Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tribble Mill 6 Hour

Finally! Something worth writing about.

I rode the Tribble Mill 6 Hour today. First race of the season. For me anyway. Technically there were 2 Snake Creek Gap TT's already, but I missed those. To say that I was ill prepared would be an understatement, but it's about the most succinct way of putting it. The first race of the season is usually like that though so I'm not disappointed, or at least not THAT disappointed.

I called Tim last night to see if he wanted to carpool but he was going to do the 9 hour. I'm down to ride for 9 hours, or 12 hours, or 22 hours and 22 minutes, but I don't think I'd enjoy riding the same 8 miles over and over for that long. 6 hours seems to be my limit for that brand of fun.

So no carpool, but I did join him and his cronies at Waffle House in Lawrenceville for some breakfast.

 Waffle House

Eggs, toast and a waffle. It's important to start the day off right.

I went for a little spin-the-legs-out ride yesterday and fully intended to run by the shop for some Clif-Blocks on the way home, but somewhere between Alpharetta and Cumming the thought retreated deep into some inaccessible brain wrinkle and it wasn't until 8:30 that I remembered, long after the shop had closed. I didn't even have time to run by REI. As such, I had to run by the gas station to pick up some Zingers after breakfast. I'd used them once last year. They sufficed. The gas station only had vanilla, but that was probably good. I appear to be absurdly sensitive to the diuretic properties of caffeine these days and the chocolate Zingers might have had enough to be a problem.

On the way to the park, we passed cars and trucks with bikes on the roof, bikes on hitch racks, bikes in the bed... It's been a while. I got that little twinge of excitement like when you're a kid on the way to a water park and you first catch a glimpse of one of the towering waterslides, way off, through the trees.

At the park the bustle was building by the minute. Yeah. I remember this. All right!

 Pit Row

I set up next to Norma and Johnny. They've been running a lot but they hadn't been on the bike any more than I had this winter. All around the pits, that seemed to be the general case. Maybe we'd all ride equally poorly and it would all come out in the wash.

One of the great things about Tribble Mill is the paved trail that runs all through the park, around the lake and next to the road. At other parks you just have to ride up and down the main road to warm up but at Tribble Mill you get scenery, hills, twists and turns. "Road bike singletrack" I often call it. It's great.

 Warm Up Lap

I scared a lady half to death though. She and her friend were walking ahead of me, both talking on the phone. Her friend was in the right lane, she was in the left. I announced myself but she couldn't hear me. I tried to pass on the far, far left, at 3 miles an hour, but right when I did, she walked over even further to the left. I rode off into the gravel, but the noise of it startled her terribly. We laughed about it afterwards but it was pretty bad.

I ran into Matt and Becky at the start. Matt was riding, Becky was just hanging out. They're training for an Ironman and not super focusing on mountain biking right now. Eddie and Nam arrived at the last minute, though somehow also fully prepared, as usual. I'd run into David Sagat in the pits earlier but I didn't recognize him without his bare knuckle boxer 'stache.

"10 seconds!"

Yes. This is really happening.


The route was backwards this year, or at least it went generally backwards from the direction I've ridden in the past. Most importantly, very early on, we were going to ride back and forth across a little ravine, affectionately known as the Taco Stand, presumably because in the other direction you can launch out of it, and if you do it wrong, crash and taco your front wheel. It's in the other direction that the launching can occur. Today we had to climb through it. Early in the race, there's always a traffic jam. A traffic jam at the Taco Stand could be bad news. The holeshot was important. I went for it.

Two riders crashed halfway between the start and the woods. They didn't look hurt. I made it into the woods in good position. The Taco Stand was a non-issue.

The first lap was vaguely familiar. There was a lot of traffic, but we were moving really fast. I was big-ringing everything. I'd forgotten about that strangling feeling of early exertion and about riding in a train at warp speed, counter-steering on singletrack, and about a great many things. Of course, I remembered how to ride, it's "just like riding a bike" and all, but _racing_ was, at the moment, somewhat elusive.

I got passed by some dude with pinwheels sticking out of either end of his bars. Pinwheels. I chased. No way Mr. Pinwheels wasn't going to earn that pass. Eventually I passed him again but near mid lap I let him back by he rode right away. It reminded me of the guy with the aero helmet at the Southern Cross a few years back, and Glen's old Cannondale Skin Suit. If you're running that gear you'd better be able to back it up. They all did. They earned it. Crazy.

Lap 2 was much the same as Lap 1. I'd remembered a lot by then. Relax your upper body when you climb. Lean forward for more power. Way over. Breathe, dammit. Breathe! Pedal circles. Quit trying to manhandle the trail. Had I not been doing those things all winter? As unintuitive as they were, maybe not. Jeez.

