Tuesday, August 16, 2011
After crashing hard on a ride Sunday it now seems official that my only races this year will a state championship, national championship, and world championship. I guess if you’re going to race you might as well go big. I will also add that this is not the best way to prepare for racing, especially if you’ve any interest in your results.
It wasn’t meant to be like this. At the beginning of the year my calendar was filled with preparatory races. Duathlons are scarce in my part of the world but I travel a fair amount so it didn’t seem like such a task to run into a few here and there. However, my work and race schedule’s never synched up and the closest I found myself to a duathlon on any given weekend was a nine hour drive. I’d also circled some tris, runs, and bike races to do and none of them worked out either.
Other than Duathlon Nationals, which I had to do in order to qualify for Worlds, the only race I made it to was our mountain biking state championships. This had nothing whatsoever to do with prepping for multi-sports. I only entered this race so I could qualify for nationals, visit my friend Rebecca, and ride all the trails she’s always going on about. I did manage to qualify, traveled to Ketchum for the event, which leads to this installment of the non-race report.
The non-race report requires some back story. Cycling and triathlon teams have tradition where the best placed rider on the team writes up a race report and submits it to the team mailing list. During the end of my race-every-weekend stint as a road racer, when I missed a long stretch of races for strange, amusing, and downright lazy reasons, I submitted a “non-race report” that seemed to entertain the lads as well help them not feel bad about calling early on a race morning to make sure I’d show up.
Most of these tales included my friend Reed. We were on the same team we lived an hour apart. This meant that it generally made sense to stay at whomever’s house was closest to the next day’s race. And this led to a series of last-minute decisions about things to do that might be more fun than riding our bikes in circles as fast as we could. These might include an epic road ride, a long climb we’d been wanting to tick off our list, a casual group ride that was supposed to be attended by cute girls, mountain biking, rock climbing, or simply a long night of drinking and socializing leading to us wanting more sleep. The first few excuses were legit but, after a while, we decided that it really was more fun to just ride our bikes on our own time than it was to race. I haven't raced much since.
So I’m in Ketchum, a few days before Nats, and not exactly tapering. In fact I’m trying to ride as many of the classic local rides as possible before the short holiday is over. I’ve got two races on the schedule, neither of which I care too much about. The morning of the first race I head out early to pre-ride the course, and crash. Hard.
reba got this call while we were at breakfast. it's mountain biking. sometimes you crash. at least my crash didn't turn out like this.
It’s a stupid crash because it’s on a part of the course that I’d already determined to run because Rebecca told me it would be much faster. But I’m going slow and warming up and just want to see if I can clear the obstacles. I don’t preview anything and one second I’m hopping over a tree and the next I’m doing cartwheels down a mountain side. I’m shocked, because it looked rather innocuous, but if I’d bothered to glance at it beforehand I would have seen a root shooting out from the back of the tree that was like a small ramp leading off of the trail. I’m pretty bloodied but everything seems to be working so I ride the rest of the course and then head to breakfast. The next morning one hand would be too swollen to grab my brakes—and is still bothering me a month later—but that’s an aside.
A little later, Finnegan and I begin a nice long and slow warm-up for the race. Norba (now USA Cycling) races are short (usually 10-20 miles) and ridiculously fast out of the gate. They are hard to warm-up for because the first few minutes are absolutely full gas. Since I often settle in about hour three (too much enduro stuff over the last decade) I decide to warm-up for an hour and a half; riding aerobic for most of it and putting in a few hard efforts to “open the pipes,” as cyclists say. This also doubles as a workout for Finn and allows me to preview another classic trail.
At some point along this trail thoughts of the long-forgotten non-race report start to trickle into my head. The trail is great. It’s empty. We’re surrounded with quiet, just a few mountain sounds, and jillion-dollar views. I hit the end of my warm-up and sit down to have a snack. I can faintly make out the race announcer, far below, and picture the mayhem of 100 guys all redlining to be first into a dusty stretch of singletrack. I look in the other direction, where empty trail stretches forever into a mountain range I’ve yet to visit. Finnegan has never looked happier. I ask his advice. Needless to say, the non-race report is alive and well.