2011 Race 8: Shawnee Mission Mayhem

3 laps, nine miles, mostly flowing singletrack, some rocky sections, one long root infested climb, one climb in the sun up a powerline, roughly 6% grade. 95 degrees, heat index 105, 5mph winds.

The staggered start was Marathon, Cat 3 Men, then the four Cat 3 Women. The start was down gravel doubletrack. I had shifted up into my big ring and on the line, the chain skipped and jammed and I couldn't get the pedal to hold my cleat as Zoolander (his cycling team promoted the race; he masterminded the course and race day) kept loudly counting down. OH THIS SUCKS I said out loud, prompting some laughs. Weird; that's how the last race started too...

Off we go! Into gear and out of the saddle to rush down the doubletrack with the leader (and winner). I wouldn't hold that pace, but I wanted to get an idea of how the field would string out, and if it looked like I was strong, get into the singletrack early.

One of the Cat 3 women, a road cyclist in her first MTB race, DNF'd pretty quick into lap 1. So all I had to do was finish to hit the podium. And that's pretty much what I did.

I had a good jump on 20-year-old, 85-pounds-soaking-wet runner turned MTBer Lexi, but she climbed faster than I did, so was with me when I hit the technical rocks and dabbed. I let her go and was about 30 seconds behind her until we got to the powerline. She was riding completely smooth.

And relative to how I rode 3 months ago, so was I. Downhills with far more confidence, floating over rocks. And then I went out into the sun on the powerline. And that was it for me.

Friends, I am a shade-growing plant. A delicate alpine flower. The heat and full sun sap me. I climbed maybe four feet on the powerline and knew that if I wanted to finish at all, I'd be better off hiking the bike up to where the trail leveled out.

On lap 2, strange things started happening. I could feel my core heating up. I constantly sucked water out of my camelbak. I started getting heat-dizzy. And anytime I was pointed uphill for more than a minute, it was like my eyes wouldn't focus properly on anything beyond 6 feet. Also my reaction times were bizarrely slow, so I snagged a couple of trees on that lap; hit one hard enough to rotate my left brake lever down. Didn't come off the bike. But I heeded these warnings and walked up the rooty climb on both those laps and dabbed or walked anything where I could get hurt if I, y'know, blacked out coincidentally with going over it.

Took those opportunities to dump water in my helmet. Drained my camelbak and two frozen water bottles in the hour and nineteen minutes it took me to cover 9 miles.

This was not so much off my predicted time for myself, but given how well I was riding (when I was riding) and how much I walked, my predicted time was probably too high. Ah well. There is zero point in saying "If things were different, I would have had a different result!"

Still, it's funny to me to have been working for 3 months on that course to be able to ride to the level of skill that would satisfy me (and did!), only to end up walking so much of it.

A couple more thoughts, then I will play you a tune that really gets me ramped up to get on the trail.

1) I am going to stop talking to people before racing! I must sound really scared because people say things like, "oh, you'll be fine!" What? Of course I will.

2) I really have nowhere to go but up with my skill level and fitness. Just about any improvement I make will make riding that much more fun. That's pretty exciting.

3) I love my bike. I mean, I REALLY LOVE my bike. I feel like when I built it, I built the rest of me.

Today's Tune:

My pal Meg turned me onto this. I am pretty sure she was thinking of me on the MTB with the line, "She's got knee high socks, what, to cover a bruise."