I remembered this course as being quite "bumpy". I had a specific memory of racing it last year and towards the end of the race starting to catch people who were on hardtails and thinking to myself how glad I was I was on a full squish and how much of an advantage it was. Not owning a full squish anymore, I was really looking forward to racing my new Lynskey on this course. The Lynskey is a lot more comfortable than my Scott , thanks to the wonderful properties of Ti and to that 27.2 mm post diameter(more on that in the next post comparing the two bikes). But as luck would have it, I ripped the derailleur hanger off the bike Thursday night (jra I swear!). Bob from bikerbob.com was super cool when I texted him that night (after I finally ran out of the woods), and he had a new derailleur hanger in the mail for overnight delivery. He was even willing to take it off his own bike!!!! Sadly, when it arrived Saturday afternoon, it was the wrong one (Lynskey has two, and it was the other one!) No derailleur, no Lynskey for the race...
The other problem was my rear tire's (Racing Ralph) side walls were too worn through to be able to be run tubeless. I had a somewhat new Rocket Ron, but it was a 2.25 and would rub the left chainstay of the Scott if I ran that (still waiting for my warranty replacement from Scott!). This left me having to the run the Ralph w/ a tube in it, and since I knew the terrain was rocky and rooty, I needed to run it a 30 psi vs the 22 I normally use when tubeless.
I did make one good decision that weekend. I was really toying w/ racing the 50 mile marathon race but since the Lynskey was out, I didn't think my old my back could handle that distance on the Scott and therefor went with the 25 mile race.
On the way up to the race, I realized that I did not remember which exit off the highway the venue was. Amazing, I saw Liz right next to me in her little Mini, and just followed her to the race venue. After had I registered and was about to go warm up, the race organizers announced the last call for cat 1 racers! It seemed way early, but being compliant, I dutifully lined up without a warm up. Of course we stood around for quite a while and I could easily have gotten a 15 min warm up before our age group went off.
The race started and I let everyone go. I knew it was a long race and would have plenty of distance to try to make up the slow start. It had rained the night before and though the ground had dried a little, the roots were slick. And there many of them! I went down pretty early on when my front tire didn't clear an angled root. A quick reminder that I needed to really unweight the front and needed to be light on the bike. About 20 min into the race, I had locked onto a small gruppetto of the 50+ fast racers who had caught me, and at that pace we soon caught a passed a few racers in my age group. Yet my back was taking a beating going over all those roots and rocks and I could not hold on and had to slow my pace. I believe at this point I had passed about four guys in my category.
As I was back to riding by myself, I had some time to contemplate how great this race course was, how much fun I was actually having, and how much I had missed racing. My last race had been the Windham World Cup back in the end of June (which didn't go so well). Yet shortly thereafter I started to notice how tired my legs were, not only from pedaling, but also from having to constantly support my weight off the saddle to clear those roots and rocks. If I sat, my back was taking a pounding from the terrain.
About 3/4 of the way through, I my pace had slowed down drastically and though my hr was low, my legs and back had not much more to give. I was going to have to grind it out and hope that my pace was just fast enough to keep those I had passed off my wheel. I was now contemplating how freaking old I was, that I was not having that much fun, and how I did not actually miss racing at all!
I was nearing the end as I could hear the PA system, but was getting caught and passed by riders, one of which was in my age group, and was struggling to find anything to give. I also had had some chain issues earlier on, having dropped it, and when I tried to power up the last short hill, one mile from the finish, my chain snapped! By the time I gathered the chain, figured out how many bend links I had to take out, find my extra link I had stuck at the back of my saddle back, and fumbled around putting the whole think back together, everyone in my class had passed me. I rolled through the finish knowing I was DFL.
Liz, reminded me after the race when I shared my disappointment with being so slow, that "well what (the hell) do you expect when the last time you raced was in June!" It's a good point, but it still feels pretty demoralizing when it takes so much work and time to build your fitness, but so goddamn little to loose so much of it.
Quote of the day was from fellow racer, Craig, who commented after the race that he felt like a human pinball!