Six weeks away from racing. Been riding every weekend, despite the sweltering VA heat and humidity. I feel good. I feel prepared. I could not have been more wrong.
The heat beats down on the riders as the sun gets higher in the sky, the humidity wraps itself around you like a wet hug from your least favorite, most sweaty obese aunt. As usual I am the idiot in the all black protective gear, soaking up the warmth like a blast furnace sponge. Won't be so bad once we get moving...
If I ever fucking get moving. The green flag drops and I kick the Gas Gas EC300 over hard. Nothing happens. I'd been practicing this and it lit every time first try. Second kick and still nothing. The other riders are beginning to tear away in a cloud of dust and soon I am alone. Kicking frantically with no success. Yeah, I'm that fucking guy today. I don't know what's worse, the exhaustion or embarrassment.
Seconds turn into a minute and the officials are trying to move me from the line so they can start the next wave. Finally the piece of shit lights and I am gone with a first and second gear wheelie that lasts nearly the length of the field. It's the longest wheelie I have ever done and I couldn't repeat it if I tried.
I remind myself to save some energy for the 3 laps of this 8.5 mile technical single-track course, but I have to catch the other bozos in my class. After 35 minutes of bouncing and bounding through the woods, picking off stragglers, dodging guys stuck on hillclimbs, I reach timing and scoring. From last to 5th. Ok, that's good. Two laps to go, but damn I am already tired and dripping with perspiration. Pants are soaked, goggle foam is soaked and leaking on to my face and I am pretty sure my brain is simmering like spaghetti sauce in my helmet, even my boots feel squishy and we haven't had any water crossings. I must have leaked half of myself out by now.
Another long lap, the second one lasts 34 minutes, but this time I have rabbits to chase, finally able to see 4th, 3rd and 2nd place. A quick line change on a rocky, rutted and rooty uphill puts me into the 4th spot, but he isn't willing to give it up so easily. We trade positions and mistakes for the next ten minutes. I am exhausted. My head doesn't feel quite right. Ignore it. Keep going.
Crashing. I tuck the front as the bike decides it doesn't want to catch the small berm, but would rather sail over it and throw me down to the ground for my insolence. The crash is jarring and it hurts, but most of my body seems intact. It takes three kicks to get started again, all with my left leg because the right one is useless. I remount, but my brain is telling me I am done. This is the beginning of the third lap and my descent into Hell.
I never see 3rd place again. In fact, I seem to be seeing less and less as my eyesight narrows into tunnel vision. Things are also occasionally getting blurry. Pulling a tear-off does not help. Removing the goggles doesn't either. I shove the drink tube in my mouth and suck it all down. Someone is tightening a giant rubber band around my chest. My arms are noodles. I can't stand up. It's all I can do to keep the bike upright and remember to shift. There is no strength remaining. What scary feeling when your body starts shutting down and you know it. My last rational thought is to get off the damn course and strip naked. Like most rational and sensible suggestions in my life, it's ignored. I'm an idiot and I know it.
Somehow I finish the race. 4th. I've got a pretty good case of heat exhaustion and dehydration, despite all my preparations and training to the contrary. I'm embarrassed to say that I made the wrong decision to continue. Risking not only my safety, but potentially (had there been anyone around) other riders' as well. I don't feel tough, or like I accomplished anything. Nothing more than getting lucky. And you can only push your luck so many times until it bites you. Lesson learned.
I've often said that racing is a lot like life. Today proves no different. No matter how well prepared, how good you feel, how much of a badass you think you are, you can very easily get your ass kicked. I sure did.
|This is the only photo of a race I would rather forget. Slightly ironic is the fact that that is a KDX200 right behind me.|
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