Saturday, April 2, 2011

Scratching Sucks

We took off at 8 AM from the race start... blah, blah, blah.. it was a beautiful morning... blah, blah, blah...there was snow in the forecast for that evening, so all of the bikers were worried... blah, blah, blah...

I could talk about all of the usual BS that I write about when posting about a race, but I'm going to bypass all of that crap and get to what really happened.

I had had some trouble getting warmed up at the start, because I just don't climb very well when I'm not warmed up and the first twenty miles of this race is a series of long hill climbs. So I was already at the back of the pack of bikers, but I still had a couple of them in view and knew by how good I felt that I would catch them going over the divide.

And then somewhere around mile 30, just when I was starting to feel warmed up, just when I realized I was on pace to be faster than last year, just when I had formulated a plan to not stop very long at the checkpoints and crush my time from last year, my back tire went flat.

I remained surprisingly calm as I fixed the flat. A few skiers passed me as I sat on the side of the trail and pumped my tire. I was on a steep downhill stretch where the trail was narrow, so there wasn't much room for people to pass. I felt bad because I wanted to get off the trail to fix the tire, but as soon as I stepped an inch off the trail I fell in up to my waist. I pulled my bike flush up against the edge of the trail and tried to line my gear up out of the way

I was happy that I fixed the flat without getting all flustered, and I proudly pumped the last few pumps into the tire after reattaching it and tightening my brakes. The air seemed a little low though. I pumped 100 more times, then 100 more until it felt like enough. I told myself the trail was soft so it would be okay to run it a little low. But I got on the bike and it seemed too low. I got the pump back out and pumped again, and laughed about the fact that I was left in the dust of all of the bikers once again. It was oddly reminiscent of the year before.

Finally I decided I had pumped enough, got on the bike and rode on down the long hill to the Beaver Creek. Things were looking up and I had only wasted about 20 minutes fixing the flat. I rolled along the creek planning my new strategy to make up the time that I had lost. I would grab a baked potato "to go" at the Cache Mountain cabin and eat it on the way up to the divide. I would fill up my water. It would take five minutes, tops. I felt strong and knew I could ride more of the next stretch than I did last year. Inevitably I would have to walk some of the steeper parts, and that's when I would eat my potato. I would be at Windy Gap in no time eating meatball soup.

I drifted off for a minute and came back to reality to the sound of ppppffffffff. I had to be daydreaming, I stopped, squeezed my tire. It felt fine. I started up again and thought I heard air leaking again. Stopped squeezed the tire, it felt fine. I rode another quarter mile and definitely heard something, stopped and squeezed my tire, it felt a little low. I was not ready to accept this yet, so I pumped another 200 pumps into the tire and kept riding. And then it got louder. PPPFFFFFF. I looked down and my tire was completely flat, again.

This wasn't the same kind of flat as last year when my tire was slightly deflating and inflating as the temperature fluctuated throughout the cold morning. This was a flat. Another hole in my brand new tube. Another big fat WTF slap in my face. This was my fourth flat in two years of this race. And then I remembered that at the last minute in an attempt to lighten my load, I left my third tube behind. And I had no patch kit.

I really don't want to describe what the next two and half hours were like for me as I pushed my bike over some of the most ridable sections of trail into the Cache Mountain Divide checkpoint, but I'll try. I was bordering on manic depression, switching back and forth between bawling uncontrollably at the fact that I wasn't going to get to ride the other side of the divide to euphoria in getting to admire the beautiful landscape on foot. It was a real mess and I am happy to say that not one person passed me during that time to witness this pathetic display.

As I got closer to cabin I started to slow down. I knew if no one had a patch kit or another tube in the cabin that I was going to have to scratch and I wasn't quite ready to accept that. Scratch because of a flat? I don't think so. I started formulating a plan to push my bike the rest of the way around the course. Then my lower back stepped in and said, uh, hello, remember me, if you do that you are going to cripple yourself for the summer. "That would have been bad ass!" Brian said later when I told him this thought crossed my mind. Unfortunately, I'm not that bad ass, don't really have anything to prove, and most importantly it would have been mental torture to have to walk over all of the course that I have been dreaming about riding for months now. Torture.

