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Sunday, March 29, 2015

My Very Own March Madness

The Stats:
  • 87.5 Miles
  • 11,000' of elevation gain
  • 7:29:59 to the finish
  • 2nd-Place Singlespeed, 6th Overall

Oof.  Uh, uh, uh-uh.  Bam ba-bam-bam-bam.  Grrr.  Wheeeeeeeeee!

That's roughly what Zen felt like the first time 'round.  Capitalize all of those characters to describe the second lap.

Mid-March brought another trip to the southwest corner of Utah for the excessively early-season but still romping fun True Grit Epic, another solid ass-whooping, and another True Grit 2nd-place finish among the singularly stubborn crowd known as Singlespeeders.  (Stubbornness being the secret to successfully piloting a mountain bike with one gear.)

In all honesty, this year's True Grit was a blast--a chance to reunite with a bunch of other emaciated guys in spandex whom I haven't seen since last season and see how hard we could motivate eachother to ride the first singletrack that some of us had seen since that last season.  

The race started with Gordon Wadsworth, Mike Montalbano, Dan Rapp, and myself bombing along Cove Wash while choking on Sonya Looney's dust.  That girl starts hard!  Once the adrenaline surge had abated and we started up a fantastic sandstone canyon climb, our pack shrunk and I spent the next 30 or so miles of the race ripping around with Gordon and Mike.

Hauling balls to keep up with those two on our first Zen lap my hands started to go limp from all of the banging and vibration, and I was losing confidence that I would be able to continue hanging on to my handlebars much less manipulate my brake levers to pilot myself to end of the race.  Thankfully, feeling and muscle function returned once we finished up that loop and were laboring up the hot climb out to the back side of the course, and when we reached the endless flow of the Bearclaw-Poppi descent everything was working again.

Unthankfully this was right about the time that I realized I was battling with two competing urges: the urge to stay with Gordon and Mike, and the urge to finish the damn race.  Whether it was the mustache standing guard below his nose or he had hidden an IV bag of Red Bull in his bibs, Gordon was pushing a pace up the long-ass Stucki climb that was becoming increasingly clear would be faster than I could hope to maintain to the finish of the race.

So, judgment got the better of me and I backed off to a pace that still felt like I was racing but would allow me to cross the line.


I've been spending a healthy amount of time wandering through the mountains on skis and a splitboard this winter, which has given me reasonably good endurance fitness and has been good for the soul.  Turns out the downside is that it does pretty much nothing to build speed on a mountain bike, and given that fact it might be my reality that March is a touch early to expect to compete in anything like a race.

But, with my ability to stubbornly go long at moderate speeds intact and functional I spent the remains of the race all alone out there.  I did pass Mike when he stopped at the Barrel Rolls feed zone, but didn't stay to say hello.  (My race plan was set up to grab a re-supply on the return trip from that loop.)  Then for the next 40-ish miles I worked and worked, pedaled and pedaled, pumped the pumps and tried to stay off the brakes in an effort to extend my lead over Mike but he just wouldn't drop.  Every time the trail curved to afford a view back down the course, there he was.

Just far enough back that it felt like I could break away, but not far enough back to feel like I had broken away.

Midway through Lap 2, out there in the lunar solitude of the Stucki climb, I caught up to Matt Woodruff at just about the same place as last year and exchanged a handful of buzzed-out, overheated words before passing and continuing my solo journey to the finish line.

"Nice job, buddy."

"You, too."



The final lap around Barrel Rolls was undoubtedly the highlight of my day out there.  Sure, it was 80 miles into an excessively early-season race and everything above my waist was pleading for an end to the bashing, but damn if I didn't love romping around that trail.  Dirt, rocks, rocks mixed with dirt, rocks mixed with bigger rocks--it's just fun.  And it gets more fun when you ride it faster.

Thankfully, this year Race Director Cimarron revamped the course so that we came out of Barrel Rolls and rode down a ripping fast stretch of singletrack to a blissfully brief pavement spin directly to the finish in Santa Clara.

And thus it was over.  High-fives, story-telling, and a marginally coherent, damn-that-was-a-long-ride interview kept me around the finish line for a brief time before I spun off in search of a shady spot in the grass to curl up with E and Rue until podium time.

Yes, Forest, I did let the guy with those shorts beat me.

Race #1 of 2015, done and in the books.  Maybe next year I'll finally learn from this mid-March racing experience and stick with exploring snowy mountains until I after I've put in some time riding my bike.

Or maybe not.

Stubbornness is, after all, the secret to successfully piloting a mountain bike with one gear.

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