Tuesday, March 19, 2013


On Saturday March 9 at 8:02 am I took off down the 45 K long course of the Fat Bike Birkie.  The race kicked my ass to say the least.  After I finished and got home I spent the rest of the day in bed - except for when I took a shower...and then when I was tired of standing but loved the warm water and laid down in the tub and it became a bath.

[why 8:02 when the official start was at 8:00?  About 30 seconds before the gun went off I realized that I hadn't attached my number to the front of my bike as I was supposed to.  I rode back to the car, threw it on, headed back to the start line, and started late.]

I'm thinkin' that the guy in the Mapei jersey was wearing it ironically

It was beautiful in a soggy, dreary way

At least I wasn't the only one struggling with the constant hills
OK, let me back up a bit so all this makes sense.

I have barely ridden since Arrowhead.  I'm guessing that I've been on a handful of ~5 mile rides all at an easy pace.  So I was out of shape - but thought that I'd have enough residual fitness to see me through the race with a decent showing and without falling to pieces.  So I started the race at a fairly decent pace - the trails were in almost ideal shape and I think that I was averaging roughly 10 mph.  Not too good, but not too bad.  It seems like no matter how much I train, whenever a race comes around that's how I do anyway.  By mile 8 or 10 it became clear that I was going to be having problems if I didn't back off.  So I did and by the halfway point my average speed was 8.5 mph.  And then the bottom really dropped out.  My legs were cramping up, and had no oomph to them at all.  I felt empty.  It was lightly raining throughout the race - and barring an unplanned stop (to fix a flat, or a broken chain, etc) it's fine to be wet because you're putting off enough body heat to make up for what's being sapped by the wetness.  I had so little energy that I couldn't work hard enough to build up enough body heat to be really comfortably warm.  I mean, I was fine but usually in those conditions I'd be easily working up a sweat - and as much of the dampness in my clothing would come from perspiration as rainfall.

It took me over 4 hours to finish a silly 45k race (just over 28 miles).  It took the winner under 2 hours.

It all got me to thinking: that even though the atmosphere of the race was fun, and, as far as I could tell, it was all well-organized (in fact I can't really think of how they could improve it much) maybe racing is just not my thing anymore.  It used to be.  Back in high school and college bike racing was kinda my thing.  I trained - and trained for speed.  I was OK but I guess I feel like I never really got the results I thought I "deserved" for training so long and hard.  Then I had some health issues that kept me off a bike for almost 3 years (though I did get myself a recumbent trike and rode that). 

When I finally relearned to ride a bike again I guess I didn't really have the drive it takes to suffer enough (in training or during a race) to be truly fast anymore.  Oh, I rode lots and was decently fast.  But when push came to shove others would just ride away from me.  And I let them.  I used to drive me nuts to be the slow one - now I just didn't care (I still don't like being the absolute last one in a group ride so it's not as if I don't care at all).  I was just happy to be riding again.  I suppose I'd make some effort to keep up - but when it called for sustained or intense suffering I would quietly fall off their pace and, more or less happily, ride my own pace.

More and more bike racing seems, to me, like racing a canoe.  When you're riding a bike (or in a canoe) it seems to me that you should be looking around and enjoying the beautiful landscape you're in - not trying to blast through it as fast as you can. 

Of course this assumes that you're riding through a beautiful landscape - we have lots of that in northern Wisconsin.

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