26 September 2009 - 1:56SSWC – Racing There
Like a smart boy, I went to bed around 10:30 the night before the race, and I even managed to keep the partying well under control. I drank lots of water. I was ready. We woke, had some tasty breakfast burritos form the avant garde cafe across the street, and we got our “act” together.
I had to deliver a Niner Carbon fork to Durango Cyclery for a customer, I decided that rather than ship it, I would just hand carry it on the plane etc. While I was there, I did something rather bold and impulsive – I bought a cog.
After the previous day’s ride, I thought it might be a good idea to undergear the bike a bit, so I could make the climbs a little easier. I bought an Endless 24t cog, with the hopes that it would be easier to climb than the 21t I have had on Kermie for the last year. This turned out to be a mistake, and a boon at the same time.
I installed the cog on the bike, got myself dressed and ready to go. Mandy and I went to hang out at the start line, shortly thereafter, Dicky had left a while earlier to attempt to get pole position. I have never seen so many people getting ready to do the same ride. I have heard that the numbers were s few as 900, and as many as 2000. Rest assured, there were a ton of people. We even came across some of the ones we knew.
At the crack of 11, we rolled out onto Main Ave, and the race had begun. What I have failed to mention at this point, is that it actually was a little bit of a race. We had to make the cut-off. The trail we did yesterday was about 10 miles, and we had to finish it in 2:30hrs. Anyone not finishing the race would be pulled, and would not be able to continue on to the second loop. Our pleasant stroll along the ridge took 2:19hrs, but we were only a few folks deep.
Come race day, a whole bunch of people were trying to get to the top, and it took FOREVER! 50 minutes to make the climb in fact. This was not going to bode well for folks attempting to beat the cut off. There was a lot of standing around.
Meanwhile, across the valley, a thunderstorm was brewing. It was dark and we heard many a rumble of thunder. And we were going up on to a ridge, which was quite possibly the stupidest place we could have been during a thunder storm. Fortunately, the storm stayed far away, and we were able to continue our saga precipitation free.
The undergear. I was unable to maintain a sufficient pace at the start, and I found myself spinning as fast as I could go, all the while slipping behind more and more riders. Mandy passed me. Some dude on a 16″ wheeled bike passed me. I was starting to feel a bit bummed out, as I knew I should be way ahead of where I was. Altitude hadn’t really been a problem for me on this trip. Was I hypoxic? More hungover than I thought?
My regular gear is 35-21t, which is a 5:3 gear ratio, every revolution of the cranks I travel 48.3″. I switched to 35-24t, which is as it sounds, a 35:24, with 42.3 gear inches to be had at the turn of the cranks. It was no wonder I was falling behind.
Ultimately, gear ratios didn’t really matter as we were standing around waiting to push our bikes up that stupid hill.
Once we got to the top, we were greeted with the first aid station, and the only aid they had was Oskar Blues beer. I passed, and went on to the ridge.
What was a terrible gear choice before, now became the best decision I made all day. I was geared just right to ride MOST of the ridge. I definitely walked all of the big scary precipices, but I gave it a solid try to best the big, gnarly, slabby, rocky, evil, loose and did I mention hard? trail. I was starting to click riders off, passing them 2 or 3 at a time.
I admit, I was starting to feel a little bit better about myself, especially after I passed Mandy who was walking. I rode – ha ha! I was moving! In fact, I had walked most of the hard stuff the day before. I imagine I rode maybe 50% of the ridge on practice day, race day I owned 80% of that ridge. Awesome!
Then I crashed. Hard I didn’t even have time to get out of my pedals, and I had to be assisted off the ground. The nice person that helped me off the ground watched the whole thing, and he was worried for my own personal structural integrity. I fell hard enough to break a bone in a normal mortal, yet amazingly, my huge fat ass actually took the impact. I wedged my left cheek between two big long sharp edged rocks that ultimately prevented the bone shattering impact that would have claimed a skinny person’s tibia.
After being helped up I de-tangled myself, and, puffing up my pride, I was passed by a few fast folks with better skills than my own. I realized then that something was wrong with the front of my bike. There was a rattling that was very persistent, and not that cool to feel while trying to negotiate the SSWC. It felt like a loose headset, or a played bushing in the fork. I stopped to check it out, and when I was getting myself packed back up, Mandy caught me, checked to see if I was OK, and kept on keepin’ on. All that was left was the big baby head strewn descent to the start/finish line. I could do this.
The start/finish line was at the bottom of this. The end was nearer than I knew. I missed the cut off. Mandy did not.
She takes great delight in the fact that I was the first to be culled from the herd, but while she was out riding her bike, I was back at the hacienda having a beer and a nap. I was done, and I was glad. I’d ridden as much of the SSWC course as allowed, and about as much as I could stand for one day.
I did only half of the race, all because I stopped to check out my bike.
I missed a bacon aid station, a whisky aid station and another beer aid station on the second loop. Dicky had a terrible second lap, ultimately being passed by our own Maggs. There was no water out there. People were taking naps. I admit I am a little bummed I didn’t see any of this.
There is always New Zealand…