I was obsessed all week on what I could do for this second race. Do I care about my placing? Not much. But last place? That stung a little. Especially since it happened not because I got a flat tire, but because I failed at fixing it.
So my plan heading into this was not go too hard, start at the back, and see what happens.
I got in the back row with two boys. We discussed Thrasher magazine, and how to tell the difference between steel and aluminum frames. But then I noticed a big ol' gap in the row in front of me. I had to take that. That's free spots, right? I wasn't sure, but I have enough racing instinct that I couldn't resist that.
The start led immediately into a fairly large climb. It was gradual at first, at least until the tractionless, steep end. And then the rooty, rocky, singletrack started. I passed a few on the hill, a few more in that final steep section, including one fellow in yellow who immediately passed me back. We'd be pals for a good chunk of the race.
As that all too short downhill finished, we started Long Hill, which is just like its name suggests, and Yellow let me know I could pass whenever I liked. I thanked him but declined, since I was breathing pretty hard as it was, and I was also enjoying letting him bounce off the rocks so that I could avoid them. Eventually, the trail opened up again, and I passed him. I set my sights on the high school kid in front of me with the squeaky suspension fork.
It was right around this time that the lockring from my (now removed) fixed cog unthreaded itself and began bouncing around on the axle. Perhaps this could've worked to my advantage. My bike may have sounded like it was falling apart (ding-dading-ding!) but I knew there was really nowhere for it to go, nothing to get tangled, so it didn't have much effect on me.
I passed one of the kids, but I'd never even see the other. I didn't really see yellowman either, but he kept asking how far we'd gone-And I kept telling him I didn't know. Which was true. I knew the tough switchbacked and for me "hike-a-bike" section after the inexplicable USA Today newspaper box (in the woods) was coming soon. That would prove to be my lowest point (as I knew it would be when I first saw it ). Something about getting off and pushing the bike just doesn't work for me. You see some racers jog along happy as can be with their bikes, moving as fast as others who are riding. Not me. I mean to, but it never happens. If I'm off, I'm walking.
Somewhere around here, my left leg started threatening to cramp. It never really did (though it was still threatening even at work today), but I thought I'd better get some of the gatorade/water mix in my bottlle inside my body.
After that USA Today hill, I was ready for the lap to be over. Looking back at the first switchback, I'd seen people behind me, but perhaps they had the same reaction to the hill as me. I think yellow re-passed me here. Not sure. It wasn't a high point for me mentally.
After more hills (though nothing quite so soul-crushing), I finally made it onto the beautifully smooth singletrack that was last week's start. I tried to pedal as hard as I could, but I'm not sure that was very hard. Then I finally saw the Owl Babies storywalk. I love that story anyway, but last night it was even more pleasant.
I came to the end of the dirt road I was on, and a volunteer kept telling me there was a turn. Yes, I know, I wanted to say, I can see the 12" bright red arrow. I've made it this far following nothing but arrows, haven't I? Also, there was no trail. At this point, we went across grass. NBD, but I was looking for a trail that would connect them, you know? I don't want to be accused of cheating and cutting the turn or something. I mumbled something to him about a trail.
When I saw the placard for "They flapped and they danced," I recited it out loud to myself from sheer joy at being almost finished. Also, I love that part. Then finally I saw my wife and daughter, and glanced down at the final book pages: "Why all the fuss? You knew I'd come back . . . "
I crossed the line, leaned my bike on the nearest post, and headed for the bathroom. I'd been keeping very hydrated. Afterward, Lucy ran to congratulate me. I was honestly scared she'd knock me down. I think I may have leaned into her just a bit so she'd hold me up.
From there, everything's a bit of a sweaty blur. There was ice cream at one point. And a recovery drink. And Kathy drove home. Oh, and the girls checked the results, even though I'd planned on just waiting until later. 14th out of 23.
That'll do, pig. That'll do.