Holiday Farm Classic Race Report

You know what really doesn't suit me? Long mountain bike races. I just don't have the training volume for this stuff, and I'm not going to acquire it anytime soon. Not when I get out of work at 6, and not when I don't do long rides on weekends because I have to go "race" long mountain bike races.

So I was a little concerned that the Holiday Farm race was a "longer than usual" XC race. But it turns out that I had completely better things to worry about, such as...

A port-a-potty line long enough it was faster for me to drive to a convenience store instead of waiting ...
which meant that I had:
absolutely no warm-up ...
But that's ok because:
I only had 2 gels for 3 hours

Mountain bike racing, hell yeah!

The course was 8 miles, 80% singletrack, lots of climbing, fair amount of mud. 3 laps for experts. I figured that I was going to be 2.5-3 hours, so why should I warm up? I don't really warm up for ski marathons.

Well, a mountain bike race isn't like a ski marathon, because in a ski marathon I can start at the back of 100 people and let them block me while I warm up for 5k. In this race, I lined up with 14 other guys, and found myself DFL about 60 seconds in. So I had to step it up, because I'm far too shortsighted to just let them ride away from me, right?

Ten minutes later I was standing on the side of the trail letting the lead singlespeeders pass me.

Three minutes after that I was holding a tree to let the 6 lead 30-39 guys pass me and thinking about DNFing and having nothing to write about.

Five minutes after that I was letting air out of my tires and the lead 40+ guys were going by me.

So I'm thinking that I should've warmed up.

Anyway, 20 minutes into a 3 hour race and the only reason I didn't DNF was that there was nowhere to do it. I let some air out of my tires because I inexplicably couldn't ride the wet roots to save my life, and that seemed to be the turning point. I got a nice 60 second rest, and a bunch of traction, and then when I got back on my bike I was suddenly able to ride again. I stayed with some 40+ guys (who had started 3 minutes behind me...) for the rest of the first lap. Then I ate a gel and hit the second lap feeling strangely good.

Sweet, man, I actually can mountain bike! If I had only warmed up I'd probably be doing really good. For the first twenty minutes of lap two I was loving mountain biking, hanging with the old guys on the climbs and passing them on the downhills. I think I even passed back one or two guys from my own category to move out of DFL position.

But then, a funny thing happened on the way to recovering -- the course didn't end. My legs made a quick switch from the "burning but recovering" feeling to "always burning." I ate some of my backup food source, a chocolate and peanut butter Odwalla bar in a vain attempt to bring back that lovin feeling from earlier in lap 2, and kept on turning the pedals over -- albeit with steadily diminishing watts.

Lap three started with a chocolate PowerGel, which is the thickest, nastiest crap I've ever had the misfortune of trying to feed with. Does anyone out there like these things? Why does PowerGel make them?? Why do I feel compelled to always grab one when I'm buying a gel assortment? The world may never know.

My misfortune continued when I had to vault my bike when I dumped it on some roots and landed with a cramp in my leg. I hopped and winced back to my bike and begrudgingly admitted to a passing racer that was "probably fine." I remounted to discover that my rear shifter was now not downshifting correctly. I had to pull the lever toward me (as usual) but also push it away from me, something that is usually done by a spring. Either something was broken or my drivetrain was just getting so mucked up that the cable wasn't moving. Awesome.

My bike was now extremely reluctant to downshift, between the amount of mud I was carrying and the broken shifter, and I couldn't really get out of my big cog very quickly. My legs were feeling pretty toasty so it wasn't too much of a problem, since middle ring-biggest cog was about all I could turn up the hills anyway, but the downhills were pretty bad. I would end up in the big ring/big cog combo and that's just a whole load of trouble.

Why am I talking about my drivetrain so much? Well, coming through the half-lap point on lap 3 I was hauling down the fastest section of the course, probably running the big ring-big cog setup because my bike wouldn't shift, and as I come sliding around a rough corner there's suddenly the sick sound of metal-on-metal and my back brakes lock up. The only problem is that I wasn't touching the brakes.

Yeah, that's right, derailleur into the spokes. Game over.

Well, I like to think that I'm some kind of badass, so I started walking carrying my bike. It's only like, 4 miles to go. I can carry this thing.

Then the adrenaline wore off and I realized that my bike weighed 30 pounds and the back wheel didn't turn. I can't carry this thing 4 miles. I dropped in the ground and looked at it in disgust.

But wait! I can take the chain and derailleur off, and then I have a really expensive full-suspension scooter!

So I sat on the side of the trail amputating parts from my bike until it would roll again, and then I started scootering along. It was fun for about 30 seconds, and then it started sucking, because there's a ton of rolling resistance scootering a bike and it's a really uncomfortable position. But now I was down the hill past the point of pulling out, so I might as well keep going. There were still a few people out on course passing me, so there was still the small chance I could beat someone. Most importantly, the leading pro women had gone by while I was performing surgery, so I knew I had a fighting chance of finishing ahead of Linnea, or else heckling her when she passed me. And I needed to wait for her to finish anyway -- so I might as well do this thing.

So I walked, scootered and rolled (downhill only) the last 4 miles. It wasn't fun, but it wasn't terrible. The people who passed me felt bad for me. I had high hopes of passing someone back on the last downhill, without a chain, but it was not to be. I did bring it in without getting passed by Linnea, and I did somehow beat a guy in my class by 30 minutes, so I don't even think I had the worst mechanical out there.

On the downside, three hours of racing/running/scootering hurt my knee, and my ego. I need some time off.


josh said…
thats pretty hardcore. but then again, I get the feeling that whole off-road thing you do is. :)

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