Thursday, July 28, 2011

6 Hours of Cramps!

Last weekend I headed up to Ellicottville, New York with a posse of cyclist friends from Pittsburgh. Why such a far drive for a bike race you ask? Well it was for a 6 hour mountain bike race and to make it even better they have had a Solo Clydesdale category. That is a big bucket of win if you ask me.

We headed up to camp the night before the race. The camping area held about 20 to 30 other campers/racers if I had to guess, the funny thing was I knew pretty much all of them. That made for a pretty fun evening with a nice group of folks including my wife. The night consisted of dinner in town and Spin Tap projected on a white sheet at the camp site. After that it was bed time and off to dream land.

The next morning it was hot out! The race didn’t start till 10 am so it was just going to get worse and heat is not my friend when I am racing. Drink, drink, drink was the order of the morning to try and be hydrated for the race. After tooling around all morning it was finally race time. It was a running start to our bikes and I found myself lining up at the front. I kinda laughed at myself in my head, “why am I up here”. Steevo was on one side and Tim Carson on the other. It wasn’t like I would be seriously competing with those two. I am more of a third or fourth row kinda guy. LOL.. However I just went with it. As soon as the race director blew his whistle we were off on the short run of around 1/8 mile, then it was onto our bikes.

The course was 8.5 miles long and the goal was to do as many laps as you could in six hours, sounds simple right? The route started climbing pretty much from the get go. Up the Holiday Valley Ski Resort Mountain we went. I found myself feeling not bad despite it being at least 88 degrees already. After a mile or so of climbing we hit the first section of single track and IT happen! I felt a small cramp in my right calf. “This cannot be happening we just started”, I thought to myself. I cramp a lot in endurance events but never 10 minutes into the race. I pedaled through till it passed however I knew once it started it was not going to stop.

Once you finish the climb up the mountain the rest course is 90% single track. It was fast, extremely dry and a boat load of fun. Luckily it was very shaded also because the heat was creeping higher. Again the trails were fun!

After lap one I found myself in second in the solo Clydesdale field and the cramps held off for the rest of the first lap. A fast pit for a new bottle and some food and I found myself headed up the mountain again for lap number two. At the top the cramps in my legs started again but this time they were not just in my calves but also in my hamstrings now. I must admit I started to worry a bit. I drove a long way for this race and I would hate to end my day early. I tried to slow down a bit and pressed on. On lap three I found myself in the lead but the cramps were really starting to set in and I was less than three hours into the race. To be frank, I wanted to call it a day but how the hell do you justify quitting when you’re in the lead? I don’t like DNFing when I am in last let alone first.

Lap four and five of the race hurt really bad. The time on the bike was not an issue but the cramps forced me to stop from time to time and stretch. I was so worried someone was going to bridge up to my while I was doing so. The heat was also really bad at this point and that didn’t help much. I suffered though lap five and when I came into the pit for more water and food Gina total me I was not only leading the Clydesdale class but was in 5th in the normal solo class. I was dumb founded by that. I knew I was riding ok but with all the stopping for the cramps I was amazed to be doing that well. Off I went for the last lap.

I had planned on getting a second wind to help me through the last lap. I kinda figured I would be able to dig deep for the last one to hold my lead. Well the second wind never came. I fell apart on the last lap. The cramps were crushing and the 95 degree heat made it even worse. I thought to myself you just got to keep going. It was only 8 miles to the finish but it was one of the hardest 8 miles ever for me. There was some pushing of the bike but I made it to the finish somehow. I was so happy to be done. I ended up with 53.32 miles with 8,132 feet of climbing. WOOF! GPS DATA.

I was able to hold on for the win in the solo Clydesdale class and would have finished 6th in the normal solo class. I guess the heat was an issue to everyone and I guess I was not the only on suffering out there.

The course and race were a lot of fun. I am sure going to try and make it back next year! Thanks again to all my friends and Gina who went up with me.. What a blast and ass kicker at the same time..