Mt. Wash Meltdown

By Thursday morning, I already knew this wasn’t going to be a good race. I woke up feeling awful, like I was coming down with something. My head felt terrible and my chest felt like semi-bronchitis. With the race only two days away, I had a feeling I wouldn’t be able to shake whatever this was in time. I ended up leaving work early, I felt so lousy. Friday was a little better, but made worse by the fact that I still knew I was feeling lousy and it probably wouldn’t pass in time. I haven’t been sick since January, and that made me irritated beyond all hell. At the beginning of the week I felt ready to kick some serious ass. I went right by the book and tapered intelligently. But sometimes, well…who knows. Sh*t happens.

I slept maybe 5 hours the night before the race. I had one of the worst times ever trying to fall asleep. My head was just swimming with garbage for about 2.5 hours after I hit the pillow. I was up around 5 o’clock and went right into my get-ready routine. At this point you’re on autopilot and any feeling of fatigue disappears. It won’t present itself until some point during the race.

Grampie and I are in the field at the base of the mountain spinning on our trainers, and it is getting really, really warm. In fact, I cut my warmup short in both duration and intensity because after 30 minutes I was already dripping with sweat and I was far too hot for my liking. The sun was hitting us square on as we sat there. It wasn’t even 8:30 and it was already 70 degrees, reaching 75 at the time the gun went off. Heat is not and never has been my friend. It would kick my ass today. Big time.

Mile 1 was casual and ridiculous. So many mechanical issues for other people. Never-ending clangs of malfunctioning hardware and streams of expletives. Riders already riding back down the hill. I was very confident in my setup, having worked out my issues on Wednesday. It was a bit of a mental boost.

In spite of a very conservative first mile, right on track, things just never went anywhere. I was so damn hot. I didn’t feel right at all.

I always take 1 large bottle up the mountain and never finish it. Today, by mile 4 of 7.6, my bottle was completely empty and I was on the verge of quitting. My plan to eat nothing during the race – a plan that works for many people – completely failed. If many circumstances had been different, this plan would have worked, but today was not the day. One hour into the race I was only halfway done and starving. I had emergency gels, but I was far too gone by the time I needed them. Somewhere between mile 5 and 6 out of nowhere I started sobbing. I was completely falling apart. It took everything I had not to quit. I don’t know how many times I seriously considered just stopping. Definitely a shell of the person who rode this mountain in 1:34 just a year prior. In the back of my head I knew today was going to be two hour territory. And I didn’t care. I just wanted out – wanted it over, wanted it to be done.

I can see the 22% finish up ahead and to my right, and as I’m thinking about how hard that’s going to be today, Keith and Natalie are standing in the road ahead of me with a bright orange sign that reads GO PLUMMER GO. I had no idea they were doing this. Keith blares an airhorn and is screaming for me to kick it in. The both of them are yelling my name and cheering me on, running alongside of me, and the next thing I know people perched along the side of the mountain are yelling my name. Hooooly sh*t. That was cool. Almost two hours of solitary suffering is finally over. I summoned energy from I have no idea where and kicked it in. My eyes were glued to the pavement but I was sure as hell digging in now. I couldn’t even look up at the 22. Just pounding. I catch a glimpse of Kristen and Heather, and then at the turn to the finish I hear Kathleen. I know you were there somewhere Paulie. What a crew. To have support at the finish is massive.

As I come onto the finishing grade, I can sense a guy trying to take me on the inside. Not today. I bury it and absolutely crush any dreams he has of cherry picking my sorry ass today. I finished looking like a monster. If people only knew what it took to get there. 1 hour 59 minutes and 50 seconds.

1:59 – ten minutes slower than this year’s practice ride, in which I fought sustained 20-30mph winds for the better part of 7.6 miles. Hardly a hint of wind on race day. Let there be no question – heat is not my friend. I hate the heat. Today it tore me apart.
But it’s over. This messed up year, at least in Mt. Wash terms, is over. Time to rest, time to relax, already planning next year’s race in my head. Planning to spend the fall getting a little more familiar with my 29er and getting back to cyclocross. This time, on a bike with more than one gear. Maybe. 🙂
Lots of pics to come – I’d do more tonight but I’m done. Too much more to say now than time to say it.

2 thoughts on “Mt. Wash Meltdown

  1. Just came across your blog and I was one of those riders at Mt. Washington who had a mechanical. My chain broke about 1/2 mile in, so it was probably me you heard swearing.

    Great job on finishing, especially since it was so hot that day. if you have time, check out my blog on the race. Cheers & continue to have fun riding!


  2. Plum it's you, from the future. No wonder it took you almost 2 hours – you ran a 22 up front and a 34t mountain cassette out back. Were you planning on riding up the side of a building or something? HTFU.


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