One of my funkier quirks is that I am good at remembering song lyrics. And not just lyrics, but every tone inflection, "uh-huh" and "yeah" that make up an album -- I sure as heck can't sing worth a darn, but it's sort of an iPod in my head, if you will -- a skill that comes in handy starting about hour 4 of a 24-hour race!
It was without any sense of irony, then, that I had Green Day's latest, 21st Century Breakdown, going through my head as we started the Metro 12 Hours on Saturday. Maybe I should have been thinking of something else, without "breakdown" in the title -- since that's sort of how the day went!
Started well, with Tim, Chris and I establishing a lead pack with team rider Ken from Vesrah. We traded off for the first couple of laps, until I lost my front wheel on a slight off-camber section -- the crash wasn't bad, but the destroyed shift lever made the hills a bit tougher. I rode out the lap, but between the gearing and trying to fix the lever, I lost 15 minutes ... on a course with 30-minute lap times. I finally gave up on the lever, and hopped on my hardtail, fully expecting to spend the next 10 hours "just riding."
However, I was pleasantly surprised -- despite some rough spots on the course, the hardtail rode well, and my lap times stayed pretty consistent. Only, I didn't properly set the lower limit screw on the rear derailleur when I put the bike together last Friday, and every time I hit Craters of the Moon, my chain tried to drop off the largest cog. It gradually got worse and worse, until I finally destroyed the chain about halfway through the race, losing another 10 minutes or so in the process of getting it fixed.
In the meantime, Chris had suffered a double flat way out on the course, after having ridden his way off the front, and now Tim riding was away from everyone, all alone. Also, Kim had gotten to the race with Kate, who was happy as a clam as she tried to chow down on the long grass in the pit. It was so cool to see her out there!
So there we are, with Chris saying he wasn't really motivated to race and me just churning out laps. We rode together for a while -- he was better in the tech parts, I was better on the power sections, and I eventually pulled away from him. I was feeling pretty good, and I really needed a full 12 hours -- it's been more than a month since I had a full race under my belt. So when I broke the chain and lost time, I just had to keep going, and a few laps later passed through the pits and saw Chris sitting there.
With about 3 hours to go, I misjudged the gravel turn down by the dump, and pulled a full-on Jeremiah Bishop -- I seriously thought I had torn my face apart. I was stunned, but not seriously hurt -- thank goodness for sliding -- and since Kim had already left for the evening, I kept riding to see how I felt. (I was worried, after the crash at Kettle, that I had given myself a concussion and wouldn't be able to drive home.) I splashed some water on my face, and everything seemed to be mostly OK, so why not keep going?
What I didn't know was that at that point I was in 2nd place, with a 10-minute lead over Chris. What I also didn't know is that somehow Chris got a fire under his butt, and over the course of the next 2 laps completely shut me down -- as I was about to finish hour 11, calculating whether I had to do 1 or 2 more laps, Chris came by me on the climb up the cap like someone had shot him out of a rocket. It was unreal how much stronger he was riding -- and I just couldn't respond. I gave chase, and was with him to the ski hill, but his skill through the downhill and the first tech section had him out of sight by the river, and I knew he was gone for good by the time we got back to the chalet. Seriously mad props to him for turning it on like that after the kind of day he'd been having.
I put it on cruise control as soon as I crested the ski hill for the last lap -- still chasing, I had pushed it hard over the cap and through the timing tent, but then it was time to be smooth and smart. It was starting to sprinkle, it was getting dark, and I wanted to avoid any bobbles or crashes, so I rode the lap and just had fun with it. Big shout-out to the Metro Mountain Bikers who build those trails and put on this event -- Al and the crew make it fun to race around a landfill for 12 hours!
In hindsight, a couple of lessons learned: first, just keep going when things go wrong. Thankfully, this has finally gotten through my thick head. Second, if I'm going to keep going, keep going -- I feel like I may have opened the door too wide late in the race, and maybe wasn't pushing as long, as hard as I should have (say, around hour 10 -- still 2 to go!). Chris capitalized on that -- damn he was going fast. And finally, hit shuffle on my internal iPod -- I need to eliminate "breakdown" from my vocabulary -- it's about time I get everything in order for a clean race!
2 hours ago