7 laps was the magic number for the expert class racers equaling roughly 28 miles of rough, tight, and twisty singletrack with a few short sections of flat limestone path connecting sections of race course. Judging from my pre-ride of the course, I was guesstimating roughly a 2.5 hour finish time for me and 2 hours for the leaders meaning I would most likely be getting lapped. While this wasn't necessarily what I wanted for a race experience, I came to appreciate the fact that everyone finishing on the same lap, meant that most likely I'd only be riding 6 laps. The course over there is no joke for race pace laps. I think it would be insanely fun just to go ride and play on, but the layout and roughness of the tread combined to destroy my upper body and core in a few short laps. The twistiness of the course left me feeling like I'd been riding in a blender and barely able to remember which lap I was even on.
Looking sharp early on
I'm still confused on exactly what lap I was on when I pulled the plug (note: I was halfway done with lap 6). Since I started racing 2 years ago, I haven't had a DNF. I was pretty proud of that accomplishment as I felt like I'd dragged myself through some pretty dark spots while racing. That all ended yesterday and while I'm a bit disappointed, I'm not overly concerned with it as I think I gave up for the right reason. I wasn't having fun anymore. I love to compete and that's why I like to race. Even if I'm hurting and feeling bad, I typically know that I've got someone behind or in front of me that I am still racing against and they're probably in similar shape. When I gave up yesterday, I couldn't say whether or not I still had anyone behind me. I know that I had very little chance of catching anyone in front of me and soldiering to the end would have done nothing but prove I'm too stubborn to realize when I should pack it in.
I "think" I was in the midst of lap 5, but it could have been lap 4 as I'm a bit fuzzy on when I got passed by the leaders. I do know that I crashed twice and it was the second fall that cemented my decision to drop. My gear worked pretty much flawlessly considering the amount of trail hazards we all were riding on with the sharp rocks, steel, concrete, and brick scrap. I felt pretty good on the opening 2 laps and was riding around mid pack for those laps. I definitely went out too hard though and quickly ended up in survival mode versus race mode. I think the lead group of single speeders that started 2 minutes back didn't start to pass me until early in lap 4. My technical skills for handling were definitely doing well for the most part. I didn't have any real problems hanging with the wheels in mid pack and could have probably pulled away with an opportunity to pass, however once we hit the open stretches, my mind refused to put in the effort required to make something as I was all ready at redline and knew there wouldn't be any areas to recover and I didn't want to mess up anyone else's day with poor judgement on my part.
Looking beat down:
In hindsight, my undoing was mostly lack of experience. I turned myself inside out on the first 2 laps trying to maintain or build on my mid-pack position. This worked for me in sport class where most racing lasted 1.5 hours or less and I could finish out the race. But here, I averaged bottom of zone 5 for over 40 minutes before realizing I was destroying any hopes of finishing and started backing down my efforts. Too little too late ended up being the outcome as my laps went 20:47, 20:32, 21:26, 23:19, and 24:48. I wasn't the first one out by any means, but it still stings a bit knowing I had the ability to finish the race in me, but gave up on it. I'm hoping to carry that fire into Bonebender this weekend and with some smart pacing, vastly improve my finishing position.
Photo credits: Angy Snoop