My race report is long overdue. Bend was awesome this year. Nats was awesome, too. Here's a quick recap.
I left for Bend Thursday night after tucking in the kids. My buddy Richard drove, and we stayed at his house in Bend, so my lodging was totally taken care of. After nearly running out of gas, we rolled in to Bend at about 1am. We got a good night's sleep and then prepared for the festivities the next morning.
I raced in my age group category, along with over 150 other guys. To determine who should line up on the start line ahead of the other, the race organizers decided to run a time trial to seed us. Pretty good idea. The time trial was Friday, at a course separate from the actual race course. I'm really glad they held the time trial, because all my nerves and brain farts seemed to come out there instead of the main event. My start was ridiculous. It took me at least a couple minutes to settle in to the TT, and that's not good when your race only lasts six minutes. But damn, it was fun, and I was racing. My time was not good (wasn't a surprise), so I was set to start in 76th place...right in the middle of the pack. I could be worse!
Friday turned out to be a pretty nice day. It was cold, but not too cold and not too rainy. Richard and I rode from the TT to the actual race course and got in a few laps. It was great fun. The course was heavy, slippery, and challenging. Even better than last year, hands down. Longer, too...I think.
We did a final impromptu hot lap (well, I'd say "hot-ish") and then rode home, giddy from the fun we'd just had. The course was fantastic, and we talked about the various spots we'd enjoyed or had troubles. It was fun. I must have been on the bike for at least a few hours that day, and I felt great. I had a lot of cobwebs to get out, and all that riding flushed my system and got me back to feeling like a bike racer. Just in time.
Saturday came around. Race day. My race was 9:30am. I haven't raced that early in a very long time. I got up early to see heavy snow outside. My plan was to ride to the race course, and then maybe sneak in a lap to test the course in the morning. I'd gotten plenty warm the previous day by doing this, so I figured it was perfect preparation for my race.
I left the house wearing all the layers I had. It was pretty chilly out there, much colder than the day before. And the heavy snow turned to heavy rain, with fluffy snow flakes mixed in for effect. It was cold. By the time I got to the race course, I was soaking wet and quite chilled. I didn't have a trainer to ride, and there was still an hour to go before my race.
I really tried to get warm but nothing worked, short of going into the registration building and running hot water over my hands for five minutes. With 20 minutes to go I got back outside and did some starts to try and get my body ready for the effort. Thankfully, Richard drove to the race course with my other bike. He took my B bike to the pit and even was my pit guy for the race! Never had that before, and it was pretty cool.
As we lined up to race, Richard took all my soaking wet clothes for me. My gloves were saturated and I considered racing without them, but their bright red color told me that was probably a bad idea. Wet gloves are better than no gloves when it's freezing outside...right? How would I know? I live in Portland for crying out loud.
Anyway, gloves are on, we are lined up, focused. I look down the course and plan to take an outside line to avoid the carnage of the first turn. Gun goes off, and we all charge down the starting straight, now covered in a good inch of fresh slush, getting tossed up and dousing my body, ensuring every square inch of me was soaked to the bone.
The first crash was predictably on the inside line. I got around it before it spread to the outside and kept going with a lot of shoulder bumping. Another crash right in front of me, so I moved over left, accelerating. Then there's a bike flying through the air and I cut back right to get around the guys on the ground. What a mess! But after that, it was game on. I survived the start!
I was not happy on my first lap. Getting cut off and screwing up my lines from nerves, I was getting frustrated. My hands were notably frozen half way in to the first lap. I remember thinking this was going to suck after the race and just tried to ignore it. By lap two, I found rhythm and was starting to do okay. The mud was thick and I was totally loving it. I was pushing as hard as I could through a heavy rutted section along the left side when I just got tossed into a course stake. I knocked one of them over, and stopped instantly on the second one. Took a bit to get the bike untangled and the chain back on, but I got going. From there on out, it was smooth sailing.
I always moved up. It was the good kind of moving up, too, where you set your sites on a group, catch them, move to the front of the group, and then leave them behind. I just kept doing that, and even though I was nowhere near the front, It was fun as hell. I couldn't shift my bike without contorting my frozen hands, but I was still having the time of my life.
We soldiered on in the cold rain. The weather was just terrible. Cold is one thing. Rain is another. Put them together and you are not going to be very comfortable. It was difficult, which made it even more awesome for me.
The race was over in 45 minutes. I would have rather had another 15 minutes like I normally do, but this time I was kind of glad to be done. Things started hurting. Bad.
I crossed the line and let my bike fall on the ground. My hands started screaming at me. Well, I think they had been screaming the entire race, but I was quite distracted with other things. Now, my hands were not going to take it anymore. They were pissed, and they sure let me know it. The pain was crazy. I tried to find a warm spot on my body to put them, but everything was cold. Richard caught up to me and started saying a few things, but I really don't remember what he said, or if I even heard him in the first place. My hands were screaming louder than the PA system.
I did hear Richard suggest I go find a fire to warm my hands up, which I agreed was a great idea. They had fire pits scattered around the infield, but of course none of them would light because the wood was drenched. I somehow stumbled over to a Hammer tent and the guys there let me warm my hands with their propane heater. I was desperate, and they helped me out. After a good five minutes, my hands were feeling okay. And then I started to realize the rest of my body was pretty damn cold, too. Richard again caught up to me and bought me a big coffee. My hands were shaking so bad, I couldn't hold on to the cup or drink. It was weird. Richard then got me to his car, where I got on some dry clothes, and got home for a warm shower. He totally saved me a trip to the ER for hypothermia. Thanks, Richard.
So Bend was pretty awesome. I'm gonna say it was even epic, which I don't use lightly. Any time you say to yourself "Damn, this is going to be awesome if I survive" is epic in my book.