DNF. Did Not Finish.
I've never DNF'd before, in anything. What a drag. With all the superfreak things I've done in the past and I get beaten by a knee injury in a short race. Aussie-rapeling down a four sided structure in the classic upside down position on a rappel rope, dressed in black, wearing massive body armor, helmet, and assorted weaponry and comms so I can detonate a shaped Hydrocut window charge 40 feet above the ground below and with the booming roar still reverberating and glass shards still flying you place a well timed spin-rotation and kick off the wall to arc through the blown hole with a 9mm Sig Sauer in one hand and a rappel rope feeding out of your leg bag in the other hand; it was everyday stuff, it wasn't the hard stuff and my body put up with it. Fast forward a few years and I do some bike riding and all of a sudden my body won't cooperate - how annoying. I suppose the knee thing is an accumulation of some punishment I've been handing it for the last couple of years. I guess I'm getting payback.
My first 24hr Solo, now 1.5yrs ago, seems so long ago (in bike years) and overall I've been lucky I guess. With a few more 12's and 24's under my belt, my right knee stared to flare up a couple of weeks ago right after I did the 12hr Solo at Warda. I guess I should have skipped Mas o Menos but I'm, ehhrrrmmmmm, stubborn.
In hindsight I made a stupid mistake at Mas o Menos and rode a 30km race route the day before race day at a reasonably brisk pace and completely out of saddled the first half of the big climb. I then pushed a decent gear for the rest of the climb and the remainder of the 30km. I was happy to be getting in some hills finally and wanted to "get my money's worth" after driving 12hrs across Texas to get there, but I suffered for it on the following day which was race day. It seems I only had two climbs in me for the entire weekend.
On race day I stuck to my plan of doing the first lap in approx 2:30 by not working too hard on the flats and only getting out of the saddle on some of the climbs. The focus of the first lap was to enjoy the hill training. When the big climb came up, it was out of the saddle time and I felt pretty good. On the second lap I wanted to light it up for a 2:20 second lap with a really unrealistic goal of maybe even squeezing out a 2:15 by out of saddling as much as possible - flats, downs, ups - as much saddle-less time as possible. Things were going pretty well in the second lap until approx 15mins in when my right knee said enough and every right pedal stroke from that point on caused pain, within 10mins more I couldn't bear weight on my right knee not even at the 3 and 9 o clock position going into descents. For the next hour I one legged pedaled in my big ring at about 50rpm with only one guy passing me until finally my left knee couldn't take any more 50rpm stroking. At checkpoint 10 I grudgingly admitted to myself that I would have to DNF then I one legged it along a jeep dirt road to an airport then onto a highway and a few miles later I finally hit the race finish line. Nearly two hours of one legged pedaling and I was fried. I reported to the finish line at 4:55. Ironically, if my knee would have cooperated I would have race finished at approx 4:50.
The bike I was racing on performed perfectly and I think it was an excellent choice. Sugar Cycles hooked me up with a 2008 Specialized Stumpjumper S-Works. Five inches at the front and the rear so I could really pound anything I wanted to, alternatively if I wanted to finesse a line it allowed for that also. What it did do well was climb, the new Brain suspension system reacts pretty much instantly and really controlled the bobbing effect when I was out of the saddle mashing. With sweet handling characteristics I would feel very comfortable on this bike for a 12 or 24hr epic. Given that it's 23lbs out of the box you really aren't suffering weight penalties to gain the big suspension. Here's an iPhone image shot just before we left Houston, notice the distinct lack of desert dust.
The only thing to watch with this bike is paying careful attention to suspension setup, just a few psi difference can really affect the quality of the ride. Of course I'm sort of particular about correct suspension setup whereas others may not be as fussy, once dialed in it worked soooooo well!
The course was pretty interesting, standard issue arid terrain, hardpacked desert, not much sand - kind of like the riding I did in St George, Utah last spring. No matter where I am in the world I do enjoy hanging in the desert so it was good to be there. The course wasn't very technical and I didn't dab once. Other than keeping your eyes open for cactus flats it was a pretty simple course really. There were some fun sections with good swoopy lines and tight switchbacks. The majority of the course required big steady power output but I wasn't down there for that, I was there for the hills and there was a pretty good climb. The hill isn't nearly as difficult as climbs elsewhere but hey, it's Texas and big hills are hard to find and I hear this is one of the biggest mtb climbs around. With my knee cooperating I would love to do this course as a 12hr race.
Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of the hills on the course but the terrain looked similar to this. These are some of the biggest mountains I saw on the drive to the race site, in comparison the race course area was more hills than mountains. The image below shows the mountains that surround the race site.
The weekend weather cooperated pretty nicely. Kind of cool in the morning but no rain or snow (unlike 24hrs of Old Pueblo which occurred on the same weekend). It did get windy at times, with some pretty strong gusts, not that surprising given the open terrain settled in amongst the mountains.
This wind-tattered flag is a victim of the strong desert winds. I think the image turned out pretty well considering it was a pretty casual shot. I quite like the dimensional shading on the flag.
After the race was finished I realized even though I DNF'd I still placed 2nd in my category within the cross-country race distance (50km), I really need to cat-up, of course I didn't get anything placed in the 100km race because I blew it. Blew. It.
There were some wicked fast guys at the race, way out of my league. I would need another couple of laps added to this race course in order to be competitive. I think that would have been really fun.
On the drive back home, sitting in the back seat thinking about the race I managed to grab this last image through the open window, at 75mph, by using a panning technique as we whipped on down the highway. It's my favorite shot of the weekend. As I was post-processing my images this one kept jumping out at me as being really pleasing. So I gave some thought as to why I liked it so much. What comes to mind is a notion that the blur of life will speed by without you ever noticing what's going on around you unless you take time to focus on your surroundings. The blur of life. Less focus on a DNF - more focus on the blur. And that's a wrap.
Feb 19, 2008