Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tour of the Battenkill

Dirt roads

Attack of the Chocolate Hammer Gel

Farm country in upstate NY

4:15 am--got up, packed. I must have an undiagnosed mental condition.

5:05 am--at the Dunkin' Donuts getting coffee

5:30 am--on the New York State Thruway listening to bad 80's music (yes, Rick Springfield may have been playing) heading towards Cambridge, NY.

9:10 am--finally made it to registration in Cambridge after having to stop and pee wayyy too many times.

I realized when I got there how big the event actually was. I've never seen a sea of porta-potties of such magnitude. Of course, I parked right in front of the porta-potties where the line would be. My thinking here was that if I were to run into anyone I knew it would be here. It's the place to be. Also, I could eaves drop and try to get a handle on where the heck I was supposed to go.

I studied the race venue map in hopes I could figure out how to get to the start. You would think you would just be able to follow the crowd of bikes and find the start. Not so much. I was lost and people were asking me where the start was. Suckers.

Staging: I thought I was going to have an anxiety attack because I had no idea where I was going. I saw a cyclist I ride with in NJ. After telling me about what he thought was the worst climb ever (the now infamous Juniper Swamp) he pointed me to the line. I saw that familiar pink color of the Sho-Air Team jersey and I knew I had found my friend, Jen. Yes, I was in the right place!

The Start: Totally mind-boggling and nerve racking for me. Not used to starting with 75+ women (I think the final start count was ~100). A lot of self-talk here. Don't get crazy. It's only 62 miles, 62 miles...62 MILES!

Mile 6: Finally kind of got used to the large field. We would be screaming on paved sections and then have to turn into and go through a covered bridge, come through into deep gravel and turn onto a dirt road.. This would freak some riders out and they kept slamming on the brakes. LOTS of near pile-ups. LOTS of girlie whining. That's something you don't get in a mountain bike race. A few didn't make it to mile 8 because the gravel section after one of the bridges took them down. One victim was one of the whining and bossy girl who braked every time she saw a pebble. I was secretly a little happy. Going to hell I know...

Mile 10: Juniper Swamp, let's just say I would have trouble walking this hill. Well, I'll be honest, I did have trouble walking this hill after I got knocked off my bike! It was so steep everyone was grinding to get up the hill. A girl in front of me was weaving and having trouble. She went to stand an d the next thing I knew she was moving backwards towards my front wheel. It all happened in slow mo. I tried to get out of the way. With a hill that steep it really wasn't possible. She fell into my front wheel and I went down in slow-mo. I caught myself with my hand and my knee. I tried to get back on the bike. Because the grade was so steep and the dirt so loose it was impossible to get going. I kept spinning out and wasting lots of energy. I never though I would be walking a road bike up a hill. The worst part is that there was a crowd there watching and taking pictures. Mile 10 and I already am feeling demoralized. I told myself to suck it up and keep going. I could hear the wheel car behind me. I wasn't last, it just felt like I was. I wanted the freakin car to go around me. He wouldn't... it was a totally humbling and mortifying experience. I walked past the spectators and photographers. I noticed an open chair that looked pretty inviting at the time. I wonder if any one would say anything if I just sat down and watched? It was a cool place to watch the race. I got to the top of the hill, clipped back in and tried to forget that Juniper Swamp ever happened. My legs will never forget that hill walking OR riding.

Mile 11: I latched back onto a group of women. Two flatted. We were moving at a pretty good pace and working together. However, once we hit the dirt sections it became brutally painful to ride with them. I knew I should stick to the pack because it would save energy in the end, however, I felt like any second one of them was going to take me out on the dirt. I let go of my brakes on a downhill and decided to try and move up to the next pack.

Mile 15: I worked with a pack of men. A Westwood Velo guy yelled to me to grab a wheel. Got spit on when one cyclist's massive hawker got caught in the wind and splattered across my chest and arm. Cycling is an extremely glamorous. Ick.

Mile 22: Alone again and working way too hard. I was singing AC/DC to myself to keep myself going.

Mile 30: Caught another group of girls. One crashed in a pothole and another flatted. Alone again.

Mile 34: Caught up with two girls and a guy. One girl cracked and couldn't hold the pace. The other girl soon flatted and a mile or so later the guy flatted. There seems to be a pattern here...

Mile 41: What the!?! I thought man spit had once again rained down on my jersey. No, thank goodness this time it was really rain. It wasn't so bad...

Mile 42: Oh, it wasn't good.

Mile 43: The wet dirt roads began to take victims. Carnage everywhere. To my right there was a girl sitting on the ground with blood streaming down her face. A guy whizzed past me on a dirt downhill the next thing I knew he flew to the left and disappeared. He took that dirt downhill a little too fast! Although I am a mountain biker, I was terrified of taking those wet, loose, dirt downhills fast. I was a big wuss.

Mile 44: Left the dirt road on the wheel of a guy. Heard the now familiar noise...Yep, that's right. He flatted. Wow..I must be unknowingly cursing people.

Mile 45: The end of my legs and lungs. I hit the wall. It felt like I could walk faster.

Mile 55: AHHH...the covered bridge...this was supposed to be the end. A few more climbs and I'm done. The last section was made up of PAINFUL DIRT ROLLERS. I could hardly turn over the pedals at this point.

Mile 58: A marshal yelled "Only 6 more miles to go!". What the F%$&!! I wanted to turn around and punch him in the face. I looked at my computer in sheer horror and confusion. Oh, no. It was only 4 miles. I yelled back "4!! 4 more miles". Or at least it better be or I'll be riding back in the SAG waggon.

Mile 60: I caught up with a fellow mountain biker Bob. He was cooked. We chatted and he too died at the infamous Mile 45. He told me to go because he could barely hold my wheel!?! WOW..he WAS cooked..I felt a little better that I wasn't the only one who cracked and limped home.

FINISH: The final right hand turn to the finish was pretty sweet. I felt such relief to see the banner and time clock. Although it had been raining, the crowd was still there and cheering and clapping.

It was probably the toughest thing I've ever done. It was hard but it was a cool experience. As you would ride down the dirt farm roads in the middle of absolutely nowhere...home owners were waiting to cheer you on. Other houses were having cook-outs and parties. There were cowbells and homemade signs and banners saying "Go Racers". My favorite was a little girl yelled "Go Girl! Go Girl! You just beat that man up the hill." It didn't matter if you were first or last. They were instrumental in keeping my legs moving and it made me work that much harder (a moot point in the end because there was nothing left in the tank but it was still much appreciated).

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