Sunday I took another step toward finishing the Test of Endurance. I’ve been riding as much as I can, and I’ve made pretty significant advances in my bike fitness. But I was still pretty freaked out about racing. I kind of feel like I don’t belong amongst racers, and I’m just getting in their way. It’s ridiculous. And to get over that silliness and get comfortable riding with a couple hundred fellow mountain bikers, I decided to enter a race that wasn’t a priority for me this year.
I require a lot of warm-up time. Much more time than the average person, I’m sure, and especially when I’m having a bad day. So Gregg and I got up early, giving us time to drive to the race, register, and warm up for an hour.
I hadn’t pre-registered online, so we hiked up to the registration area. We ended up parking next to, and registering with, a couple of guys from Corvallis. Actually they were a couple of guys that Gregg plays bike polo with here in Corvallis. The girl who registered me first gave me a 40+ sticker, and then as we were leaving ran after me to replace it with a Beginner sticker because they didn’t have a Women’s Beginner 40+ category. Turns out they do have a Women’s Beginner 40+ category. This bugs me a little, since there were only 2 other women in that category. But it would have bugged me a lot more, and I’d have said something about it, if I hadn’t had further misadventures.
After registering we went back to the car to gear up and pre-ride the course. And Holy Tamale it was MUDDY! It hadn’t occurred to me I’d be doing so much hiking on my first mountain bike race in a decade. But mud isn’t a bad thing. It sure makes things tougher, but tough can still be a lot of fun.
I was still worried about being in other riders’ ways, so I started out toward the back of the beginner women group. Silly. I may not race, but I’ve been doing a fair bit of riding. I was immediately up with the first 5 or so riders in the group, and continued to pass a number of other beginner men and women. I was working my tail off, it was working for me, and I was loving every tough muddy minute of it. Of the two hours that I managed to log on my bike computer I spent an hour and a half with my heart rate at or above 90% of my max, and another 25 minutes between 80 and 90%. I’d love to say that made me fast. It didn’t. But I was seriously working as hard as I possibly could, I felt like it was paying off, and I was starting to have some serious fun with the mud.
At the end of the first lap I grabbed a Gu and rode past the three people who were stopped to eat. I know I don’t have super speed, so I wanted to keep the wheels moving. And then, about 50 feet into the second lap, my chain got sucked up into my frame. I got it out, and got it in gear, and … it did it again! And again! I pulled that chain out about 4 or 5 times in about 15 feet before I was able to start riding again, and about a dozen people passed me while I was messing around with my bike. I had a moment where I thought … “this doesn’t bode well … maybe I should just see the writing on the wall and call it quits now”. Naturally I didn’t. I was determined. If there was a way to get that bike around for another lap I was going to do it!
To make a long and very painful story short, I wasn’t able to get the bike all the way around another lap. I couldn’t count the number of times the chain either fell off the ring or sucked up into the frame, but it was easily a dozen times and probably more. Finally about three miles around the five mile lap, and reaching the point where I couldn’t even pedal the bike on level ground without the chain falling off, I called it quits when I got near the car.
So I lingered around the car, talked to another rider who’d dropped out due to technical problems, waited around for Gregg, changed clothes, ate … and finally Gregg said I should go turn in my number so that the race organizers wouldn’t worry about me. Another woman from Corvallis had to drop out after 1 lap, and was able to get credit for that, so a friend suggested that I could get credit for the 1 lap that I completed. I was soooo late by then turning in my number that there’s no way I could argue for any placement. But I object to the DNF (didn’t finish) so strongly that I asked if they could put me in DFL (“dead f’ing last”) instead. There’s something about DNF that sounds like “quit” to me. I hate “quit” more than tried, no matter what the final placement.
But you see why I wasn’t going to quibble about the age category. Turns out quite a number of people had technical problems due to the mud. There were 25 DNF’s out of the 200 riders. It was a muddy day!
FIRST LESSON LEARNED: Don’t over-do the warm-up. It probably wasn’t necessary for me to pre-ride nearly the entire 5 miles of the muddy, hilly course, just to warm up. By the end of warm-up my legs were already feeling the effort. And sadly, so was the bike.
SECOND LESSON LEARNED: Wherever I end, if it isn’t at the finish line, get to the finish line and check in as quickly as I’m reasonably able.
THIRD LESSON (still being) LEARNED: Get over it. Everybody has an off day. It’s par for the course, and nothing to get all hung up over. Of course that’s easier said than done, and being a non-finisher is still bugging me. But even if I’m not feelin’ it I believe it’s a good philosophy, so I’m working on getting over it.
FOURTH LESSON LEARNED: A Rohloff SPEEDHUB would be dreamy for riding the muddy stuff!!