I met Jake and Tim on Saturday to head East to Greenbriar State Park in Maryland. It was a ride filled with loud techno, nasty conversations, and bad attempts at drifting a Honda Fit. I don't think I can ever go back to the Denny's in Breezewood. I feel dumber as a result of that car ride. We'll leave it at that.
Jake's friend let us stay in his house, so we had nice couches to sleep on. He wasn't home, and the house was empty except for a fat cat. I scratched cat's tummy. It was swell.
I wake up in the middle of the night and pull some jeans up to my knees. The bottoms of my legs are cold.
A few hours later we make breakfast and drive to the race. The parking lot is already starting to fill up at 8:30. I register, say "what's crackin home dizzle?" to some people, and hit the lavatories a bunch. Then it's time to line up.
I stand on the front line across from Jeff Schalk and Chris Beck. The marathon race is 3.5 hours plus a lap. Laps are a hair over five miles long. There's no way I can try to take an early lead in this race. Schalk and Beck will crush me as soon as I get a little tired. I'll just try to follow them.
Ryan Post gives us a ten-second warning. He's wearing a very official USAC polo shirt and is doing a very good job of acting like a grumpy official person. "Go." he says without much enthusiasm.
We ride up through the field and I settle in behind Beck. This is way slower than I'm used to starting. Up the first little climb it feels like we're just cruising. Down a fast descent with some water bars to jump, then into the technical rock garden.
Schalk and Beck are chatting to each other about spouses, the Translvania Epic, mowing the lawn, and the best way to scrub a sauce pan. I'm really surprised they aren't going faster. I look behind me. Nobody is in sight. I guess this is as fast as they need to go. I'll just stay back here so that I don't look like a threat.
We hit the big climb. I have to work pretty hard to keep turning over my gear. The fast guys are just sitting in the saddle and spinning up the hill. We rip down another fast descent then start a shorter technical climb. Schalk and Beck pull away from me as I'm trying to pick my way through the rocks. Perfect. Now I look less threatening than a pekingese in a rain coat.
There's one more descent with tight turns, mud, and slippery rocks. I ride back out into the field and down around the start finish area. Schalk and Beck are just a few seconds ahead, but I really have no business trying to chase them this early in the race. I'm going to wear down and crack at some point, they aren't.
I try to conserve some energy. At least I know the course now. Short climb, water-bar descent, rock garden, long climb, ripping descent, rock garden climb, mud. I start running into lap traffic from the Cat 3 races.
Back through to start lap three. I rip the first descent and the rock garden then start the long climb. There's a Team CF kit up there. Surely that isn't Beck. I stand and grind up the hill and pass the guy. CF kit, riding a Specialized, lanky dude wearing a helmet. Was that Beck? Maybe he got a flat.
Two more laps. I roll around to start lap five. Tim is yelling, "Beck flatted! He's in the pit right now!" So that wasn't him on the third lap. But now he actually does have a flat. Wild. I roll past the pit, and there he is. I start the first climb. Wonder how long it'll take him to catch me.
It takes half a lap. He rolls up behind me on the long climb. I feel pretty good, but I don't think I can stay ahead for two or three more laps. I introduce myself and try to look like I know what I'm doing on a bike.
We ride together for two laps, then I bobble on the rock garden on lap seven. Beck goes around and rides away. It's getting close to the 1:00 cut off time, and I'm really starting to hurt on the big climb. Pushing a single speed up that thing seven times is definitely taking it's toll. I so hope that I miss the cut off. I don't want to do an eighth lap.
I keep checking my watch. 12:56. 1 km till the finish. Hell. I'm going to make the cut off. 12:58. 100 feet to the finish. I have to go back out. Shit.
I'm really cracked at this point. I grind up the first climb, and have to hike the big hill. With 2km left in the lap, a guy in a yellow jersey comes ripping around me. I don't have the gas left to chase him. Damn. There goes third.
I finally roll across the line. 4th place out of 43 guys on geared bikes. I'm happy with that.
I looked at the lap times after the race, and I got slower by one minute every lap. 26, 27, 28, and so on all the way to 33 minutes for my 8th lap. The Mighty Schalk on the other hand was like a windup clock with a lubrication problem, his laps were never more than 30 seconds apart. He was all 26's. I assume Beck would have been the same without the flat. It was really cool to be able to ride with those guys, but I think I'm going to have to try to find a geared squishy bike so that I can actually race them.