Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ragnarok 2012

It's been a week since I 'raced' in the Ragnarok and I am not kidding when I tell you, just looking at the pictures makes me feel the pain again. This ride is so much more then 100 miles of gravel. It's the hills that kill you.

I was recovering from a cold the week before; I start out feeling ok but with weak lungs and a cough I still have.
I don't know too many racers but I find 4 or 5 guys I know and try and get a little advice and otherwise wish them luck.

The day is threatening rain, temps are cool but ok for hill climbing.

I have toed the line in about 18 bike races in my life so I still feel green but not a rookie. I've not raced 108 miles. I've ridden for 8 hours, I've ridden 100 miles, and I've ridden 50 miles fast (for most) but not all together in a fast, hilly 108.

 Pre-race briefing. There is almost always good information in these pre-race talks. Many people think its just the standard pre-race raa-raa and don't pay attention.

My wife has taught me over the years to listen and read when I just want to go. This briefing tells about a closed road but it's open and cross-able and to ignore the "Road Closed" signs.

Left: I'm in red with the yellow rain jacket on my pack. I'm clearing my computer.

 Toeing the line. I choose outside and back. I expect to be a mid to front-mid pack rider so I choose right side about 60% back. I size up the riders and I think I'm in the right spot. I expect to pass a few on the first hill.

Brett had a pre-Roc ride so I'm not totally green and I know the first 5 miles. I'm hoping to find some riders my speed to work with. I'm a little nervous about navigating and getting lost and running out of supplies.
The launch, the best part of the race next to finishing following "half way!"

I blow the launch and almost crashed in the first 10 feet. The start got me a bit off guard but I mount up and go to clip in. The right blows off and the left clips, I'm too slow and too close to others and I have to go low and kick the bike like a skateboard for 10 feet, yaw right (so I don't trap others) clip in, and then peddle out. I connect with Brett for the motor lead out (think pace car.) We talk about the race course and have an easy peddle to the first hill.

I find some riders to 'work' with but my cold has affected my lungs more then expected. I try and go it myself for a few miles with the main pack but most are too slow and the rest don't really seem open to working as a team with a solo guy. I pass and am overtaken by Dan Dittmer 3 times before I hook in to him and his buddy's wheels. They were gentleman and let me hook in and hide out for the first 40 miles.

I'm not proud of this photo but I'm the guy hiding behind Dan's friend. I owe him and his buddy a beer next time we are out. I never pulled for them. I was too weak.

This is the first checkpoint at 36 miles. I lose Dan and team. I was feeling good but I wasn't

use to feeding at that pace and didn't eat for the entire 36 miles so I was blowing up and knew I messed up.

My wife came down with our dog, Scooby, for support so I fired down some sugary drink and headed off. I eat on the go. At my pace I can feed as needed.

Out of checkpoint one. This is where not being totally green pays off. I'm thinking, slow is fast, and I have a great start. My pace with Dan was 15.7 (I think, and only 8 minutes behind the leaders, but they got lost...) and I was in a great place. If I could eat and pace out something in the 13/14 range I may recover for a strong personal finish.

Well that dream lasted about two hours. Mile 62 brought hell fire to the legs and hills that break your will to turn a crank. I never recovered and my legs, having no voting stock, had to take
orders from the president of "never quit". My legs called a wildcat strike on the next hill and I pushed my bike no less than 4 times. I had company on about half the walks and the topic was what a great race and what a great time we were having. I guess. If you go into a 100 miles of gravel, you want to hurt and hurt we got.

This is me rolling into Checkpoint 2 (81 miles). I am shot, I hurt, I just want to finish. I know it's going to happen, but I will need to pay the legs a small ransom because they are now in charge. I need them to help me finish so I have the team I needed all along, myself.

Finishing is always good but it's with mixed feeling I finish anything. My spirit to never give up is at odds with my sense of pure challenge. That is, I want a 50/50 chance of failure. I want to have failure because it's so powerful a lesson but you can't just be a puss and give in when it looks scary or hard.

If I finished strong and in the top ten, it wasn't hard enough. Winning is odd, it says you're the best but it also means you didn't set the bar high enough. You should not win, you should do well but suffer at the limits of human resolve.

I'm done; that red line in the last foot that counts. I'm happy to be done, my desire to quit was a 7 of 10 (10 is actually quitting) so I thought about it but I was using it as a tool. "Quit at the next check point" but that was just to keep the legs turning and the brain from going into despair. Strategic lies to keep your mind right.

I ride for 8 hours 8 minutes but take 8:26 to finish. I meet a good friend Troy near the finish, and we cross the line together. Troy passes me on the down hill so he was actually faster, but the finish was at the top of the hill so I crossed first but he beat me.

I'll do better next year. The first time is always the worst... Too Green.

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