Tuesday, August 14, 2012

So was it....FUN?

[ How did this blog post get so long?  Cliff Notes version: Thanks to Dad, Jonas, Alisa, Edward, and Reid.  Was it fun?  HELL YEAH.  Now if you need something to put you to sleep, read the long version. ]

First I want to thank a few more people who helped make this possible.  One is my Dad, who loaned me his trailer for the trip.  Made life a LOT better.  Plus, you know, he's my Dad...he almost taught me how to ride a bike in the first place!  (He tried one day, but we weren't seeing eye to eye on it at all, so we, uh, took a break from it.  Then apparently a neighborhood girl passing by on her bike was able to teach me quite easily.  But Dad still gets the credit for buying me that first bike as a used bike and completely restoring it to bad-ass status.  Plus he taught me about everything I know about working on things like bikes and even just about having good tools, though he claims I stole all my tools from him anyway.  That's not true.  I have never stolen one single tool from him. *ahem*) 

Another is Jonas Sahratian, my strength coach.  He doesn't really care much for long endurance sports, but he doesn't let that stop him from making sure my body is as balanced as he can possibly get it.  You see, all this bicycling is particularly efficient at strengthening very specific sets of muscles, often to the detriment of other muscles that your body needs to stay in balance.  By that I mean you can literally strengthen some parts to the point that if you aren't careful they can tear up other body parts that aren't keeping up.  Jonas makes sure that doesn't happen, all the while chewing my ass about how terrible my diet is.  One day I'll listen, too.  Maybe.  He somehow manages to make that weight room fun most of the time, though, without ever letting you take the day off.  But I definitely don't think it's luck that I've stayed so injury-free throughout this process.  Thanks, J.

And still another is my wonderful assistant and good friend, Alisa.  Strangely, thanks to our family beach trip, a vacation of hers, and this trip to Colorado, I've seen her exactly one day in something like seven weeks.  That's just not right!  She makes so much of this kind of stuff possible that it's not even funny.  And she does it all without ever a complaint or a question as to "why?"  Yeah, sometimes I get the "you're nuts", but I already knew that.  But nobody gets their job done better.  But more importantly, nobody else could put up with me and still be my friend while doing that job, too.  She's a special lady.  I miss her, but I'm sure it's a lot more than she misses me!

Last, a big shout out to Edward and Reid.  They pulled off some nice things in those last couple days of packing to make the trailer and RV situation much better for me in terms of traveling and living for a month away from home.  Reid helped out big time with some bike prep I might not have finished before leaving, too.  Thanks, fellas.  The only warning I have for you two is I came up with a LOT more modifications to the RV I want to do while sitting in it bored during rain and such!

So now that I've had a couple days to reflect on Leadville, I realize that in all my story telling about the race itself I never really said it was fun.  I used words like "epic", which is probably getting to be the most over-used word in mountain biking, but that doesn't necessarily mean it was fun.

Alan, Matt, and I...team Leadville!
So was it?  Yes, yes, yes, and uh, no.  Or something like that.  It's really hard to say.  I had some training workouts leading up to this that I dreaded and those certainly ended up having elements that weren't fun, but overall, I'd even describe those workouts as fun.  I learned something in each one, too, and I enjoy learning.  There were parts of the trip itself I was dreading (like the several days I was by myself during the trip), but I found ways to have fun then, too.

I was dreading the time stuck in the corral before the race start.  While I can't say any of that was fun, I will say it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be.  We did a really good job of having our stuff prepared the day before, so I knew all I needed to do was get out of bed, eat, dress, and drive to the RV.  There we got bikes out, checked air pressures and put our fuel bottles in, and headed to the start line.  When we got there, it was an hour and a half of waiting, but we carved out enough space to lay the bikes down and sit on the ground, and I had a full coat and thick sweatpants as well as good gloves.  Between that and having my phone to poke at the Intertubez, I killed most of that time fine.  It wasn't nearly as cold as it could have been, which also helped.  Ashley and the kids showed up just before the start and we were able to give them our warm clothes.

