Well, we left off yesterday with my first lap at the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek, and I felt pretty good. After that initial lap though, I still had four hours and forty minutes to go. At my pit stop, I tried not to hang around too long. When I took off for lap two, I tried to keep a decent pace. This is the point that everything starts to get a little fuzzy. I was still enjoying the trail, but I was starting to get tired already. The adrenaline rush I had throughout the first lap was slowly fading away.
I ate plenty of food and took in lots of fluids, so I figured I would be able to keep a pretty fast pace. I sorta knew what to expect this time, and I was a little more relaxed. I tried not to push too hard, but I still ended up doing it anyway. The trails at Warrior Creek are crazy fun, so it’s hard not to ride it fast. Maybe I was a little too relaxed, starting to get tired, or something, but I was making dumb little mistakes out there as the lap went on. These small mistakes led to some really close calls, especially on some of the steep berms and the bridges. I had to grab a handful of brake on more than one occasion. I never actually crashed though, save for the one time that I just fell over due to lack of momentum. I was climbing a turn behind another rider, and he slipped, causing me to do the same thing. Shit, I was getting into trouble.
About five or six miles into that lap, I felt the leg cramps coming on. It was only a small amount at first, but I knew it would get worse. I drank the rest of the contents in my water bottle, and hoped I would make it out of the trail. At this point I was pretty much racing alone, save for the occasional passer by. I slowed my pace way down to conserve my energy, especially since I was out of water.
Suddenly out of nowhere there appeared a table with a water cooler on it, right on the side of the trail. I had been talking to myself for a little while at this point (I forgot my music-playing device), so I kept up the conversation. I said out loud, “Is this a mirage? No, it can’t be. Who the hell parks a cooler in the middle of a bike trail?” I was really confused, and there was still no sign of any other racers. I decided to stop anyway to see if it was for real. I filled my water bottle and drank it, but I wasn’t convinced. I was probably hallucinating, I figured. Then, another rider pulled up and filled up his bottle too. I guess I hadn’t imagined this lonely trailside oasis after all. I filled my bottle again and got on my way.
Windy, twisty, uphill, downhill, jumpy, rocky, whatever. I really don’t remember the details of the rest of lap two. That is, until I got to the second rock garden again. I could hear the ruckus from the pit area, so I blasted through the Wicked Garden without any regard for my own safety. I had to get back to my pit area with a quickness.
I wasn’t cramping too bad at this point. I wanted to bust out two more laps, and I still had plenty of time. I gorged myself yet again on food, and swallowed more water than a camel heading out for an all night joyride. I also had an ace up my sleeve. I busted out The Stick in a vain attempt to alleviate the inevitable cramping. After a lengthy pit stop, it was time for lap three.
This is where it got weird. As soon as I hit the singletrack, I felt odd. Instead of just trying to get through one more lap, I kept telling myself that I had two to go. I started pedalling faster, but I felt like I was going slower. While there was nothing wrong with my bike, it actually felt as if I was holding down the rear brake and trying to ride. I kept riding, and decided to come up with a plan. During my pit stop, I had stuffed several sandwiches and gels into my pockets. The plan was to eat them at certain mile markers on the trail. My first trail meal would be at mile marker three, I told myself.
After what seem like an hour, I wondered if I had missed seeing a few of the mile markers. I was getting hungry, so I slowed down and looked for the magic number. A few minutes later I saw the marker for mile one. ONE? REALLY? No way, I must have taken a wrong turn or something. At that point, my mind was gone I guess. Seeing that sign just took the wind out of my sails, but I vowed to keep riding. I went ahead and ate one half of a tuna sandwich, and kept going.
The food must have finally caught up with me. After I passed the two mile mark, I felt the call of nature. Not the call of nature that you can do behind a tree either. I started to panic; for fear that I might have a different kind of accident other than the crashing kind. Just like the mystery water cooler before, a magic land of toilets suddenly appeared to me at mile marker three. I ran about fifty feet off of the trail and parked my bike. After a few minutes, I was finally relieved.
There was another problem, however. As I tried to flush, I found that the toilet didn’t work. Shit (literally I guess.) I did what any good citizen would do, and I removed the toilet tank cover and proceeded to play Mr. Plumber. I got a good laugh at the fact that I was fixing a strange toilet in the middle of a bike race. At least I was having fun. I cleaned up and headed back out, ready for more two-wheeled torture.
Every once in a while, someone I knew would pass me by. Every time that happened, I tried to hang onto their wheel. Most of the time I only lasted a few seconds, but at least I was making a little progress. My leg cramps had progressed to the point that I was relegated to pushing my bike up most of the hills, and holding on for dear life on the downhills. My technical skills are usually pretty good, but my fatigue turned out to be more powerful. At one point while I was resting on the side of the trail, my boy Space Cowboy came up out of nowhere. He was hurting pretty bad too, but he was on his fourth lap.
We rode together for a while, and I even dropped him at one point (we took turns leading the way.) I’m not sure where this burst of energy came from, but I was happy to be moving at a decent pace. I came up to the water cooler again, and this time I knew it was real. We stopped for a drink and some rest, and headed back out.
Eventually though, Mr. Space Cowboy left me. He tried to keep me motivated, but my legs weren’t having it. I let him go and kept going at my slower-than-a-turtle pace. I still hurt like hell, but at one point I managed to put on my “tough guy mountain biker” face when I saw a guy snapping photographs.
Once I reached the last rock garden again, I knew I was close to the finish line. I tried my usual strategy of blasting through it, but that almost cost me a trip to the emergency room. I veered off course and barely stopped myself from flipping over the bars onto a giant jagged rock. I pushed my bike the out of the rock garden, and used what little leg power I had to make my way to the trail exit. I crossed the finish line a few minutes before 4 p.m. and saw Little Miss Sunshine waiting with the camera.
When it was all over, I only managed three laps. I still “raced” for six hours though, and I never gave up. I didn’t finish in last place either, which was my top goal. In fact fourteen people finished after I did. I have a long way to go, but it was nice to push myself. A quick look around our “camp” after the race gave the appearance of a war-torn third-world country. We were all pretty wiped out.
The MadSS was happy to be finished, I’m sure:
The Space Cowboy was feeling mighty fine after “cleaning up.”
Just leave me here. I’m not gonna make it out alive.
Since today I was kind of long-winded, I guess I’ll save my summary for tomorrow’s post. Hopefully I can remember.