What a difference a couple months makes. After waffling a little about whether or not I wanted to do the Wasatch Back 50 I ended up doing it. For those keeping track, I have been riding quite a bit lately. I have ridden a lot, but I haven't done a single ride, race or otherwise longer than a couple hours. I was concerned that I might not have the endurance for the race. I can always finish these longer distance rides but sometimes it is a miserable, painful experience.
When Bob Saffell asked me what category I was signing up for I told him whatever category Cobourn was doing. Now Cobourn had recently posted an epistle about the top half of the pack in the Sport Category hanging out where they were comfortable. He was going to upgrade to Expert on principle. When I checked, Bob signed me up for Sport. Which was fine. At best I would only be mid-pack anyway. Which was fine. It was to be a long, challenging ride. That was what I needed.
Secretly, I always hope that for some reason I am going to magically have the best day ever and smoke the competition. It never happens. And spoiler alert, it didn't happen today. I set out trying to maintain a comfortable pace that I thought I could maintain. With the help of a few friends I ran into out on the course I did that on the first lap. I didn't feel awesome, but that trail is great. and got better the further we went. Nice shady sections in the trees, a comfortable grade. It was nothing so much as a fun trail ride. The loop was basically a big climb, followed by a big descent. As all races should be. I came through the aid station near the top of the climb and topped off my bottle. Finished the climb and began the descent.
The descent was techy. newly cut and rough. I heard a lot of racers complaining it about "that damn downhill". It's a mountain bike race, get over it.
I have a bad habit of settling into a line when racing. I sit behind people I think I can get past. I did that a couple times on the climb but not bad. On the downhill, I got in behind a small pack of racers I thought I could get around. I made my way up to the Expert woman that was leading the pack. When she offered to let me by I took the chance. She was quick, but I thought I was quicker. I felt obligated to take off and get away from the pack. We had entered a section with long fast straightaways followed by 180 degree switchbacks. These were predictable because you could see them coming. Except for one. The trail started to bend behind a tree. What I couldn't see was that behind the tree the bend turned into another switchback. It caught me off guard and I slid out. Hard. Slid into a berm made mostly of cantaloupe sized rocks. When I looked back, the pack I had left was on their way. I tried to remount and get going quick, but that's when I noticed my rear shifter and brake lever dangling down by my front axle. Shit. Pulled off the trail to survey the damage. Had a mixed bag of emotions. I was pissed that maybe my race was over. Then I was happy that maybe my race was over. I realized I could hold the brake lever on the bar with my thumb and still use it mostly.
I limped down to the aid station and was able to round up some zip ties and electrical tape. This made the brake about 90% functional. The shifters though ranged from being clumsy at best, and a two-handed affair at worst. Rolled through and began the second lap. Once the adrenaline wore off I realized that my right thigh was in a lot of pain. Throughout the climb, it started to get a stabbing pain with each hard pedal stroke. It brang to mind the scene in the modern version of True Grit where Rooster Cogburn is running the girl back to the store after she is snakebit. When the horse began to falter he took his knife and stabbed it in the hind quarters. That image rolled through my mind over and over for the rest of the climb. Basically a rock had given me a dead-leg. A bad one.
But I was surviving. Second lap wasn't nearly as fast as the second, but I survived. Suffered through. The second downhill wasn't as fun as the part before I crashed. It had gotten hot and we chubby folk suffer in the heat. I made my way to the bottom and the finish section. I rolled in about 5h40m or so. I had ridden alone mostly. No idea where I had come in.
Cobourn had beaten me handily. Slightly less handily since he started ahead of me with the experts, but he still had me by about a half hour. Took a dip in the canal by the finish line which was at once the most terrible and fantastic thing I had ever experience. Rinsed the dust off and shocked my legs.
Once the results were posted I was amazed. 8th place. Sport 30-39. I was stoked. Much better than I thought. And considering my adverse conditions even better.
Due to Cobourn's tenet nailed to the forum wall, I will upgrade to Expert for the Round Valley in a few weeks.
I am pleased. The last week I have improved my diet a lot. Since I've been "training" the weight started to come off pretty quickly. I am down about 12 pounds since last week. I am not starving. I am just eating a little better.
A word about the WB50. This is going to become a popular race. An instant classic. The support was excellent. The course was fun. I never once felt like I was suffering. I was working, but not suffering. And I had fun at several different points. Next year I predict it will be hard to get in.