Monday, March 12, 2012

A Quick and (Relatively) Painless Death

At least they didn't suffer...

But we might have preferred it if we did.

After all the plotting, scheming, a little training, and a lot worrying, the Sub-9 Death March came to a more abrupt end than Val and I were expecting.

There was a minor panic the morning of the race when our team director told me that Callahan Cemetery was in the drawing as possible mandatory checkpoint. Until the night before the race, the website had fine print saying that Callahan would *not* be in the drawing, so all Speedway Wheelmen route plans had eliminated it on the premise that it would not be worth the possible time bonus. As a result, the confidence in my navigational skills that I had gained from one last drive-though of the course on Friday was tanked, because I had *no freaking clue* where Callahan was located. Luckily, it was not pulled out in the drawing, and we were able to proceed with our originally planned route.

We hit the initial traffic jam where everyone was squeezing in to get their pictures taken at Fleetwood Cemetery a mile or so into the race, but when we hit the next turn on our planned route, we saw that only a couple of teams went the same direction as us. Knowing that Sarah and Liz, our teammates and likely the strongest competition within our division, were doing the same route but in the opposite direction, I started to feel pretty good when it seemed like most of the other women's teams were taking a much less efficient route than us. As we chugged along our mostly paved route, I found Val's pace a little hard to maintain, but I figured I'd just try and keep it up as long as possible and see how things went.

We got through the first three checkpoints in short order, and we had just turned on to the first gravel section of the day, a long climb our teammate Jeremiah refers to as "The Bitch", when Val started to gap me a bit, as she had on every climb of the day. Then she stopped. At first I thought she was just sitting up to pace me up the hill or something until I saw her derailleur flopping loose from her frame. Not good. After some deliberation and some unsuccessful phone calls, a pair of guys came along and rigged her bike into a singlespeed. I was a little worried about attempting to do the whole route with her on a singlespeed and the fact that we had lost 45 minutes or so due to the repair. But she is tougher than I am, and after already having to start the day wearing a pair of chamois-less tights when her shorts came up missing, she was still determined to complete the next 40 miles of riding with one gear. (Insert mad props here.)

And for a while it seemed like it was all going to work out fine. We hit Lutes and set out for Elkinsville via Story. Despite Val's top speed being somewhat restricted by gearing on the flatter paved sections, we still made good time (and I was still feeling smug about our route), and I was surprised at how quickly the tiny town of Story came into view. Unfortunately, our day ended just as I was thinking how well things were going (stupid positive thinking). We're not exactly sure what happened, but Val's crank locked up and would not move more than 180 degrees. Since locomotion requires the pedals to go in full circles, there was nothing more to be done. We sent a polite text to the cell phone number on the back of the map, and hoped there would be some mercy for us in the "you are responsible for you" race policy. We walked to Story Inn and waited while for a race volunteer to come get us while a few teams passed, including the Sarah, Liz, Scott, and Janelle grupetto who came flying by on their way to respective victories in the women's and co-ed team division.

So it was a little disappointing to have to take a DNF in the first race of the year, but we were fortunate to break down in a convenient place. We only wished we would have brought money for coffee or hot chocolate to keep us warm while we were waiting to be rescued. I do feel a lot more confident in my ability to navigate the area, though, and I'll be ready with the fitness, the chain tool, and the coffee dollars for redemption next year.

For now, I'll just have to settle for some Cat 4 road racing glory. And by glory I mean participation/ general life lessons. The Long Run Park Circuit Race was my very first road race back in 2009, and it was an unmitigated disaster. It was pouring rain, I got dropped at the first little kicker, and my chain snapped when I stood up for the last little kicker and I had to walk the last 200m of the race. I did one other road race a few weeks later and then decided to avoid that silliness for the next three years. Then I became good enough at cyclocross to realize that I could be even better at cyclocross if I had some road racing skills in my toolkit. Up until a few days ago I thought that the Long Run race was not happening, and I was disappointed since, despite the rain last time, it was pretty good beginner course and should have a decent-sized Cat 4 field comprised of much of my previous CX competition. Luckily, I stumbled across a link to registration page a few days ago, and I'm pumped to go out and give it a shot.

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