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The Devil Went Back To Warda

February 28, 2011

It had been three long weeks since Caveman laid his bike down at Warda’s feet

And it burned inside his mind the way he suffered that defeat

In the darkest pits of his cave, he hatched a comeback plan

To reach the top once more for he’s just a mortal man

“The sin of pride” might do him in,

But then again, it might push him to be the best he’s ever been.”

Adapted From Charlie Daniel’s The Devil Came Back to Georgia

I’m still working on the Paleo Running stuff and I’ll get it up soon, but I wanted to sneak this race report in first. What a weekend it was! Saw Blue Man Group perform Friday night at the Long Center, saw some awesome bikes at the North American Handmade Bikeshow here in Austin, and then on Sunday made the short drive over to Warda with wife, dog, and 24 hour buddy John Russell to kick off the 2011 TMBRA Spring series. I have not fully committed myself to a cross country season in what feels like 2 years. This year TMBRA added a new category that is right up my alley and inspired me to take the plunge, the Cat 1 Singlespeed. It was designed to pull SS sandbaggers like me, Wink, and a few other riders away from the Cat2/3 level racers so they can be more evenly matched, but also provide some incentive for Cat 1 riders who might not normally race SS to give it a try since it does have cash payout. Other than being more competitive and having the chance to earn my entry fee back, I like that we race the same distance as the the Pro/Cat 1 and Cat 1 19-29 and 30-29 age groups, this way I can gauge my efforts against these racers. I’ve only got one gear, and each race dynamic is different, but it’s close enough to use as a tool.

Some fast dudes were already preregistered and I was betting on more fast dudes signing up the day of. I had a feeling that the most respected of adversaries, Wink, would show up. I even wanted him to, just to have another shot after he ran me in the ground at the 12 hour. My days of rumination were over, it was a new race, a new season, and Long Tall Sally would finally get her first race start.

Sure enough, Wink was there, along with a decent field of 14 other riders, some accustomed to SS racing, some not. No matter, everyone was still a Cat 1.  The start was a long flat loop through a cow pasture that left everyone spinning at 170 rpm. I let the young pups duke it for a while until they were winded, then decided to get going. I pulled into the lead for a moment but then I was winded and I conceded 3 spots before we hit the singletrack. Jeff Campbell led it out, followed by Wink, and then a rider I didn’t know. I was hanging with them just fine until I clipped a pedal and went careening off to the side of the trail. Eric Fleming squeaked by and then I was in 5th. Got back in it and noticed 3rd starting to fall off Jeff and Wink. He and Eric got caught up in some 19-29 age group racers and when we hit a short open clearing with a slight incline I punched it and blew by the whole group. Caught back up to Wink and Jeff by the time we hit the long straight away heading towards Gas Pass. More 19-29 traffic here, but Wink punched it and took the lead with Jeff and I hanging on for dear life.

I tried my darndest to keep those two within sight, but it became evident Wink was starting to inch away by the time we started lap 2. Jeff had fallen off Wink’s wheel, so I just focused on catching up to him. I was running a tall gear out there, 34×17. I had anticipated riding in the long flat pasture loop (which was not included), and Warda is pretty flat in general, so I thought it would be a good choice. For the first half of the lap, it was. I did catch Jeff and even passed him before Gas Pass

Coming down Muletrace-Photo Courtesy of Bobcat13 Photography

to take control of 2nd place, but the Muletrace and Palisades climbs on that 34×17 gearing left my legs on fire and lungs about to burst. We got to a part of the course I call the “suck zone” because it just mysteriously sucks the life out of you. It doesn’t seem that steep, nor is it technical, but for some reason it always, always slows me to crawl.  Jeff passed me back up and I had little to respond with. He was still in sight starting lap 3, but after we hit the singletrack, I didn’t really see him again. My focus now turned to just holding onto to 3rd.

It seemed as if this wouldn’t be a problem until I happened to see Eric Fleming on the other side of the cattle tank while heading toward the singletrack. This meant he was only about 15 seconds back. I pushed the pace as hard as I could and held him off til Muletrace, but sadly had to concede my podium spot as the legs just didn’t have the strength to push that big gear in the climbs. No worries, though, Eric is a good kid and he fought hard that day. As I started the 4th and final lap, my focus shifted to just finishing the race and having fun. Bob of Bobcat13 Photography actually caught me in a cheerful moment right after the Palisades climb when I asked if I could borrow his legs.

 

Photo Courtesy of Bobcat13 Photography

Of course, I couldn’t, and had to grind out another 2 miles or so of trail in a lot of pain, but I did it and held on to 4th. I then proceeded to have a beer followed by a hamburger and I was reminded of a time when I wasn’t quite as competitive (and before I had discovered the Paleo Diet 😉 ). Things were so footloose and fancy free back then when cross country was all I did. Beer the night before, beer afterwards (and sometimes even beer during races) were commonplace in those days, in fact, I remember downing 4 beers the night before I won my first expert race on this very course 4 years ago. Those days are definitely behind me and USA cycling has informed via license renewal that my race age is now 30! but it’s nice to know the feeling lives on. I look forward to it sticking with me for the rest of spring.

Cheers,
Caveman


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