HA! So you thought you were going to read all kinds of juicy details regarding a personal crisis, and how I finally spun into a self imposed implosion!?! Nope. What I do want to finally get around to is my recent race experience at this years Palos Meltdown. I'm lucky. I live 15 minutes away from the very best mountain biking anywhere near Chicago. I'd be willing to bet the only trails to rival them are up north in Wisconsin's Kettle Morraine area. With a mountain bike race put on by cambr.org so close to home, there's no reason not to do it. I realized this year that if I wanted to race mountain bikes throughout the season, there was hardly nothing close by, and driving 100 plus miles to each event just didn't work out. I only did one race off road this year back in April, and that didn't go well. Back to the the Meltdown.... I originally signed up for the Sport class
The categories are pretty self explanatory, and considering I had not been racing it made sense. The catch was I had purchased a license in the beginning of the year (and joined a team etc). Licensed racers fit into the Comp, and Expert categories, but I could have chosen to race in any category I wanted.... So a 2 lap race for seasoned riders who don't race much (if any) made sense. BUT I haven't been getting any large volume or intensity rides in lately, and I'm going WAY up north to the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival in Mid September, and that is a 40 mile race on the famous Birkbeiner trail system. So the day before the race at 3 pm when I picked up my race packet (pickup closed at 3pm) I decided to move up into the Comp class for the extra miles. I decided to ride to the race (from the house) to get in an extra 10 miles and a nice warm up. Not to mention the race started at 1pm and I get nerve wracked prior to racing so I figured it would be best for everyone if I went on my "merry" way and have them meet me there.
Prerace line up. They start the expert men, 2 minutes later expert women, then comp 39 and under, followed LASTLY by comp 40 and over (my group). I was not liking the fact that I was among seasoned racers going off last. So off we go, and as always the pace is high right from the gun until we find our groove in the singletrack. I rode well. I came upon guys that went out too fast and seen a number of them pulled over to regroup. I was consistent. I never stopped. The course was GREAT. Including a very challenging climb 3/4's of the way thru each lap. I never had to stop, I rode up every climb including that ass kicker that had some great music, cowbells, and race fans. I cramped up on the last lap, I was hurting half way thru the last part, and paid attention to my effort to try and keep things going. It worked. I came across a few riders who weren't so fortunate, which was reassuring that I wasn't the only one dealing with the rigors of the days course. Then came what I call my "Darth Vader Moment". On the last lap I rode up on a guy on the team I joined. He was walking. I asked and found out he flatted, and had no gear to get going again. I stopped, told him my name was Ray, I joined his team in the beginning of the season, and considering how the season turned out, he will more than likely never see me again. I gave him my tube, tire iron, co2 cartridges and an inflator, and wished him well. I proceeded to ride off, with the thought that the whole fcuked up team "situation" was made right in my minds eye with that act of selflessness. No one chooses to be Darth Vader(not me at least)...You may not get that. lol
I rode the best I could that day. I rode well, never needing to stop, or dismount. I cleared every obstacle, every hill. I was smooth. I didn't place well in my age group in the Comp class though. I finished 21st out of 22 in the 40 and over group, and 55th out of 70 in the entire Comp class. If I would have raced the Sport class as planned I would have been in the top 1/3rd overall. To be honest I'm really down as to my performance, and the way this whole year went. For a multitude of reasons it's been nothing close to what I hoped for. How I trained, and a number of other things became inconsistent.With one race left in a couple weeks time, I want to just walk away. I feel like a failure. It's funny I've got boxes of trophies, and ribbons etc from my days before I retired from racing 10 or so years ago. This time around I haven't been able to get it together- AT ALL. Some good reasons and some bad. My mistake was thinking I could come back to it, and pick up where I left off. My life is different now, that and I'm older, and have more distractions. Some good some bad. I can no longer train and race all the time. Family still comes first, and that is a big reason why I walked away a decade ago. The guys that stuck with it are doing great, but I don't think it's to be for me. A racer deflated, a (pseudo)season in turmoil, an unrealistic outlook. The passion was/is there, the love of the sport was/is there, I wasn't.... Not sure what to do next. Regardless of how jacked up this year was, I'm grateful that I was able to cross train boy #1 while he was rehabbing a high school running injury. When he was smaller I was hoping he would be all over the sport, and he wanted nothing to do with it, now I think he picked up a liking to 2 wheels, that, and I had some quality time with him, and regardless of what I decide to do, I'm looking forward to more of that.
Sometimes life doesn't work out the way you want it to, sometimes you can get caught up in your past glories, sometimes you place your self worth in the wrong place, sometimes you can be your own worst enemy, sometimes it's time to move on, sometimes you have to accept where your at. Sometimes you just have to get it off your chest regardless of how damn silly it may sound to the rest of the world.
So there, I said it...Jeez, I can kind of understand how Marco Pantani felt when he couldn't get it together again.Anyway, I found a couple pictures from the race, and they actually turned out nice. Regardless of the bitchin, moanin, and complainin, I'm glad I did it.