Monday, August 29, 2005

VA Derailler Series #2 race report

Race #2 of the VA derailler series was this Saturday in Danville, VA.

Doing this race ended up being a total last minute decision and my prep for it was totally unlike what I'd normally do. The race date was SATURDAY. I totally (make an) ASS (out of) U (and) ME-D that the race was on Sunday like almost every other race I have ever done. In emails from people I saw mentions of Saturday, or "are you gonna be there tomorrow" and thought that they all made mistakes until I checked the web page again.

Doh! It is Saturday. Let's see today is Friday, that means that tomorrow is the race. What are you gonna do? Hemming hawing, back and forth. It's a long way to drive. I'm not ready if it is tomorrow, the course isn't for me. Yada yada and on and on.

I started to think more about it. Basically deep down what am I trying to accomplish with all this. Training for races was the first answer, but more to the truth, I think I'm training to learn how to race. What I mean by that is developing the mental strength to push myself up to and past existing limitations. There are many who this is just a natural extension of their mentality. They can just push. I guess for others like myself it has to be learned.

In fact that is what I'm striving for here. Taking the risk to leave my protective bubble of a life, using mountain bike racing as the backdrop, and find that brick wall that is my limitations and break through it.

The last race I did, #1 in the series, ended with a great result (3rd) but honestly I didn't seem able to push myself to that limit. So I said that I should go to this race regardless of the other excuses to get another chance to practice how to race.

As I said preparation was not like normal. I rode Wed and Thursday fairly hard but not too long. Fri was a good short but hard which actually worked well as a warm up. Though normally I would have had an easy day 2 days before a race.

And my cardinal rule of
Don't make any major changes to the bike or body before a race went out the window.

Thursday, I swapped to flat bar that was 2" narrower in width, and I set the bar 1cm lower than the where the other bar was. The ride on Fri was on some track that was sort of similar to the race and it was feeling nice and quick.

AND I was having this really weird chainsuck issue. When shifting from the MIDDLE to the small ring, it was hanging up and then sucking past the chainstay.

When I did it real slow on the stand the chain was hanging up on the BIG ring. The chain seemed to be catching on some pins and on the edges of the cutouts of the big ring.

It is weird how the chain is catching on the big ring when it is shifting from the middle to the small.

I started to file a chamfer into the edges of the cutouts and that didn't do much then realized that it was really the pins in the ring that were catching. So I changed to a totally new big ring on Friday. Didn't even ride on it before the race.

So with worry about the position changes and the mechanical changes, and with trying to get myself psyched up to run into my mythical brick wall, I had a hard time sleeping. And woke up the next day with some stomach issues so to speak. On top of that, my nutritional preparation was totally out of whack.

Normally I'd start stuffing my face on Thurs or Friday for a Sunday race. But this week I just haven't been eating all that much, and didn't eat much Fri night. Sat morning I had an egg sandwich but hardly ate any of it. I try to not eat anything after the 3 hrs to go mark. And with an 11am start by 8am I was supposed to be done eating. And I did, but my stomach was growling at 8. Not a good place to be.

I picked up my friend Sam outside his dorm. Sam is a great young man unlike most of the college Rude-ents around here. He's been adopted into our family even though he did say to my wife that she was middle aged! It took about 2.5 hours to get there and I am hungry as ALL get out but don't eat anything for fear of upsetting the stomach during the race.

Here is Sam before:

Here is Sam after:

Ok No blood, no dirt, no grimace, no sour look on his face like he just ate a whole bag of sour patch kids!!! So not fair. This guy hasn't ridden his mountain bike in over a year, in fact the last time he rode it was at a race in Oct 2004. Goes into the Senior sport class which has some fast guys, and gets 3rd. You just cannot go into a super twisty course like this when you haven't been riding your bike w/o some natural talent. He's gotta drop that road thing and move over to the dirt.

Tried something different this time. I brought the trainer and warmed up with the road bike. Of course it was raining lightly at this point. So I am sitting on the road bike blowing a mixture of sweat and rain off my nose as people are staring at me like Why is this guy taking this so seriously. Normally when warming up at a mtn bike race, it is so hard to focus, and to get a really good warmup in so that the muscles are ready to go. Mtn bikes races are flat out from the start to get good position then the settle out. So almost always there is that shock of pain/burning legs/ burning lungs. So this time I got a real good warmup then did some jumps on the mtn bike at the actual start.

The start was poorly designed IMHO. About 150 yards of gravel road, before 100 yards of a field before into SINGLE FILE only singletrack. They started all sports together and they had two rows of senior sports in front of us Vet Sports. So regardless of how good a sprint I had there was no way to get that great positioning. That being said I did not have any bad leg or lung burn at the start. Though I did sweat a ton on the trainer and was drinking a lot.

The course was fun fun fun till your daddy takes the T-bird away fun. Tight twisty single track with all these little to mid size Whoops then a couple of big G-whoops where you let it all hang out and shoot up the other side and then if you're in the right gear you can pedal out. There were a few short steep climbs as well. Seemed to be one of those all on all the time courses. As opposed to the Rocky mount course that seemed on/off/on/off. It was technical in terms of the tight turns, but not technical in terms of rocks or slow finesse single track.

I gotta learn how to do those little dips better. Sometimes I'd time it right and unweight on the entrance and the push the backside and get some free speed, but most times I'd suck it up with the fork and the the rear and just take a big hit in momentum.

