Monday, June 6, 2011

Race #76: Stubbornness is a Virtue

Photos by Jen Farmer

An epic tale of my first 100 mile mountain bike race in the scenic Mohican 100, where I endured the longest ride of my life (so far).

Thursday night I went to Norwood Chiropractic, where Dr. Yost worked out a huge knot in my right quad! Overall my legs were fried from my muddy race win the weekend before. This is the second time they have rescued my from the disable list and got me back to the start line.

On Friday, Bridget, Joe and I reconned the first 8 miles. It's critical to know what's coming at you, and how to react as you weave your way through the early traffic of a mountain bike race. I went for a second warmup ride later with Mark, I wanted to keep the blood running through my legs, repairing the damage.

Teammate Kris "Karwash," the 100 miler veteran, gave me a great pep talk where he told me to keep my chin up and never give up. He said I would want to quit 5 times, but not to listen to that voice because coming over the finish line is so rewarding. He also said to stay within yourself and only start really racing at the end — something I was glad to hear because I was worried all week my legs wouldn't make it to the end.

We had to wake up at 5:30 for the 7am start! I ate some rolled oats and flax, drank a sip of coffee and downed a gel — threw the leg over the saddle and headed to the startline. My legs were still feeling a bit stiff but it takes a while to warm up the engine some days. It was a 10 minute ride to the start and I added a few sprints at the end to get ready for the start.

I modeled some sexy poses at the startline and tried to relax, this may be the toughest day of my life (on a bike). The gun went off, but I kept it conservative waiting for my legs to come around. The beginning of these races is always a mess with tons of traffic as hundreds of riders find themselves gridlocked on what most would call a single-track hiking trail.

I stayed relaxed and eventually found myself with some good riders with similar abilities and matching speed. My legs were warmed up and the trail was so fun. Actually, my legs felt really great! The massage from Dr. Yost worked miracles!

If you like to mountain bike and haven't been there, the Mohican State Forest offers some lovely riding with beautiful scenery and some fun roller coaster trails that allow you to go really fast on a bike (thus not allowing you to enjoy the scenery). My average speed with all the hills was 10.7 mph. I couldn't wait to hit the road sections and really beat my target time of 10 hours. I was on the back of the group of riders and feeling really great when it happened...

My chain snapped! I was going around a corner with a steep uphill when suddenly my feet were spinning without resistance. At first I thought it just dropped. But upon further inspection I realized that was the key component of my drive train dragging behind my bike!

That was when I remembered I did not have and extra chain pin or a Sram Quick Link... That was a bit stupid of me! Was my day over? I had two options: 1. act like a total baby and throw my bike down a hill and have a complete meltdown or 2. put on my big boy panties and behave like an adult and calmly solve the problem. I must admit that many times I have chosen option 1, but for some reason I was really calm. Kris's pep talk was working!

Somehow I fixed it (I am a horrible mechanic). I kept channeling a calm energy and patiently went about removing a couple links and re-smashing a pin back into place. I watched as the end of my race passed, then the leaders of the 100 kilometer race began to pass. I think I lost 10 minutes or so.

I rolled out of the aid station about 15 minutes off my targeted time. That was when I saw teammate Karwash crushing it. Dude was weaving through people like a pro so I jumped on his wheel for a moment. He got past a few people and I got stuck behind a guy who took 10 years to get over a log (it's called cyclocross buddy, look it up). I refilled my bottle with Infinit, lubed my chain to prevent more chain suck/breakage and did a security stretch of my legs.

I sped up again hoping to catch my teammate and get back on track with my target time. I was flying down a downhill when suddenly I became aware that my hand was no longer on my handbars and...

I had a high speed Endo (end-over or when you go flying headfirst over the handlebars). It was so fast. When my hand came loose (I have no clue if I relaxed it for a second or some liquid — possibly pee — on my grip made it slippery).

My head hit the ground, my neck twisted and my knee felt like it was on fire. I started screaming curses and bloody murder! I thought I broke my neck, then I realized I could move it. I was seeing millions on little green, blue, yellow and purple dots. "I must have a concussion." Then I looked at my knee. My chain ring, that thing that looks like a saw blade, ripped a hole on the inside of my right knee. The would was already sticking out a few inches and white. "How long have I been on the ground? Did I black out?" Looking at it I started screaming bloody murder even more. "Did I just tear my ACL? Do I need knee surgery?" Someone could hear the crash and the screams and yelled if I was okay. I yelled yes... I don't know why.

