Boyne Marathon Recap: The Quest For DFL
I don't know where to even start on this one, so I guess I will just go with the beginning...
Saturday was the Boyne Marathon, the course was roughly four 10 mile loops. I had never ridden the trails at Boyne Mountain, which is about two hours north of MP (just about every race is 2 hours north, south, east or west of MP), so I didn't really know what to expect. The reports from my local riding friends was that there was a lot of climbing, and that the course was a "a real ball buster" to quote my friend Chris.
So what did I take away from all this shared pre-race info? There's a lot of climbing blah, blah, blah, blah... Now while there was a lot of climbing (for any race, not just from a Michiganders view of climbing which is USUALLY about 400 feet of elevation gain), the "ball buster" part is the part of I should have been paying attention to. But I didn't and thought "sounds like a race for the hard tail." I would regret this decision all day long, along with my choice of tires, tire pressures, use of hydration pack, nutrition, my existence at the race, on earth etc., etc.,
The thing about a marathon race of 40ish miles, and one that is giving bonus points for the MMBA XC Championship Series, it attracts the long, slowish, riders like me who dig the endurance races, but also the super fast 140 pound XC guys looking to stockpile some points and make the the rest of us (OK, me) look like fools. I knew that a mid pack finish would take everything I had. If you haven't guessed by now, I left everything I had at home.
I spent some time warming up on the road on the Ti El Mariachi, talked with some friends, ran into an XXC Magazine contributor and a couple of mag fans (one sporting one of the mag's fine cycling caps, thank you very much). I could tell just in my warm up that I was not digging the hydration pack on my back, but I knew that if I didn't wear it, I might not drink enough and with the temps going into the mid 80s that would sort of be important. Damn.
Soon we were being lined up in our start waves. I was racing the 40+ expert group, so my wave was about the 4th to go off. I stood there slack jawed at the speed in which the Elite Men took off. "oh boy..."
4, 3, 2, 1, GO!
Off we went, I settled into the back of the 40+ pack of about 15 riders. As soon as we hit the singletrack I knew that I had way to much air in my tires, I was bouncing all over the trail and losing the back of the pack. Soon we hit a long flat, twisty section with deep sand, and I watched the pack pull away, and I would be by myself until I started getting passed what I presume were Sport racers! About this time I prayed that my derailleur would just blow apart or that a random 16 ton weight would fall from the sky and put me out of my misery. Neither happened.
I wasn't even to the first REAL singletrack part of the race and my back was killing me (a continuing issue for me on the bike), and I was fighting the DNF Demons, you know the ones that say "dude your day is so over, finish the lap, pack up and go home." These demons would pester me for many hours to come. I fucking hate them.
I continued to be all over the trail, and vowed that as soon as we hit an open area I would let some air out of the tires. Turns out the first open area I felt comfortable with stopping at was at the base of a steep climb up a paved golf cart path. Not wanting to stop at the base of a climb, I threw on the lock out, and got out of the saddle for about 80% of the climb. It wasn't a speed thing, it was a comfort thing- getting out of the saddle allowed me to stretch out my back and use some different muscles.
At the top of the climb it was into more singletrack- "shit, I forgot to lower the air pressure." The single track would lollipop back to the cart path soon, so I stopped and did it then. Not sure if my Stan's valves are going or what, but getting air in AND out is a real pain in my growing ass of late. Took forever just to let out some PSI.
OK, back into the singletrack, WHOOO MAMA, shit got steep! Apparently this section used to be part of a downhill course, and it was apparent. Steep, tight switchbacks, exposed roots, rocks, sandy wash outs, eeeesh! I haven't ridden ANYTHING likes this since I moved here. It would have been a blast if I wasn't in so much freaking pain! LOL!
Once to the bottom it was some twisty singletrack back to the start/finish. As I approached the line I thought "I'm bagging this, I suck today, the course is killing me, and I'm not having any fun."
Then I went out for lap #2.
Things were thinning out a bit on the second lap, and somehow I ended up leapfrogging with one of the Expert Women (worse things to leapfrog with I suppose? Like a bunch of sailors or something...). I would pass her on the climbs, she would catch up in the singletrack, back and forth we went. Knowing my race was over before it really began, I would often let her pass, she always thanked me, and say she would see me in a couple minutes (which I would). On one pass she said "you don't have to let me pass, after all it's your race too." I couldn't help but laugh at the thought that. I was hardly racing at this point and I continued to let her pass when she needed to. Plus I got to watch her do a sweet endo over the bars on the descent! She was fine, so don't give me shit! It was sweet though.
I was anxious to reach the paved climb again and take in some food, I also knew that soon after the climb, and ball busting descent was some flat singletrack, some minor relief and a possible end to this misery that I got myself into.
I pedaled through the singletrack, stretching my back when I could. It didn't really help. As I approached the line I thought "I'm bagging this, I suck today, the course is killing me, and I'm not having any fun."
Then I went out for lap #3.
I stopped along the trail where I had my bottles stashed and grabbed some Advil and ditched my pack. "Fuck it, I know where I can hydrate now, no use hauling this piece of shit around on my back." (hydration packs are the work of the devil himself, it's a fact, just look in the Bible). I stuck a tube and Co2 in my jersey pocket, grabbed a 2nd bottle and took off.
There was a LITTLE bit of relief during lap #3. The Advil worked for about 1/2 of that lap, and it felt great to ditch the pack. Things were thinning out even more now. About 3/4 through my 3rd lap I heard "can I get a pass Jason?" It was uber fast Michigander Jordan Wakely on his singlespeed lapping me on his way to the win (can someone get that boy a sponsorship deal??). Great, lapped! Soon after this I passed that Expert woman on a climb and never really saw her again. Strange.
I was FINALLY getting the course a bit dialed in, and wasn't as all over the trail as I was earlier in the race. Still I kept thinking "WHY THE HELL DIDN'T I RACE MY SPEARFISH????" along with "WHY DIDN'T I RACE THE 3 LAP CLYDESDALE RACE???" As I approached the line I thought "I'm bagging this, I suck today, the course is killing me, and I'm not having any fun."
Then I went out for lap #4. The final lap.
Not sure how I got here? I thought about quitting from the .01 mile mark of the first lap. I just didn't have any legs, any mojo and seemingly left any of my sub par to begin with skills at home with my Spearfish.
As I rode the last lap I was pretty sure I was probably the ONLY person left out on the course. I was about 1/2 way in and had yet to pass a racer or be passed. "Wow, this has DFL written all over it!" I thought. Up ahead, what is that? What do I see?? IT'S A RACER! It was a big boned dude limping and pushing his bike... I asked if he was OK and he replied that he was cramping big time. "Been fighting off the cramps all day too dude, good luck!" I yelled back to him.
It wasn't until the top of the paved climb that I saw any other racers, and even then it was just one or two nearing the descent. I still had a mile or so to go before I lollipopped back. Again I thought "Wow, this has DFL written all over it!"
Finally to the descent... I cleaned it all a 4th and final time, smiled through the pain, and got my self to the finish line. As I approached the line I thought "I wanted to bag this, I sucked today, the course killed me, and I didn't have fun. But I finished this fucker!!!"
I crossed the line, found out I won a prize in the raffle (hey, I can always use another t shirt to update my wardrobe) and chatted with some friends about the brutality of the course and how much fun it was (I forgot pretty quick I suppose).
Not sure if I was DFL in my class or not. The results weren't updated when I split, but I have a gut feeling that I was. Oh well, I will take the satisfaction of pushing myself to finish and a possible DFL place over a DNF or worse- the DNS.
Surely there will be better races in my future, and surely there will be worse races, but at least there are races.