Sunday, February 24, 2008

PURE AUSTIN Pace Bend Road Race

When I unloaded the bike for hill repeats on Thursday night,
I noticed that my front tire was a bit low. After hill repeats,
it was low again. I patched the tube and pulled the bit of
glass out of the tire on Friday, but the tire was low on
Saturday morning. So, I decided to go against popular
wisdom and change both my front tire and tube the night
before the race. I thought about changing the back tire
and tube, but decided to not tempt fate. This Quick Stick
that I won at Warda works great for both taking tires off
and putting them on. Even new tires, which usually give
me problems on these rims. No swears were heard.

My Cat 4/5 35+ race was scheduled to get underway at 9:55am,
so I thought that if I left my house by 8am, that would give me
plenty of time to get there, pick up my packet, and warm up.

I left my house at 8:20am, and didn't take into account that I'd
be riding behind a pack of cyclists on the race course to get
to the parking area, where I arrived at about 9:30am. At least
I got a chance to see the course, since I haven't ridden out
there before.

I parked near Richie, who was warming up on his trainer. My
warmup consisted of running up to registration and back. At
least there wasn't a line. After pinning on my numbers, and
getting ready, I had about 15 minutes before the start, so
decided to pull out the rollers and get about 5 minutes of
warmup in, for whatever that would be worth, but the grass
was too tall. Heh.

As I was about to head to the line, a woman came up and
asked me if I thought that "they" would have a compressor
so that she could air up her car tire, which had gone flat. I
have an electric pump in the truck, so I lent it to her, and
asked her to put it into the bed of the truck when she was
done. I was hoping that I'd get some good karma for that...

And that brings us to the start of the race. Finally...

Richie and I line up together, and I tell him that, just like
last time, my goal was to stay with him, since he finishes
well. I take a Cliff Shot and drink a half bottle of water.
There was no roll-call this time, just "Go!"

The first lap goes well, the course is really nice, and people
have a tendency to stay on the right side of the road even
though we have the entire roadway to use (no center-line
rule). There are two hard right turns on the course, and
a couple of guys near the front took the first one too hot,
and ended up going straight (from the inside of the turn!).
Luckily, no one crashed, they just ended up off the road
for a bit. I was surprised by the speed of the pack down
the finishing straight, which was slightly downhill, since
it was just the first lap. It's not like there were primes,
or anything...

Not much exciting happened on the second lap.

As we're starting on our third lap, I'm starting to wonder
if this racing stuff is really for me, as I'm starting to get
tired. Luckily, those thought quickly left my head. The
bit of rest that I was getting at that point helped, too. :)

Going up the second hill on the this lap, I'm in the pack,
on the right side. Suddenly, I hear a "Pisssshhhhhh-
pish-pish-pish-pish." I take a quick assessment and
realize that it's coming from the bike on my right. Whew!
The rider of that bike soon sounded like me at Rocky
Hill. :-)

At the top of this hill, Richie gets into a breakaway with
about 5 other guys, but it doesn't last too long, unfortunately.

Flashback to Thursday...

During hill repeats, my knee started to bother me, so I
decided to quit after my third repeat (I was going to stop
after 2, but Kirk talked me into another). I was going to
take it pretty easy, though. David James started his
fourth repeat a bit after Tom and I started our third, and
I told Tom that we'd be David's rabbit. David proved me
right as he came up on us just as we're beginning the
last step of the hill. He worked a lot harder to catch
me than I did to get to that point, so I had some energy
left, and was able to re-pass David before the top. (I
must've forgotten about my knee :-} ).

What's the point of all this, you may be asking. Well,
I thought that a good strategy for today's race would be
to go out a mile or so before the last hill, then rest on
the hill and let the pack catch up to me. I planned on
doing this for laps 3 and 4, if I could get away with it,
so that they would let me go on lap 5, assuming that
they would catch me on the hill again, but I would not
rest on the hill, and try to take it in a breakaway.

Best laid plans. Mice. Men.

However, I did do a version of this on the 4th lap,
though not necessarily on purpose. Leading up to
the hill, I was riding in 4th position. The guy on the
front decided to attack the hill, but I elected to let
those 3 go. Unfortunately, no one else did.


By the top of the hill, I heard the chase motorcycle
on my wheel. I looked back and saw no one else.
I am able to hang onto the back of the pack, though.

We finally start the fifth and final lap, and I'm able
to get some rest here. I also use my small chain
ring for just about the whole lap, but am still able
to stay in the pack. I work my back up to the front
of the pack, and find Richie. We're near the
front when we hit the last hill, and some guy in
front of me swerves, making me touch my brakes.
When this happened in Bryan a couple years ago,
I lost momentum and got spit out the back. Today,
however, I picked a wheel that wasn't swerving, and
hung onto it, making it to the top of the hill in pretty
good position. Richie and I were in the top ten. All
that's left is a hard right turn and a slight downhill

Going into the turn, I'm on Richie's right hip, but I
have to scrub off speed since I'm trying to take it
too sharp. I should have faded out to the left as
Richie and the rest of the group did. I picked it
back up and sprinted as hard as I could for the
finish, even though there were others passing me.
I was able to nip one guy at the finish, and ended
up in 19th place, which I was quite happy with.
Richie ended up 9th.

What I was even happier with was that I had a
few opportunities to let negative thoughts rule me,
which has been a problem in the past. I worked
hard up to the very end.

Now if I could just work on setting up my turns

Epilogue: As I was getting ready to leave, I saw a
note under my windshield. It was from the woman
to whom I had lent my pump. She thanked me for
it and said she hoped I had a good race. She
signed it, "A Single Mother with children on a
camping trip."

