Worst. Race. Ever.
Well, maybe a BIT of an exagaration, but that was pretty bad. Saturday, I saddled up for my first pedal turns "in anger" for this year, the Winter Park Crankworks Cross Country. Apparently 3+ weeks of lounging around at sea level, stuffing my face with beer & food is not the best prep for a mountain bike race at altitude. Who'da thunk it?
20-odd mile course, good climbs at the beginning & near the end. The old sport guys headed out at a fairly sedate pace into the first climb up sunken bridges. Even then, I feel like I'm climbing like a brick, and slowly loose contact with the front group of 5 or so. Course, during the climb, some of the juniors we start with, and the FAST guys in the front of the Clydesdales come up, and I immediately loose track of where I am relative to anyone. Down Zoom, out Elk Meadow, and into the D2/WTB/D4 maze & haze of pain. Actually was starting to come around, and started to close on some people up those climbs, so think I'm on my normal "later in the race" surge. Down onto St.Louis Creek road, grab a Gu, slam some "gack" and jump out of the saddle to roll up and close the gap to a group ahead, like I usually do at that point.
Strange, as I try to spin up the gear, I get the first twinges of a good cramp in both Quads. Hmmm, that can't be good this far out. Back off, spin out the legs instead of chasing, slam the rest of the electrolytes, guzzle more water, start feeling better. Then we start climbing up the back side of the ski area, an easy, gentle road climb. Uh-oh, NOT feeling better anymore. Am on the edge of cramping again. THEN we hit the steeper, rocky doubletrack. That was it. power evaporates, legs start to seize up. I think getting off & walking a minute might help loosen my legs up, so I dismount to do just that.
WRONG thing to do. I've NEVER had cramps like I did at that moment. Both quads lock completely up, freezing both legs in a clenched, fully extended position, in total agony. Takes what felt like a full minute to unlock one leg & bend it, stopping the searing pain. Course, the other leg then continues to scream. This sets off what must have been a VERY houmurous episode of alternating from one leg to the other, while making increasingly violent grunts & screams. Given the strange looks other rides gave me as they passed, it must have been either scary, bewildering, or downright funny to watch my strange little dance.
Finally realize I can't jump from one leg to the other indefinetly, so I decide I need to sit down. Course, I can't figure out HOW to do that when I can't bend either leg. Eventually I was able to invent some strange way of sitting down while only bending one leg (also quite amusing, I gathered...). Minute or 2 sitting on the ground, massaging my quads got me back to "functional". Gee, only 45 or so minutes and a good climb to go.
From there, things are kinda blurry. Turns out it's hard to RACE a bike when you can't pedal hard. I figured out the one speed I had that did not set off any more cramps, and tried to hold that the rest of the way in. Even managed to pass back a couple of guys in my group in that state. Ended up almost "battling" a guy to the line, without the ability to pedal hard. Was pretty strange way to "race". NEVER have I cramped that hard, or that long in a race. 45 minutes of CAREFUL pedaling to get to the finish. Even managed to cramp up getting my shoes off at the truck. Fun.
Still pulled off an almost mid pack finish, in spite of the "little issues" I had. This one was hard to call "fun", even in bike racing terms. Oh well, hope to have a better day at King of the Rockies in a few weeks.
I did notice a strange trend in the Race results from the race up there. The field sizes by age group show that at least in the Winter Park series, nobody but 35 to 45 year olds seem to race mountain bikes. The level of participation PLUMMETS at 50 + years old. Am I missing something? Does it hurt THAT much when you are old? Why do so many 45 year olds race, then they all suddenly stop racing 5 years later. Guess you could ask the same thing for less than 35 years old as well.
You see this in the "masters bubble" in road & cross racing too. Sure bike racing is decidedly a rich, middle aged white guy sport in general, but it's strange the sudden halt in participation for older riders. Any idea why? Are they just smarter than I am?