Sunday, February 7, 2010

Episode V: The Emily Strikes Back

For once, I managed to finish Snake Creek Gap TT without any disasters. This was the fifth time I'd lined up (or intended to line up) at the start of the Snake but the first time I'd rolled over the finish line unscathed. The story so far:
  • Jan. 09: Rode with a hastily-rigged-up vintage Suntour 7-speed thumbshifter for the rear derailleur, because I'd broken my XO trigger shifter a couple days earlier. Not surprisingly, a 7-speed shifter didn't work too well with a 9-speed cassette and I was skipping gears and fighting the indexing the whole race. At best I had about three useable cogs in back plus the three rings in front. Finish time? I have no idea. I don't think I ever checked and I can't find last January's results online anywhere. I was definitely slow.
  • Feb. 09: It was going great until I got a stick up in my drivetrain while passing someone at mile 10. Broken derailleur hanger, a couple miles walk back to the road crossing, and a ride back to the start with one of the volunteers. DNF.
  • March 09: A respiratory infection set in the night before the race. Started anyway, but by mile 5 was puking on the side of the trail with any hard effort. I tried to just ride it out, but I couldn't keep any calories or liquids down and by mile 19 I couldn't go any farther. A couple miles softpedal back to the sag, and a ride back to the start with one of the volunteers. DNF.
  • Jan. 10: It was well below freezing and no way was I crossing the river in that cold. Also I was still kind of hurty from a crash in Arizona over Xmas. I do not at all regret deciding not to race in those conditions. DNS.
So the score stood at Snake: 4, Emily: 0 yesterday morning. There'd been a lot of rain for a couple days so it was gonna be really muddy. But at least the temperature was in the 40s so the river crossing would not be so bad. My new Lynskey Pro29 is not ready to ride yet so I was on the trusty old Epic. Some wheel issues were resolved, good mud tires mounted, and the bike was overall in pretty good shape.

The trails for the first half were pretty grizzly. Deep puddles and loose mud. The river at mile 2 was swollen from all the new rain. The crossing was belly-button deep on me and the current so strong it was pushing me and my shouldered bike off balance. A lot of racers had complicatedly-planned clothing changes for this, and were sitting on either bank dealing with that. But there was no danger of frostbite on a 45 degree day, and with many other smaller creek crossings ahead there was no way to avoid being wet and cold. I just jumped off, strolled in and out the other side without breaking pace, jumped back on, and rode away, which is just easier mentally for me with creek crossings. Easier mentally, but perhaps not so easy on the muscles. Even though I didn't feel too cold my legs were real sluggish and cramping weirdly for the next hour or so, maybe from their quick dunk in icewater.

Strolling into the river. It just got deeper from this point.

The mud was deep and the riding was slow. As I rode I kept recognizing spots from my previous Snake TTs: that's one of the spots where I pulled off the trail to puke! right around here was the stick that broke my derailleur hanger! here's where I tried to fix that thumbshifter! another puke stop! It was kind of stressing me out. But eventually I passed all the places where bad things had happened in previous iterations of the race. I was on the fun part of the trail, three long ridgeline sections with increasingly more technical riding. My legs were starting to come around and focusing on the super fun trail was giving me a good mental lift, but I was pretty tired from fighting the mud and cold. I rode it kinda slow but cleaned most of it, and was happy to pass the TV towers that mark the last mile. Gravity pulls the bike downhill for the last of the course and finally I rolled over the finish line. Yes! If there'd been a curse, now it was broken.

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't my best work, but at least I got it done. My finishing time was 5h10 which was much slower than I would expect in better weather. I was the only person racing in the women's age-group classes who didn't DNF, but the 2 women who finished in the more expensive pro-level Money Class both beat me. And I was right at mid-pack against all the male finishers. So I either won by default, or was last, or did okay? This is a confusing race format to me. It's a time trial, so you're really racing the clock, but you're also racing in the mud against people who were racing on hard-frozen trail a month earlier. Anyway, I count this one as a victory just for not being a DNF.


  1. Preemptive commenter strike, Shanna (and Mandy and George and Robb and Jamie and everyone else): I know those DNFs last year wouldn't have happened if I had been racing singlespeed. Leave me to my filthy addiction! I can't quit the gears!!

  2. Congrats!

    I bet the big wheels will make the rocks of the last few miles a little easier.

  3. I wasn't gonna say a thing... way to get out there girl!