Monday, 30 August 2010

So No Mas

What with Northstar, work and a bit of much needed R&R it's been a good 3 weeks since I last rode cross country. Might not sound like much, but bike fitness is measured in dog years. A couple of weeks out of the granny gear can make a big difference to bike strength. This, I found out in style, at So No Mas this Sunday. Organised by Bike Monkey, the race is a 35 miles (or 50k depending on what side your bread's buttered) romp around Lake Sonoma. 35 miles is a fair old slog. Times it by 8000 feet of climbing and you wanna be in tip top shape to even fill out the registration form. But I was up for it. As was Rosson (riding singlespeed!?!) and Spangles. I spent the whole week leading up to it knocking back electrolytes and looking forward to a full day's shredding in the sun.

Come Sunday, we got up at ridiculous o'clock and drove to the race meet. To quote Spangles, "bike monkey? more like brass monkey!" Yep, it was cold and foggy. Like Howell a few weeks before, the fog began to burn away as we took shape for the mass start. The race website boasted the race was "35 miles of get tough." This was bolstered by the pre-race briefing. The course was to be hilly, steep and unpleasant. Sipping coffee and eating free oatmeal, it was hard to put any tangible meaning to this. Skip ahead a few hours and the Bike Monkey's solemn warnings were echoing around my frazzled head.

We started, en mass, at 8:00am. Contenders were due to finish around the 3.5 hour mark. I reckoned on a solid 5 hour finish time. That, I'd be pleased with. The first couple of miles was a road climb to the trail head. I felt pretty good. Bike felt solid. A mile or so into the dirt however and things weren't right. My heart rate was jacked a good 10bpm over the norm and I was pretty sure I was about to spray my bars and Garmin with oatmeal. Everything felt like a much bigger effort that it should have. Shades of the Tamarancho race, except I had over 30 miles to go. After 8 miles or so, things settled down. My heart rate dropped below the red line and breakfast decided not to hit eject.

For the next 3 or 4 miles I felt pretty strong. I hit a few of the steeper climbs that had others bike hiking - no problem. The descents were also fine. A couple of spills over ruts but nothing major. But it wasn't to be sustained. Sometime around mile 12 my body started to suffer. The familiar stabbing cramp pain took hold of my quads and my energy levels kept hitting zero. The climbs were brutal. Frequent, steep and soul sapping. My legs were getting no chance to recover on the flat or downhill reprieves. It didn't take long before I resorted to frequent rest stops to either try and settle my squirming thighs, neck more sugary goop or just recover mentally before the next assault. The scenery was epic. Quartz lake far below and beautiful blue sky. The singletrack too was fantastic. But I couldn't appreciate it. Each fleeting grasp of flow was met with an immediate series of punishing, anaerobic climbs.

My mind was willing, but my body wasn't. Me and a few other poor souls gradually spent more and more time out of the saddle pushing, than spinning. On more than one occasion I looked down at the granny convinced I was grinding the big ring. No such luck. Each gear shift down made it even more remarkable that Rosson was somewhere far ahead with just the one cog! By the time I hit the late twenties, I was totally done. Each rest longer than the last, each spurt of cranking less than before. Finally, I hit the home stretch. Crossing the finish line I was glad it was over. A hollow victory and, pushing the 6 hour mark, hardly a convincing performance. Spangles did a great job having finished an hour before. Rosson got somewhere around 4:30. Sterling work!

So, I'm not sure what went wrong. Too much food in the morning? not enough the day before?.... Not enough rest? Too long out of the saddle? Probably. Who knows. I'm in two minds about doing the race again next year. Yes, they said it'd be tough. That's the apeal. But it has to be rewarding too. So No Mas left a bitter taste and a sense of set back - especially after Howell where I felt pretty strong. Still, we have Annadel in 2 weeks. A chance to get back some pride. Until then, I'm living like a vicar and hitting some steep dirt to get set.

Garmin info HERE. I think the tree cover clouded the Garmin's little brain as it measured 6000ft of climbing, not 8000ft. Also, you can see how jacked my heart rate was for the first hour. Urgh, not fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment