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Jurassic Beatdown

January 24, 2011

So the Parham family made it back safe and sound from the Mesozoic preserved section of Texas otherwise known as Glen Rose. While the dinosaur tracks were a few miles down the road at Dinosaur Valley State Park, this race would prove to be a Brontosaurus-sized task.

We arrived at Solavaca ranch at about 4:30pm Friday, enough time to squeeze in a 5/8 lap preride and setup camp. By that point though, it was already hovering near freezing. I was suffering from a headache that aspirin had no effect on and feeling kind of ill (dehydrated I think), even after eating a tasty chicken fajita dinner cooked on the truck tailgate and consumed inside the truck cab that the truck engine was attempting to heat up without much luck since it was just idling in a desolate undeveloped patch of the ranch that the goat livestock usually occupied, but we had been assigned to by the ranch owner since we had brought our dog and apparently it had been advertised on every facet of the internet that dogs were strictly forbidden (that’s another story)… but we ate and hopped in the sleeping bag real quick and went to bed.

Before Colleen or I could fall into deep sleep, Ladybird (the bandito dog) had wet the bed. We’ve let her sleep with us in the sleeping bag before on cold nights, and it has never been a problem, but she’s had an incontinence problem as of late and it couldn’t have picked a worse time to rear its ugly head. All of a sudden, Colleen’s right arm and my left arm felt a little wet. Then the dog was licking her fur trying to get that smelly stuff off. By this time the temps were in the teens working their way down to an eventual low of about 15d F. That’s actually the coldest weather either one of us has ever camped in. Lucky for us, we had a two person zero degree bag. Unluckily, the center section was full of dog pee. We put the dog on top of the bag and I threw my coat over her for some warmth. Colleen and I spent the rest of the night hugging the edges of the bag and trying to find a suitable position that was 1. warm enough to tolerate 2. comfortable enough to tolerate and 3. kept us out of dog pee. It was not an easy task, and needless to say, we didn’t get much rest that night. It didn’t help the water bottle I was sipping on to try and hydrate froze up

After one of the worst nights of sleep in my entire life, the sun came out and brought some new hope. I cracked open 2 frozen eggs, gulped ’em down, and topped that off  with a hard banana and some slushy orange juice. Breakfast of champions. I took my time getting registered, but paid for it by rushing to get dressed and set for the start.

Normally MTB races are started in waves, divided into skill category and further divided by age group. This would just be one mass start: 54 four hour males, 61 six hour males, a handful of relay teams in each event, and a handful of women in each event. All at once. I tried to get as close to the front as possible, but still got caught in lots of traffic on the first lap while the leaders took off. Fast starts,even at 6,12, and 24 hour races are very important to get past the slower riders that may have a good hole shot but slow to a crawl once the singletrack starts. I would have to settle for a laid back pace this first lap as the trail didn’t offer many good places to pass.

Things cleared up a little by laps 2 and 3 and I was picking up the pace. By lap 4 my hands and feet had thawed out but so had the morning frost, leaving behind a soupy mud over hardpack that you don’t sink into, but rather splattered all over your bike and struggled to hold your line with, especially in the corners. Even if you had the fitness to go faster, the mud just wouldn’t let you. Halfway into lap 5 I sprung a leak in my rear tire. Not enough sealant to plug it, so I had to throw a tube in while forfeitting several positions. I didn’t know where I was in the race anyways, I was thinking somewhere around 5th or 6th. With this dropping me to maybe 10th, I was ready to change focus from racing to just finishing and enjoying the ride.

Our campground was stationed at mile 5 of the 7.5 mile loop and this was where Colleen gave me feeds. I came through, restocked liquids, asked her to get me another tube, and grab the rear wheel off her bike and bring it over to the start/finish so I could switch wheels there. Another 2.5 miles later we made the switch and I was out for lap 6. It’s just not my nature to sit back and let a race go by while I’m cruising around though. Yes, it was a rough night, a bad start, a unlucky flat, and yes, I was beginning to accept the fact that I was just plain out getting my butt handed to me, but I refused to die easy.

The sun was shining brightly, the temps were now around 60, most of the muck was drying up and turning into a fast tacky clay , I had found a second wind. I moved up maybe 4 spots but eventually gave up 1 on the last lap as my mental grit deteriorated. Ended up in 10th place out of 61 with 9 laps in 6:19:27. All things considered, I was pleased with the effort. I didn’t have much more to give, and the race was a good indicator of where my fitness stands right now in preparation for Warda-ok, but not where it needs to be- a B- at best. It’s normally a let down when you enter a race like this and expect to do better, but I’ll be able to take home some lessons and gains I can use down the road.

A few days rest, and its back to training. I should be meeting my new girlfriend in person by Friday. I’ll let you know how the first date goes…


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