Tuesday, July 26, 2011

being a good teammate

My teammates have saved my butt before. On Sunday at the Michaux Curse of Dark Hollow, I think I got to be a good teammate.  Gave a tube to a friend before the race, loaned a heart rate strap to Bernie (who'd go on to score 3rd in the Master's category).  These things should always come in threes.

My goals for the race were simple.  40 miles.  Make the time cut-off and finish.  Don't go out as hard as I normally do.  I told myself I wasn't going to let my heart rate get above 190 in the first 40 minutes.  For that last one - I succeeded for all but about 30 seconds of a tough climb that I spent a fair bit of off my bike.
Photo: Ralph Brandt
I started by riding poorly in some rock gardens and getting a little mopey that I was probably dead last.  Then I remembered that I wasn't going out too hard, and I passed a couple of guys who'd flatted, so I wasn't dead last anymore (and really, I never was).  By about 5 miles in, I had my rock garden issues worked out and was riding pretty well.  Descending smart.  I came down a tough section near the lake and came up on my teammate Jen.  She's been working her tail off and racing fast, and this was her first attempt at the 40 at Michaux.  We rode together through the tight, twisty singletrack along the lake.  I only hit a few trees with my bars and then we popped out onto a fire road at the first aid station but didn't stop.

A long fire road climb followed.  I heard my bike making some noise.  It sounded similar to some weird brake noises before I caught Jen.  Hmmm... It was getting worse.  We pulled off at the top of a roller, checked my headset, skewer, brake pads. Nope, nope, nope.  The rotor was loose?!  I pulled the wheel off, realized it was going to take a few to get this fixed if I could at all, and sent Jen on - no need to slow her down further seeing as she was nice enough to stop in the first place.

The lock ring on the Shimano adapter on the rotor had worked itself loose.  I hand tightened it, discovered that my duct tape wasn't sticky enough to help anymore, and put the wheel back on.  Grr.  Back up the road.  Still making noise.  Getting worse.  I stopped again, this time using my tool to get the ring a little tighter, but not tight enough.  It was making noise again within a mile.  I was at about mile 12 of a 40 mile race.  I figured this was enough of a setback that I'd miss the 2pm cutoff at mile 32.  Especially if I had to keep stopping.

I thought through the consequences of riding with it that way.  Dirt in the hub assembly.  Possibly a bent rotor.  But the wheel was spinning true and the brake wasn't rubbing.  I kept going.  Until the noise was so persistent on a gentle rocky downhill that I stopped to see the ring was entirely off, spinning around the skewer.  I took the wheel off again, rethreaded it and tightened it by hand.  For some reason, it worked.  I suspect that dirt had worked its way in there and added a little friction to keep it from loosening.

I kept riding.  Refilled my camelback at mile 20, ate a twizzler, and rolled upwards again.  Honestly, I don't remember much of the middle section of the race as very remarkable.  I enjoyed the spring trails more, except the last 10 miles, of course.  I was riding pretty consistently.  Oh, there was that really horrendous hike-a-bike section, though.  Frickin' steep, loose dirt and rocks.  Not easy hiking, let alone with a bike in tow.  A couple of awesomely long downhills.

About 29 miles in (I'm guessing, my cadence sensor was mistaken about the distance... again), I came up on Jen.  I wasn't thrilled to see her - she should be at least 10 minutes ahead of me after my mechanical issues.  But she was cramping.  I told her to get on my wheel and we'd go.  Up. Up. Up.  To the last aid station.  I figured we were going to miss the cutoff.  But my little disagreement with the Garmin meant that we had fewer miles to go than I knew.  We celebrated with some tasty snickers bars, fresh water, and a few miles of fire road.
Jen the cramp fighter.  Photo: Ralph Brandt

Jen was still cramping.  I pulled us down the fire road into the singletrack.  We traded places a couple of times, but were working together.  I was pretty certain that the woman ahead of us was out of reach and felt good but not strong enough that I was going to attack my own teammate to find out.  Plus, Jen was in rough shape.  The cramps were moving around - she was hanging in there but wasn't very talkative.  I waited for a minute at the top of a powerline climb/hike.  She waited for a minute when I stopped to put a couple turns on the rotor lock ring.  When we got to the finish, I told her we had to finish strong.  I nearly puked for the effort, even though I don't think either of us went all out to sprint each other at the end of 40 miles in the woods.  Officially, we finished 4th and 5th, 1 second apart.  I'm not telling you in which order.  Because the thing is, it simply doesn't matter.  We both finished.  In the top 5.

It was a good day in the woods.  Despite eating less than I should have and probably not going as hard as I could have, I maintained a pretty steady effort all day, handled my bike well, rode smart, and dealt with the mental challenge of thinking I was going to miss the cutoff due to a mechanical (and the fact that we actually didn't start until 9:20, gotta love Michaux!).  My body was trustworthy.  No revolts, even though it was humid and warm.  Dusty rocky goodness.
I even managed to eat afterwards! Photo: Ralph Brandt


  1. I happened to be looking for something and found this article with 3 of my pictures, properly attributed. Becky the girl in the pictures is an awesome biker.... And very easy to catch doing something interesting, like eating.

    Becky, thank you for using the pictures properly. Too many just pull them and never mention the photographer.

  2. BTW, I posted your link to my Facebook. Hope to see you again, maybe Terror if Teaberry or Dark Hollow?