Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Monday with exhaustion and night ride

Monday morning I woke up exhausted. My legs were tingling, my back was tired, and my right index finger which I smashed with a rock doing trail work Sunday morning was throbbing. Normally I’m up and brewing coffee by 5:30, but it was nearly 7:00 AM by the time I dragged myself vertical on Monday. I felt beaten.

Obviously I needed to take it easy for a day. Actually easy, not the phony kind of easy where I just do a 35 mile ride.

I drank coffee and ate breakfast, went outside to tinker with a couple things that needed tinkered with on the POD, then drifted over to talk to my neighbors. They were moving their camp to the spot they occupy during the race weekend. Normally they would move next week, but there has been quite a bit of activity up here. Over the weekend there were perhaps half a dozen RV’s and campsites set up as riders came out here to spend time practicing on the course.

After I visited with my friends for a while, I wandered back toward the POD and got into a leisurely discussion with a young couple who had set up a travel trailer near the POD. They had two scruffy little dogs, which of course meant they couldn’t be bad people. Turns out they had a pair of cats in the trailer. I wound up bringing a chair over from the POD and hanging out in their “front yard” for the rest of the morning. It got nice and warm.

Keith, the guy half of this couple asked me if I wanted to join him for a ride. I told him that I wasn’t going to ride that day—but perhaps an easy night ride after the sun went down?

So that seemed like a pretty good easy day plan, loaf around all day doing as little as possible, eat a big lunch, maybe have a nap, then strap on the lights and do an easy lap after dark. That would give me 36 hours off the bike, and a day’s worth of recovery, then take a really easy lap just to loosen up a little before bed.

I never did nap, but after lunch I pulled out the comfy plastic chaise lounge and sat in the sun reading a book. It was probably the nicest day here yet, by the way. About 68°, windless, high clouds--perfect.

Then the sun went down and I put my lights on the bike, suited up and rolled around warming up for 20 minutes while Keith finished his dinner and got ready to go. I actually have not done any night riding since getting to AZ. It’s been too danged cold at night to really get excited about riding after dark. Monday night was cool, but really very pleasant.

Keith and I rode really easy, chatting quite a bit. I insisted that he lead at one point and he rode away from me--pretty danged quick rider. I hustled for the first time a little just trying to close the gap. Then the pace went back to easy for another couple miles.

As we finished one of the singletrack sections we saw a group of riders who were passing through one of the gates and had it open. I called out for them to keep it open a few seconds so we could ride through. It was a group of guys I’ve met before who spend quite a bit of time at the venue. One of them is Wayne, a really good guy with fireplug legs who rides a Santa Cruz Superlight. Wayne was warning me about how I should move my trailer because of the 2 week limit on camping in one place. We discussed the finer points of Arizona State Trust land use as half a dozen riders rolled together in the dark down a rutty doubletrack.

When we got to the end of the doubletrack and the start of one of the last two sections of singletrack on the course, Wayne took the lead and I went behind him. Wayne’s lights were starting to run down, and he made a mistake and went wide around one of the first curves. I passed, and now I was leading. This caused a switch in my brain to be flipped, and I picked up my pace a little. Suddenly Wayne was right there. Then the game was on.

I started going faster, and soon was knifing around the corners. Wayne stayed right on my wheel. The whole line of riders were close behind. I would pick up a little gap, and then I’d hear Wayne right on my wheel again. Cactus and mesquite started to blur a little as I studied the trail in my headlight and looked for places to pick up time. I would roll over something, then almost instantly I would hear Wayne hit it. His lights were weak and orange since they were failing, so it was hard to tell just how close he was. 4 or 5 other riders’ lights back there were throwing all sorts of weird shadows around. It was intense, just like a moment from an actual night race.

Then I made a mistake and went wide. My front wheel was headed for a joshua tree at the outside of the turn, so I steered back onto the track, simultaneously braking hard. I felt Wayne’s front tire hit my rear tire then I heard him go down. I stopped, and instantly there were four more riders all skidding to a stop. Wayne had just fallen over in sand and wasn’t hurt so we all laughed and started talking about how fun and fast that was, and how this same section of the course invited lots of crashes during the first lap of the race.

It really got me going for race day. This is going to be fun. By the time it gets dark on race day I’ll be at least four laps in. I may not have the kind of speed that made this game of follow-the-leader exciting. But it’s going to be fun.

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