But no phone number. :-( Harrumph!

Talon Trails Excruciation Exam

This is a report of a race I did in January:

The Talon Trails Excruciation Exam was a race which utilized the trails at Bluff Creek Ranch in Warda, the trails at Rocky Hill Ranch in Smithville, and the paved and dirt roads in between. We traveled 30 miles on trails and 50 miles on roads.

The Excruciation Exam was, in a word, excruciating.

Other than giving birth, this has got to have been the hardest thing I can remember doing.

Oh. Wait...

Ok, this was the hardest thing I can remember doing, making the Tour das Hugel ("100 miles of Austin's most painful hills") look like a ride around my living room.

I knew things were going to be rough when, during the pre-race riders' meeting, I look down and saw that I was already bleeding. The sharp part of my rear quick release skewer had grazed the dry skin of my leg and pierced it.


John and I had decided that we'd ride together, he'd lead on the trails, and I'd lead on the road. The race started with a Lemans-style start, where we ran to a tree and back before mounting our bikes. The most difficult part of this was dodging the cow patties, which we managed to do quite admirably.

The first 6-mile lap through the Bluff Creek Ranch trails went smoothly. John and I were pacing ourselves (my whole goal of this thing was to finish, not necessarily finish well), and we got to the road about 40 minutes later. The weather was cool and misty, with a little bit of wind in our face. We managed to paceline with 1-3 other folks on the 28-mile ride to Rocky Hill Ranch. I learned to not breathe through my mouth when drafting someone on dirt roads, however, or I'd end up with a mouth full of, well, dirt. However, I later found that the extra minerals may have done me some good.

As we rolled into the RHR checkpoint, I hit the "Lap" button on my GPS, so that I could keep separate tracks of the road and trail portions, but the GPS hung on me. It must've been the moisture. Just a minor annoyance, as I wouldn't know how far I had to go on the future legs.

As we started out for the RHR trails, I noticed that my front tire was a bit low. I thought that would probably be helpful for the trail, and I would put more air in it before hitting the road again. Just before we get into the trail, I see Bob (whom I know from the Brazos Valley Mtb Assoc.) taking photos. Hi, Bob! Not too much farther along, I see Joel (also from the BVMBA), also taking pictures. I chat with Joel for a bit while John takes care of some mechanical issue on his bike.

I think that Joel put some bad Ju-Ju on me, because once John and I got started again, my rear derailleur went out of tune. I just couldn't get it to shift right, no matter how much I fiddled with the barrel adjuster. I could only use 2-3 of my rear cogs, so I ended up using my front derailleur as much as, if not more ,than, my rear. Needless to say, this put me in a bit of a foul mood.

But wait! That's not all! Tell them what else we have in store, Johnny!

That's right! We've also got cramps! Cramps in muscles that we didn't even know existed! Off the bike? Voluntarily or not? Have another cramp! One cramp's not enough? If you call now, you'll get a special bonus of cramps in both right quad and right hamstring at the same time! Operators are standing by!

Man, oh, man, that was pain that I haven't experienced before, not even when I broke my arm. With cramps on both sides of my leg, I couldn't move my leg at all. Swear words were not enough. It was primal scream time. After standing there for several minutes, the cramps finally went away. John came back to check up on me, and gave me a couple of Tums that he carries for just such occasions.

The Tums helped.

For about 10 minutes.

Then muscles that hadn't yet cramped decided to take their turn. I finally convinced John to go ahead, and told him that I was planning on bailing if I ever got out of the woods. I then just granny-geared it out of there.

Going up? Granny gear.

Level? Granny gear.

Down? Coast.

I just walked over anything that looked the least bit technical, and went up, as well as extended climbs.

When I got to the ditch called The Grind, I saw roots on the left side of the entry, and leaves on the right. Not knowing what was under the leaves, I decided to just send my bike down ahead of me. It didn't pick a very good line, because I slipped and fell down, myself, when I followed it on foot.

About the only good thing that happened for me at RHR was that John suggested that I fill my water bottle at one of the water stops, as my camelbak ran out before I got out of the woods.

When I finally exited the woods (queue angelic music here) John was sitting in a chair, waiting for me. I told him that I was done, and that he should go ahead and finish the race. So he left.

I had an hour before the "gate" at RHR shut, so I sat and ate and drank while Susan and Maureen gave me words of encouragement. After about 25 minutes, I decided that it was mostly tailwind on the roads back to Warda, and then it was only 3 miles of trails once I got there, and I didn't want John to be the last person in the race, since he had waited for me, so I pumped up my tires for the road and rolled out.

The road to Warda was pretty uneventful, except that there was more side wind and less tailwind than I expected. My rear derailleur starts working properly again, so things are starting to look up.

I finally get to Warda, and now all I have left is the short trail! I let some of the air out of my back tire, but the front has lost some air on it's own. No worry, as I only have 3 more miles. I'm taking it easy, and things are going pretty well.

Oh, ye of little faith...

About halfway through the trail, my front tire gets very low. I take out my pump and put more air in it. I continue on. After about another 100 yards, the tire is completely flat. I have a tube, but neither the energy nor the patience to put it in, so I decide to just walk it out, and that's what I do.

As I walk to the finish line, John, Maureen, Ryan, Susan, Duane, Ted, and a few others are there, applauding. I think that they're just glad that they can finally go home, as I was the last finisher.

I was just glad to be done with it all.

I guess DFL is better than DNF. 9:21:02. That gives me a time to beat next year.

Next year?


Hopefully, next year I won't leave the NUUN tablets in the truck.