I believe this weekend qualifies as the worst race I've had all year. Hands down, a torture fest with no bright side that ended up leaving a bad taste in my mouth.
First off, before I go much further I want to say that I really appreciate the effort that goes into getting these races off. If the promoters weren't willing to step up and put them on, racers like me wouldn't have a place to go every few weeks to do this to our selves. So thanks to all of you who were involved in getting La Tierra off.
Sandy, loose, dry, tight, and hot. Those are the words I would use to describe this race. The weekend didn't start good for me at all. Saturday I went to pre-ride the course and set a pretty good pace the first 10 minutes or so, then we hit the first sand trap. There's something about it for me, but when I come into a section with my heart rate up there and have to get off of my bike, it skyrockets. So, my heart is pounding somewhere up around the top of my head, and we hit a loose, tight climb. Absolutely no recovery, and I've cracked for the day.
Sunday I got up, went through my normal routine to get ready for the race and headed out to the course to warm up. I do the top half of the course pushing part of the way, cruising part of the way and put in a time that has me figuring I can turn somewhere between 45 and 50 minute laps. Four laps at 50 minutes? Man, it's going to be a long day.
I ask around trying to find out if they're going to separate out the pros. I know I've got at least one semi-pro in my field, so I'm trying to figure out if I'm racing for 2nd or 1st. Then I find out they're just going to send all of the pro/expert men out at the same time and we'll get the break out after the race. Ok, no biggie, except this means I get to follow a ton of racers up this dusty mile of a jeep road inhaling copious amounts of dry Santa Fe earth. That, coupled with just a general feeling of being out of it, and I'm done by the time I hit the sand pit from hell. At this point, I figure since there's only one other guy in the expert category in my age group - two if they include the semi-pro - I'll just go for a long hard training ride and hopefully at least make my entry fee back.
Not even half way through the first lap, the first SS riders make it up to me. Great, they started two minutes behind me and they're already up here kicking it into gear. Ok, so I really am having a bad day. Before I make it through the first lap, I think all but one or two of the SS racers past me.
So I suffer my way around the course. About 6 miles into a 7.5 mile loop on my third lap, the eventual winner of the race laps me. He finishes all four laps of the race a couple of minutes faster than I did 3 laps. Ouch. I come through the start/finish asking if I had to finish the race or if I could take my time a lap down. I've done other NORBA races where they do that, but this wasn't one of them. Slightly dejected, I head back up the jeep road one last time to the water station to get a cup or two of cold water, dump some on my back, and am off. Mistake.
When I make it to the furthest point down the hill from the only water station on the course, I go to take a drink and nothing. Great. It's been hot, I've been sucking down water like there's no tomorrow, and now at best I'm 15 minutes from the feed zone so I can get some more water. Isn't this shaping up to be a great day?
This was largely mental. Running out of water is one of those things that really throws me. I drink a small sip of water every few minutes to keep my mouth from drying out. Not having that rhythm messes with my head. Just a few minutes after I realize I'm out of water, I make it to the first of three course marshals on the upper loop. Then I realize I'm saved. Each of this will hopefully have a little bit of water so I'll just limp around the course picking up a little bit at each of them and then I'll be home free. Well, except all of the other course marshals had packed it in by the time I made it to them.
I finally get back to the water station, get some water in my camelbak and head out to finish the last leg of the course. Now I'm just pissed, but I don't have the juice to push it. The heat, the altitude, the just something took it's toll on me and I'm done. I finished. I wanted to curl up in a ball and go to sleep. Or better yet, a hot tub or an ice bath. Something, anything but there. On my third lap I thought I saw a little girl running behind a bush out of the corner of my eye. On my last lap after I ran out of water, I kept hearing phantom riders coming up behind me because I was hoping I could get some water off of them. Ugh...
3:45 minutes for right at 30 miles. Some week's you got it, some week's you don't. This wasn't too much different that Gallup a few weeks ago. Only 500 feet higher and a couple of degrees warmer, but... This race definitely pushed the axiom "a bad day biking (fishing, hunting, driving, whatever your poison) is better than a good day at work."
Warning, this is a bit of a rant. I know I sucked at this race, but the only reason I finished is that I was pretty sure there were at most only two other racers in my category so I should get something out of it if I finished. This race wasn't worth the toll it took on my body, even for a little bit of cash. I lost around 7 pounds, nearly 4% of my body weight, in less than 4 hours. I should have pulled, but I didn't. Then they start the awards. The beginners are getting all sorts of cool stuff that's been donated by BTI. Things like Juicy brakes (around $150 - $200 a pop!), so I'm thinking the payout for the experts should be decent.
Then they announce the expert field. The first field that they're paying out: Pro/Junior/Senior Experts. I'm in the senior experts. So, we have one pro in the field - the guy who lapped me - the semi-pro that I knew should beat me anyway, plus the juniors, guys who are normally pulling top 10s in the overall and will probably end up going pro if they stick with it. Nice...
At that point, why even have an Expert category? We could just have everybody that's not a beginner or sport race as pro. It's not like there's much of a step up or anything. Now I know how the women experts must feel since they get stuck in the pro field in everything but national level races.
I know it's up to the promoter to handle these types of things the way they want, but I still think that was pretty lousy. Cut the payout back if you don't have the riders in the field is one thing, but show us something for the suffering. It's even more of a hit when you're giving away $1500 worth of swag to the beginner and sport fields. If I would have had a dozen guys in my field, I would have pulled after the 2nd or 3rd lap. The only thing that kept me on the course was the thought I might pick up something to help cover some of the $150 I spent doing the race.
Ok - end of rant. Like I said at the start, I really appreciate the guys who step up to put these races on. They're the ones to make the racing world go 'round.
On another topic directed to the women racers. It's cruel for you to look the way you do, be married or otherwise romantically entangled, then show up after the race sans-partner with a thong on. If you're going to wear one, great, but at least make sure it's not obvious that you are. That, or make sure you're talking about how you're getting a divorce or breaking up and looking for an expert racer (preferably from AZ) to fill your time off the bike with. :)