Somewhere in there I got caught and passed by Yao Nan (I hope that's how you spell his name) and we sparred for a lap and a half. It was all that I love about racing. Everything. It reminded me of some race at Dauset years ago in the GSC series where me and Eddie Wymberlie (again, I hope that's the right spelling) sparred for the entire race. Yao was smart, or maybe it was all intuition, but it was really good intuition. I think I might even have been one tenth of one percent stronger than he was but it didn't help me out. He'd punch it on the climbs, ease up where it wasn't feasible to pass, punch it again when it opened up, draw me in when it was technical so I'd have to drop back or risk catching a bad line, then punch it when I'd drop back... He'd let me by if I asked, give me enough room to think I'd made some progress, then sneak back up behind me again two minutes later, ride my wheel for a mile and finally need to get back by. I studied his riding when he was in front of me and he had only one weakness that I could see. When it got really rooty and technical, he kind of powered through it rather than bumping gracefully over it. I resolved to pass him again and exploit that weakness as fully as possible, and I was briefly successful, but either he figured out what I was up to or just dug deep and somewhere near the middle of lap three he rode away and I never saw him again. It was awesome.

As fun as it was though, it was also a clear demonstration that I'd brought my D- game. I never bothered to check his number. He was in Sport. I'm in Expert. There was no good reason to waste energy on him. I needed to get by, but I didn't need to drop him. We could have gone back and forth all day and it wouldn't have hurt either of us. We could have coordinated even. Ugh.

My stomach actually felt full at the end of lap one and two. It wasn't just "I'm not hungry", it was "I feel full" and I didn't bother to eat. I shouldn't have had such a big breakfast. I needed simple carbs and sugar, but I was full of protein and complex carbs. In the middle of lap three it hit me like a freight train. Everything started to seem steep and rooty and rough. I kept checking to see if I was in the middle ring. I was. My joints ached. My head was spinning. Incubus's "Anna Molly" was stuck on repeat in my mental iPod. I was crawling. I was getting passed.

Mark D was out there taking photos and he caught one of me, getting caught by a train of poursuivants.

 Getting Caught

Actually that photo may have been from an earlier lap, but it was like that. Grimace. Chase group uncomfortably close. Doom eminent.

In the pits I ate half a Zinger, which seemed like the right amount. I still wasn't hungry though. Lap four was abysmal. I got passed by overweight riders, riders in tee shirts and shorts, riders on flat pedals and a rider in a Lynyrd Skynyrd jersey. Just to be clear, I'm not judging these people, it's just that I'm allegedly an Expert and it was very unlikely that these riders were also Expert riders. It was embarrassing. Disgraceful! I discraced myself, my team, endurance cyclists of the southeast. Humanity itself.

I had a plan though. I couldn't salvage the race, but I might be able to recover some dignity. Maybe.

It took fifty-two hours to get back to the pits and when I got there I barely had control over the creeping insanity but I made it back and I ate a Zinger and a half. Quality calories there.

Lap five was almost exactly like lap 4. I began to doubt the restorative powers of Zingers. Fortunately, I had remembered almost everything that I once knew about how to race, so I was probably a little faster. Eddie lapped me somewhere in there. David Sagat lapped me too. Norma passed me. She always passes me on lap 5. Always. The delicious golden pastries kicked in at about mile 7. It was about 4 miles later than I'd hoped, but hey, that's what I get.

The turnaround was remarkable. It was like lap two again. I had power. The fire in my mind was out. I started passing people for the first time in hours. Too bad it was at the very end of the ride.

Hah. I almost forgot. In the pit before lap 6, I was talking to Johnny, who'd pulled out earlier with a badly bent derailleur hanger. My mental faculties had been returning but they were still somewhat feeble and I apparently dropped my spent water bottle but failed to pick up another one. I noticed it about 5 minutes into the lap. The last time I did that was, ironically, at Tribble Mill, last year. Fortunately it was in the 50's today. Last year it was in the high 90's. I figured I could finish without a bottle, but again, like last year, I'd seen a bottle on the course and I grabbed it. Delicious, lifesaving goodness. That's what I hoped for. The bottle was completely full, and closed, and totally clean. It had probably fallen out before its owner had taken even one pull. Perfect. I drank deeply. It tasted like warm grainy sour orange milk. Oh man it was bad. I almost choked. Later in the lap I got a little thirsty but there was no way I was going to hit that garbage again. I just rode it out.



The result. 11th out of 13. Riders in positions 12 and 13 didn't even finish the race. They pulled after 4 laps. I was the slowest rider that finished. Good lord I stunk up the joint. Somebody's got to come in 11th though. It might as well be me. And its OK because it's the first race and I made a thousand mistakes and I'm coming back from illness and some other set of random excuses.

On the way home I got a Cherry Coke and some beef jerky. It was 3.17 but I thought the cashier just said 17. Like 17 dollars. We joked about it. "That would probably be the best coke ever." "Yeah, it would probably cure cancer."

Oh my. What a day. Next time will be better. Next time I'm going to roll right. Next time I'm going to eat right.

Next time.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing. Always enjoy your blog. LOL on the part where you "raced" w/ Dr.Wu. He's a local at TM. He must have ridden there 100th of times. Glad you enjoyed TM.