Heck of the North

Heck of the North

Drove up with Chris and my Parents. Check in at Kershaw's and dinner at the Burrito Union. Started with 2 and our party kept growing as more people randomly showed up- pretty cool. Back to the hotel at 11:00 and in bed soon after.

Woke up feeling even sicker than I had the previous few days. I had known since Tuesday morning that something was off because I was sleeping as much or more than normal and still feeling tired. By Thursday I had skipped all riding, and anything else fun for the week but still felt like I had to take the morning off from work to get extra rest. Regardless, I had a plan to deal with that it and I remembered feeling sick prior to the Dirt Bag last fall and still riding well.

We rolled out and the group stayed together, as always, into the first trail section. There had been a couple of attacks and some solid tempo up one long hill, but we were still 30? strong. With my aero bars and "road" setup I think I could have soloed away on the pavement leading in to the trail, but I was too concerned that I'd solo right by the turn to really try.

As it was the group almost missed the turn en masse and there was quite a lot of panic-braking and sliding on the way in. I kept it upright and found myself bouncing along the trail behind Farrow and Deathrider. I hit a huge rock head on and flatted my front (700x30 Ritchey Speed Max at 65psi). I knew I was likely out of contention just that quickly, but I had some hope and quickly changed my tube. The replacement tube was flat out of the box. I changed it again and finally (7.5 minutes elapsed time now) got back on my bike.

I quickly realized I was now 7 minutes behind the group and it was going to be a tough task to get back to the front. Almost immediately after that I realized that my GPS was gone. I debated the merits of going back and realized that I basically had to. I was in a free race with no big prizes, I was unlikely to catch back up regardless, and I was missing something I both needed for navigation and didn't want to have to $$$ to replace. After some hiking I recovered my GPS and Joe Meiser's drivers license and credit card- apparently it was bumpy there for everyone. I also had a conversation with a dude on an ATV out clearing trail for the winter/snowmobiles and was able to borrow a flathead screwdriver from him to fix the mount. Back in business, but now over 30 minutes of "stoppage time" down vs. the lead.

I rode on and made a conscious effort to enjoy the road and the scenery. On and on. The weather and colors were about perfect too!

I realized I had also lost all of my food from my feed bag.

I realized I should have been more prepared to deal with the trail section and wondered what I had been thinking. Had I not been there the two years previous? Was it bumpier this year? Was it just bad luck that I'd flatted and my GPS/food had been ejected. Should I have foreseen all of the above and done something about it? The answer was probably that I was at fault. I didn't like it, but I was still pedaling hard.

I crossed the halfway point and heard that I was in about 50th. Pushed hard, knowing that the longer I was out there the worse it would be to not have anything to eat. Bonked pretty hard for a bit around mile 80, but begged some food at mile 90ish. Almost as soon as I swallowed it my cadence picked up. I felt like an animatronic cyclist (or for some reason that was what was in my head). I went up the last 8 miles or so from the lake up and up to the finish as if I were trying to win the race. I passed another 8 people. I felt good about my effort and crossed the line with a smile at just over 6:20.

Every time I ride I'm sure I learn something. This ride I learned or relearned more than normal.

1. Navigation is paramount in these events. Even if not lost it does not serve to not know the next turn. Uncertainty ruins race strategy and can lead to dangerous panic turns. Being lost is an absolute killer too.

2. Food is of utmost importance. During the Gentleman's ride I spun around all day pulling my group and feeling great. Here I felt like hell at mile 80. Biggest difference was the lack of food. During the Gentleman's ride I consumed 5 gel shots, 1 pack of cola flavored gel caps, 2 bottles of heed and plenty of water.

3. If I'm going on the road bike/skinny tires I need to remember that I have an advantage in a lot of places, but it goes away if I flat by trying to pretend I'm in a cross race.

4. Aero bars are the shit- I absolutely love them. Think about the solo effort I put in on the back half of this race to finish where I did and compare that to how nerdy you think they look? Worth it? I would have been 15 or 20 minutes slower without them. They also contribute to my comfort on the bike. Last year I had huge back issues in this same race, this weekend I felt comfortable the whole ride. There have obviously been other changes, but they are a significant factor. It is huge to be able to get in a position that feels like "rest".

5. Bike preparation is important- my chain/cassette weren't of the same vintage and I didn't have access to my 4 hardest gears. Why hadn't I figured this out before the race and fixed it? This pissed me off all day and effected my strategy early on.

6. Sport legs actually work- this was the first time I tried them. I will use them for anything long in the future, enough said.

7. Breathe right strips actually work- I think I'll be wearing one even when healthy.

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