Monday, April 29, 2013

only rain?

I raced on Sunday.

Saturday called for rain in the good old city of Charlotte... well, so does the rest of the damn week...  but what would that mean for Columbia SC, the site of my race on Sunday?  Utilizing the technologies I had at hand, or IN my hand, I surmised that rain would start a bit later there - starting in the overnight and pretty much raining throughout the race.  I've pre-registered, so I'm in.

Somehow I turned off my alarm Sunday morning, randomly I woke up and thought to myself "it's a bit too light out to be too far before my alarm."  So I check my alarm/phone and I have about 10 minutes to spare before my planned departure.  10 minutes won't do, so I end up leaving about 15- 20 minutes late.  That ended up ok as I got into Harbison State Forest at around 9 (with a 10 am start).  Prior to departure I checked the local weather for Columbia... chance of thunderstorms at start time and throughout the race... so.... how will I find out if they cancel??  I pull up a few pages on the intelligent phone so that I can periodically check as I get closer to the race - it's decided, I'm going anyway.

When I arrive it's steady raining, but not super hard... I have a water proof jacket I could wear, but I know that I will overheat with it on... do I warm up with it on to stay warm before the start??  Nope, time was short as it was, so I finally get everything in order and get out on the bike in a short sleeve jersey and bibs.  Once I'm in the woods the falling rain isn't an issue... it's the trails.  Standing water down the middle of some parts, and it's just a sandy/muddy mess that is constantly thrown up by my front tire - not to mention the rear tire of anyone you are following.

Vision will be an issue, but I'm not about to battle the flying water/mud with just my eyes.

Finishing visibility
For probably the last 2-3 miles vision was pretty much shot.  There was no more picking lines, I was just riding and keeping my front wheel as light as possible.  On forest road climbs I pulled my glasses down to prevent fogging, and of course, to get a better view of what was going on.  By this point I was in no man's land anyway.  

Our group was a bit smaller than I anticipated, we had 9 at the start.  We got warnings about wet bridges, and to ride careful and slow (in a race) and then we were sent off.  Off the start is a gravel road climb, and we all stuck together so I didn't have to push too hard.  I was 4th going into the woods and I was right on the wheel of the rider in front of me when he missed a sharp left.  He went straight around a tree to renter the trail and I followed.  A branch popped up as he went over it and as it landed back down my front wheel caught it at a funny angle and I went down.  HARD.  It was in this instance that I was thankful that the ground was saturated as my left shoulder was driven into the ground.  The pine needles and softened earth provided for a nice crashing experience.  My bike, on the other hand, did not come out so coddled.

 My handlebars were spun backwards as I regained my feet.  I had to physically force them back straight as my shifter/brake gouged my frame.  I lost 2 or 3 spots - apparently the front had put in some space on the rear of the group.  I hopped back on and everything seemed to be fine so I took off and quickly re-passed one rider and followed another for a bit until I could pass him on a climb.  He stuck with my for a little bit but I was able to put some distance on him when another rider came up behind looking to get by.  We yo-yoed a bit before he left me as we came out of a grinding climb and I couldn't grab his wheel.

Luckily for me, a fast rider from the 40+ group came by a few seconds later and I was able to grab onto his wheel to get me back up into the singletrack.  He started pulling away and I was alone.  I kept looking ahead for riders, and looking back for challengers... but there was nothing.  I could feel my pace slowing as I no longer felt the urgency of the race.  I tried to focus on my tempo to keep my cadence up to push the speed and get myself back up into a respectable gear.

Then I saw it.  A jersey through the trees as the trail started into a quick switchback section up a short hill.  Instantly the energy returned to my legs.  From the color of his jersey I didn't suspect he was in my age group, but it didn't matter - it was someone to catch.  I lost sight of him and wondered if there had been a rider in front of me.  I exited the singletrack onto another forest road climb and I saw him again at the top of the climb.  I push it up the climb but have a feeling we are toward the end.  I keep looking back as I reach the top of the climb to make sure no one is trying to put a late push on me.  I'm in the clear.  The trail is now speckled with spectators, I MUST be near the end.  I push it hard where I can, but this section is tight and rooty.

Soon the trail open into the grass finish and I cross.  I got 5th.  Did the crash hurt my chances??  Probably not.

I was 2 minutes off 4th... so ultimately I probably would have finished closer to him, but I don't know if I would have had it to finish ahead of him as I know he is a strong rider.  So I'm pretty happy with the race - minus the crash.  I still need to work on the mental game of not losing it in no man's land, but overall I'm pretty pleased with where I am at this point in the season.  Do I need to continue working harder, sure!  But I'm getting there!!

I was one dirty MFer at the end of the race.

I found a nice scrape on my leg to match the gouge on my
frame when I rinsed off the grime.

I think that about sums up the grime I was facing all race.
Oh, you think that is the end?  I've got more to come tomorrow.

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