Where to start? I was feeling really good coming into this race. Lots of rest. I don't think I have ever been so well rested before. I was going to need it.
Loaded up and ready to roll on Friday afternoon.
On the drive down was the first sign of what was to come. We went through a crazy downpour/thunderstorm. I love riding in the elements but this was also what would lead to my finish. It didn't last long but of course it had me thinking.
The setup was done and it was time to relax. Adam takes care of us with the same site as usual. Right beside the course at the road crossing. Great for the support crew.
Alright, time for the race. I woke up feeling good. It was warming up fast. This would also be a factor. After an easy warm up ride Dr. Bill stretched me out. It was great to have him down there.
The start. Meg was down early to stage me near the front. Of course trying to spot her was tough with almost 400 riders in the pack. A quick glance around to see who was where. Andrew Parry and Tristan Smit were together just to my left. Two of a couple people I would be aware of. Even though he was in a different age group everyone was looking for Hendershot. Found out later that he didn't make the race. Matt Klymson was up at the front also.
The course didn't have a huge amount of climbing in it but the start loop has a few to split up the pack. It also has lots of chatter bumps. The count down begins and the pack swarms forward. My plan was to keep Andrew in sight for the first lap then pass him on the second. Tristan and Matt were going to hammer hard right off the front. I wanted to be somewhere in the middle of them.
5 minutes into the race I reached for my bottle. Shit! It's not there. Somewhere in the chatter bumps it disappeared. This lap is going to hurt. I had to back it down or I was going to hurt. We passed the timing tent and I caught a glimpse of my sister and let her know what happened. For the next half of this lap I'm hoping that she is able to get to the mid way point of the course with a bottle before I get there.
Didn't happen. I hit the feed zone, no sister, no bottle. Shit. The guy in front of me had already heard my concern as we hit the mid way point. As we go through he hands his bottle to one of the volunteers and calls back to me. Drink. I'm not sure what he had in there but I didn't care. It was fluids and I needed it. I owe you a beer and then some. Thank you.
I started to pick up the pace again. Lap 1 done. Refueled and rolling. Now I don't think any of the riders realized how hot it really was. I found my rhythm on the 2nd lap. This was the pace I wanted to maintain. Near the end of the 2nd lap I passed Andrew. He was in his zone. He was an energy efficiency junkie. No wasted movements.
The third lap was steady and feeling good. Loving the course, no traffic in front of me. Go with it. Just under and hour. The fourth lap was interesting. The lap itself was fine, right around an hour. I had a bike swap to do at this point. I was on the hardtail for the the first 4.
I sat for a second and was about to eat some real food when it hit. HMMMM my stomach feels funny. "HMMMM, get up Matt" I crossed to the other side of the course and proceeded to put at least two bottles of Cytomax into the bush. Overheat. My sister thought quick and had ice on me in a matter of moments. 5 minutes later I was eating and drinking again, gotta go. She made me sit for another 5.
The next couple laps were pretty steady with just over an hour lap times. I had a few moments of blah's and low energy but they would rebound the next lap. I was sitting in 4th at this point and only a couple minutes behind 3rd. I was sticking to my plan.
Next bike swap was just before 8 pm. We had some dark clouds roll in and the trails got dark. Some thunder rolled through. This could be interesting. The rain did hold off but I had lights on the bike. I was feeling really good at this point and didn't want to stop. Unfortunately the bike had a different attitude. About half way through the lap I started to wonder why I was leaning forward so much. I hit another bump and looked down. The shock was rebounding but very slowly. What to do? Screw it, keep riding. I tried to ride with as little weight on the front end as I could. Hit the pit, quick bike swap and I was back out.
The next two laps were pretty mellow. Of course the energy level was dropping a bit at this point. There were a couple points I would look forward to on the course to keep me going. One was the Albion Witch section of single track the other was all the boys from Misfit Psycles. They set up this dance party at the mid way point of the course. We were routed right through the center of it. Every time through I came out smiling. Those single speeders know how to put on a party.
I started to get revitalized just after midnight and my lap times started to get a bit faster. I was also in a great mood. No pain, was having fun and making jokes with the pit crew as I came through. Things were looking good. Still in 4th.
It was around 1pm when hell began to freeze over. Ok, maybe not that bad. This is when it started to rain. Now normally I have no problem with this. Unfortunately the course had some issues with this. The sugar shack shuffle is about 3/4 of a kilometer of rollers about 3 feet high. ALL CLAY!!
Everything on the course had been ridable to this point even with the rain. I came into the sugar shack and the bike slid out from under me. Hey there are people on the ground. Not good. We all took turns trying to ride a little as the others followed pushing/pulling their bikes behind them. For me this was not a good thing. It was extremely slippery and I was sliding everywhere. My knees were starting to scream with all the twisting. It took roughly 15 minutes to get through this section which usually took just a couple minutes. I came out of there a little concerned. The rain was still coming down.
The rest of the lap was fine and I was still sorta happy. My energy level had been going up until this point. The rain had let up a bit and I was still ok till I hit the sugar shack again. This is where I went downhill. The first time was hard, this time was worst. I fell a couple times and felt both knees scream stop. For those that don't know, I spent most of the winter rebuilding all the stabilizer muscles. Huge tracking problems caused from a race very similar to these kind of conditions.
I also had slowed down enough that I began to get the chills. When I say I went downhill I think dropping like a rock was a better description. I was alone this time going through the shuffle and it took every ounce of strenght to get to the other side. I stopped on the other side. Head down. The wall and it was huge.
Not sure how long I was like that but I hear this voice. "Are you Ok?" Ya I respond lifting my head. Not sure what the full words were but it was something like Alright Matt lets walk and keep moving. It was Peter from Misfit. He managed to get me moving again. Thanks Peter. He was in the same boat as me. Racing in the over 40 category. We hit his pit area/dance party.
Tom (Nspace from MTBR) grabbed me a Misfit shirt and helped to get me going. The next 30 minutes were hard. I was getting cold and my energy was low. Going down hill was torture. I finally made it back to my pit. Sat down and started to shake. 3 blanks and beside the fire it took forever for me to stop. Decisions.
My knees were in a world of pain. Climbing hurt, I'm done. It was the hardest decision I've made in a long time. I've raced with 2 broken ribs, a foot I could barely stand on and severe cramps. Lets just say that all the drugs I took earlier could not even control the pain. Of course I'm also saying to myself you are close to standing on the podium.
In the end it was the right decision. As shitty as it was. I have to say thank you to my family for helping out so much at the race. Everyone was awesome. Meg for love and support I needed at the right times. Brent for keeping my bikes going, they ran perfect. Peter for getting me moving again. I think I could have become a permanent fixture had you not come along when you did.
This was a hard race for alot of us. Andrew had some problems with the heat, it was disappointing to hear that he was out. Matt Klymson had back problems and was out after 6 laps. Congratulations to Tristan. You were untouchable this weekend. Also to Rick from Big Ring Racing taking 6th. Well deserved. Dave Stowe was back at the top also. I know there was roughly 2 minutes difference between him and 1st place. I have not seen the final results.
As for me, I'm taking a few days off to recover. I'm starting to look at the next races already. Lost in the Rock and Trees 100km and the summer 8 Hour are probably on the agenda.
It's time for a beer. There was probably alot more to bring up but that's all the brain can handle right now.