Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Two Ways to Bearscat

Why do people do this ? I have no idea, there is a point at every endurance race I've done where I think to myself I should not sign up for a race like this again. Sure enough though, as soon as they are over I can't wait for the next one. Yesterday's race was much more brutal than last year's. The course was awesome and Black Bear put on an awesome event, but the conditions were rugged. So it goes.

Day started off beautiful. Slightly cool, sunny, and seemingly perfect for a race. Endurance races always seem more low key before hand, I love the vibe. People aren't as "in the zone" warming up and things seem more laid back than other formats. The game plan was to go self supported for the race. With the 2 laps I would only stop at my cooler on the lap turn to swap out supplies. That meant carrying 2 bottles of Gu Brew on the bike and 1 bottle of water on my back. For foods I went with Gu Chomps and Gels. I got my shit together and just rolled around until the meeting.

I was a little late to lineup so I was towards the back. I've done enough of these to know your either out front or stuck in the caravan that ends up forming as the trails bottleneck the field. I wasn't planning on going out hard, but as the horn blow the pace wasn't too hot so I was able to work my way through the crowd and get through some traffic early. I settle in line as things start to gum up. Coming up to first section that bobbles people up (the right hand turn into a muddy/armored section) there is a long line of people seemingly happy to wait their turn to get through. I decide to be a bit aggressive and just ride around everyone. I probably passed about 20 people here. Similar story at the rock bridge, people were fumbling around so I just shouldered the bike and jogged my way through advancing a few places.

To my surprise, traffic was pretty much non-existent after the bridge. It was also very apparent early on that this was going to be a slick and muddy race. My feet were completely soaked through within the first few miles. For the first lap I found myself riding on and off with the same 2 guys, we chatted on and off trading spots repeatedly. We would fall out of contact then end up crossing paths again. Having contact with other racers helped to keep things moving along. I tried to race smart, I didn't bother killing myself grinding though stuff, and opted to walk some short sections if I thought it would be more efficient. I was able to clean most everything I decided to ride, only getting hung up a few times. Overall I thought my first lap was really uneventful. I thought I paced solidly and felt good. I reach the road for the lap turn. I'm pedalling along all dumb and happy, then BAM!, I almost get knocked off my bike. Without warning, my legs cramped up so bad I almost ate it. I think to myself its way to early for this, as I spin the rest of the way to my cooler. Swap out my supplies, pound a can of coke, and off I go.

As I head back into the woods I look at my Garmin and see that my first lap was 3 hours. Wow. I wasn't expecting any stellar results but was hoping to be a bit quicker than that, I now knew that I was in for a really long day. The conditions were just a killer on keeping any speed up and I was battling to keep the cramps away. The trails were greasy, rocks were slick, and the fire roads didn't offer much relief as they were bombed out with deep mud and bike swallowing bodies of water.

I somehow managed to keep things steady on the second lap. I was definitley feeling fatigued, spinning up the short punchy climbs that rather than attacking them, and not being able to keep my speed as high through the flats like I was on the first lap. I did an ok job eating and drinking the first lap, but I don't think I ate enough and was now paying for it. At some point the skys starting looking pretty ominous, and thunder could be heard. Sure enough, it began raining on and off, and did so for much of the second lap. I didn't really mind the rain, I was already soaked so it didn't matter much.

The first half of the lap went quickly, but I found myself bordering on zombie mode after passing the aid station. The aid station to finish seemed to go on forever. I was mostly by myself at this point, but got some mental relief by being joined by Mitch for a brief spell, and then Liong a bit later. I was happy to only be passed by those two and one other rider between the aid station and finish. After what seems like an eternity, I finally hit the pavement again, and even though no one is near me, I make what I think is a strong finish. There are alot of friendly faces along the road cheering me on down the home stretch, which was awsome. As I cross the line, its 6 hours and 23 minutes since I started. Good enough for 37th out of 109 starters.

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