Actually "racing"

SSAZ was the first “race” I’ve ever done on a bike, one of three races of any kind I’ve ever done. I ran in one high school cross country meet before getting injured, and limped through the Chicago Marathon years ago (getting injured in the process). So, I’ve never liked the idea or the execution of racing. This weekend, insofar as it was a race at all, is starting to change my mind.

Part of my issue has been the organized aspect, I stubbornly like to do things my way and the “rules” of soccer games never seemed very fun. Too much to remember. While climbing, running, or riding I am accountable to myself only, and that is rigor enough.

The other side is pushing yourself, and in this even the strongest (not me) need help. This Saturday, I rode most of the race with three others, none of whose names I remember. We were each stronger at different times, able to lead the way while the others drafted through route finding, lines up technical climbs, and searching out sand traps. I was certainly faster because of them, even if it was repeatedly getting gapped descending Milgarosa.

I rode the 40+ miles in a little over 5 hours, including the 6 mile neutral roll-out on pavement and the subsequent “meeting” before the race start. I have no idea how long that put me for the “race” itself, the victory lies in my being able to pace myself, keep on the gas even through to the end, and feel tired but not burnt the day after. Milagrosa made me feel small and incompetent, but that was due in part to the inertia of a choice I made early on during the descent to be cautious and not risk crashing. The season is young, though I certainly want to cultivate some greater confidence on such terrain.

In summary, I feel strong and competent.

I also want to write about Randy. Randy’s from Moab, I presume works in a bike shop, and is dating Marie. Marie is the six foot tall manager of the Red Rock Bakery, and was when M worked there years ago. Randy might be skinnier than Marie, which is a formidible accomplishment. He was riding a beat up black Karate Monkey, one of four present (mine, another guys brownie, and Nick from Surly’s), fixed with the very cool Level rear hub. WTB (new) drop bars, front BB7, shiny brown B-17 on Thudbuster, beat to shit Shimano DH cranks, and a “One Less Titus” sticker. He also had the brilliant idea I invented to put Oury’s on the hooks on his bars. It was an awesome bike, and I really wish I had been even vaguely strong enough to stay with him to see him ride the tech sections. Randy, however, apparently finished second on the day (this info is not guaranteed), and likely had a 10-15 minute gap on me by the first singletrack. Hope to see him again, maybe for the Rim Ride.

Singletrack, valued as “buff” in a similar sense of “flowy” for a climbing routes: meaning easy, but hard enough to not be boring. We had some buff singletrack in sections, but most of it was more entertaining. Like eroded to crap jeep roads, fall line descents and climbs, 6x6s freshly laid as waterbars, and the wash. When I and another guy got to the start of the wash, we thought Dejay might have been fucking with us. Pink flagging led into a corral, and at first the exit was invisible. Soon we were riding down a trail that really didn’t count: deeeeep gravel creek crossings, a continuous 50 yards of baby heads, flood-corrugated and polished chunks of granite and limestone. I had some eureka moments of technical competence here, the high water mark on the day, sand-snaking every gravel section and stream crossing without dabbing, making most of the baby heads, and cleaning all of the gnarliest rock ledge before stuffing my front wheel into the sand and falling over sideways (not much momentum left at that point). It was totally unpreped for bikes, and gorgeous therein.

The rest of the day went very well. I had most of a beer when we got back to the “aid station,” and drank and ate exactly the right amount. I endured the Milagrosa descent with a reasonable amount of cursing and resentiment until I had to stop 100 vertical feet from the bottom when a Cholla ball tagged me on the back. An inch to the right and it would’ve got my pack. Instead, I had to yard on my shirt on either side to pry enough of it out of my back to remove the shirt, pull the cactus off the shirt with small rocks, and move on down to blessed pavement. The last miles were a fine victory ride, due to the fact that we managed to not get confused in the subdivision and rode no bonus miles.

Once back M de-spined me, and after 90 minutes of hydration and some pizza I felt fairly human again. Enough to enjoy the full social, video, swag, beer experience. M enjoyed the bar ride on Dejay’s fixie, and had enough “fun” braking with her legs to complain about being sore yesterday. She also spent half an hour discussing the marriage-industrial complex with Pua Salwicki. Heard of her? The rest was business as usual.

So, on to this week, where I intend to do almost no physical activity. The intend psychological boost is in effect, as watching without watching the fast guys this weekend makes me want to swear of ice cream and start doing sit-ups. Ambition that presents itself with a ready and compelling excuse is a beautiful and welcome thing. This Saturday should be more of the same; the field for the Red Hot is full; the first name on the email Darcy Africa.

I’m leaning heavily towards the Highline 50 for April.

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