Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The longest and luckiest day - LOTOJA 09'

It was a long day, a tad over 13 hours, which may translate into a long post - be forewarned.

First item of mention, to stick with what seems to be the overriding theme of the race reports thus far - how on earth does an organization that pulls off a massive undertaking in putting that race together, let some ridiculous suggestion at some meeting that all but one person had to have been sleeping at, come to fruition by having boxes full of clothes hangers - that's right, clothes hangers, to hand out to the good folks who had put in a grueling 206 mile ride as a congrats for their finish. Would poke fun at the guy who invented the stupid thing, but he's trumped on the bad idea scale by the guy who bought boxes full of them. Suspect maybe a family favor or something, don't know how else it could have happened. Those things don't even qualify as a decent swag bag item.

But I digress - the ride...

Lined up with the following intent given the circumstances of my summer and the implications they had on this race/ride (see the "gimp" category). Priority 1 - finish. Had no intention of starting and seeing how far the hand would hold up, or how long the legs would last after the month off. The inner argument all week was knowing that if I started I wouldn't quit, and trying to decide if the wouldn't quit part was going to be a reasonable thing to do. Priority 2 - Race it as far as I could, then get home from there.

There were some things that went great, relatively. First, the hand held up really good for about 70 miles, a good bit further than I had thought best case scenario would be. Had guessed it to be 40 miles, so my attitude was that I'd gotten a 30 mile hall pass in dealing with the hand. Part of the deal with myself was to go au naturel, no pain killers or other aids for the hand - let it be what it be, so the 30 mile bonus was a blessing. Second - the legs held up all right for about 50 miles, until the pitch turned permanent for a time. Rode with my start group until then, felt good and was really enjoying being back on the bike. It wasn't for lack of trying that I peeled off early on the Strawberry climb, the legs just weren't there, and probably the more pronounced weakness from the time off, was the lack of capacity to recover - I just couldn't, at all, so when I blew, I didn't bounce back - ever. So that was my race, it lasted 50 miles, and was really enjoyable, and I gave it all I had in me that day.

With priority 2 out of the way, the remainder of the day reverted to nothing more than sticking to priority 1, regardless of how bad or miserable it got.

Steve, Mark and Sam came by fairly early on Strawberry, leading a massive group up the climb. Adam came by not much later, told me to jump on his wheel and come on, and I was sorry to have to tell him I couldn't, and to have a good ride.

For a 206 mile ride, there were relatively few highlights, but here are a few of the moments that defined my limp home to the finish line.
  • Mentioned the hand lasted till mile 70, from there it slowly deteriorated and had gotten to that worthless state I've mentioned before by around mile 76-77. Worthless may be a little dramatic - I could find positions on the bar where it could bear weight with pretty minor discomfort, so long as the road was pretty smooth. I had lost all capacity to shift, brake, squeeze hard enough to hold or grab a water bottle, or reach into a jersey pocket with the left hand, or hold the handlebar steady with the left hand so the right could grab a bottle or reach into a pocket for food - with the exception of really nice stretches of smooth road - and there were some.

  • Biggest joke of the day - me having Mussette bags. Rachel had been kind enough to make a few extra for me, and pre race I actually loaded them with my food and intended to use them. By the first time I came up to Annie in Montpelier - I had absolutely no intention, nor physical capacity, of riding through and grabbing it out of her hand - Didn't have a spare hand, and I was looking forward way to much to the stops to waste one. Mark's dead on - if your slowing enough to put a foot down, the mussettes are unnecessary and kind of an embarrasing public display of how much you overestimate yourself. Maybe useful for me in a much shorter race, but plain stupid and vain of me to have them in this one.
  • I had the completely counterproductive desire to avoid people and ride alone. In part because of handling challenges with the hand along with the accordianlike behavior of most packs I did ride with for a few minutes - the constant surging then braking can be more taxing that riding alone. But it was mainly due to attitude. You know how sometimes animals, when injured, leave the group and wander off by themselves to suffer in isolation and die a lonely death. It was weird, but I get that now, I really wanted to be by myself, so I was, with the exception of the first 50, a few miles coming out of Afton with EB and ER, and maybe another 5 miles of cumulative group riding throughout the afternoon/evening - and for whatever reason, I liked and preferred the loneliness that day.
  • The luckiest seconds of my entire life....

