Sometimes I ride my bike to nowhere, to see nothing, just so I can ride my bike.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
River City Shootout - George of the Jungle
Could have really used this advice yesterday!
To say I've had a lustrous racing career would be a flat out lie, I've always been kind of a middle of the pack sort of guy until I hung it up about 5 years ago when that middle of the pack started gravitating towards DFL and in all honesty had I continued to race and not stepped away it probably would have eventually ended in a bunch of DNFs. Now that's not to say that there haven't been decent races at one time, I did rack up some hardware for a third and then second place finish two years in a row in the Cornhusker State Games once upon a time and I even remember one or two top ten finishes with the Psycowpath Racing Series "back in the day". Anyway, because of events outisde of racing, it got to the point where it just wasn't fun anymore, training (which isn't my strong point anyway) and fitness became poor to non-existent and the fun soon followed so I decided it didn't make any sense to do something I wasn't doing well at or more importantly, something I wasn't having fun at or enjoying anymore. Yesterday was the first race of the 2016 Psycowpath Racing Series and I found myself toeing the line once again in the old-ish guy marathon category this time, first time I'd ever done the marathon so this could be interesting. The old-ish guy marathon category seems to be the place to race currently, with 19 of the 38 marathon racers racing in that category. I'm not sure if that puts me in good company or just in some really deep water full of sharks with just an inflatable raft to keep me afloat.
Photo Credit: Joel Tabor
While the fitness level still has room for more improvement, it's far better than it was just a couple of years ago and I'm riding for a great shop now that is more concerned with how a rider fits with the shop than with race results (which is a good thing for me) and I've got a great support team at home who understands my obsession with things on two wheels. So basically life is in a better place for me again all together than it was when racing stopped being fun. It's amazing what surrounding yourself with the right people can do for your over all outlook on life and how that carries over to the rest of the things you're involved in. My weapon of choice for the race was my Trek Farley, while some might argue that it's not the ideal choice for racing single track, I'd say there were wrong. Sure it's not the lightest bike in the world but it is a bad ass, fully capable dirt shredder if you've got the motor to keep it going. Ironically I did see a few 29+ bikes but I was the sole Fat Bike on Saturday in the marathon category, hopefully that trend will change as the year goes on, it'd be rad to get a group of Fat Bike marathon racers battling it out on more equal footing.
Photo Credit: Todd Eyeberg
Photo Credit: Joel Tabor
The very wise emcee for the day and one armed bandit, Ryan Feagan, stated that the marathon race isn't decided in the first lap. Good advice for the day really because the racers at the front shot out of there like their rear tires were on fire. One of the things I've had to work on over the years is racing my own race and not chasing rabbits at the gun otherwise my race is pretty much decided in the first lap because I would blow my load trying to maintain a pace I wasn't comfortable with and bonk on the second lap. I resisted chasing the rabbits and rode out at a pace I felt I could maintain for 4 hours, which found me in familiar territory, squarely mid pack.
First lap I thought went really well, I was holding my position and not really passing or being passed, legs were feeling good and I was at a comfortable pace. Start of the 2nd lap didn't go so well, a split second lapse in concentration and I clipped a smallish tree in the first tree lined section (the last section of the trail normally that dumps you into the parking lot) while it is a tighter section it's not overly difficult but that's what happens when you aren't focusing. Even though I just barely clipped the tree with my handlebar it was enough to cause an impromptu yard sale right there on the trail. From my perspective it wasn't that spectacular of a crash but the guy behind me kept asking if I was sure I was ok, so I guess it was better as a spectator sport. I took a pretty good spill for sure but popped back up and didn't even notice the scratches on my arm until I was down the trail a bit, had to pull over a straighten my helmet and that's when I noticed that my Garmin had popped off during the crash. Not being all that far away from the scene of the crime I circled back and looked for it but couldn't find it, being only the second lap of a 4 hour race I figured I'd be by the spot a few more times and I could look after the race as well but for now it was time to get back to racing before too much time passed. I probably lost a minute to a minute and a half between the crash and the recon operation, in that time I started to feel some of the scrapes and scratches, although I didn't notice the ones on my fact until I got home and was getting ready to shower. Probably the most concerning result of the crash was a tightening of my left thigh and a dull ache in my left ribs, the same spot I took a really good flop on last winter on some ice. I was hoping neither would become a real concern during the race but I knew I'd be feeling the rib the next day for sure, it's no where near as bad as the first crash on the ice but it's noticeable this morning but I'll live to race another day and I've been told that chicks dig scars. I managed to find the Garmin on lap 3, surprisingly the only damage to the device was that the small plastic "wing" broke off of the mount. Luckily it's completely replaceable and a fairly inexpensive part so over all things couldn't have gone any better in that regard.
Photo Credit: David West
Overall, other than the crash and the resulting injuries, I would say that the race went really well for me. Nutrition could use a little tweaking but it was better than it has been for previous races. The combination of water in the Camelbak Skyline LR10 and a bottle with Gatorade in the bottle cage worked really well, I didn't drink near enough Gatorade, two bottles total during the race, but I knew that it'd be hard to get a lot of opportunities to drink from a bottle on the course so I relied mostly on the water from the Camelbak because I could put the hose in my mouth and ride with both hands on the bars while sipping water and breathing all at the same time. I wasn't sure if I was sold on the Skyline as a pack because of some of it's shortcomings for me but in this type of race it really excelled, it kept the water weight low and off of the shoulders so that they didn't fatigue and it kept most of the back uncovered to I didn't feel like I was carrying a wet sloth on my back for the second half of the race. I really need to get my thoughts on the pack out on the blog so that I can provide my opinion of what it does well for me and what it doesn't but overall it's a great offering from Camelbak for this type of use.
As I kind of expected it was another mid-ish of the pack finish, I'm not going to use the crash as an excuse even though as the race went on the leg stiffened up a bit and the ribs became more noticeable, but I was spent after 6 laps, had time for another and started on a 7th but made it only as far as the parking lot turn into the main course when I came to the conclusion that there wasn't going to be a 7th lap that day. I did manage 6 full laps nonstop in 3 hours and 30 minutes which was my personal best on single track and sat just fine with me for the first race in half a decade. Live to race another day as they say, next race is about a month away at a course with even more climbing and technical features so I'll have to find time to make it out over the next few weeks and get some re-familiarization time with the course. I'm in all fat this year because honestly it's one of the most fun bikes I've ever ridden, it's a fully capable single track machine and for me the traction, ability to roll over most everything and fun factor out weighs the weight penalty that you get with a Fat Bike... I'll also likely do the marathon category as well, that format fits better with my riding style as I'll likely never be the fastest guy but I can grind it out much better over multiple laps/hours than I can maintain a fast pace for 2-3 laps.