Ok. It's been seven weeks off. Let's do this thing.
Sunday I went with my buddy Bryan down to Wompatuck to do the Landmine Classic. This was a cool event because it was a 1-lap 22 mile course, and since I'm a dirty cheater I prerode about 80% of it last weekend. So I had the position of every single rock in every single rock garden memorized... well ok, I knew that there were tons of rocks and very little climbing.
It was Bryan's first race in like 3 years so he rode sport. He almost tried to ride Beginner but I shamed him out of it. Score one for not sandbagging.
Since the majority of semipro types were riding the 2-lap marathon course, they let us start with the semipros. As if we needed help going out too fast. So despite the impending 2+ hours of suffering, we left the start line at a rate of speed more suited to a cross race. Even worse, due to the flat nature of the course, I felt like I should really try to grab some wheels and draft, so I couldn't just let my opponents go.
Not surprisingly I found myself in some "difficulty" about 1.5 miles in, having spent the whole time before that in my big ring. Luckily there was some more technical stuff coming up which slowed the pace down, so I got behind Nick Barstow and set about stuffing my lungs back down my throat.
We went up and over Prospect Hill twice, and it's a very technical climb. Of course I had been able to preride it easily, but throw in some moisture, crowds and a sky-high heart rate and I was all over the place. Everyone else was too. I did a slightly better job than average at staying on the bike, but I was pretty lackluster off the bike, so I didn't move up at all. Plus, the singlespeeders and 30+ guys were starting to catch us, so it was basically rolling chaos all over Prospect Hill.
On one completely unrideable rock garden, I was jogging with my bike when I looked down and saw a gel on the trail. "Oh man, that sucks," I thought, as I smugly looked down at my thigh at my gel stash. Except my gel stash wasn't there.
Well crap. I pedaled on, but the enormity of this problem took a while to sink in. At first I told myself I could tough it out, but come on, am I really a poster boy for toughing it out? I think not.
So later on I was jogging through this rock garden (sound familiar) with some other guys and I saw another gel on the ground! Eureka! Completely oblivious to the guy behind me I stopped dead and picked it up. He was not amused, but it was worth it. Back in business! I spent the next 60 seconds trying to descend rocky singletrack with a gel in my hand before I realized that I was going to kill myself trying to put it in my jersey.
Ok, so, now my primary excuse for riding slow is gone, time to hammer, right? Well, kind of. I got my hammer on to a limited degree, but only a mile or so later I was cranking hard in the middle ring and I blew the chain right off my cranks. Straight into the bar went my knee, and straight into a swearing world of hurt I went.
Since it was light out I could tell I didn't need stitches or anything, but damn, that one hurt. I took a trailside break which mainly consisted of panting "ouch" and looking at the ground for a while and then tried to ride again. It hurt but it was doable, but 60 seconds of stopping was terrible for the motivation. I'm practically DFL in my category, my knee is killing me, and I have to ride 16 more miles? Are you kidding me?
What's worse is that my rear triangle was messed up, in a fairly typical fashion. Let me just say that I had to reset the rear wheel to fix it, except that made the brakes rub, so I had to put it back again at just the right angle to get the brakes to clear, and did I mention that my rear shifting was completely screwed up? I hate my bike. I'm getting a new frame next spring, I swear.
There was some more stopping involved in this diagnosis and repair, so I had slid all the way back to the semi pro women. This was actually pretty good since Bryna Nestor and Marci Titus Hall were riding together and I know they're both relatively close to me in speed, so I had some company which was exactly what I needed to keep from dropping out. So we cruised around for a while, I tried to stay out of their way since they were racing for 2/3 overall and I was just some clown with a broken bike and a chain that kept slipping in his middle ring.
You know why my chain wouldn't stay in my middle ring? Because I had a brand new chain, and I had paired it with a 3-year-old crank I got used, from ebay, for $25. Oops.
At one point I found another gel on the ground, which I also picked up. If I'm going to finish last, I'm gonna do it with $20 of gel in my pockets, dammit.
At some point Bryna dropped off a bit and I went around her an rode with Marci for a while. Like a typical racer male I rode right on her ass in the technical stuff, and then I couldn't pass her on the climbs and flats because I suck. After a while she got sufficiently annoyed to tell me I should pass since she was having trouble picking good lines. The funny thing was that I also was having a horrible time steering my bike, but since I was behind her she had no idea how much junk I was riding into.
Finally we got out of the woods onto a paved section with a sharp turn, and as soon as I try to turn my front tire folds halfway off my stupid wheel, because apparently I had a stupid slow leak, which explains why I can't steer my stupid bike. So, I'm a good 8 miles from the car, I might as well get some flat-changing practice in, right?
I tossed the bike down, whipped out my levers and got to work. Got the tire off and the tube out in 60 seconds or so, feeling pro. Stuff the tube in, start putting the tire back on, man I'm so awesome I'm going to change this tire in like 3 minutes....
Or not. So it was a tubeless tire, and the bead is soft and rubbery, (so it's airtight) which means that muscling it back over the rim is hard. And by hard, I mean impossible. Rider after rider streamed past as I struggled to finish off the last 12 inches of the rim. I'd get a little bit, and the other end would slide off. After a while, I gave it everything I had, pushing laterally with my thumbs. The tire didn't go on, and I actually separated my thumbnails from the skin enough blood started oozing out. Eeew.
Of course by now Brian and the rest of the sport leaders had come by and I was pretty well disgusted with things, so I decided screw it, I'm using the levers. And even THEN it took another 5 minutes of wrestling to get the tire on. Is there some trick to this I'm not aware of? Seriously, does anyone reading this have any tricks for putting a tubeless tire back on other than "have incredible hand strength?"
All in all I think the whole thing took about 15 minutes. By the time I was back on the bike I was hanging out with the rear of the sport field with dudes in T-shirts. I really like how, after 24 years of having awesome mechanical luck, I am suddenly unable to ride anywhere without breaking my bike. Did I mention I need a new bike? Seriously.
Well, the last ten miles of the race were pretty fun. Compared to the people around me I was flying, so I was going all out whenever I actually had clear trail in front of me. I was blowing past overweight sport riders on the climbs like they were overweight sport riders, which was exactly what I needed to brighten what had been a very crappy day.
In the end I only caught up with a few expert women, so I think I was still the last expert male to finish, which isn't gonna look good on the results. But on the plus side, I felt really fast for the last hour, and Bryan flatted too so he didn't beat me. Sucka! And I couldn't really stand up for the last half, since my stupid chain was slipping constantly in the middle ring.
My bike is such crap and it's all my fault. You know what can fix this? Money and time. You know what I don't want to spend, and don't have much of this coming week? Money and time......
Whatever, I still love bike racing.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Ok. It's been seven weeks off. Let's do this thing.