching, the back of my neck sore, my back sore, the pads of my feet swollen, and my lungs feel like it's a little hard to breathe. If it weren't racing season, I'd be sitting here thinking what the hell just happened to my body. Oh yea. It's mountain biking season...
Yesterday was the Tuscarora Endurance race as #1 of the MASS Endurance Series. It was a good day at the end of it all but it was a bit of a kick in the pants. I usually am down for a nice hurtful early season race but this was brutal. I started to think the past few weeks that the course would be atrocious so it would make more sense to race my singlespeed than to ruin a good race bike. So I found a suspension fork to replace my rigid and swapped over my race wheels. Thought about the gear ratio a bit and took my best guess and headed out to the hills of PA with good thoughts in mind.
As the race went off I hit it hard and started the climb second wheel as I just wanted to sit there for the time being over the ice and snow on the first corner to stay out of trouble. As I was racing an SS in the open field I knew the first climb would be tough so I did my thing and kept to the side to let the others crank by. One by one they came and my strategy was not to blow up on the first hill but ride conservatively and see how I could ramp it up later on, if possible on this non-shifty bike.
I was sitting in 9th at the top of the hill and thought that was ok for how I felt and how strenuous that initial climb was but I was curious of the mud and treachery that lie ahead. It wasn't as bad as last year but on the SS that next hill was a walk and the hike a bike was MUCH longer. I was getting pretty upset knowing that I could ride a lot of this stuff on the geared bike - which I did last year in worse conditions - but with the SS I had to walk. I was even geared pretty light 34-20 and still had all I could do to ride some of it. Thank goodness I didn't reach for my 18 tooth cog.
So through the first lap I got over the walky stuff and finally got to the rock garden that I love. It's hard - but great. I had to wait in line for some riders to clear but once it opened up I had some nice flow going through the bumpy slow stuff. The end is still tricky as hell but that's nothing a dismount and some hoofing couldn't fix. Rolling again I hit the next steep up and it was doable but not worth it. I walked it. Again this was killing me as I know it's a hard but easily ridable section on the geared bike. So I just rode as hard as I could when I was on the bike.
The next downhill and remaining fireroad was a blast but even things like being able to pick a big gear and mash the flat or stuff that pointed downhill was sorely missed. It doesn't seem like a lot but I just knew I was losing time. So I basically forced myself to forget about the other side and just ride. I finished my first lap in 40 minutes which wasn't too bad so onto the next.
The next lap was a little bit more free and I actually cut a negative split with a 39. I was rolling well but I could tell those hills were going to hurt my legs and fast. I did all the same but just tried to stay consistent and last through the hills. This worked until lap 4 when the temps went up just a bit - enough to start turning that initial climb into some slimy goodness. There were a few climbs that just turned soft and made it very challenging to turn the cranks over. At this point I was just hoping for the end and with 4 laps in I knew there would only be two to go.
For the last two laps I rode steady and went over the bars on lap 5 in the rock garden. It had to be done at some point so I was lucky to not hurt myself or really impede my progress. I hopped back on and continued to ride the rest of it, but the end was near. I kept using that as hope and I knew I could finish well. I still had some energy but the single gear was just using it up quickly.
I rolled into the finish at 4:20 for 6 laps completed. It was a great feeling knowing that I rode as well as I could on that horrible contraption and thought that I was 7th or maybe 8th in the open. I didn't ride well, I didn't ride fast, but I was consistent. As a matter of fact I cut another negative split from lap 5 to lap 6 so you could tell I wanted it to be over. I warmed up and cleaned up to check results that were posted to find that I actually came in 4th. How the hell did that happen. I guess I was pretty consistent. The 5th place finisher was 18 minutes behind and 3rd was 6 minutes ahead. It was just a good hard day in the saddle and a good lesson at what I really like to do on a bike - that is to pedal consistently and have gears to change that ratio appropriately.
Thanks to Zach for an awesome race and hopefully this will be a start to a great season. I know I have a lot to work on and it keeps me hopeful for what I can still accomplish with a little blood, sweat, and tears.