How did the bike ride:

SOOO glad I put narrower bars on it. Not snagging trees, and it seemed to turn quick. I felt like it was riding great and climbed great. The fork is still out of adjustment as it is too soft when not locked out. The lockout makes the bike climb fast when engaged, but it is hard to engage sometimes and I have to move my hand off the bar to disengage, so for quick transition courses it was dangerous sometimes. One time I forgot too unlock it on this super V and had a fun ride down and up that! The suspension was climbing great. I had it in the 4.75 travel and one of these days I need to set it to the 3.5 travel to see how it works. The whole bike was probably overkill for this race and it felt heavy when hike a biking up a few hills.
Though I did use every single bit of that travel:
Check out where the O ring is. I went right through the bottom out bumper too. I probably had the air pressure set too low for this type of course.

So I'm riding, I'm racing. I had the mantra "EVERY SECOND COUNTS" going over and over in my head and had some song by the Bouncing Souls going in my head. Things thinned out in the track pretty well after a little bit. I feel like I am pushing real well, hanging with some people. My stomach is growling, but don't feel like I am bonking. Towards the end of the first lap I feel the twinge of leg cramping, and then into the second lap I get the first cramp. Not good you say, but good I say. I was daring myself to cramp. Daring myself to that limit line. This is NOT the way to win races. But sometimes it isn't about winning, it is about riding into the ground. There is some confidence in that. Knowing that I had the mental fortitude to push it to the point that the legs cramped, which seems to be a major indicator of my physical limits, and then to continue pushing through it and figuring out how to deal with it.

Come on Sucka what you got?

I basically had a meeting with my financial advisor

And paid into my investment portfolio of pain.

The idea is that the payoff is going to come at another time, another place, another race where I'll be smarter about this and pace. Rather than crashing into that brick wall that defines my limits, it will be more of a gradual tiptoe to the wall and dance on top of it, before crashing down hopefully right at the finish line.

When you start to get the leg cramps. It is a tough situation. It's like you're in the neutral Zone. You can go into the bad side for some day trips and rescue missions, but spend too much time there and some pointed eared guy is gonna come on screen and want to blow you away

For this course, when the cramps hit, average speed dropped considerably. I had the heart and head to want to push but the legs could only take so much before the cramps would start to crescendo again. And there were several steep pitches where it was a forgone conclusion that should I attempt to ride them I will lock up. Walk or ride? I tried to ride most of them, and was able to start pedalling immediately after in the granny to try and spin out the cramps. A couple of times I was riding with both inner legs locked and it actually wasn't that bad.

BUT that absolute last pitch before the end, I knew , i just knew it would lock me up. Why didn't I just walk it? But I rode it and had total lock up where I fell off the bike. So here I am hobbling stifflegged on this side hill trying to get out of the way. I read somewhere about this technique of pinching your nose really tight when you get a cramp. And it is supposed to make it go away quicker. What the hell. So I have my nose clenched like I am 20,000 leagues under the sea

and these guys pass me like What is wrong with this guy. They were expecting to see blood gushing from my nose!

I think it actually worked though. They went away enough that I could start pedalling and on I went to finish.

So what about that Elete stuff? Well I do believe that it helps out with the heat, but I think the reality behind my cramping is EXACTLY like this Smart Man said to me about cramps:

Cramping is simply a situation where the muscles fail to relax. While mineral (electrolyte) deficiency can lead to cramping, more often than not the cause is fatigue. Not only do we need proper mineral levels for contraction and relaxation, these minerals have to be in the right place at the right time. For instance, calcium must be present in the muscle fibers to allow contraction but must be removed and replaced by magnesium in order to promote relaxation. Considering the number of times you are contracting and relaxing during a race, it is easy to see how this system of mineral transport can become overwhelmed and lead to cramping. So, the answer is usually not more supplements, which are almost never in short supply, but more hard training to improve the endurance of the mineral pumps that control the flow of electrolytes in and out of the muscle

And the reality of it is. I haven't been training that hard lately. If one of the indicators of my fitness is cramping than I oughta be getting close to it in training rides. But I just haven't been able to do it, and for the past few months I've been more bike geeked out on bike stuff than focused on riding hard.

When I finished, my stomach was in turmoil. I was SO hungry, though I didn't feel like I was near bonking at anytime and used Hammer gel during the race. And I wanted some free pizza so bad, but I also felt like throwing up. I had that grimaced face where I did feel like I ate a bag of Sour patch kids.

Mission accomplished. That was the goal after all. Finish like you want to curl up and die.

So I thought I rode hard, I felt like the bike was working well and moving fast. But the other 5 guys ahead of me didn't share that viewpoint. Of course cramping had something to do with that.
But this is one of the reasons why results should never be a goal, or should never be the benchmark upon which you judge yourself. For one they are completely out of your control. You never know who is going to show up and what kind of race they are going to run.
Did I crash- No
Did I bonk- No
Did I dehydrate - No
Mechanicals -Not bad
Did I push hard -YES

Goals accomplished=feel good.

It was also really cool at this race that I got a chance to meet some people that I've only talked to online. The
Blue Collar Mtb guys were there. Here I am with Honest Abe (Tim) and Mike

I also got a chance to talk to a fellow Hollowpoint owner from the MTBR Iron Horse forums.

So the plan is to do two more of these races and then

I am thinking of actually racing for the best result at the next one. Meaning pacing to try and figure out how to finish on fumes, and then taking the last race to ride into the ground as the last prep for the Dawg.


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