19 April, 2009

Sea Otter Classic: Sunday, Race Day

The sun rose yellow and hot. There was no trace of fog and the air was already warm. The last forecast I had seen predicted highs in the 70's and it seemed like perfect weather.

It was a loud night last night since most campers were done racing. I didn't get enough sleep even though I had ear-plugs and complained at our drunk neighbors to pipe-down.

Regardless, I felt confident, ready. Last minute additions to my bike by Ryan have created a bike that inspires confidence.

As I lined up at the CAT 1 start I felt a little star-struck again. These guys weren't rag-tag like the sport class. Some were sponsored by major bike companies such as Giant and Specialized.

I was dropped right from the start, but I knew this race was about endurance. I felt more at ease as we started to thin-out into the single-track. I felt I was in the right race, and handled the tight-fast trail like a veteran.

The first lap was winding down and I felt good. Not super strong, but on track for a 3 hour time and possibly a top 10 finish. Heading into the last lap I kept pace with a small group, but started to cramp in my quads.

I backed off the pace as the cramping continued. I started to get passed. With 10 miles of the 39 to go, the cramping became serious.

This is where it starts to hurt.

To make a long and unpleasant story short, I experienced more charley-horses in the last 40 minutes than I have in my entire life. At 5 different times I was forced to freeze in place, straddling the bike. Both of my legs were completely rigid from top to bottom with a sharp, stabbing pain.

At this point I'm not racing anymore. I'm out of water. I don't care who passes me. I'm just trying to finish so that I can get off my feet.

I wasn't the only one suffering dehydration. As I rode on at a slow steady crawl I passed other riders frozen like statues, incapable of even moving off the trail for other riders to pass.

I cramped again. One middle-aged rider suggested I rest in the shade 2 feet in front of me. I didn't bother to tell him I couldn't move an inch. As the sun beat down another passed me with a smile. He chirped "that was me 5 minutes ago!"

The last few miles are all climbing, and some racers broke down. With the end in view they stood locked-up and yelling for water from the spectators.

At the top of the last hill my pinky & ring-finger on my right hand went numb, along with the outside part of my right forearm.

I knew the race was over and kept my feet spinning until I heard the cheering spectators at the finish line.

Final Results

39 miles in 3 hrs 16 min 53 sec for 22nd out of 31.

I would rank this as the 2nd most painful experience of my life (#1 a gnarly road rash from a broken collar bone bike wreck).

Above all, I learned that dehydration can come fast and furious when competing as an endurance athlete. Before now I had never witnessed anything like this, but I've since heard from other endurance athletes that it is somewhat common.

What masochists!

I wasn't the only one caught off-guard. The pro men raced a shortened track and still 25% did not start/finish the race. The temperature reached 90's during the mid-day,

The winning pro was World Champion Christoph Sauser from Switzerland.

Here is a good story about him and the heat at VeloNews w/photography!

All said and done, this Otter was the best. With so much going on, this is the first year I relaxed enough to enjoy it. I saw a stream of heroes and super-humans in all categories of bike riding.

Check out the other 3 days of Sea Otter racing and events!

Sea Otter Days 1-4

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A Special Thanks to the family and friends who supported me along the way!

I didn't place well, but as the saying goes,

"You have to shoot to score."