My biggest fear in cycling is a high speed crash on a descent. What you see in the photos happened at 50+ MPH going down the backside of the Geneva Summit. I had just gone by Taylor Wiles and the three girls she was bombing the hill with when it happened in what felt like slow motion... the sound - It didn't just start to soften, it blew, instantly, tubies are loud when they blow at 160 psi, the realization of what had happened, the immediate fishtailing - you've seen PBR on Versus, the bike bucks just the same at 50 MPH on a blown rear tire - whipping the rear end back and forth, the several things that flash through your mind - a few of which are completely unrelated to the moment - just like you hear in the stories, the huge surge of adrenaline that hits as you prepare for the inevitable - it was surreal, and I didn't think for a second that it would end any way but very badly. And then....... I clipped out and put my foot down as it rolled to a complete stop. I don't know how many, or the summation of all of the things that had to go exactly my way during the episode, but I know a few..... 1 - Taylor and her train, along with the rest of the folks descending that hill doing a hell of a job handling their bikes at speed to get around the guy that looked to for sure be going down, the lightest of contact would have been disasterous. 2 - having tires glued and having them stay glued to the wheel, would have been a much different story had that happened with a clincher. I've replayed it over and over and I still don't know how the bike managed to stay upright, I can't begin to tell you how bad it would have been had it not. That shredded tire will be my momento for this race/ride - not the stupid hanger.
  • Insult to injury - so the hand was what it was, I knew what it would be going in and was prepared for it. That, along with the sheer distance of the day should provide plenty of suffering right.? I agree. So explain to me why the hell 1 - I even start the day without chamois cream and 2 - how the hell I manage to forget, every time, to tell Annie to bring it to the next feedzone. There were no open wounds by the end, to the credit of Pearl Izumi's fantastic bib shorts, but there was no need to ride that far without the salve either - stupid, stupid ommision and contributor to a long day on my part.
  • Did anyone still like their shoes at the end of that race? If so, what kind did you ride in? I hated my Nike's by Afton - my feet hurt, bad... sat and rubbed them at every stop from Afton on in.
  • The road from Afton to Alpine was the roughest part of the day on my hand, and by default, my right arm and shoulder which bore the brunt of it. I felt lucky that the road up the canyon/river was nice and smooth for the most part, I really needed it at that point.
  • From Afton in, stops at feedzones were measured by remaining time till darkness, not wanting to leave any earlier than necessary, but leaving a little cushion for a brief mishap or two. This was absolutely the right way to manage my day - I think I needed every bit of the rest I took, as much for my brain as for my shattered body.
  • I made a conscious effort, once we turned off the highway near Jackson, to forget the struggle of the day behind me and try and really enjoy the rest of the ride in. And I did, that tree lined road is a place I'd go ride to relax any day, and in the condition I was in, I thought it was a really great stretch of the course to enjoy at the end of that long day. I was grateful for it.
  • There was no big sprint, hard push, rush, sense of exhileration, any of that stuff for me at the finish. There was a small sense of winning the contest I'd made up in my mind with the hand and not letting it prevent me from another race/ride, but it was mostly a sense of a really long day, and a pretty pathetic, broken and crumbled man being really glad it was finally over.... and I'm still glad it's over...


eber said...

still can't believe it - you are a stud.

still can't believe it - why on earth do you ride tubeless on the road. when will you learn?

still can't believe it - i have a brand new pair of specialized pro carbon sole just waiting for you. give me a call.

still can't believe it - they GAVE you a sample of DZ Nuts

congrats on the finish, the fact you are still alive, and winning the mental war with your...umm...own hand. you really think it has been plotting against you for the last month don't you.

evilbanks said...

holy shit man. Way to stay with it, I would have given up before I even started. I'm thinking you better just lay off the hand for a month straight and give that bitch some time to heal.

Ski Bike Junkie said...

That tire--wow. Glad you stayed upright.

Kudos for sticking with it.

Nate Dawg said...

As I have said before, You da man. You must have balls the size of coconuts and you even forgot DZ Nuts! Damn!

Jonnie J said...

Way to gut it out. Its been a wierd year for you. Glad you got some revenge on the hand. Or did it get its revenge on you? Either way, way to show it who's the boss. Now lets get you on some backcountry skiis.