I’ve had a string of bad races and rides over the last few months, and it left me feeling rattled and questioning my abilities. Usually grinding out miles on my bike for hours is my sweet spot; however, the past few months I haven’t been able to ride my bike successfully for more than 2 hours. Solstice Chase – dizzy, crashing, unable to get my head to push my body. At one point I looked longingly at a snowbank and wanted to curl up and die. I cut the race short for a DNF (did not finish). Cold Catfish Cup – dizzy again, massive headache, crashing repeatedly because steering my bike was unmanageable. I slogged it out and managed to be DFL (dead fucking last)! I counted it as a major victory. Throw in a few attempts at training rides that ended poorly, and I was left wondering what the heck was wrong with my body.
Today I rode the Fatbike Frozen Forty. I was excited going into the race because it represented doing something waaaaay outside my bike comfort zone, and I’m drawn to that kind of insanity. It’s been awhile since I’ve pushed myself into something new. If completed, it would be my highest number of miles of singletrack in a day, at subzero temperatures, and with some ice to boot.
I decided that my goal for the ride would be to finish the journey and maybe even sing a little while I rode — I like to hum or sing to myself on distance rides when I’m in my happy zone — not gasping for breath, enjoying the scenery, and with enough extra energy to belt out bad pop songs!
My goal today was to eat TONS of calories, because I wanted to figure out if the dizziness and headaches were due to bonking or due to some other health thing. I set a timer on my Garmin and ate religiously every 30 minutes during the race even though I hate it – for me, it requires coming to a full stop while on singletrack due to my lack of coordination. I choke down a gel or two, gulp some water, and watch other riders pass me, never to be seen again.
I spent the first lap focusing on learning how to ride on the ice without having to put a foot down so much — I counted at least a half dozen times I had to unclip and stick out a leg to catch myself. There were occasional patches of ice out on the course today, and ruts that would grab your wheel and select your line for you. Lap time (per Strava segment, official chip times aren’t up yet): 1:29.
On lap two I forced myself to work on a new skill — I decided that if I could see a decent run-out with low ice, I needed to lay off the brakes. I spend most of my time on singletrack jamming on the brakes, and then reaccelerating my billion pound fat bike to get back up to speed. It’s exhausting, and dang it my hands are sore tonight. Lap time: 1:27 — a two minute improvement!!
Lap three was all about actually trying to PEDAL MORE when I could see a run-out. I spend a lot of time coasting around, braking, and not pushing my legs very much. Singletrack challenges my ability to steer my bike, not push my legs and lungs (yet). Apparently muttering “pedal, dammit!” every other minute pays off. Lap time: 1:26!! Another minute faster!!
Lap four was the “scenic lap”. All of the fatbikes that had come through before, over and over, had scrubbed the small layer of snow off of the ice. It was SLICK. I struggled to keep the bike upright, and rolled around at what felt like a glacial pace. I passed a trail marker with the same # as the date of my birthday and sang “Happy Birthday” to myself, out loud. I sang a terrible custom rendition of Drake’s Hotline Bling when my Garmin would chime out at 30 minute intervals. I sang other atrocious pop songs, too terrible to mention. I smiled and waved at race officials, grinned at intrepid photographers staked out on the course, talked to other riders, the birds, said hi to squirrels… I was unstoppable! Lap time: unknown. My Garmin died, and I didn’t care! (ok, I cared just a little. I love Strava too much.)
I’m not exactly sure how long it took me to finish — somewhere between 6-7 hours, I think. I’m thrilled!! My achieved my goal of finding my comfort zone, pedaling for hours, not hating my bike, and finishing HAPPY. I feel just a little more calm heading into my spring season, knowing that my fitness base isn’t as blown to bits as I suspected. I’ve got some interesting plans for the upcoming months, so it’s time for shit to start getting serious.
Randomness (I get nothing for talking about these things; rather, I’m a raving fan and I’m still high on endorphins from the ride)
- Todd Bauer (who took the photo above) and the other photographers on course today were awesome. I can almost always ham it up for the camera even during suffering. I think the pic above was from lap 4 when I WAS actually having a blast though?!
- Check out his stuff – Todd Bauer Images
- Wool is my savior. My car said the start temp was -10F or something ridiculous like that. I wore more wool today than ever before and I felt damn near perfect.
- Twin Six wool neck gaiter (you need one)
- Thank goodness for studded tires. I’m a clutz, and they saved my neck today.
- I discovered a way to route my Camelbak hose under my armpit and keep the drink valve tucked inside my jacket. Zero freeze-ups, and dang that thing was comfortable.
- I’d post a link to my MAGICAL Mavic jacket, but they don’t make it anymore. Vents in the arms, breatheable fabric in the pits and across the back, it’s amazing.