Apr 22 2008
One thing to note before I recap…Kenji may be interested. After extensive testing from Portland to Blodgett, I suggest that the official speed rating of OBRA MTB plates be set at 70 mph. 75-80 is not recommended.
That said, with the rain and funky weather of the past week, the course and conditions were bound to be challenging. I packed up the night before to head out by 7 Sunday am.
On the way down, there were near whiteout conditions through Salem. I began to second-guess my clothing approach (legs: shirts under knicker bibs + warming salve. upper: capilene t-shirt beneath racing shirt + wool arm warmers). Heading on Rt 20 up to Blodgett, the snow changed from a dusting to a full inch or so. If I couldn’t see my bike on the back of the car, I would have assumed I was going spring tele skiing.
Got the the course, signed in and warmed up a bit. I was cold, right on the edge of being too cold, particularly with a chilly and wet downhill to the starting line. I kept telling myself that you should start a race a little cold with the intent that you’ll warm up once the race is underway.
Mike Ripley takes us down to the start. After a few minutes of doinking around, we (the expert field) are off. We head up. And up. And up some more. I want to keep our field in sight for as long as I can. Given it’s an uphill start, I feel pretty confidant about that.
Some of the SS’ers catch up and pass us. I find maybe half of them walking up the stairstep hills. By the time we enter the singletrack – maybe 1-2 miles in – the field has thinned out. I’m around 4 or 5 other experts and we have a fairly decent pace. I’m guessing we’re in the middle or top third of our group.
We weave our way up and around to the big/small lap split at the top of a hill where they have water and a little bonfire. It’s around 4 miles in. I’m warmed up, not working too hard, and feel solid on my bike. My bike, to it’s credit, is holding up well.
The course noodles around a bit more before we enter a more serious singletrack downhill. The singletrack was pretty slick, as expected. Rideable by some, but definitely not all. There’s movement back and forth within our group as better descenders move to the front. I’m not too worried. I go as fast as I can downhill, which isn’t that fast at all. So I keep telling myself – what goes down must go up.
It was here that I discovered that one of the wings on my Eggbeaters was gone, essentially making half the pedal ineffective. Clipping in on the left side now took a little more attention than just finding the ball of the foot and pushing down. I now had to make sure that the 3 remaining wings were pointing up before trying to clip in.
After a short unrideable ascent around mile 9, we head out into a gradual downhill on a gravel logging road. I vaguely remember coming out ahead of our group so I tried to expand that gap. Coming up on a 90° turn, I thought to myself ‘ I am coming in way too hot…’ and then I went down. Hard.
I have a guideline that when I’m racing, I can generally ignore a substantial amount of discomfort or injury for the sake of competing. I know if I need to take a second (or more) after a crash then it’s likely not good. After about 10 seconds I got up, picked my bike up (while 6 people passed me), and realized I no longer had the use of my right thumb. My left shoulder hurt where I went down but the right thumb was useless. Not good.
I remounted and continued on. The remaining 2 miles of the lap was mostly downhill through a mossy, muddy singletrack. I took it with one foot out, straddling the top tube as I braked and made a controlled slide down. It was actually faster than walking and arguably faster than I could have ridden it.
At the lap point I had to do a mental check. My lap split was 1:15 and energy-wise, feeling good. I was a little rattled from the crash but I still wanted to go on. I was currently unable to shift my rear derailleur with my thumb or grip the handlebar very tightly. If I was going to drop out, it would have to be here. I was disappointed by how Horning’s went and felt things were good enough to continue on.
The second lap didn’t go so hot. The shifting, as expected, was sluggish since I had to use my index finger to push the thumb shifter levers. I wasn’t able to attack the hills like I normally do, shifting accordingly to keep a strong cadence going. Downhill I was even more skittish than usual, taking another hard fall after I was unable to react fast enough. Plus I rode that lap mostly alone. I honestly thought that I’d get caught by race organizers sweeping the course.
After a painful second lap, I limped up to the finish at 2:58 or so – a lap 2 split of about 1:45. I had the EMT at the finish take a quick look at my hand. She strongly recommended an x-ray. It hurt but only if I used it. I felt if it was broken, there would have been no way I could have ridden another 13 miles.
Monday I went for x-rays. The Dr. was convinced the metecarpal was broken but x-rays came back negative. I’m left with a swollen hand that looks like one of the Simpsons.
Final result? 11th out of 15 or 16. One broken pedal and a banged up hand that will likely keep me off a bike for a few days.