Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Karma is a Bitch...

OK, so most of you have read Suzy's blog posting about her first foray into the strange trip that is mountain bike racing. If you haven't, I encourage you to hit the left sidebar and check out her blog - no, go do it right now, we'll wait on you to get caught up...

Now that you've read her first encounter with the sport, I'll bombard your senses with my spin on it, but first a little backstory...

I first got the hankering to try mountain bike racing after spending one too many nights hanging with the guys that dominate the local road riding scene, and who have had experiences with 6(!) hour mountain bike endurance races. After a few beers, most anything sounds reasonable, so I found myself cautiously mentioning that I might be up for a go at one of the races. After not hearing any huge outbreaks of laughter or worse, the sound of beer being expelled through nostrils, I got a bit bolder in my assertations.

"I WILL race in a 6 hour race!" I clamored. Yet again, no derisive snorts, only sparse words of encouragement were forthcoming. Fast forward til March, and it was time to go to my first race. It was just South of Athens, GA during one of the worst weather weekends our state has seen in a while. Friday night, tornadoes ripped through Atlanta, just to our West. Saturday morning, rain and awful lightning bursts punctuated the morning. Yet, somehow, come race time, the clouds parted and the weather lulled us all into a false sense of security, just long enough to start the event. What we encountered was nothing short of the hardest mountain bike trails I had ever encountered - and I had the pleasure of riding the course as many times as I could withstand over the course of the next 6 hours. After finishing 11th out of 23 total in my category, I was glad to be done with the day.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I found myself mumbling about trying a XC, or cross country mountain bike race in Columbus, GA. I figured if I had survived successfully in my 6 hour attempt, I could easily show up and turn in the effort required for a XC race (which, incidentally was only one 10.5 mile lap).

We decided to arrive early enough to get our camp set up at a nearby campground and then go pre-ride the course on Saturday. The race was on the following day. On the recon lap, Vonnie, Suzy and I set out to see what was in store for us the following day. After watching Vonnie fall very hard onto a large boulder in the first 3 miles of the course, and trying to negotiate a new section that was, to quote an unnamed source, "slick as owl shit", our spirits were flagging. Then, after having ridden the worst part of the course, and enjoying the flow of the rest, our pre-ride came to a grinding halt when my bike emitted a terribly loud "SCREEEE" noise, that was accompanied by a complete loss of pedal movement. Yes, I had broken my chain. So, 7 miles into the 10.5 mile course, I was dead in the water. Kaput. Finished. We turned around, and headed to the pavement and Vonnie managed to somehow wrap his crash damaged arm around me and propel me along back to the car. After asking around, and looking in vain for neutral support, I was having slim hopes of being able to actually start tomorrow's race due to a mechnical failure that no one seemed to have any parts to fix.

Next morning, Bill managed to scrounge me a replacement chain from one of his friendly competitors. I joyfully repaired my ride and set about preparing for my 11:30 am departure. Start time came, and I found myself on the line with 11 others in my category. Once we were released, I promptly got relegated to the back of the group, as I was close to last within the first mile of the course. As soon as the going got technical, I started regaining ground. I passed 4 people in short order, then I passed 3 more. I was steadily reeling in stragglers and was feeling really good about my chances for a high finish when all of the sudden, on a gradual climb, I lost all pedaling power. I looked down in disgust to confirm my worst fears - I had once again broken my chain, only 3 miles into my 10.5 mile distance for the day. Having no other choice, I shouldered my bike, picked up my broken chain, and walked the 1.5 miles back to the truck.

Now, with the second of our three 6 hour series looming, I look forward to the next round of adventure and adversity. The old saying goes, "what doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger..."

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