First Farce of the Year: McDowell Meltdown Marathon

Wow. January and I get to post my first race report of the year. To top it off to all of my riders a bit further east and north of me, it was a race that only required arm warmers for the first lap. Yup, shorts and short sleeves in January. Gotta love Arizona.

Like I mentioned in the last post, the marathon won the debate on which race to do. That meant an alarm clock going off at 4 in the morning to drive down for the race. No biggie, pretty easy couple of hours on the road and I was at the venue, my old stomping grounds really pysch’ed about the race. I get ready, not paying too much attention to a warm up cause of time constraints, and it’s a four hour race, I’ll warm up on the course. At the line, New Mexico’s own superman is at the line. Well, there goes any thoughts of winning, but who cares? It’ll still be 4 hours or so of fun hammering.

They’re going over the info on the race and one of the guy’s working there starts going down the line asking for the green slips of paper they gave you with your number at the registration. Huh? When I picked up my number, the guy told me they were out of swag bags and told me to come back after the race and pick one up. Ok, cool… I’ve got a number to give ‘em when I come back for it.

Nope. Apparently, this number that they didn’t mention to me at all (or on their race site for that matter) is now necessary to start.

Me: “I don’t have mine?”

“I’ve got to have the number…” and he keeps walking down the line.

He comes back. Me again, “Do I have to have it?” “Yeah” “It’s at my car, do you want me to go get it?” “If I don’t have it, how am I going to know you started?”

Crap. Two minutes or so to the start, and I’ve got to pull off of the line to go get a stupid piece of paper? Great. Back to the car I go… It was locked and Meg, who had gone to help with water/gel hand-offs had the keys. Now I’ve got to go find her. Find her, back to the car. Where’s the piece of paper? I tear the car about looking for it, but it’s nowhere to be found. Welp, looks like I’m out for a 4 lap fun ride.

Back to the starting line. “Who’s taking the green tickets?” I’m getting ready to tell ‘em I don’t have mine any more and I’m just going out. “Are you doing the Marathon?” “Yeah”, “Just go!”. Off I go. Now I’m pissed… Why didn’t the guy tell me that ten minutes ago?!

Anyhow, I channel that energy into the pedals, and off I go chasing. It took me a little over a lap to make contact. I started picking people off every few minutes. Got passed a good portion of the women’s field (I think it was all of it, but I’m not sure) and a handful of the men’s field. My tunnel vision as the race started told me there was 12 - 18 men in the field, so I either managed to work back in to the top 2/3rd of the field, or 1/2 of the field.

The only real snafu of the race that was my fault (unless not playing 20 questions at the sign-in makes not knowing about the green card makes the start my fault) was the last gel hand off. The first one I did was at the same stop I swapped out camelbaks, so no problems there. On the third lap, I came up on this one guy at the bottom of the South Rim. At the top of the South Rim I couldn’t see him, so that gives you an idea the kind of time I made up on him. Once he realizes I’m behind him though he finds this new reserve of energy and off he goes. I’m faster than he is on the climbs, the technical, everything, except flat out where he’s going just fast enough that it’d take too much energy to pass him. I finally get him at one of the shallow climbs, but he sticks with me as much as he can.

We make it back to the start/finish and they’re staging the Pros and Expert field. This guy is less than a hundred yards behind me and I’m really racheting it up to drop him. Then the Pro/Experts start and they stop us at the crossing to let us go. Crap. 2 and a half hours of racing and now you want me to sit on my bike for 30 seconds? I’m afraid cramps are going to take hold now, but try to keep focused as much as I can. When they let us go again, I’m off. I’ve got this guy who’s been riding my wheel the whole time with me now and I’m focused on dropping him. This is when I go through the feed zone. I grab the gel flask, but it slips out of my hand for whatever reason. Oh well, I’ve got enough in reserves for one more lap and I’ve got someone on my wheel.

If I had it to do again, knowing what I knew then, I’d still keep going. But I could have stopped, got the flask, and still been fine. By the time I got to the top of the climb out of the parking lot (the top of the Sport loop), I couldn’t see the guy any longer. All it took was 3 - 4 minutes of climbing and he was completely popped. Oh well.

I managed to keep the cramps at bay, but could definitely tell I was running on fumes that last lap. I couldn’t really push the climbs any longer and was dropping out of the middle ring for the first time all day.

All in all, it was a good race. I accomplished what I wanted to - sub 4 hours (my clock is 3:56) and felt good the whole race. That’s a lot more than I can say for my first race last year. Even though I won the race through attrition, I faded hard during that one.

Few miscellaneous notes: I’m talking with Wingnut and hopefully I can work out a deal with them to start using their packs at these races. I’ve been riding with my Hyper 2.5 since last August, and it only took an hour or so riding with a regular camelbak and my lower back was screaming at me.

I also lowered my saddle a bit for this race. I think part of the back issue has been my seat bordering on just a bit too high. I’m not rocking my hips (the tell-tale sign), but I do end up with my lower foot extended through the pedal stroke. Based on some reading I’ve been doing, I believe lowering it will help me focus the muscle strain away from my back and back into my legs where it belongs. I didn’t have any issues on the Sedona ride with the Hyper 2.5, so I’m thinking Saturday’s issue was the pack. Some more experimenting will tell.

One final note. Anyone who’s said anything anywhere near me about buying wheels in the last year knows that I sing the praises of Speed Dream wheels. Dave knows his stuff and has built a set of super light, super stiff 29’er wheels for me. I mean, we’re talking off the shelf 26” XC race wheels kind of light - just a couple of grams over 1600. Anyhow, Friday night I’m packing my car up, cleaning off the Sedona mud, just general race prep stuff. I set my front wheel out of the way up against the garage door opening. Nice, out of the way, somewhere I won’t forget about it.

The garage door at this place is the old kind. The new one’s you can blow on and they’ll start back up. I’ve grabbed this one and pushed while it was closing and it didn’t go back up. Well, I’m sure you can see where this is going. I finish up out side, hit the garage door button and come back inside. 30 minutes later I go back out to grab my camelbaks to fill ‘em up and the door’s still open. I look around and there’s my wheel. Nice… It’s not tacoed, but “there goes my $40 for pre-registering” enters my mind. I pick it up, give it a whirl, and there’s a little bounce to the spin. It’s not wobbling uncontrollably though.

On the truing stand I can see the slight wobble. It’s hardly anything. A quarter turn on a handful of spokes and it’s spinning like a new wheel. Yup, Dave’s wheels can take an old garage door coming down on them and barely get knocked out of true. That’s on a year old set of wheels that have been trued once and have the abuse of three marathons, plus nearly all of my NMORS races from last year on them. That’s what I call bomb proof…

Now for the moment of truth: