I headed into Sunday’s Wildcat 50 looking for some redemption.
6 Hours of Pat’s peak was a mechanically-shortened washout and with the exception of one Catamount training race I’ve been coming up empty in the results department. Well really in the finishing department, and results by extension.
Fortunately I’d found some focus as of late, had gotten the bike dialed in a bit and was ready to rock, so when I showed up Sunday morning I was a little nervous but excited. I’d brought the MX Divide knowing that the rolling hills and rocky Ulster County terrain is one of the places where full suspension makes a huge difference. Amazingly I’d never actually raced the Divide in spite of riding it a ton.
After I picked up my packet at registration I did a quick warm up and lined up at the start. Mom and Dad pulled in right when we were getting ready to roll out of the start/finish and almost made the start really interesting.
We rolled out in a semi-neutral fashion for the first mile or so, then the lead car- a jacked up Jeep Cherokee with enormous tires- laid a patch of rubber on the road and took off with the driver whooping the whole way. I have to say I’m always intrigued when men show emotion like that as it seems like society raises us to be stoic, but this dude was amped up. He probably had a 16 oz can of Red Bull in the cup holder and a couple empty ones on the floor kind of amped up, and I’m sure he’d been looking forward to being able to drive that Jeep on those forest roads at that speed for a very long time. And frankly I’m glad he got the chance to do so because he did make the most of it. I gave him the “hang loose” as I rolled by to show my appreciation for his zeal.
Once the race got rolling I found myself dangling off the back of the super fit-looking roadie group (6% body fat, shoe covers in 60 degree weather in a mountain bike race, hard tails…you know who I’m talking about) and slotting in somewhere in the group. I had my usual panic/asthma/high heart rate with no power bout of confidence killing malaise for about 20 minutes then started to settle into a rhythm as the trail went from forest road, to gravel road to singletrack. The singletrack was intense- twisty, rocky and with frequent changes of direction. Without exagerration there was hardly a 150 foot section without a turn and the course map looked like the board from Chutes and Ladders.
While I had suffered a bit on the pedaling sections I started to relax and rail the singletrack; the Divide was its usual smooth and predictable self and blasted every rock garden, drop, bridge and square-edged bump I could throw at it. I wasn’t getting tossed around at all while I could definitely see many of my fellow competitors were.
Mid way through the lap I settled into a groove with another rider and we worked together for several miles. The course did not feature any long climbs but there were frequent turns, accelerations and obstacles that kept the effort level consistently high; the need to be focused absolutely paramount.
As we wound our way out of the first lap and onto the second I attacked the first paved corner ready to go full throttle on lap 2. I got wide, leaned in and right as I hit the apex an oncoming car and loose sand colluded to provide me with a split-second choice- hit the car or hit the pavement. I chose the latter and smashed my knee, thigh, arm, hand and head into the tarmac with an oversteer and bar spinning twist.
It could have been a whole lot worse, and given the number of things that could have happened I’m very grateful. I’ve certainly not been comfortable the last couple days and I took yesterday off of work to recover, but I’m getting better and am glad I didn’t break anything or get more hurt. This does make me want to get another skills session to work on how I could have done better, but really I think this was more of a situational issue than a skills fail. If the car wasn’t there I’d have been fine. If the gravel wasn’t there I may have been fine, too, but the car/gravel/speed combo and probably setting up for the corner with my weight too far back and not looking far enough ahead exacerbated the issue. Lesson learned.
Mom and Dad were at the race, and that was a good and bad thing- good because it meant I had some support, but bad because even though I’m in my 30′s when I get hurt my Mom reacts the same way she did when I got hit with the ball as a 10 year old in Little League.
After a quick on site shower the EMT patched up my wounds and gave me some insight on how to clean them up, so after a frustrating trip to a chain drug store I sat in the parking lot and redressed the wounds with first aid spray and fresh bandages.
On the drive home I thought about recovery and tried to stay positive for the Hampshire 100 on the 18th. I really want to finish that one- it’ll be my fifth in a row if I can do it and I’ll be one of the “Hampshire Hardcores”.
So for now it’s rest, recovery and hoping to rebound to do it all again in less than two weeks.