Tuesday, August 14, 2007

24 hours of Great Glen - the long version

Well, I lost the race for us this past weekend. Basically, I did a lap that was long enough for two, and didn’t count because I didn’t have my timing chip on me. So, yeah, a whopping 2:50 lap for one of our night laps, and the other laps were around an hour. So much for being in the money… but the race was a fun time anyway, and nobody seemed to want to draw and quarter me at the finish. Tracey was there too, despite having had a baby 8 weeks ago, as well as many other people that we all knew.

International Bicycle had two women’s teams, a sport team and an expert team, and a bunch of guys on various teams. I was on the sport team with Rebecca, Hannah, and Anne. It’s amazing how not having to start a race at the race start time leaves you feeling so relaxed. Well, that lasted the whole four seconds it took for me to run from Rebecca’s handoff to my bike. By the time I reached the top of the switchbacks in the field, I felt ready to rip. Of course, there were still a lot of people all around me, since pretty much everyone was on their second lap. I don’t play well with others. Going down some singletrack, I clipped the back tire of some guy who fell in an awkward manner in front of me (ok, maybe I was pulling a roadie move and too close to him…), and I smacked my knee pretty hard on his bike. This would go on to bother me for the next 24 hours.

Its funny how I’ve never noticed how much uphill the Great Glen trails have when I ski there. In fact, I’ve always found Great Glen to be a little too flat for my tastes. I guess I just can’t climb on a bike, because daaaaamn I was sick of those hills by the next morning. I managed to not fall off the little 4-inch bridges, and the only really scary part was “the plunge”. This was a steep, divotty, scary downhill, that ended in a 90 degree turn to the left. I have issues turning my bicycle.

At least I don't ride this bicycle.

We were pulling single laps during the afternoon, because we figured that would be fastest. I figured that my second lap would be one of my fastest laps, since I had now seen the course, but I was still fresh, and very much in hammer-mode. Of course, Alex being Alex ate far too many goldfish crackers between laps, and when I got on my bike again, boy did my stomach not want me to be racing. My banged-up knee was also throbbing a little, even though I had iced it and taken some vitamin I. Despite these minor inconveniences, I raced as hard as I could, riding much more cleanly through some of the slightly more technical sections than I had last lap. I even rode the plunge cleanly. My third lap was in the dark, and I had a great time. I guess riding at night at the Fells was a good idea, because I felt comfortable and confident the whole way round. My original plan had been to ride the night laps at a comfortable distance pace, but my competitive side kicked in, and I still hammered.

Through the night, we decided to ride double laps, so I had until 2:00am before I rode again. I got up without a problem at 1:15, and decided to go check with the timers to see when Rebecca got in so I’d know how much time I had to eat and change and all that. I got down to the tent, and saw Rebecca running around frantically. She gasped out to me that her lights had burned out, and she’d had to backtrack to the start. This, according to the rules, gets you a nice fat DNF, so I got worried, but the timers said they would let it slide since Rebecca had been so close to tears. She asked me if I could go out, because her lights needed to charge, and not having too many options, I raced back to my tent and got dressed. I shoved a couple gels in my shorts and took off, hoping to make up part of the 38 minutes we had now lost.

The lap was going pretty well, after I had calmed myself down enough to think about what I was doing. I was feeling confident in my abilities, so I decided to ride the plunge. Next thing I knew I was sliding downhill on my face at mach 1. My first instinct was to get my bike out of the trail, and then I had to sit down because I had banged/punctured my other knee, and it hurt badly enough that I was hyperventilating. My light had broken off of my helmet, and after about 20 minutes of trying to re-attach it (the fixture does NOT look broken), I decided that I was either too stupid to do this, or it really was broken. At least the light still worked. So I taped it to my handlebars, but realized it was pointing basically straight up. I then re-taped it, and walked down the rest of the plunge. I tried to get back on my bike, and it took me four attempts before I finally got it, but I kept steering into the woods. I figured it was because I couldn’t see, but soon I realized that my stem was crooked by a good thirty degrees. Oops. Luckily, when I got in, Anne was dressed and ready to go, so I went off to fix my bike, my lights, and myself.

