Monday, August 23, 2010

VT 30!

Some days you’re the hammer, some days you’re the nail.
Some days you bite the bear, some days the bear bites you.
Some days you’re the gloved finger, some days you’re the boggy prostate.

On Saturday, I was the latter in all three examples.

The scene of the crime was the VT30, a 6-hour mountain bike race in Pittsfield, Vermont. I don’t have all of the details of the crime, but as near as I can tell, I was riding along, minding my own business, when I was ambushed by team of varsity field hockey players, doped up on testosterone, and looking to take out some frustration on a man. I suspect I was drugged, midazolam or maybe a rufie, because I don’t remember much. But I do know that my muscles feel like they were beaten with field hockey sticks, so it must be true.

I won’t speculate any more on the assault, it’s time to start the healing process. I CAN say, that before the attack, I was having a great time…

Friday night was a “late start, long drive, set up the tent and try to fall asleep fast kind of night.” Saturday morning was a “wake up early after not getting much sleep,” kind of morning, but it was race day, and I LOVE race day. Our group (Me & Jean; Rob & Renee; Andy & Maggie; Jamie & Beth et al) convoyed to the race venue to sign in and get ready to rumble.

Andy, Rob and I had done a little recon mission a couple of weeks ago, so we knew what to expect: about five miles of climbing—with more switchbacks than I can count, followed by a short technical trail—just to keep you on your toes, followed by a few miles of pure, fun, in the form of a downhill with bermed turns and tight switchbacks. Each lap was about 8.5 miles, and each lap had about 1400ft of climbing—yeah!

With food, fluids, and tire pressure all set, it was time to line up for the le mans style start (i.e. you run to your bike). Like Inigo Montoya’s life quest to find the man who killed his father, I would like to find the person that first thought that le mans starts would be good for mountain bike races, and poke him (or her), in the eye.

Anyway, re-united with my bike, I took off down the trail, to start the long slog up. Jamie was ahead somewhere, Rob was right in front of me, and Andy, Jean, and Renee were just behind. Rob and I were pushing a good pace until he decided to shoulder his bike and run up one of the longer, straighter, steeper climbs. I thought, “hmmm, that seems silly.” It was. He started too soon as the steepest part was still to come. I guess he just wanted some early cyclocross practice.

We reached the top of the first lap and hit the Labyrinth, the course’s only real technical challenge. He dismounted but couldn’t get the space to get back on the bike because he was right behind the riders in front, and I was right behind his back wheel—which was bouncing back and forth like a 29-inch wind-shield wiper. I was able to get ahead just before the super fun downhill and it was time to let it rip. Yeah, the old guy on the fully rigid bike was passing riders on full suspension bikes on the downhill. I’d pay a few hours later, but at the moment, I was having a blast.

I rolled through the first lap in about 1:05, felt good, and went on for lap number two.

The second lap was a bit easier as I could keep a more consistent pace on the climbs. It’s always hard to keep momentum going on a singlespeed when you’re in a line of riders on geared bikes. Lap two was just as much fun as lap one, and I rolled through just a tad bit slower, at about 1:10. Rob pulled in just behind me and we headed out for lap three together.

I think by this point, the field hockey players were in place, and the trap was being set.

Rob and I rode ALMOST the whole third lap together. We caught up with Jean, in the Labyrinth, and I had time to stop for a quick smooch (with Jean, not Rob).

As the third lap was just about done—as in less than 1/10th of a mile left, some cramps that had been threatening to attack, attacked. I had to stop, I couldn’t walk, my legs were no longer under my control. I was literally laying down in the field, writhing around in agony. My muscles were bunched up and twitching—it was like watching weasels wrestle under my skin. I couldn’t move. Finally, after a few excruciating minutes, I could manage to get up to all fours. Then I could kneel. Nope, too soon. Back down to all fours. Again, up to a kneeling position and then ultimately up to a standing position. It was a far cry from being physically able to ride up a 1400ft climb again, but it was a start.

Getting one foot in front of the other involved monumental effort. The Gods of Cramps were looking for a sacrifice and I was draped over the altar.

With the vim and vigor of an octogenarian, I limped across the line. Rob had already moved on, leaving me for dead. Against all common sense and logic, I went out for one more lap.

And I can’t even say it was a nice walk. It was painful walk. Calves were cramping. Hamstrings were cramping. Quadriceps were cramping. My back was cramping. My triceps were cramping. If I’m not mistaken, my skin was cramping. Ouch.

I’m not sure where I went wrong. I was fairly well hydrated with both water and Gatorade. I had taken my Endurolytes. I had fueled up with Gu as I’ve done many times before. There are only two real possibilities. Either:

a.) I’m not in very good shape.
b.) I was kidnapped by a group of angry man-hating doped up field hockey players, recently wronged, and looking for revenge. I was drugged, beaten, and left for dead. But it was only because I AM in very good shape that I was actually able to survive what would otherwise have been a fatal attack.

Clearly, it was “b.”

I limped across the line, just in time to see Renee head out for her 5th lap. (Obviously, being HELPED by the field hockey assassins.)

The amazing thing is, I still managed a top 10 finish! I just wish there had been some names AFTER mine on the results list, because there were only eight of us racing solo singlespeed.


Did I have fun? Hell Yeah.
Was the course awesome? Hell Yeah.
Will I be back? Hell Yeah.
Will I win next time? Cough.
Was Sunday’s breakfast epic? Hell Yeah.

Thanks to Jason and Andy and everyone else for putting on a great event. Just please secure the perimeter a little better next year to make it safer for me to race.

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