My day must be over. It was only 1 mile back to Aid Station 1, I could just turn around and DNF. My teammate Joe passed me and asked if I was okay. I said yes again. I then gently lifted myself back on my bike and pointed it towards Aid Station 2. I could pedal this off right? Kris's pep talk now became my mantra.

I caught up with Joe and we rolled together for awhile. It was nice to have his wheel on the downhills, otherwise I would have been prone to feel scared and lay on the brakes.

I rolled in and a couple volunteers at the Buckhaven Hunting Lodge were really helpful as we washed out and applied a bandage to my knee. I was joking about duct tape, but we actually used camo duct tape to keep the bandage on! All my teammates came past and checked in on me. I took forever to get back on the bike, but I didn't want to rush out of there too quickly and cause another disaster.

Well, I was back at it and feeling pretty good. I was riding with some really cool people (one was a father-to-be from Cleveland who rode for ChamoisButter, another 100 miler veteran) and making up some time on the roads. I was still riding pretty conservative, using the granny gear on all the uphills. I just crested a hill and was on a flat when...

Chain break number 2! I was an idiot and was trying to go fast — forgetting that I was still in the granny and I was cross-chaining! Oops!

At this point some of the zen I was feeling disappeared. I was a little pissed, I didn't want to go back home and face people telling them I did not complete what I had set out to do. I knew how to fix it so I did it again. The only question, how many more times was it going to break? How many hours would it take me to complete the race? Did I have enough food?

I was kind of thinking how lucky the Pros in the Tour de France are, with a car full of brand new bikes that follow them and they instantly get service when their bike breaks. That kind of reminded me of Eugène Christophe and how he lost the 1913 Tour de France spending hours repairing bis bike, acting as a blacksmith repairing his own steel fork because it was illegal in those days to ask for assistance. How lucky the current guys are! And wow, we are kind of like these men of yesteryear.

I caught Joe again going into the Aid Station. He was flying before but now he looked like steam was coming out of his radiator. My heart was breaking for him, he looked incredible going into this race and I was really hoping he was going to set a personal record for himself. He ended up not finishing because he had pushed himself too hard for too long.

I took waaaaay too long at this aid station. But seeing my friends, other racers as well as their wives who were helping at the aid station, was really therapeutic. It was nice to share a laugh for a second. I saw Bridget as she came in, and I told her about my terrible day and for her not to worry — that this may take awhile!

It was 26 miles between Aid Stations 3 and 4. Anything could go wrong and I could run out of food, water and energy. But I was lucky. The miles flew by. And so did the bandage on my knee. It came off and the would was left exposed to mud and dirt, blood covering my top tube. A volunteer at the Aid Station provided me with iodine and a clean bandage. I was so happy to have it cleaned out.

The rest of the day was so easy. My nutrition was perfectly planned and my hydration was spot on with the help of all the volunteers. My legs felt great due to training, diligent nutrition leading up to the event and Dr. Yost's miracle massage. I was thankful for the 100 mile time trials I did, and the stubborn 6:30 hilly ride I forced myself to complete in the pouring rain. I was training my capacity to endure pain.

I settled in and enjoyed the scenery. It was so hilly and scenic. I passed farms, oil wells, horses playing with donkeys (funny), Amish kids playing while watching the race. At one point a raced an Amish buggy and won. I went through the campground at Mohican Wilderness and this kid asked me if I was winning. I said no. I should have said yes because he was really hoping I was the winner!

My head still felt a bit sore from the impact, and my knee almost stopped bleeding. I felt great, still really fresh, until I hit the final single track. My back finally started to get sore, my arm muscles fatigued too. I think I stopped drinking my fuel to hurry to the end and I came across the line a little out of steam.

I was really far behind my target time at Aid Station 3. But I really rallied in the final 54 miles and I ended up finishing in 10 hours and 35 minutes. Only 35 minutes past my target time. I wonder how I would have done without the disasters? I could have also pushed myself too hard and blown up. Having the disasters allowed me to relax.

It was so great to see all my friends again! I grabbed some grub and water. I even ate a second meal, then I had a Great Lakes beer with my friends before crashing in bed. Kris was right, it was all worth it. I am so glad I finished.

I want to say thank you to all the volunteers: the police officers that ensure our safe crossing of busy roads, the volunteers that save us at aid stations — and Ryan the race promoter, he might be a bit of a sadist but he reveals our full potential with an incredible course!

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