Thursday, October 16, 2014

You finish some and you DNF some...

Iron Cross was one of my target races this year and I was coming into it with a brand new super bike (Trek Boone) and some decent fitness. The day started off well with teammate Andy showing up at my house sometime around 5:45AM and keeping me awake for the drive up to the start line in Michaux.

The one thing that no one was prepared for was how friggin cold it would be at the start -- 36 degrees with close to howling wind. We all froze our butts off waiting for the race to start and took off like banshees at the gun. Immediately the pace was brutal and I'm never good at redlining at the beginning of races so I let a big group go so I wouldn't bonk half way through the race. As an aside, I'm not sure if this is mental and perhaps I should just try to redline the first 30 minutes of a race and see what happens. 

The bike felt great and I started working with a smaller group and we kept the front group somewhat in sight. All bets were off as soon as we hit the single track at Lippencote, though. My bike handling has improved by leaps and bounds thanks to mountain biking so I managed to ride pretty much the entire section and gained several spots. Close to the end of this section I came across my teammate Tyler who had flatted and was trying to put air in his tubeless tire with a quarter sized hole in it. I urged that he put a tube in it and gave him my CO2 and inflator. Thankfully he recovered quickly and managed to finish strong.

After this brief stop, I managed to tag onto a super fast paceline led by some Rare Disease Cycling folks who were really pushing the pace on the road section. I was feeling pretty good here and even took a (brief) pull. The climb up to the WigWam run up is tough but the legs were responding well and my switch to Infinit for nutrition was working great.

The run up or rather crawl up on WigWam was a chore and I got a few twinges in my lower back by the time we reached the top. But my resolution at the beginning of the year was to not waste time in races so I kept on moving and just stretched on the bike. Soon I felt fine again and made good time to check point 2 which was also the start line. Made a quick bottle switch and was off for loop 2, still feeling good.

The bombing descent off the ridge on a dirt road was just awesome. I hit close to 45 mph there on my cross bike and passed many folks. The new bike just inspires so much confidence and the hydraulic disc brakes are phenomenal especially coming from cantilevers.

But all good things must come to an end. At the bottom of this descent (and thankfully not halfway through it), I realized my rear brake was completely gone. So I stopped to see what had happened -- turns out my left heel was constantly clipping against the hydraulic line in the back and had knocked the bolt loose that connected the line to the brakes. So all the hydraulic fluid had drained out, doh! This was such an odd thing to happen, one in a gazillion chance and it had to happen to me on race day. oh well.

I knew there were several more testy descents coming up and taking those on a front brake alone would be daunting. But I tried for a bit and took a (minor) header on a turn and just lost interest in the race. Sucks but I couldn't get myself to get back in the game with just a front brake and a history of some bad crashes. So I called it a day and rode gingerly to a radio check in and turned in my number.

Crappy way to end the endurance season but the upside is that I felt great and was about 13-15 minutes up on last year's time at mile 40. Importantly I was feeling good at mile 40 this year whereas last year I was already ready to bonk so more time gains would have been had later in the game had I continued. Oh well. There's always next year.   

Time to switch to 45 minutes of suffering for the rest of the year. Maybe I'll learn a thing or two about redlining the whole race!

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