Friday, April 18, 2014

Hell Week

It is over.  I kept telling myself last week that time will pass and before you know it all this will be behind you.  What the heck am I talking about?  My own personal Hell Week......
It all started  two Sundays ago at the 2014 Ouachita Challenge.  This was to be my first big objective of the year.  Training leading up to it was lacking to say the least.  My last long ride/race was CIRREM. That was a personal hell in itself mainly due to lack of fitness.  This years Ouachita Challenge would turn out to be one of the hardest events ever for me to finish.
I always enjoy going down to Oden, AR to ride in this the event.  We usually get several Cow Town members to join in the fun.  This year Tim Greene did the tour and Jeff, Gerard, Tige and myself did the race on Sunday.  Tim had perfect weather for Saturdays tour.  As  you can see by the jackets, Sundays weather  sucked - 43 degrees and on/off rain for most of the event.  For those who dressed for the cold/wet it really was not that bad.  For those who dressed for speed (and for the rain stopping) like myself we ended up suffering and feeling like a freezing wet dog who has been run over and left on the side of the road to slowly and painfully succumb to death.  

As with most off-road endurance cycling, the race starts with a mass rolling start. I decided to start easy and before I knew it was as at the back of the large field.  Pacing yourself is very important and today's race would be near 6 hours long for me so I was not very concerned.  The only negative to the type of race plan is usually at the first technical section of trail there is a long back up.
Besides getting rained on and freezing at the start the first challenge at this years Ouachita Challenge is Blow Out Mountain and all those hills and slick rocks.  This section of rocks above is really not that bad, but there are hillier sections that are out of this world.  I had the pleasure of catching up with a group of riders that included one of the top women.  This young girl actually tried to ride those rocks while I got off and walked.  I was amazed by her bike handling skills seeing her balance and bounce her way from one rock to the next was cool.  It was also slow and hard on tires - she would end up getting a flat later on down the trail. 
Speaking of flat tires.  On Big Brushy and Blow Out I actually started to feel good and warmed up some due to the effort.  I was rolling along good and passing lots of riders.  For awhile I rode with Doug Long and Todd Fridley but Doug had a small crash and a mechanical and Todd was taking it real easy on the those slick rocks.  I started riding in a bigger gear and picking up the pace towards the end of Blow Out.  On one rocky section I went to pass a rider who did not make the section.  There was an alternate line and took it just like I had dozens of other times today. This time my front tire slid off a rock and sliced the sidewall.  Not much to do at this point but try and fix it.  I was really upset for a few minutes especially watching all the riders who I had just passed and left them behind pass me back. 

This year there was a new rule that no personal aid was allowed.  You had to use drop bags.  This took a lot of the fun out of the event for Carolynn.  She usually rides around to each stop and gets to see the event take place and offer me support if needed.  Oh how I wish she was at one of the later stops when it started raining and my core temps drop so much and my hands were frozen that I could barely keep my hands on the grips.  Hopefully they will allow spectators on the course at future events and bring back the good ole Ouachita Challenge that I remember.

I actually felt good by the time we reached the drop off bag location.  It had stopped raining, my energy level was good and the patch was holding up well after I repaired my tire.  I had also made up time on the road section after Blow Out mountain by hooking up with 5 other riders and forming a nice pace line. One of my drop bags had a rain jacket in it.  I made a huge mistake in not taking that jacket.  Not one hour later my body started to break down bad and combined with the 43 degree temps and rain I started on a slow and painful journey of misery.
How these two ladies are smiling is beyond me.  Maybe women are just tougher than men in general. 

This is more like it.  These male riders are about to cave in and are looking for any excuse to stop. I personally only stopped at the aid stations and when I did stop it was only to grab a quick source of food and some Heed.

The last two hours I kept thinking of this moment.  My entire body was frozen, my hands stopped working and I was shivering on the bike.  I could not shift and had to use my palms to change gears due to my fingers being frozen.  I can not remember ever having frozen hands this bad. Every time I saw a car or passed aid stations I wanted to quit and get into a warm vehicle.  I can not tell you how happy I was to see the finish.  My time of 6:49 sucked ass, but at least I finished.
Check out the guy photobombing me....I do not look that bad, but I felt miserable and very, very cold.  I was so happy to get some hot coffee and a slice of pizza. Oh and a very special thanks to Tim Greene for washing my bike and helping Carolynn load it up in the truck after I finished.
My hell week continued with the realization that I still have not completed my taxes. Not normally a big deal in itself, but with a large project at work (upgrading our wireless network) that is taking all my time and the fact that the 6th Annual Bone Bender Mountain Bike Challenge was in 6 days I started to get really stretched thin and very stressed.
On Wednesday I had to make time to head over to Clinton to finalize the course and to recon a possible rain course because the long term forecast did not look to good.  It also became apparent that we only had a handful of volunteers to help.  It is hard to keep asking the same people to help but in the end that is what happened and thankfully most of them were able to help out.

To make matters even worse the USA Cycling Regional Awards had not arrived by midweek.  Turns out they were not even sent yet.  An oversight at USA Cycling.  Thank God for overnight delivery.
The stress of event promotion is hard enough, but for mountain bike events around here is twice as bad due to the fact that most events are not held if it rains.  I personally always try and have a rain course to use just in case and hold the events,with trail coordinator permission of course, come rain or snow.  The last time we had to change the date of Bone Bender was back in 2009.  Rain a few days before the event caused us to push the event date out a couple of weeks.  This year it was the complete opposite.  Weather leading up to the weekend was great. The course was in awesome shape.  The only thing was Sundays weather was supposed to be 100% rain with thunderstorms.  We had a lot of out of town riders signed up to participate.  Some as far away as Minnesota.  Heck one participant was even flying back from South Africa to make our event.  Talk about pressure.

On Thursday morning at 3:12 am I awoke with what I thought was a brilliant idea.  Let's move the event up a day to Saturday.  Sure some people might not be able to make it, but at least we would have an event in good weather and keep everyone safe.   I discussed with Heather and we decided to do it if we could.  I had sent emails during the wee hours of the morning to all parties requesting to move the event up.  The big if was if the Clinton Lake State Park and USA Cycling would allow it.  By afternoon all parties had responded with a Yes.

We offered a full refund to anyone who could not make it.  To my surprise only three out of town people could not make it.  The remaining 29 were all local riders.  Luckily we got a fair amount of race day entries and ended up with a little over 150 riders.   The lowest turnout in Bone Bender history and I believe is a sign that Mountain Bike racing around here is in serious trouble.  On a day with perfect conditions and trails that could not get any better we only get 150 riders and a large portion of those are from out of town.  I do not know the solution and I am beginning to think I might be part of the problem.  All I know is my Hell Weeks are over.   Looks like someone or some group needs to step up and  take over off-road racing in this area.  Other area events are getting over 200 riders per event so I know the demand is there. Hopefully this new group will also have a good base of volunteers/staff to run these events because I do know nothing happens by itself.  It may look easy, but a lot of hard work and hours go into promoting an event. 

1 comment:

Tim Greene said...

One of the things I think that is taking away from the local races are the presence of Demo trucks from various bike companies that in the last couple of years seem timed to match race events. It can't be helping attendance at races....