I decided that I needed some more punishment on this course in the dark, so I woke Hannah long enough to tell her I would take her double night laps, although after my 1:23 lap, plus the 38 minute pause between Rebecca and myself, it would probably be light by the time Anne finished. Tracey had an extra helmet mount that fit my light, thank goodness, so that was fixed, and baby wipes took care of most of the blood. The back wheel was badly out of true, barely moving past the brakes, so after straightening the stem I took it down to the neutral support. I was waiting for them to fix my wheel when I saw this guy storming by. He was bitching to his friend about how he had just ridden a double lap without his timing chip, and so both laps were both scratched. I thought to myself, thank god I had my chip on, and reached down to my ankle just to make sure. OH, SNAP! Yup, I just rode that horrendously long lap without my chip.

So, when Anne tagged off to me, I was pretty upset. Fightn’ mad, as some might say. Screwing up something that other people depend on is one thing for which I have zero tolerance. I took off, and just hammered until I couldn’t see straight. This may have caused a couple crashes, which just made me angrier. I was so mad that I had screwed up the race for my team that I was still steaming as I came through the first lap, and luckily nobody was there to take over because I needed another lap to cool down my head. As I rode my second lap, the sun came up, and a bagpiper came out and started playing some sort of squeaky song, and I was riding fast and clean and I wasn’t mad anymore when I tagged off to Hannah.

I tried to get another hour of sleep, but it was too noisy, so it was more just lying there with my eyes shut thinking about how much my legs hurt and my hips were spasming. Rebecca and I decided that after Anne’s lap, we were just going to hammer the rest of the laps and try and get one extra, but it turned out that there was another team that was accidentally being listed as beginner that was actually sport. We went out and hammered anyway. I had been turning 52 minute laps when I was fresh, and 56-57 minute night laps (if you ignore the 1:20 lap), but I was hoping to get a sub 51. It didn’t happen, I rode a 56, and my poor bruised knee was making some bad noises and worse feelings if I tried to apply any serious power to my pedals. Rebecca got in five minutes after noon, which was fine by me because I was limping so badly at this point that I don’t think I could have handled another lap.

So, although I had kind of badly screwed up, nobody cared too much, or at least they hid it really well from me. I had a great time, and I absolutely loved my team, both the sport one I was on and our expert team too. We shared a giant tent with a couple other teams, that were also super nice, and I didn’t meet one nasty person out there. There is a great sense of camaraderie when you’re on a team, even between the teams. And everyone admires those crazy solo riders. I’m done beating myself up, but I was not a happy camper for a while. I have no idea why I took off the chip; I think I had wanted to wash my ankle or something. But that was just an unacceptable mistake, which was why I couldn’t believe I’d done that. Next year, that damn chip is going to be surgically implanted under my skin. I guess that competitive side of me just won’t let this go for a while. Great race, though, and I can’t wait for next year!
Karen's boyfriend being chased by a great white shark...

The "before" pictures:

Colin, Nils, and Linnea all looking thrilled:

Me and Tracey:

The lemans start: 100m from the gun and Boobar is already way out front:

CTodd before the pain hits:

The little tent ghetto by our big tent:

Inside the big tent:

The "after" pictures. Notice how smiley the people on four person teams are, compared to the two person teams...

Our expert team won!


JB said...

great race report, i like your blog! sounds like a tough day.
hope to see you at a race eventually, I'll be the guy in the IBC Kit :-)


weak and feeble said...

Great job, I think you (or someone on your team) shouted words of encouragment to me at one point when I was walking up one of the hills (solo rigid ss)-

Great write up-


pburba said...

I was wincing reading your race account. Suddenly my cuts and scrapes don't feel so bad :-P

I too lost my timing chip on a lap. I have only two words for next year:

"Duct Tape"


Alex said...

DEA, were you one of the bikeman solo riders? I think I remember passing you, but things get pretty blurry after a while... All I know is that I was being far too chatty for someone claiming to be "racing". But if you were that solo dude, I am so impressed! I am pretty beat up just from riding for 6 hours. 24 would probably do me in.

ptb, I'm thinking duct tape is definitely the way to go. At least I've hopefully learned from that mistake!