“It’s Gonna Be A Knife Fight Out There” Spoke my friend and fellow racing addict, Jeff Hemperly, El Freako from Rico, mere minutes before the running start of the 2014 12 Hours Of Mesa Verde. It was an apt description for the rest of the day.
Bike racing is a funny thing. When you do well it is the best high in the world, you feel like you can do anything afterwards. That was what it felt like after last years Mesa Verde. I went into it with low expectations, just wanted to race, get in some fast fun miles, represent Griggs Orthopedics, my new team. It wasn’t easy by any means, it hurt, it was hard, but I had a ton of fun and somehow managed to get fifth and a place on the podium. Stoke factor was high, silly crazy high.
Going into this years race was tough. I succumbed to the strain and stress of working, training, dealing with two crazy dogs, I was tired, real tired. I also managed to tweak my back about a week before the race despite all my stretching and hoping it didn’t fully relax in time for this Saturday. In fact I was feeling like my life was a complete disaster, too many things were falling out of place leaving me grumpy, tired, disappointed. I almost didn’t head down to Cortez for the race…..
Maybe it is habit, or blind foolishness that made me race anyways. No matter the reasons I lined up with hundreds of others on Saturday’s cold morning, I’m sure we all had dreams of rising above our fears, our doubts and our limits, rolling about in our heads.
Overall the race went pretty well. I did better in the run than last year and was much closer to the front as is desired. Lap one was smooth and fast but not too fast. Lap two I managed to crank out a pretty quick time, but the effort took a serious toll. My back was already tight, a painful ball of fire was buried inside my flesh and with every lap the discomfort intensified. Despite my attempt at keeping a fast pace I slowed down, every lap became harder and slower. By lap 7 I was so cooked, so sore, my eyes were not focusing right, I weaved all over the trail losing my front wheel several times.
Still I went out for my 8th lap. Why? I seriously wonder why. It hurt so much, I wanted to lay down, I wanted to cry. I couldn’t stop wondering what I did wrong in all my preparations, my months of training. Why wasn’t I faster this year? Why am I making punishing myself? Am I really ready for the Tour Divide in a month?
The end of the day found me in fifth place, same as last year. I managed to be 14 minutes faster this go around, which is hard to believe after those excruciatingly laps where it felt like I was crawling every inch of the way. I got to stand on the podium again and then drink too much beer and party with my amazing, fun and crazy friends.
Maybe I’m just tired. Maybe I expect too much from myself. I suppose that bike racing is a tough pastime, the ebbs and flows of success are tough to surf along without the inevitable faceplants. The fact is I am disappointed. I have made bike riding, racing and the training to get there the focus of my life. Everything else takes a back seat, seems like everything else in my life is a complete mess. With that I am bummed that this weekend hurt as much as it did and I didn’t do better. Guess there is always next time…oh man that’s gonna be a doozy, guess I better start sharpening my knives….