Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Liberation

Fast racers crank out 50-minute laps on the 24 Hours of Kincaid course. I’m not a fast racer.

Two years ago, during my first 24-hour race, my best lap on the nearly 11-mile course was about 1:07. Last year I pulled off a 1:03. This year I was hoping to crack an hour, but moved my PR to only 1:02, and I nearly knocked myself out trying to go faster.

Then I had a lap that felt perfect. I was shifting well, railing the turns, bombing the descents … and bagged a 1:04. That’s when I came to the liberating realization that I can’t fight fate. Whatever the excuse is—too big, too lazy, too old—I'm just not very fast. Might as well stop thinking about speed and surrender to fun. Besides, I was the token geezer on this year’s four-man team. I can write the whole thing off as a "senior moment," right?

So what if I never clock a 59:59 lap? Never did it before, why worry about it now? Better to just ride fast but fun, and savor the taste of a cold beer afterward. That’s why I started mountain biking in the first place.

Team Megasoreass logged 18 laps this year and had a good time in the process. Rob G. made us a kick-ass team banner, and DaveIT flew a rainbow-colored Italian peace flag that kept our hordes of groupies at bay by making our camp look like a gay-pride festival. Frigid Bits race organizer Carlos Lozano set up camp with us and helped us with everything from bike repairs and bad jokes to middle-of-the-night cheeseburgers (with an assist from Amanda, who made the burger run) and tasty post-race brats.

Here’s the breakdown of my laps:

#1: Le Mans start. Jogged to my bike and was glad to find it still there instead of already on the course under the guy who had parked his white Epic with Egg Beaters only a few feet from mine. Rode in traffic for most of the lap before everybody became completely scattered by the second lap. I think this was the lap on which I recognized fellow bike blogger Bosskat from pictures on his site, and said hello as he passed me. Finished with a modest PR of 1:02 and change.

#2: Went for broke, and nearly ended my race. I figured this was my best chance to beat an hour, because my legs were still fresh. Tried to hop over a log with more speed than I’m accustomed to on that particular obstacle, and apparently slammed my rear wheel into it. At least I think that’s what happened. It all unfolded too fast. Next thing I knew, I was body-slammed into the trail. Punch to the kidneys, hard whack to the back of the helmet. Managed to finish the lap with a piece of plastic flapping from the side of my helmet and my glasses so mangled I looked like a nerd who got his ass kicked on the way home from band practice (which is exactly what I felt like). Somehow, I still clocked a 1:04 and change. Then I started popping ibuprofen and headed to the optical department at Costco for emergency repairs.

#3: Late evening ride. Everything felt great. I was using gears well, nailing turns, yadda, yadda, yadda. Didn’t let myself check the time on my computer until I rounded the turn coming out of Dark Alley to kick down the homestretch. I was at 1:01. Shit. Ended up with a 1:03 or 1:04 and knew that there was no way I could come up with a faster lap.

#4: Overnight lap. This is always the nasty one. Two-thirty in the freakin’ morning. Lots of moose on the trail. Some porcupines. The ground gets damp with dew—slip out of the skinny dirt rut while flying down one of Kincaid's wide x-c ski trails, and that wet grass is slick as snot. I forgot about the clock and set a goal of avoiding injury. Came in feeling good with a lap of 1:15.

#5: All the guys on the team were tired after four laps each. Dave wasn’t eager for me to get back and send him off for his fifth, and I was in no hurry. My hands went numb on the root-covered singletrack and I couldn’t feel my fingers for a few minutes. Couldn’t tell if I was actually braking until I felt the bike slow down, so I got a little worried that the signal from my brain might stop reaching the muscles in my hands. Stopped to eat a Gu before dropping into Big Niagara, then briefly picked up two recreational riders on Mize Loop when they asked if I knew where people race at Kincaid. I yelled at them to follow me, so they got on my wheel and the guy with a southern accent started trying to have a conversation about bikes. I wasn’t feeling chatty, but told them they could pull ahead of me and just follow the flags to stay on course. I pulled into the finish area with a time of a little more than 1:13.

(A couple of minutes later, one of the guys rode up to me and explained they hadn’t realized I was taking part in a 24-hour race when they asked for directions, they just wanted to know about the Tuesday night race series.)

Scott, Dave and Rob, thanks for the good time. It was great racing with you.

Carlos—our “fifth man”—thanks for keepin’ a watchful eye on Team Megasoreass and our bikes all weekend.

And, of course, thanks to Reggi Parks for puttin' this whole circus of pain together one more time. Good job as usual, Reggi.

9 comments:

Ethan said...

Dude, you shouldn't feel bad at all. That sounds like an amazing feat of riding. I don't think I could do 11 miles in under an hour and I'm 28, and I don't think I could do it five times. It sounds like you had a lot of fun. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Well played old man!
Next up you wil be getting 'go faster' stripes for your zimmer frame! :)

Sam

bosskat said...

Good on you for being out there ripping it up... the majority of the population was either sleeping or watching television. Also, thanks for the kudos and the reference from your site. Ride on brother.

Jill said...

That was a fun race, wasn't it? Your laps were all faster than mine ... you probably even passed me out on the trail a couple of times when I was too fargone to notice. Are you already planning to set up a team for next year? My goal is to take less breaks, though I'll probably never join a team because I'd hate to be the slow one.

Changed your mind about Soggy Bottom yet?

Tim said...

Next year, Jill?! I'm still in the "I've had enough of this" phase. This was my third 24 Hours of Kincaid in a row, so a year off sounds good, but we'll see what happens next spring.

No change of heart on the Soggy Bottom. I'm not really a racer, just a soul rider who likes to occasionally test my fitness in some quantifiable way. Besides, I enjoy the social aspect of team racing and, with a family, have very limited time to train.

I think there's a different mindset that makes someone enjoy long bouts of suffering alone. I admire it, I just don't have it.

Whenever I found myself thinking about trying a long solo race, I know that I'd be pissed off and miserable the entire time.

I'd rather do a big one-day epic ride with a couple of friends, and then feast on burgers and Alaskan Amber.

Adam said...

Tim
Soggy Bottom? No way, your thinking about the Soggy. Do it baby. It really is just a huge epic with beer and burgers at the end (and some big hills and pain in the middle). We can be slow together, I've spent the last 2 weeks or so just being a slug, and of course I was being lazy in hommage to you and your team this weekend.
Sounds like you had a good time out there. I've only done the race once and it was so hot that weekend (2004) that, within the first 6 hours, I wilted like a hothouse flower. This weekend seemed perfect, not too hot or too cold just right. By the way, I think your lap times were plenty fast, I'm impressed.

Anonymous said...

The Sog Bot 100 is about persistence and eating, drinking and spinning. If you can get out of a warm comfy sleeping bag at 2 AM jump on a cold butt numbing saddle and then ride like you just stole the bike your riding for 10.5 miles, the Soggy would be a fun adventure. This ride will change your life.
carlos

Tim said...

Lalalalalala, I can't heeear yooou! (Picture hands over ears) Lalalalalalalalalalalalalala.

daveIT said...

Awww shaddup...quit acting like you are not going to race next year! I have another race tomorrow...I'm gonna try to put the hurt on my fellow AF folks.