Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Race Reports: 40 in the Fort and Firecraker 50

 After a solid training block in June, I started my second round of races.  The first up was the 40 in the Fort.  The wife tagged along for the trip up to Fort Collins and because of our awesome friend Chelsea who lives up there we had a place to crash.  Friday night we went downtown Fort Collins to meet up with more friends and for dinner had the best pre-race fuel ever...sushi!  I woke up Saturday ready to race... well after a quick stop for coffee at a gas station I was ready.  There was no age classes so I was in the open class.  I started out strong and stayed with the pack.  The course definitely catered to the locals in order to pick the right lines.  After a good portion of single track, there was a long dirt service road with some crazy steep sections.  Next, an insane downhill section with a loop back to the service road for a bit, and then down another insane downhill.  It was all roots, rocks, and unsustainable rutted downhills for miles.  I've done many races and I've never seen such difficult downhill sections in an endurance race.  I really worried about the safety for myself, and other riders that were less skilled.  Somehow, I avoided danger and ended up with a 5th place finish.  No blood and a top finish equaled a good day to me.

Next up was the Firecracker 50.  I love this race, but unfortunately it hates me.  The first year I did the race, I cut a sidewall which was then quickly followed by cutting up my arm.  Last year, I was lucky enough to find a nail from a old mining shoot in my tire.  This year was my forth year of doing the race and I came with a new set of rubber and fresh sealant.  I started strong with at least fifty high fives!  The start of the race is actually the beginning of the fourth of July parade in Breckenridge.  I keep on forgetting to bring tootsie rolls to throw out.  Next year for sure.  After the fun, neutral start it was straight up the first and biggest climb of the race.  I hung on the lead pack and was fourth to the singletrack.  After some sweet singletrack with a fun downhill section it was big climb number two up french gulch.  I made it up the steep rocky section feeling good.  Next was a long section of singletrack with sharp shale rock and the old mining shoots with nails.  I avoided the nails this year, but the shale rock not so much.  A particularly sharp one punctured my tire right through the thick tread.  The hole was about a quarter inch and too big for sealant to patch.  I pulled out my spare tire and changed it out quickly.  When I went to fill the tube with my CO2 it was apparent the spare tube was bad.  I had just used the tube a couple weeks ago for the Growler and it was good so I have no idea what happened.  My only option was to hike my bike until I ran into crew or someone gave me a tube.  I hiked for about 15 minutes before that happened.  With a fresh tube in I was once again off... well almost.  For some reason I was ghost shifting badly and had to readjust my rear wheel several times before it stopped.  To make things worse, I was behind most of the field and bottle necked badly.  I didn't want to hurt anyone with unwise passing so I kept my patience.  After the first lap I grabbed another tube and CO2s.  I also chugged down half a bomber of delicious Belgium beer.  Thanks Eric Coomer!  I was back to climbing the big climb to start lap two.  I hung onto the wheel of a friendly Boulder resident named Scott who was doing the race as a team so he was fresh.  We chatted up the hill and were able to pass quite a few people including some in my age group.  After cleaning French Gulch and making it through the trail of nails and shale rock I was feeling pretty good.  I was flying down rocky descents and crushing the climbs.  Then it happened.  There's a reason we run tubeless out here in Colorado.  The dreaded pitch flat.  The tube I grabbed after my first lap was a 26 inch.... I of course ride a 29er.  After fighting it into the tire I went to fill it up.... faulty tube number two.  Lucky I didn't have to wait too long before someone bailed me out once again.  Repeat the weird ghost shifting and having to stop several times to readjust the rear tire and I ended up losing well over an hour.  I rolled in to the finish feeling absolutely defeated.  For a little more salt in the wound I found out that my front rim was so out of whack it needed replacing.  Pricey day after a new tire, inner tubes, C02s, and a rim.

I was sitting top six of the expert class, and in a podium spot for my age group.  Then with one unlucky passing over a shale rock I was out of the race.  I was frustrated and angry, but mostly I was depressed.  I know flats are a part of racing, but I just couldn't shake the depression.  We racers train so hard year round for a hand full of races.  When things go wrong it's sometimes hard to let it go.  After about four days of torturing myself by labeling myself as a failure I needed to move on to mentally prepare for the Breck 100 next weekend.  I went for a short ride today with a freshly repaired bike.  I needed that ride to help me get back on track.  I've faced a lot of defeat over these four years of racing and have never quit.  I still crossed that finish line, and I have plenty more to cross in the future.  Hopefully I can get some redemption at the Breck 100.  It'll be the hardest race I've ever done.  It's go time damn it, and I have something to prove.  Here's hoping luck will be a lady on Sunday.

Huge hole from shale rock.