In the cabin everyone was really helpful and once the skiers and runners started coming in they were handing me all kinds of things to try to patch one of the holes in my tubes that I had found. One positive thing I have to say amidst my post of negativity is that the people involved in this race are great. The racers, volunteers and race directors are all so willing to provide help when someone needs it. Even all of the racers who can't help but be wrapped up in their own race, trying to take care of themselves out there, took the time out to offer help or condolences. For that I am grateful.

Nothing worked. I pumped and squeezed and air kept leaving the tube. I checked inside the tire to find any obvious pointy things sticking out, but there was not really anything that I think could have made a slit in both tubes. No one had a patch kit.

And of course I was kicking myself inside for not bringing one. They are so light and small, but I have never needed one in the winter. I figured two extra tubes would be enough, but unfortunately I made a dumb decision and left my second spare tube behind at the last minute.

I have to admit I saw how little people were taking on their bikes (only a few of us had sleeping bags) and I started to try to lighten my load at the last minute before the race start. So dumb. Of course everyone asked, "Where is your patch kit?" which made me feel worse and just plain stupid.

My only hope was that the last biker, would come through with some sort of patch kit. I would be way behind the rest of the bikers, but at least I would get to ride the rest of the trail. I can't remember the time before I officially scratched, most of it was a blur, but I do remember Ann, the race director who was acting as sweep arriving and telling me that the other biker scratched and went back to the start. So that was it.


I stared out the cabin window and watched the snow fall on the valley that leads to the divide. I desperately wanted to ride my bike up there and was looking forward to that part of the race the most. I knew at that point that it wasn't going to happen. I was crushed.

But I didn't want to let it all out in front of 10 people I had just met, cause I knew there would be a flood of tears. It's pretty much all or nothing when it comes to me and my emotions, so I chose nothing at that time. Unfortunately Brian got all of it the next day, and of course he was great about it. That night, when repeatedly asked about what happened I told the story and then ended with, "Oh well, it happens." and forced out a smile. And it does, mechanicals happen to everyone, but I still felt like I had failed and it hurts much more when you work really hard all winter and show up race morning feeling great. At that point I had only ridden one third of the course, so my legs still felt really fresh.

I decided to make the best of my time in the Cache Mountain cabin and chatted and got to know the three volunteers there - John, Bob and Stan. I tried to help out whenever I could, but mostly I just felt in the way. I partook in some rum after all of the racers passed through and pulled out my sleeping bag and fell asleep around midnight wondering what was going on on the other side of the divide, wishing I was there, even in the snowstorm. I hoped that Brian wasn't stuck in the snow pushing his bike. Maybe by some miracle he was close the finish already, or sleeping in another cabin on the other side. I wouldn't know until noon the next day that he finished around 1 AM in 17 hours.

And I was the girl who scratched because of a flat.

Here's the part where I turn it around and talk about what happened that was positive. But I really don't feel like doing that right now. Maybe in a few days when I write my next post.

Update: I wrote this a few days ago and I am feeling much better now, no longer feeling sorry for myself and I was even able to look at the race results yesterday. That brought back some emotions because it was sad to not see my name in there, but I think I needed to make peace with it. I have accepted that it was my fault I failed at this race, decided to learn from it and move on. I hope that I can get into this race next year, because I have unfinished business. 

Oh and I'm buying new tires. My old tires had been passed around amongst many bikers and probably had 5000 miles on them. I looked at them and the tubes again today and have decided the flats were probably being caused by cracks in my sidewall that were pinching the tubes and creating the slits in them.

1 comment:

Julie said...

New tires? Aren't you buying a whole new bike with a beautiful carbon fork?!?! :) I better work hard to keep up with you next year!! (or maybe I will plant beers for you to drink instead as a method of distraction)