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In search of Vindication

February 22, 2008

Hope dangles on a string

Like slow spinning redemption
Winding in and winding out
The shine of it has caught my eye

And roped me in
So mesmerizing, so hypnotizing
I am captivated

-Dashboard Confessional

The body is a resilient thing. I found this out first hand back in October 2007 after winning the 24 hours of Rocky Hill. It is, however, with limits, as I painfully found out at the 24 hours in the Old Pueblo (Tucson, AZ) the second weekend of February 2008. I had some bike fit issues and was just a bit under-trained (more accurately I was mis-trained, more for XC racing) for that first 24 hour race in Smithville. I think this led to a nagging knee pain that lasted right up until the week before Tucson. A few months of research and physical therapy had finally relieved me of the pain I’d been dealing with all winter, through a few cyclo-cross races and the 2 opening races of the Texas Marathon series. Although the discomfort was gone, I was doubtful I’d be physically ready for the race since the injury had limited my training. 24 hour races are the last place to harbor doubt, but I had already paid the $135 entry fee and agreed to carpool with teammates that would be competing on a 4 man team, so I wasn’t going to turn back. Mentally, I was more prepared for this race than any other race I’d entered. I had packed my bags early, making sure every piece of equipment I might need was in its place. Nutrition was well planned out and much better than the last race. More carbs, more fat, more options to choose from, more ways to get it down. My game plan was set. Ride smooth, ride consistent, take minimal breaks, just keep pedaling. I learned a great bit from the last race, but this one was a national race with national talent. It wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, even if everything went as planned. I was still hopeful of a top 5 finish, among 90-100 entrants, the largest MTB field I’ve ever raced against. This course was much different than the Rocky Hill course. 17 mile laps compared to 10. 1200 ft elevation gain compared to about 900. 30 degree overnight lows compared to 58. Cactus instead of pine trees. Wide open jeep roads and desert singletrack-overall less twisty. In a way it played to my strengths and my bike’s strength, but that wouldn’t matter. I was about ¾ through lap 7, about mile 110 or so, and I started to feel a sharp pain right below the left patella. I knew it was only going to get worse and if I kept pushing on, it would do some pretty bad damage. So right then and there, I was faced with a pretty tough decision. I was a little over halfway though the 24 hour clock. I was moving up the ranks to where I wanted to be before really laying down the hurt in the late night hours when most people start to cave in. That’s when the race is really won. I had the energy to keep going. I definitely had the desire. Too bad I didn’t have the knees. I rolled back into camp and called the race. I’m not a quitter, and in fact, this was the first mountain bike race that I’ve ever thrown in the towel on. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so heartbroken over a decision like that. I knew it was the right one though, and I knew I had still put in a pretty good fight. I did not hold regret, only frustration that my body gave out before my mind. I drank a little liquor with a friend of a friend out there to cheer us on and have some fun, and passed out in my tent til sunrise. Woke, got some warm clothes on, ate some food, and pretty much fiddled around camp and the expo area all morning. I got to thinking that maybe the rest I had overnight would let me do another lap. Once the thought was in my head, I just couldn’t get it out, so I suited back up, and at 11am, 1 hour before closing time, I set out for my 8th and final lap. If I was going to get 1 last lap in, I was gonna do it in style. Not only did I don my Texas State Marathon champion jersey that I had earned last year, I blazed that trail in 1:11, a faster time than several of the 4 man team riders were putting up. My last lap superhero effort was enough bump me back up to 29th of 92. Not the top 5 I was looking for, but a morale victory and a bit of redemption nonetheless. That brings me to now. The internal injuries I have sustained from this race are a bit more serious than the last 24 hour race. They are not surgery kind of serious, but after careful listening to trusted people with experience in this area, I have decided they are season-ending serious. So not only did I have to quit the biggest race I’ve ever wanted to complete, I’m ditching the spring TMBRA season. That was an even tougher decision to make, but one I felt absolutely necessary. Sometimes you have to take a step back to take 2 steps forward. Racing on injuries only makes you slower. So, I’ve got my sights set on the next big race, 24 hours of Moab on Oct. 11th-the single largest 24 hour race on the globe. Our team was planning a trip out there as sort of vacation, but also to do some more national events. I’m undecided whether I’ll attempt solo again, or try the 4 man thing, but either way, my game plan remains the same. Take as much time off as needed to get healed. Jump into very light base training. Step it up a notch for a month or two. Then step it up a couple of more notches for a month. By now it’ll be mid summer, so perhaps I can do some local rides or races. I’ll have one last month of very intense training, 2 weeks of taper, and then race time. If I train properly and stay disciplined, I will avoid injury, kick some serious tail at Moab, and hopefully be able to finish out the fall TMBRA season in style. I’m out for vindication. Moab is where I’m going to get it.

-Greg

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