Monday, October 17, 2011


During the fall and early winter of 2005 i started noticing bikes on the top of people's cars covered in mud with number plates and wondered what they were doing. After some research, i learned about cyclocross and went and watched a race at Wheeler farm. It looked fun so i found out where the next race was and went up to Fort Buenaventura and did my first cyclocross race on my mountain bike. Actually, it was my first bike race ever.
I was hooked. I finished in the middle of the pack in the lowest category but had a blast. The problem was that this was the last race of the season. I would have to wait for 10 more months to be able to do it again. I bought an inexpensive cx bike that sat in my garage unused for the better part of the next year.
The next year i decided to do LOTOJA as base training for CX season. I trained with my brother and friends all summer for this one event in September. I put in the miles. I did the work. I baby stepped. The week of LOTOJA came and i found myself with a sinus infection. It was preventing me from being able to get a good night sleep. My choices were to go into LOTOJA without any sleep, or to get on an antibiotic and not know exactly how it would effect me and at least try and get some sleep.
I got on the antibiotic.
We started out and my legs never warmed up. It was cold but my legs just felt stiff. As soon as we started the first climb at about 40 miles in, my chain broke.
The Robot was a little ahead of me and i yelled but he didn't hear and kept going. Luckily i was climbing better than the Doctor and cousin kevin and they were behind me. They came up and saw what had happened. I had a chain tool so i bent down to fix the chain and immediately, both of my legs locked up. I was cramping 40 miles into a 206 mile race. this was not good. I got my chain fixed and remounted my bike but knew i was in trouble. the Doc and Kevin paced me up the first climb and into montpellier. It literally felt like i was being stabbed
in the leg during every pedal stroke. I was an emotional wreck because i had just dedicated the last 9 months of my life training for an event that i was afraid i was going to have to pull out of 80 miles in. Once i got to Montpellier, i decided to push on and see how far i could go. The Doc and Kevin waiting patiently and helping me along the whole way. I struggled for the next several hours being towed along and feeling as if my thighs and calves were going to explode.
It turns out that one of the side effects of the antibiotic i got on was dehydration.
When we were just outside of Jackson, i was struggling but i knew there was only a few miles left to go so i sent my escorts ahead to finish. They could have gone much quicker but they waited and helped me along the whole way. They came into the finish and my wife, who had seen me at the feed zones knew what i was going through wondered why they left me. I rolled along slowly for the last 15 or so miles until a mile from the finish. I shifted my rear derrailleur but i was already in the easiest gear. This sent my derrailleur into my spokes breaking 3 of them and knocking my wheel so far out of true that it wouldn't spin. I was a mile from the finish so i ended up picking up my bike and carrying it the last mile across the finish line.
A couple of Saturdays ago, 6 minutes into a 60 minute race, my derrailleur got caught somehow and ripped the whole derrailleur hanger off my bike, wrapping it around my axel and exploding the derrailleur. I ended up picking up my bike, watching the guys that were behind me on the course pass me, and i ran back to the pit where luckily i had a spare bike. I kept racing even though at this point i was down a good 4 minutes on anybody else in the race. I lost my drive and eventually got lapped by the leader in the A group...twice. But i finished.
I have only DNF'd once in my life during a road race when i was sent the wrong way by a course marshall and ended up coming through the start finish line the wrong direction. I have seen a lot of racers pull the plug on a race if it is not going well. I have come to the realization that i will never be a professional bike racer since i am old, I have a full time job, I have a half a dozen kids and i was given a genetic crap-hole of a body to work with. I know that i will rarely win, but the one thing i will do is finish a race if i have any way of doing it. The only thing worse than a DFL is a DNF. There have been times when i really should have pulled the plug but there is something about quitting and event that i have a tough time sleeping with.
Cousin kevin signed up for his first marathon a few years ago and started cramping at mile 21. It was closer to his car than to the finish line so he just ran to the car instead. (i must note that he has done a few marathons since that first one but that have all been after a couple mile swim and 112 mile bike ride)
Why do you compete? Is it because you have a chance at the olympics or because you enjoy pushing yourself to see what your personal limits are? What is the final straw that would make you pull the plug on a race? A crash? Having your foot fall off? Cramping? A mechanical? All of the above in the same race?

1 comment:

Ski Bike Junkie said...

Well put, Seth. I have a few DNFs this season. All but one are because I was about to get lapped in a crit and got pulled. The one that was my choice was Bear Lake RR. I got dropped on lap one and after chasing had nothing left for lap two. I got dropped* at Chalk creek and rode ~80 of the 94 miles alone.

*Upgrading to cat. 2 was a big ego boost until I started racing as a cat. 2 and couldn't even hang onto the group.

As a "party at the back" cross racer, I get frustrated with guys that DNF. Every race, I am racing not to have my name last on the results sheet. And for some reason, UTCX does not put the DNFs on the results sheet. The couple of times I've been DFL, there was always at least one DNF who chose not finishing over finishing last.