Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Stages of Acceptance

Finally, several days after the fact, I'm writing about What Happened At Sterling.  It's taken me this long to process it and come to terms with, well, what happened.  

Basically, I got dropped on the first climb.  

Now, leading up to this race I was having some of the best training rides of my life, objectively.  My power numbers are higher than they've ever been, my nutrition has been excellent, and my life is very low in stress and high in quality sleep.  I spent the week leading up to it working on my mental preparation.  I have a beautiful new-ish bike that was functioning perfectly (well, until the flat tire, but that's actually pretty irrelevant), fantastic equipment, food, support, etc.  Shouldn't this equal improved results?  

This is how my emotions went during and after the event.

"I'm getting dropped."  - comic incredulity, in other words, disbelief.

To Cody, "I suck, I'm no good at this, I'm going to quit bike racing.  I'm a failure."  - bitter depression, obviously.  Give Cody a gold star for talking me down from the ledge, by the way.  Poor fella.

To my co-workers/family, "I don't want to talk about it."  - denial.  

And finally, "I understand what happened.  This is what I can do to not have that happen again."  - acceptance.

During my painful (Zone 5 interval) training ride today, I realized that I just totally choked.  My legs weren't so great, there were skinny people on the front making it hard, it was a steep hill.  I spent so much time mentally preparing for the race that instead of just riding intuitively and sticking on the wheel ahead of me, I started over thinking.  I got in my own way, stuck in my own head.  I want a do-over.  But there are no do-overs in life, just next time.  

I've got to go now, because Cody's coming home with baby ducks.  Seriously, guys, Baby.  Ducks.  Can we all agree that there's nothing cuter than a baby duck?  Of course we can.

By the way, I'm just joking about that whole stages of grieving shit, you know?  If the worst tragedy that happens to me is to get dropped in a bike race my life is pretty sweet.  

Seriously, there's going to be like, 6 of these at our house any minute now!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Racing Bikes is Fun

I've been waiting to write a race report for this one because I was hoping someone would put up some sweet pics of me looking competent on my bike.  After several days and nothing surfacing I've decided I should just write the darn report already.

The night after Quabbin I had this recurring dream that I was riding in a pack and the girl in front of me slammed on her brakes.  I'd jerk awake, only to have the dream again (that's why I used the word "recurring").  Anyway, I thought maybe I'd have more fun racing in the dirt, so I opted out of Bennington and drove to RI for the Battle at Burlingame.  As additional incentive, I have a shiny new Trek Fuel EX.  It's a sick trail bike, and I have it set up stock with the huge 2.3 tires that came on it.  Perfect for the trail riding I do out here, not exactly an uphill speed-machine, though.  But the whole point of racing MTBs is to have fun, and that bike is wicked fun.

Wicked sexy, too.

Cody was off at Highlands DH park for opening weekend, so on Sunday morning I loaded up my dog and my bike and drove to Charleston, RI.  I pulled into Burlingame State Park and the attendant at the gate told me, "You can't bring a dog in here.  They were supposed to tell you."  Um.  Crap.  It's possible that "they" did tell me and I just didn't read the small print, but come on!  This is a MTB race.  Bikes, beer, dogs, right?  "But you can bring your dog in if you rent a camp site."  Oh.  Ok.  Well, I drove all this way.  And it was just $20, practically free by campground standard rates, these days.  Stressful decision making averted, I paid my fee and parked.

I got my number, suited up, and realized I'd forgotten my gloves.  S&^%!  It's OK, it'll be OK.  What's 27 miles of trails without gloves?   (Did I mention the race was 27.5 miles?  5 x 5.5 miles.  That's pretty darn long for a mountain bike race.  I cat'ed down and raced Expert, too.  The pros did 33.  F&^% that.).  Anyway, I headed out to warm up a bit.  I didn't have a ton of time, so I rode out on the course for a few minutes, then back.  I had about 40 oz of water in my hydration pack, 4 Gu shots, and some Chomps.  I had some nutrition issues at Quabbin, and I was determined not to let that happen today.

We lined up at the start.  All 2 of us.  Yes, 2 expert women in the 19-39 age range showed up.  We started chit chatting and she asked if I'd pre-ridden the course.  "Only the first part."  "Did you get to The Bridges?"  Um.  Bridges?  Maybe I should have gotten up earlier and gotten in a lap.  C'est la vie.  We were sent off last, at least 10 minutes behind the pro women (of whom there were 4).  Anyway, I let the other girl take the lead as she clearly had spent more time on course than me and I figured I could follow her lines.  There was one somewhat large log across the trail near the beginning, and we were both off our bikes running over it.  One super-smooth CX remount later, I realized I had a problem.  My saddle had slipped.  Ok.  It's OK.  It's not that bad, right?  I stayed with the other girl until we hit The Bridges.

I really should have pre-ridden.  They were wide bridges, but they had these steep little ramps leading up and down them, and between that was all wet roots and rocks.  And it was sort of a long section.  I only cleaned the whole thing once - on my final lap.  Anyway, since I was off my bike sucking at riding up these things I decided I might as well fix my seat height.  I still have the stock QR seatpost clamp on there, so at least I didn't need a tool.  Seat up, moving on.  By this point she was out of sight.  Okay, it's OK.  There's only 2 of you, the worst thing that can happen is 2nd place.  (I spend a lot of time telling myself things are going to be OK.)

The course was mostly fast, hard packed single and double track, with fast, not overly-steep climbs and some super fun railing descents.  But.  There was one section that was clearly freshly cut, and it had all the annoyingness of a freshly cut trail that isn't terribly well thought out  hasn't been ridden on much, until 200 bike racers try to ride it at speed.  It was sort of up and down, with rocks and roots and no flow at all.  It ended with a rock roller into a loose, rooty chute.  Wee.  Again, I only rode it completely cleanly on 1 out of 5 laps.  After that you had a super fast descent, two short steep climbs, and then a bunch of grinding back to the start/finish.

The Bad

  • I got 2nd.  Also, last.
  • I ran out of water on my last lap.
  • My seat slipped again.
  • I got lapped by a bunch of dudes.
The Good
  • I got 2nd!
  • I managed to keep my head when I ran out of water.  "It's OK.  You're going to be OK."  I was.
  • When I put my seat back up for a second time I tightened the clamp down more and it stayed there.
  • Those dudes that lapped me started at least 10 minutes ahead of me.
  • My bike is sick.  People would be catching me on the climbs and then we'd hit the fast descents and I'd totally gap them again.  2.3's might suck on the way up, but they're money on the way down.
  • I stayed positive the whole race.  After the first two laps I was like, "Really?  3 more of those?"  But I rode strong the whole time.  I was exhausted at the end, so I left it all out there, but even on the last lap I had some power in the legs.
Afterwards I decided to stick around for podiums since the race flier promised "merch" to the Expert women.  They finally did awards 40 minutes after the race finished, but just handed stuff out, not calling people onto the podium that was 5 feet away.  Whatevs.   But you know what I got?  A medal and a $15 gift certificate to NBX (it's a bike shop in RI).  Seriously?  I work at a bike shop, and I'm never going to be in Narragansett to redeem a gift certificate. I was pretty pissed off that I'd delayed my long drive home for that.  Oh well.  I'm not bagging on the race organizer, by the way.  Okay, maybe I am.  But the race was really well put on, it was a super fun course, and for the average person who lives in RI and doesn't work at shop that's a pretty killer prize.  


Hey race organizers!  Stop giving out medals!  Unless it's for a kids race or your event is called "The Olympics" it just ends up on a dusty shelf somewhere.  

Anyway, the good news is that without that medal I wouldn't be able to bring you this adorable photo of my dog.

But maybe the race organizers sensed my irritation, because they gave me the medal for 1st place.  

Now I can fool my friends and relatives into thinking I won.