I slept very little last night. My body in absolute tumult. Heart rate elevated, sweating....
Can endurance mountain biking actually be good for your body? Ha!
I completed the Firecracker 50 yesterday folks and I will say this: Best mountain bike race I ever participated in and invariably the most suffering I've ever willingly put myself through on a bike. Sick. Lemme give you the skinny...
Bobby and I packed up after grabbing some Moe's and a coffee about 7:30. We bombed up in no time to Breckenridge, the 9000' home to Timmy The Truth Faia, and of course the Firecracker. We quickly found the registration area and it was a perfectly run assembly line. UCI officials directing me to the appropriate line and I was completely registered, numbered and handed a huge schwag bag in roughly 7 minutes (and there were 900 racers!). I would be racing in group 3, the Open Men's 35-39 which was one of the 12 National Championship categories. It was clear the gauntlet would be thrown.
We cruised down N. Main street where the 4th of July parade was to be and 1000's of people amassed. The racers, all 900 of them, would be the kickoff to the parade. Each wave followed out their group leader carrying a sign back up N. Main through this massive tunnel of noise and people in a neutral start. Yours truly had to pull a wheelie for a few 100 yards. It was rad as I'd hear so many friends yell out 'Greg!!' in that crowd which was super cool and motivating.
We started the race on a giant paved climb and having never done a marathon before, I did not know how to race this thing so my plan was to just chill on the first lap, and try to race it on the 2nd lap. I set my own tempo and rolled it, The first group of contenders got their game on immediately and were gone. Impressive. You could tell stars and bars were the motivator.
I'm not going to describe all details of the course. but the profile here should say it all:
A shark's mouth to say the least. The course featured initially all pavement and dirt road then cherry singletrack followed by dodgy rock strewn descents. In the middle is this ridiculous climb that saw most of teh racers walk as it got congested and was 16% and rock strewn. Combine all of this into 2 laps and it was staged to be an epic.
So lap one and I'm still conserving. Tim F rolls by me on a song doing a lap for the team he was racing on (I was doing solo but the Team thing looks like a solid idea for next year...). We chatted and I'm like: "Dude, I have NO idea how fast to go!" Scared to blow up. He's like "Just roll it! Have fun!". And so I did...
I start feeling good and decide to drill it. I rail this singletrack and bomb into the aforementioned rock strewn down hill. 10 meters in and 'pssssssssssssssst'. F-BOMB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
OK, rookie move of the year on my part: NEVER put on a set of tires you've never ridden before the night before a race. Total schmoe move!
100 feet from the last flat: 'Psssssssssssst-flap flap flap flap flap flap.....' F-BOMB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Again! I think I must have not seated the bead right as that tube comes popping out and get sliced on a rock in seconds. I never carry two tubes but decided to on this day to carry two 'just in case'. So, I change that one, taking time to ensure I get that thing beaded on right and again start the decent, this time making it down.
As I'm changing that 2nd tube racers are continually bombing the hill and get the wheel on and start going. And then I hear:
"Argghfnaphoooomph." "Racer down!" Down past me walks Taro and he's banged up bad. Messed up bike, bloody leg, crooked finger. He gets on with it and goes on to finish top 10 in the single speed class! You are a warrior, T.
I continue on and finally finish the first of 25 miles, pulling through the start/finish at about 2:32 or so if i recall with all my tire drama and into the massive crowd waiting there. So, yours truly needed to wheelie through like the geek that I am.
A couple of notes before I go on: this race ROCKED in terms of organization. The aid/water stations were SO well run with hoards of people handing you EVERYTHING you need. I started the race with one bottle and simply grabbed what I wanted from Gataorade to Clif products, you name it. Incredible. The first lap, I mowed through 2 bags of Clif blocks. Coming through the start finish for my 2nd lap, I grab more food and a fresh bottle and take stock. I am feeling OK, not great, but thinking I can push the tempo for the next 25 miles. "Can you do another one, Greg?". Yup, and I pressed on back up the initial climb.
I settled in again and tempo'd up the first climb and into the single track. By the time the 'death climb' reared its head again, the leg spasms started. Holy crap. I thought I was drinking enough. I pull off and walk up the climb and the leg feels better. The inner quad stops convulsing. This dude gets off near me as well and starts SCREAMING. "Oh my God! Oh my GOD!". Cramping as well. It's like he was shot. I continue to hear him through the woods for the next FIVE minutes! "OH GOD!!!!. NO!!!". I start laughing uncontrollably. And that's when I farted.
Something was REALLY going on with my stomach as well. I'd laugh a bit, and a little fart would come out. My stomach was wreaked from all those Clif blocks. I continue to clench my but cheeks at about mile 35 and just roll it, trying not to laugh.
I get back on the lush singletrack after the death climb and pop a few gears down and roll again As hard as I can. I start the same rocky descent down I double flatted on. Intentionally going a bit more gingerly.
The THIRD ONE! I have no more tubes and start bombing it down the trail on foot. A guy comes bombing down behind me on his Niner 29'er and I just ask: "Man, can you spare a tube?" Homie stops and takes his own good time to hand me a tube.
Sean (or Shaun/Shawn)? YOU ARE AN ANGEL. I know the Karma gods will bless you. You are a TRUE racer.
I get that 3rd flat squared away as I miraculously have some Big Air left, check the bead, fill 'er up and remount and head on down. I've roughly 10 miles and I am DONE. I roll smoothly for another 4 miles or so past the last aid station and into singletrack.
'Pssssssssssssssssssst' YOU ARE F-ING KIDDING ME!!!! I start to laugh again and a CR250R-like fart comes out so I stop laughing. AGAIN an angel appears. Some HUGE guy on a 29'er single speed and he doesn't even stop but comes near, hands me a tube and yells "Rock on man!!!"
WHOEVER YOU ARE, I LOVE YOU! This is what racing is meant to be.
So I get THAT tube squared away and have one road air cartridge in my pack left as the Big Air is shot. It fills up but not as much as I'd like. Probably like 32 PSI when I'd wanted 40. So I roll, gingerly again and into the single track. I am literally in the final descent. I can HEAR the announcer. I have like 1.2 miles to go! Home free!
Flat No. 4. I do not laugh.
I literally hike and try to run the last 1.2 miles downhill. All the way down the switch backs to the start finish. I get on the grass and it's roughly 50 feet to the finish line. People are cheering! I am totally shot and but when I see all these people cheering the finishers, I smile! I get back on the bike and pull a one-handed wheelie across the finish line and people are going nuts! It was worth every ounce of sweat.
I finish up in like 5 hours 30 minutes with my 4 flats and my lovely mile hike through the woods.
I am so wasted when I finish I am sort of in this drunk like state. I feel like that scene in Saving Private Ryan when all those dudes are trying to ask Tom Hanks what to do and he can't hear them. "Keller, you want a beer?". It comes in as hollow echos. I have another 15 minute walk to the car where I finally make it, open up the back and sit down. I collect myself and reflect on what an EPIC day it was. I got pissed for like 3 minutes, and then just shook my head and laughed. And yes, farted again. Absolute body turmoil.
So hear I am, back in Boulder, just awoken from my crappy sleep. I am so lucky to be able to do this. I'll be back next year for the fun.