Wednesday, April 29, 2015
An Exercise in Suffering: P2A 70k
After dropping most of our large group in the first two off-road sections where I rode really well, 20-50k was almost entirely on pavement or gravel roads. As strong and confident as I was on the dirt, I felt completely useless on the roads. My poor little XC setup is an off-road dream machine but it only has gearing up to about 40-45km/h. So without fully recognizing it I was completely burning myself out – I'd get on the road and try to latch onto packs of cross riders until I ran out of gears and got dropped. Then wait for some off-road and blow past all of them again, then repeat it all over when we hit the road again. I knew I was riding pretty hard, but didn't realize the toll it was taking on me with so many spikes in effort.
At 50k there was a short trail then a long 10+k flat section of rail trail. In hindsight, this would be the spot to really put the hammer down and set up for a great race. But after riding through a large pack who were all walking the trail, I got on the rail trail and I was done. I don’t mean I was starting to feel the fatigue. My quads and lower back were cramping on every pedal stroke and I was looking for a suitable place to pull over and lie down. My thought process degraded along these lines:
"Ironman is going to hurt too, try to stay focused"
"You paced like a dumbass"
"I hate bikes…I hate trails…I hate nature"
"I'm quitting racing and never getting out of bed again"
Sometimes as an endurance athlete you take for granted just how long a given distance can be...but 10km never felt so long! I really wasn't sure how I was going to get to the finish but at 60k I was forced to come to a stop at an intersection while police waved some cars through. A few riders around me were cursing and yelling at the situation, while my only thought was "thank f**k, I can stop for a minute!" It gave me just enough time to stretch out my back and refocus. I told myself that no matter how much it hurt, I was going to suck it up and finish the last 10k strong.
After taking some jube jubes from a spectator I successfully navigated the infamous Powerline Mud Slide (about 500m of steep downhill with mud up to my rotors) around dozens of people crashing and walking, and all that was left was the final climb…the steepest and longest of the day of course. If I was at all coherent I would have laughed out loud at the number of people literally falling off their bikes from cramping. But with help from the spectator support I dragged my butt up the climb and finished.
It took me a while to find anything positive to take away from Paris to Ancaster. My wreckless pacing and poor equipment choice made for one of the hardest and most miserable experiences I've ever had riding a bike. But no matter how a race goes, it is always an opportunity to learn and improve for the next one. Now that I've experienced this race, I won’t return unless I have a cyclocross bike…maybe even a road bike with 28-30mm tires. And I'll know the course better and pace accordingly. I was really surprised how well I rode the rough stuff, not falling or having to unclip once. I felt like I was floating over it while everyone around me was walking or crashing. And did I ever learn how to suffer!
Fortunately it was only meant to be a hard training ride, so all things considered I got more than I could have asked for out of it. So I'll be thankful that I learned some hard lessons in my lowest priority race of the season, and since I don't even want to look at my mountain bike until further notice it’s a good time to get down to some serious work for my first half of the year at Multisport Canada's Welland Half.