Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Muddier Than Thou

Since I was out of town yesterday, I didn’t get a chance to chronicle the mud-fest masquerading as a race that happened this past Sunday. Yes folks, race number 2 in the 2010 Winter Short Track Series was far muddier than the last one, with an added bonus of steady rain during many of the races (including mine.)

After arriving on site, I briefly considered skipping the muddy race and doing my volunteer duties for the event for the whole day, rather than after my race as normal. When I ran into Neal Boyd and informed him of this, he said, “That’s what winter bike racing is all about!” I couldn’t argue with that logic, so I filled out my form and signed up. I took a practice lap and I was satisfied that I could hang in there for another fun-filled race in the muck. I spun around the parking lot for a bit to keep the legs warm, since it was a little colder than it was last week. As the start time for my race neared, I lined up and got ready for the pain and suffering.

As I waited for the race to start, I thought about my strategy. Last week I took off so fast and left the pack behind me, but I blew up just before I made it back to the start/finish line. I spent the rest of the race suffering because of it too. This time would be different, since I knew I didn’t have the stamina to lead the entire race. I decided to take off at a decent pace and stay somewhere in the middle of the pack where I would be comfortable. I would do my best to stay with the group, and then start picking them off one racer at a time.

I pretty much held my ground on the first lap, although the conditions were as shitty as a baby’s diaper. I climbed out of the trail and was greeted with a super-slushy fire road, which was hell on my legs and lungs. After trudging through the muddy goodness, I rounded the corner for my first lap. I was still in the middle of the pack, with only one rider passing me so far.

As the race went on, I was having trouble navigating the corners on the downhill sections. I soon noticed that I had lost most of my front brake, and all of my rear brake again. While I thoroughly inspected my brakes and made the proper adjustments before the race, I somehow had the same issues as last week. This really sucked because I usually have an advantage on those sections due to my weight. The smaller, skinner guys can climb better, but my 225 pounds just goes faster downhill (that’s physics, baby.) I couldn’t go balls out and adjust my speed since I didn’t have the proper braking power. I rounded the corner for my second lap and tried to figure out a new strategy.

While I am giving Lunchbox the thumbs-up in the above photo, I knew my race wasn’t going as planned. I wanted him to see that I felt okay, which I actually did (surprisingly.) While my recovery time was improving on the climbs, I was having a lot of trouble gaining back any of the ground I lost from my mid-pack start. I pushed as hard as I could through the climbs, but the downhill stuff was getting worse as the race went on. My weight quickly became a disadvantage on the slippery decent, and I was sliding all over the place. I became familiar with more than a few trees during the next few laps. I began to wonder if racing was such a good idea, given the conditions.

This time I actually managed to give Lunchbox a smile as I rounded the corner on my last lap. I was probably just happy that the end was near. I decided to throw caution to the wind and give it everything I had so I wouldn’t get passed by anyone else. While I wasn’t in an anger of finishing dead-last, I knew that I had to work hard to finish mid-pack. I did a little better this time on the trail, but I didn’t pass anyone else. When I saw the final approach to the finish line, I stood up and mashed the pedals. I would pass out dead at the finish line if I had to, just to keep anyone from getting by me. Although I didn’t end up dead, I didn’t finish mid-pack either. I came in at a not-so respectable 14th place, but the important thing is that I finished I guess. I need these races to jump-start my season, so every little bit helps. When the race was over, we all had a great laugh at how muddy we were.

I can’t explain why people do things like racing in such horrible conditions. Hell, I can’t explain why people race at all. I know that for me it somehow helps maintain my sanity, while also keeping me in some kind of decent shape. The only saving grace is that there are tons of other crazies out there with me. Welcome to the Dirty South. At least I didn't wear a white jersey this time. See y'all tomorrow.

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