I havent been sleeping well.
Maybe its how sticky this place gets, or maybe the fact that the center of my mattress is at least 6 inches below the part I put my pillow on. Regardless, its long nights that make for long days. And today was a long, long day.
It started off well enough - today was our first remote start, about an hour away at Raystown. I have already described how awesome these trails are here, so instead of filling up valuable internet space with duplicate information about their awesomeness, I will provide you with this picture:
We went off in waves, and my group went first. They started us on a hill to break things up before the start. I wasnt going to contest any sort of holeshot, but I discovered yesterday that sitting and pedalling is very hard on my knees, so it looked like I was going for it. I was "leading" the "chase group" for a bit: a few of us packfodder straining and grunting to get a glimpse of Jeremiahs hindquarters, all impotently praying for more watts, bigger legs and smaller midsections: The Flaccid and the Furious.
Things broke up again, I drifted back when the burly singlespeed leader came stampeding through. Usually more than one creature is required to compose a "stampede", but in this instance I feel justified in using the term. Regardless, I was having a blast. Early on, it didnt occur to me how much I was standing up.
You see, the bike I am currently using is 2 sizes too small. To mitigate these unfortunate circumstances, I have made the following adjustments:
1. Put on a 120mm stem that was in my car.
2. Use my current handlebar (700mm).
3. Extend seatpost well beyond any reasonable safe limit.
4. Slam seat all the way back.
Now if you know anything at all about proper setup on a mountain bike, you will immediately come to the conclusion that this bike is going to handle like shit.
Yesterday on the long road stage, I didnt have to do a whole lot of bike handling - I stood up on almost all the climbs, but other than sore hands and a stiff back, I was fine. Raystown is a different animal entirely.
First of all, there was more climbing (!). 6500 feet in 45 miles, to be precise. Second, there are all kinds of tabletops, bump jumps, berms and kickers mixed in with the standard trail fare. This kind of riding requires a good deal of finesse, something that gets lost when you are sitting bolt upright with your saddle an inch too low.
As I said earlier, I was having too much fun to notice how often I stood up. I hung out and heckled Dicky a bit, trying to motivate him to keep his jersey, caught Hash Apples and yelled at him, rode with Cushionbury and a bunch of other people until Amanda Carey and Sue Haywood caught me.
I hung on to those two for the better part of 10 miles - I was getting a clinic from two of the most accomplished racers in the country. They were effortless. Sue was pumping through the back end of the jumps like a less-bald Weir and Amanda was crushing the climbs in a gear that simply did not exist on my bike. I rolled with them until we caught some other folks, then they made it through and I did not.
Not that I would have survived much longer - my back had really, really begun to bother me. Anytime the trail went up, I stood. Every time I stood, I could look down and be almost in front of my wheel. So began the not-terribly-delicate dance of man vs. bike vs. loose gravel. And to make matters worse, sitting down had begun to enter a new dimension of pain.
I have begun to develop a saddle sore the size of a small Balkan nation.
We will call this nation Oozebekistan.
Its economy seems to be based on selling arms to the insurgents in the muscles connected to my spinal column, because the larger the sore became, the more my back would give me problems. It would also appear that chamois cream, regardless of type or amount, has no effect at all on this grape sized anomaly enhancing the topography of my Gluteus Mons.
It didnt take my knees long to get in on this auto beat-down. Sitting too low strains the patella, and mine were starting to sing me a song.
It was with just about every muscle in my body clenched that I entered the second checkpoint. I was going to abandon. I felt like crap, everything hurt, and I had started making stupid mistakes (more so, I suppose, than usual).
It should surprise no one that I opted to complete the race.
Yes, despite blisters, bad knees, a stiff back and a saddle sore that had Reinhold Messner packing for an expedition I went back out.
It should also surprise no one that things went from bad to worse very, very quickly.
My body, with the few minutes it had to rest, froze up. I was somehow even less flexible than I was before. To be fair, it was like going from Charles Bronson to Boris Karloff, but still. This was getting unsustainable.
Loads of people passed me. I said hi, waved, and crawled back into my hurt-hut. Either me or the bike started to creak (equal chances of both). Then the Topeak-Ergon girl (I totally forgot her name, and am too tired to walk over to the results to check. What a jerk.) passed me, and after we exchanged a trail-hello, literally everything on my body stopped working properly.
The inevitable came when I leaned into a downhill switchback. I was over the front, and when I went to push through the apex, my body did not respond. The result was all one hundred fifty pounds of my weight over the front tire, and exactly zero pounds over the part that needed the most traction.
The back of the bike unweighted, and started to slide around. Luckily, it did not quite make a full 180 degree turn. Unluckily, it was because a tree stopped it.
Good news, everyone.
The bike is mostly ok.
Unfortunately, my spine broke its fall.
And the back tire tore off the rim, ripping a big hole in the sidewall (just for good measure).
Now Im sitting in the middle of the woods, I have no idea how far it is to the end (well, between 15 and 0 miles), Im not entirely sure about standing up, AND MY FUCKING TIRE IS FLAT.
I started trudging away as soon as it became clear that a new tube wouldnt solve the problem. I walked (or rode the rim on some of the descents) the entirety of the "hydro loop" only to get back to a point that I could have just cut the course by 3 miles.
I was now at the point of wanting to take hostages. Furiously, I hopped, limped, tripped and gimped my way to the finish. I walked through the line, dropped my bike, walked behind the bathroom and sat down, wanting to examine the new and exciting blisters that I had acquired over the last 2 hours.
I was leaning on a wasps nest.