Bad medicine is always the stuff that cures what ails ya. The nastier it tastes, the better it is. I thought about that in the closing laps of the Dirty Spokes 6 hour race at Heritage Park in Watkinsville Georgia yesterday. I was definitely taking some bad medicine with the expectations of it making me "better", or killing me. You know what Nietzsche says about that.
The Dirty Spokes race was the second of three races I have targeted for early spring training. What that means for me is that I didn't really have any expectations for results or anything else, I just wanted to go and get some saddle time in a race environment. Having said that, I did have some goals for this race.
A. Not ride like a pissed off teenager for the first half of it and blow up afterwards.
B. Ride the entire race without having to stop (see A)
C. Have no significant crashes.
D.Finish in the top 10. (I know what I said about results but top 10 is always a secret goal of mine in any event - unless there's only 9 racing....)
E. Do 6 laps.
I made good on B and C and so so on A and just missed on D and E but all in all it was a good event for me. Here's how it happened.
I got to Heritage Park late Friday and quickly put the Honda into RV mode and tried to get some rest. Just before turning in, I checked the weather once more and it didn't look good. There was pretty much no chance of not getting wet during the race. After a night of weird dreams but amazingly good sleep, I woke up to 39 degrees but no rain -yet. I may bitch and whine about being cold but I can deal with it. I don't mind being wet, but I cannot stand being cold AND wet. So far, so good. I checked the radar once more and saw a huge green and blue blob over Atlanta and heading our way and I just tried to not worry about it. It is what it is. After signing in, mixing a days worth of drinks and finding a place to set my cooler along the course for easy access during the race, I got ready to ride. It was freezing.
As I was riding around, I overheard talk about how evil this section was or about the monster climb and how so and so was riding a singlespeed and that was just crazy on this course. If I had listened, I would have been convinced that there was no way I could do this race without certain death. but I have learned in my racing experience that one person's evil in another's playground and things aren't always that bad.
At 9:45 we lined up for a mass start. I looked around and saw about 100+ riders and thought about my plan for the start. There was no Lemans start which made me happy, I hate running. The truth is no matter how you start these races, there's no way to avoid a huge cluster**** in the first lap. That's just the way it is. I was shivering at my LTHR during the final moments before the start and wanted to get going so I could get warm. After we started, I did my best to get a decent position but not get to far up front so I wouldn't have to ride that hard and I could get a look at the course during my first lap. Going into the singletrack into trails I have never seen before, riding balls out behind 50 other people that I don't know can be kinda hairy. It wasn't long until we came to a techy spot and everyone stopped. Getting through that, I saw that there was a lot of roots and a few rocky spots and plenty of places to crash since everything as wet. We got to what I later would learn was the "monster climb" and there was a congo line going up it so I called up some cyclocross skills and grabbed my bike and started running through the woods with it. I passed several people and opened myself up a little breathing room. Despite my best efforts, I rode the first lap like a pissed off teenager.. It was either that or sit up and let dozens of people pass me and I wasn't going to do that. Things would settle down after the first couple of laps.
I got a better look at the course on lap 2 and decided that my gearing choice (32x18) was perfect although it would have been nice to have something a little lower for the monster (that damn thing hurt!!) it worked great for everything else. The course was littered with wet roots and rooty, technical climbs that required a little more that just pedaling up them. You had to move, shift weight, lunge and jerk your way to the top and that used up gobs of energy. I rolled through lap 2, exchanged two empty bottles for freshies and out I went for lap 3.
I had settled into a good pace and was thankful that it never really started raining. It sprinkled some and there was this mist off and on all day that made things really slick. I saw quite a few crashes and had a little trouble on some of the rooty climbs where there was no traction but overall I was doing ok. I had slowed from my earlier pace and by lap 4, I was starting to feel the pain of my efforts. I got a little sloppy and bounced off of a couple of trees but as still running crash free. I walked the monster because I didn't have the energy to climb the damn thing again.
I realized about that time that I would finish lap 4 at about 2:15 which meant that if I was going to get 6 laps, I'd have to do two 45 minute laps in a row (the race ended at 4:00 sharp, If you started a lap before 4:00 but didn't finish it until after, it would not count). That wasn't in the cards for me.
Before my 5th lap, I switched bottles again, this time only taking one and I took a long drink from a coke I was saving for hard times. Leaving the pavillion to the booming encouragement from Bruce Dickman over the PA, I had a bit of the horse smelling the barn (or smelling like a horse in a barn, I dunno) experience. I rode and felt much better that I did before. That feeling took me half way through the last lap and left me somewhere about the time I fudged on a wet root and went down. Not hard but enough to mess up my tempo. I got up and rode another mile or so to this rooty climb and slipped on some roots and went down again, this time causing a bad cramp in my hamstring. That one pissed me off. I got up and just rode the remaining few miles to the finish.
Overall, it was great training and I would call it a success for me. The course as fun and challenging, especially for a singlespeed (but hey, we don't ride singlespeeds because they are easy right?) but it wasn't as evil as I was led to believe early on. The race organization was great and I hope to make it back to some of the other Dirty Spokes races later in the summer. I ended up 17th out of the 25 singlespeeds (dunno about the overall) and although I would have liked to finished better, I was fine with that. There's a lot of strong singlespeed riders in Georgia and it's always pretty competitive down there. I never really got warm all day. It was 42 when the race ended and still misty, no rain though so it could have been worse.
Many thanks again to my really cool sponsors: Vassago Cycles, Ergon, WTB, Crank Bros, White Bros, Carbo-Rocket and Under Armour. You all make really great stuff that continues to get the job done without fail. Good on ya all!
Next for me is the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek coming up in about 3 weeks in North Wilkesboro, NC.