I was dreading the race start, too.  Not because of nerves...which I really didn't have.  I think that was simply because we were so well prepared (a more in depth look at the preparation for this race will probably be another blog).  No, I was dreading the start because of the cold.  See, at altitude it does get very cold at night, but it also typically warms up VERY fast this time of year.  And being cold for a little while is better than getting stuck being hot and/or carrying a bunch of gear you don't need any more.  And I'm just not into trying to dispose of gear on the trail...so that meant suffer a bit.  My clothing for this race consisted of biking tights, a bike jersey (provided by Carmichael Training Systems, which was how they spotted us on course before the aid stations to have our supplies ready to restock us during the race), thin Smartwool socks and bicycle shoes, a thin headband, bicycle helmet, clear glasses, thin mountain bike gloves, and Smartwool arm warmers. 

The start of the race is at 6:30am and goes downhill for several miles before going across a pretty flat gravel road for three more miles.  So it's fast.  Which means wind.  Cold wind.  But like I said, it really wasn't as cold as it could have been, and while I wasn't toasty warm, I wasn't shivering for that entire start, either.  So that was another thing that was better than expected, if not exactly fun.  The Smartwool arm warmers are like magic...you can push them down if you get warm and pull them back up when it cools off.  Since we were changing altitude a couple thousand feet at a time, this was nice to be able to do.

The climbs were not fun, but I was prepared for them mentally, and they all lead to fast downhill which is what mountain bikers really love.  So they led to fun.  Now, not all downhill is fun...sometimes you're stuck behind people who are slower than you with no room to pass for various reasons.  That happened a lot more than I expected in the race, to be honest.  Then there was the other part I wasn't quite prepared for...the fact that I had to walk more of the climbs than I wanted because it was easier to walk than to bicycle as slow as the people walking in front of me in places where there was no room to pass.  I wasn't even walking as fast as I wanted to be walking for long stretches!  That part wasn't exactly fun, either.  But on the downhill where there was room to pass, boy did things get fun in a hurry. More than I expected, in fact.  On Powerline alone I heard a lot of "OH MY GOD" as I blew past people.  See, for most of that downhill, there's a reasonably obvious line to take, and most people seemed to think any other line was borderline insane.  Fortunately for me, I am borderline insane.  I'm sure people understood that those lines were possible, they just didn't know they were possible with that much speed.  I am speed.  Okay, so it's not all that...I'm no world cup downhiller, but compared to some of these folks I surely was.  That was fun.

The most disappointing part of the riding in the race had to be the singletrack descent in the middle of the course.  It's by far the most fun section of the course.  It's almost rollercoaster-like when you have the freedom to ride it at your own pace.  But alas, I got stuck right at the beginning of it behind someone who was a very timid rider and by the time that section ended, there were about 15 of us stacked up behind him.  It was paaaaaaainful.  But it was totally a single-lane section and no option but to follow along.

The least fun part had to be that time period of about 45 minutes that started with about an hour and a half to go.  That, I would go so far as to say, was depressing.  It was about that length of time that I was pretty sure I couldn't make it in under twelve hours.   But you know, that's what makes the success so sweet.  If we were sure we could accomplish things, actually pulling it off wouldn't be any big deal, now would it?  No, I was never sure...but I was pretty confident going in.  For 45 minutes, though, I had lost all confidence.  But for that last 45 minutes or so, as the picture began to look much brighter, everything changed.  I was dreading that final climb into town before the race even started, but as I actually approached it I knew it was mine for the taking.  I had Burt Reynolds voice in my head from Smokey and the Bandit...."Hot damn, we're gonna make it!"

And I did.  And it was crazy emotional.  And awesome.  And fulfilling.  And yes, fun.  The whole thing was fun.  Crazy hard.  At times it was "why am I doing this again?" hard.  But I never once didn't have an answer for "why?"  Because it would be fun.  And it truly was.


Anonymous said...

Congrats Donnie - its been fun and educational following your blog as you got ready for the race. It lived up to its billing for sure! Wear that buckle with pride! I wish we could have met up but time was tight for us.
Take care -
Craig Van Renterghem (Tire Rack)

Donnie Barnes said...

Craig, no worries. Sounds like you had a good race, too!