Pat's Peak XC Race Report

Hills, Heat, Hardtail, Happiness -- pick any three.


So Pat's Peak was going to be the race where I followed the lead of my sensei Thom and rocked it pro-style, that is, ditching the usual camelback and heavy dualie for a hardtail and a single water bottle. We're talking about probably 4 pounds in weight savings here, which I ordinarily would scoff at, but I did have to climb 3500 feet during the course of the race. Maybe Hill Junkie could tell me how many seconds 4 lbs is worth over 3500 feet of climbing when you're putting out, like, 150 watts, but I think it's a lot.

Last year Pat's Peak was a mudfest. I remember the downhill was smooth and slimy. Who needs dual suspension for that, I asked? Well, this year it was bone dry, rutted into washboard by the 24 hour race and sport/beginner classes. I needed dual suspension for that, it turns out.

Last year Pat's Peak was a thunderstormfest, so climbing in the open on ski slopes wasn't super hot. This year -- sunny. I'm crawling uphill at 4 mph, the breeze is coming up the hill with me (also at 4 mph), it might only be 74 degrees but the sun is pointed directly at my head and I feel like an ant to God's magnifying glass. Surely, this is what hell is like, I think to myself.

This is commonly known as "adversity," a situation that requires "mental toughness," and often leads to me "doing shitty."

So yeah, this was not one of my best performances on a bike. Despite my light weight, I cannot climb sustained grades to save my life. Pat's Peak has 3 major climbs per lap -- I was getting killed. My bike and body were nice and light, but instead of getting whisked uphill by angels I was getting grilled. Even angels like to barbecue sometimes, I guess.

The actual race followed the typical pattern of fast first lap, horrible gut check 2nd lap, meltdown on the 3rd lap, slight recovery on the 4th lap. Highlights included my patended DFL start, followed by riding straight into a ditch while screaming "ahhh I suck" as I tried to move up by cutting the inside of a loose turn. Somehow I got it together (maybe by riding too hard) on the first lap to get all the way up to 5th by the end, and I was within striking distance of Timmy D, the series leader, only 15 seconds back. You're set, I told myself, because you generally speed up in races. Just keep doing your thing and you'll undoubtedly overtake him, take the series lead, and get podium girls. You're the man now, dog!

On the second lap he appeared to gain a bit on me. That's odd, I thought, you are supposed to catch him and beat him. Well, no matter, I can still see him, so it's only a matter of time before I speed up and defeat him. No reason to worry.

By the end of that lap, however, it had gotten to the point where I could occasionally see him on the longest straightaways. This is generally not a sign that you are within "striking distance."

At this point I was so hot, and my stomach was so distraught, that I was ready to stop worrying about doing well and start worrying about finishing. In my melting-down state it took me until the end of the third lap to realize that I had a full zip jersey on, and there was no reason to hide my chest hair from the world. As I passed a cheering Yash I unzipped in the most flamboyant, er, Euro manner possible. In addition to making him the happiest man on the course I also noticed an immediate reduction in discomfort. In the future I will try to remember I can unzip before 75% of the race is over.

I also managed to pull my back wheel out of the dropout on the 3rd lap, with my massive torque. That's what I get for doing the full-bike-disassembly car-packing and not paying enough attention when putting it back together. I was hoping that re-seating the wheel would make me feel super good (because maybe my discs had been dragging for a long time!) but alas, nothing except the sweet release of death could make me feel super good at this point.

On lap 4 the legendary Hupster PVB passed me, and I got to listen to him "shift," which is when I realized why he breaks chains a lot. It seems to involve random amounts of torque and lever-pressing until the bike ends up in a different gear, that may or may not be the gear you wanted. We had a little chat where I said pathetic things about how I was sucking and he didn't rub in the fact that he was crushing me. It was nice. Then he rode away.

Fittingly, I got lapped by the leading pro/semipro with a minute left to ride, confirming that I am so much slower than them it boggles the mind. Maybe not your mind... but my mind, anyway.

Uhhhh... see you next week?
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