Mt. Washington 2008 – 1:40:02

I guess I could sit here and call Saturday a disaster or a failure or disappointing. It’s hard to do that when you consider this is an event that only a relative handful of people in the entire world are able to do, or want to do, or even can do. Knowing that does take a little bit of the sting out of not doing your best. But even still, this is an event I train all year for, and this year I worked harder than probably any event I have ever trained for in my entire life. So I of course have a set of expectations – who wouldn’t. Finishing 5 minutes slower than my practice time, I was definitely left with questions, mostly painful ones, to which I think I may have some answers. For now, here’s what I have energy for.

I have a lot of data to go over, but the first thing I know is that I am sore. I hurt. My legs haven’t been this sore in a very long time. I have done some pretty ridiculous rides this year, and nothing has felt like this. Not even the practice ride four weeks ago. Clearly, riding hard for the past three weeks was a poor decision. I tried to build up greater strength after the practice ride, and instead I probably should have just been maintaining the strength I had and burning fat. I am completely burned out right now. The morning of the race, I was going through the motions and was in no way excited to be racing. That is a bad sign.

By the numbers, I was about 30 seconds faster than my practice ride for miles 1 and 2. This was on target. But after this it all started to go downhill, beginning around mile 2 when I noticed my legs were getting sore. Way too sore, way too quickly. And then I realized that in all of the stretching I had done in the morning, including both the session before and the session after my warmup ride, I completely forgot to stretch my quads. How do you completely forget to stretch the biggest muscles in your entire body? I did. At least I think I did. Maybe I didn’t. It hardly matters though; I spent the rest of the race thinking about it.

For others, yes, there was torrential hail, rain, thunder, lightning, and rivers of ice and water flowing down the road. But for me, I have no weather to place blame on. I had beautiful skies and absolutely no wind whatsoever. I had sun, and I was hot. I have plenty of experience riding in the heat, and I hate the heat. I have a very difficult time keeping my electrolytes up. The morning of the race, it was raining, so for some reason I opted not to take any electrolyte drink on the warmup ride or up the mountain, thinking I wouldn’t need it. My only pre-race liquid was water. Around halfway up, the sun was beating down on me and sweat was absolutely pouring out of my helmet, and I can’t help but think that I really put myself in a hole from minute one by not taking along a bottle of Heed.

In the dirt section, right around mile 5 my chain came off. I was whipping down through my gears, trying to make some power on a section where the grade lets up, and all of a sudden my feet began spinning wildly. I looked down and off was my chain. I frantically shifted my non-existent front derailleur. F*ck(!). It’s a moment of panic, but you have no choice but to compose yourself extremely quickly, get off the bike, and fix the problem. It cost me about 10 seconds off the bike. Getting going again was another matter. It took what seemed like forever to clip back in. There was enough dirt plugged up in my cleat to keep me from putting both pedals into the effort for probably an entire minute. And from that point onward, I fell completely off the map.

At the time of the chain incident, I was already on the verge of bonking. For at least 2 miles previous, the word “bonk” had been bouncing around my brain like a pingpong ball. And by mile 6, the moment I had planned to completely open up the can of whoopass, throw the dice, drop the hammer, go for broke, you name it, I had cracked like a walnut. I was completely destroyed. The tank was empty. I wanted to get off my bike. I was in zombie mode. Riders started passing me in droves. Spectators were telling me “you look great!”, which is a comment reserved for riders who look like complete shit on a bicycle waiting to die. I was 1000% suffering. Every single little plateau that I should have been picking up the pace on I simply couldn’t lift a pedal to attack on, and simply knowing that was mentally crushing. I had no idea how I was going to make it up the 22% grade at the finish, let alone even finish the race. I still had a mile and a half to go. I wanted out. I wanted to quit. I could feel my eyes sinking into the back of my head, and every single turn up another grade was absolutely morally devastating. This is not the place you want to be in when you set a PR up Mount Washington, and it in no way resembles how I felt on the practice ride.

Cadence, heart rate, gearing, nutrition, stretching, weather – a lot of small things conspiring together. But I think it boils down to one even bigger thing: being stupid. After everything I’ve done this season, I should have vegged out in the weeks prior to Mt. Wash, and instead, I went balls-to-the-wall right up until the end. I emptied the tank time and time again, right up until six days before the event. Looking at my calendar, I haven’t had a single week of just easy rides in months. No time to recover. What the hell was I thinking? I was thinking about building strength after the practice ride. Instead, I burned myself out and blew up. I’ll be stronger next year, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Yes, it’s a lesson, but it’s a shitty way to learn a lesson. It sucks, and I’m stupid, and I blew it.

More to come later in the week maybe – I’m tired! Off to bed. I haven’t stopped moving in days.

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