Another solid week of training managed to sneak into my life last week, interrupted at the end by circumstances of my own and others' (i.e. work stuff) doing, capped by a crazy fun race at Iron Hill yesterday. For those who know what the REAL story was yesterday (and a heck of a story it was) and are wondering why I'm not singing about that, there are understandings in place. For those who are totally at a loss for what the hell it is I'm talking about, yesterday's results will be posted soon and it will be real obvious. Ninja.
Coming off of 5 straight days and somewhere shy of 300 miles, I took a rest day on Thursday for a quick system reset. All day Friday, I had that kind of bouncing around energy which was a pleasant change from sore and tired legs all week before. When I got home Friday evening, I got straight out on the mountain bike to tune up for Sunday since Saturday would likely get done in by work. My time on the dirt has been less recently than it was a month ago, and my race would be made or unmade far more by dirt skills than fitness. Feeling good, feeling loose, good flow on the first little sections near home, then down the water bar thing to the tow path transit section. WAY too fast down the water bars, no hope of making the left sweeper, flying through the windshield and into the dirt. A large donation of skin and some nominal blood but nothing broken. Shake it off. On we go.
Onto the lower section of the trail, great flow, good speed, things feel connected. Into the steeply banked stream crossing that I never make (never really try - it's way varsity), speed into it is hot enough to roll it up the far side and BAM! into a rock with the front wheel. And BAM into another rock with the right elbow. And BAM into another rock with the right knee. Limps home with tail between legs while he still can.
Saturday at work sucked, 3 hours longer than it should have taken. Sometimes the lack of professionalism shown is just staggering. A totally useless and unnecessary waste of a lot of time. The site is spotless though, cleaner than most living rooms.
Sunday, up to Iron Hill. This was the longest last minute decision that's ever been made, but away we go. Most of me is covered in bandages, but the gear is tight. Get there plenty early and walk some of the course, including the oft-mentioned Mega-Dip(tm). This is one of those things where if you didn't see some people doing it before you rode up to it, it might freak you out. As it was, it was one of the funnest things about the course.
The course is awesome, it's an incredible venue all around. The scene was once again totally chill, every sneer or stolen glance from a road race replaced with handshakes and "how's it going?" The gun goes off, I get an okay shot but have to get around a few road blocks, and it's straight into REALLY tight, twisty singletrack. Toight like a toiger. I'm tagged onto the back of the front, but the band is stretching through all of the twists. I've clearly improved, but far from enough. If this f**king track ever starts to go uphill, maybe we'll have a chance to get somewhere - oh HEY, nice uphill and BOOM right back with the leaders. Unfortunately that didn't last long enough, and it was right back into the twists and turns - now with 30% more rocks!! Uggh.
My laps were consistent. My third was about a half minute slower than my first, which is good. Most of the guys who beat me blew my doors off in the early laps and slowed down a whole lot later. I feel like there's a double, maybe even triple, bonus coming as I improve my turning and bike handling: I won't lose the time that I lose going slowly through the turns, I won't waste the energy that I do in not having the momentum that I should out of these sections, and I won't waste as much time dicking around with letting people through before twisty sections - and more importantly I won't hang out behind guys who are going slowly on the hills and open sections where I can rip it, since I don't want to make them suffer behind me on the parts where I suck. As long as I'm the new guy and have this tremendous deficiency in my game that prevents me from contesting, I'm not going to be that guy and impact everyone else. So while my laps averaged just over 33 minutes yesterday, I feel like 30 minute laps are figuratively just around the corner. The 27 minute laps that the elite guys were rolling (or the 28 minute laps that the elite ladies were rolling) are further away. As in the way that Jupiter is also "further away."
I didn't meet my goal of top ten, just missing it. Once again, the guy one behind me was further behind than the guys 6 and 7 places in front of me were ahead of me. Small improvements are going to yield big benefits, I know it.
As a mechanic, I have some stuff to learn. Our bikes operate nearly flawlessly, but that doesn't mean that they are tuned as well as they could/should be. I think my fork setup is not that great. I have my wife's race winning* fork set up quite a bit firmer than mine is, and she's like 35 pounds lighter than me. There's so much stuff that I have to learn about all this kind of stuff but that's part of what's making the game so much fun right now - the fitness, the technical riding stuff, the technical gear stuff, it all seems to have a huge impact and the multi-dimensionality of it is just fascinating. Totally intriguing, lots to learn, lots to do.
Big thanks to First State Velo Sports for an awesome time. Oh, the chip timing thing was awesome. Unfortunately I never made use of it during my race because I didn't get it figured out, but the next time I will be keeping track of that. Super cool - your position and cumulative time are shown on a big screen TV as you go beyond the finish line on each lap. Wicked freaking cool.
The team had a good day at Ride Sally Ride, I just can't figure out how good. We missed all the t-storms that they got down there. A bunch of guys are doing Clarendon next weekend, but I'm going sailboat racing. Sweet. Next up for me is Washington County. I haven't raced on the road in a while so that's going to be something to overcome but these mountain bike races, they're good hard efforts. No sitting in and resting. And it's totally full on 100% fun.
Before too long, I am going to need to figure out a solution for what is apparently my old man back. It hurt pretty bad after the race. Maybe the 26" aluminum hardtail isn't so great an option for someone of my advanced years. The problem is, the wife has 29er lust - BAD - and is also eying cross season somewhat lustily. Way more expensive than shoes. Way.
* you like the way I snuck that shit in there, huh? That was so damn cool. It was awesome.