GhostsNothing really captures the experience and the suffering of the racers at 3:00 AM. Like a lot of really extreme things in life you had to be there. No matter how good your light set is, the shadows play with your mind. Was that an animal that just ran in front of your wheel, or just a shadow sprinting as you whiz by on the bike? For what it's worth, I nearly got run over by a deer just before the pre-dawn gray broke, so yeah, maybe some were animals. But when you're in bad oxygen debt, you've got multiple lights working, you're desperately searching for the next root or rock that will take you down, the hairpin turn you can't see, the dropoff, your eyes are wide open, burning with sweat and pollen. Other riders maybe crash by you on nearby bits of trail. You hear somebody go down hard, and hear a shouted curse word. There's something ethereal and uplifting about it, but a tinge of hell to the whole experience as well. That photo sort of captures it - lights out of the darkness, on a skinny board over a gap and some sucking mud, an hallucinogenic feel to the whole thing. If only it was scratch & sniff with some fat guy sweat on it, and a little wood smoke odor from everybody's campfire, and maybe sticky with Gu2O, it would be perfect. As it is, it's as perfect as a photo gets at capturing something that's nearly impossible to convey with words. *Great* photo.
Play Some Skinnerd!
Here's Jon Seibold, Family Bikes LBS owner and expert MTB racer, finishing up what must have been his 4th lap, something in the neighborhood of a very fast 51. He's securing the lead for the Family Bikes team, right before Tom McKay, AKA Young Buck, soon to be Eagle Scout Tom, goes out and drives the final nail in the coffin. It was a superlative performance from Jon, Trevor Miller and Tom - just steady fast laps, hard work, and high intensity. They won the Single Speed class against some tough competition, and finished third overall, plus they put up with three Coppis, NooBs to the MTB endurance scene, in their little compound on the campsite/field. Well done, and thanks gents.
Fatboy Holdin' the Pimp Hand High
Yeah, that's me. Man, I'm tired. Fat too. No, that's not a ham on the end of my forearm, that's my fist. I was pretty happy to be wrapping up this lap. If I look tired it's because I flatted on this lap, finally figured out how to climb steep hills with many roots on them (it takes really hard work, FWIW) and because my brakes failed causing me to try many innovative methods of slowing myself, including hopping off the bike and running down steep hills, Bizarro Cyclocross Style, and grabbing trees to slow myself on turns. *That* hurt. I was also suffering from pretty bad racer gut - I burn upwards of 1000 calories an hour on intense rides, and can't keep anywhere near hydrated, so I eat and drink just about everything I can cram into my mouth. It results in the aesthetically pleasing phenomenon of a bloated stomach that pushes my beer / powerlifter gut even further out. I wish I could say that I'd lose weight and it would go away but let's be honest about this - even if I get ripped I'm still going to be an endomorphic stocky bastard who can't take in enough calories or water during races. So I'm doomed. But I could stand to get lighter and faster on the hills. You may notice the forearm pump BTW. That comes from riding rigid, and from having to pull on the bars a lot on the uphills to keep moving. I can handle one or the other. Rather than getting gears, for now, I'm going to try getting a fork and slinging that on there. I'll let you know how it goes.
Yeah, that was a tough ass race. It was really fun, a serious challenge. I think I'm going to do a bunch more MTB races this summer. Mainly it's going to be for fun, but also because it has enormous training benefit, and the fun factor makes it beat the hell out of interval sessions at Hains. They also have their place, but if you can get in a VO2 workout or a hard tempo ride and have fun, it will keep your mind and soul fresh for race season; intervals tend to only wear you down, with the only immediate reward coming on those days when you hit a personal best power output, or maybe get an exceptionally good post-ride espresso. There's nothing wrong with that, but those are Calvinistic pleasures, sparse fun made pleasureful only by their contrast to abundant suffering. (Okay, the espresso is always good, but the interval riding is not). It's fine, that's the roadie way and I love it. But if there are several training methods that will Git 'er Done, why stint on the fun? Cross season starts in 120 days plus two weeks, so right now, 4 months out, it's time for me to get with the PROgram, as Padraig puts it in an excellent post, reminding us "Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight." I'm going to fight hard with the intervals, but I've gotten strong enough that I could stand to mix in some fun training too.