(Note: Some of my favorite shots mixed in with my report. Full set of photos on my Flickr page. Click here.)
Brutal. Sherwood kicked my butt. And the butts of many other races from what I could tell. Easily the toughest 40+ minutes of racing I’ve endured so far, but now that I’m on this side of it…it was kind of cool.
I arrived at the venue EARLY, apparently too early, as they hadn’t opened up the big party lot yet as it was too soupy, and said it would only be open to 4WD vehicles if they did. Turns out the rains never really hit hard, and everyone ended up parking up there, while we were hid away in the back lot with the other early morning refugees. I dropped the 1963 vintage team travel trailer, affectionately known as “The Commodore,” got prepped and headed out to walk the course.
On my course pre-walk, I realized our first mud, and some big hills were going to kick my butt. I also picked up a blister on each heel due to some poor sock/boot implementation. Got back to the Commodore, changed into my gear and went out to pre-ride the course. I went at a slower pace, just checking out what I was in for — down the muddy hill, up the muddy climb, long runs down the bumpy, slick single track, back up the muddy hill, down into the ditch for the barriers, then holy crap…the hill.
On my pre-ride, I made it all the way up the top of the hill..putting everything I had into my cranks. At this point I was rethinking my single ring up front…or at least the gearing combo I’d thrown together. At the top of the hill one thought came to mind, I had just shot my legs. Having had a low fevery feeling the last few days, and not much sleep, I was waxed already, and the race hadn’t even started. I climbed the second part of the hill, snagged a sip of some hot water from the Chris King tent, and headed to the start.
My number was drawn second or third to last, so I started somewhere near the back of the 100+ riders for the day. For the first couple hundred yards I couldn’t clear a pedal of mud and dinked around with that until almost the first turn into the off camber switchback section. Between those two, and my general lack of speed, I found myself almost completely at the back of the big bottleneck heading into the woods. We lined up and cruiser paced it down the muddy track.
Somewhere around the back of the course I made up a few spots, passing in the bumpier (if you can believe it) sections along the single muddy track. I felt great over the barriers, avoiding the dip just before them, clearing the creek after them without any slipping, and getting back up and on at the bottom of the hill. However, within just a short amount of the start of the climb, it dawned on me. I had no legs left.
As much as I did not want to hop off an push my bike up the gravel road, my legs would literally not go any more, and I gave in. My effort at running up while I pushed was also lame, and I essentially leaned into my bike to push-walk it up the hill. At the top I was able to get back on for the descent and make the second part of the climb as we turned towards the finish line, but I was feeling the pain. Many of the faces the rest of the day at that same spot, would tell me they knew the same pain.
As I started into the 3rd lap, after another unsuccessful attempt at climbing that hill, I slid out in the first muddy climb, and a lady standing at that corner said something along the lines of, “it just sucks the life out of you, don’t it?!” Amen. In fact, in the next muddy section, I was shot and shouldered my bike to just run up the hill rather than try to mash it out. The spikes of my shoe caught the ground, and I threw my body and bike right back down to the ground. A photographer was at the top of said hill, and I thought, “you’re welcome…for the great shot.”
I made my way back to the hill, walked it again, thinking about how I could easily just be the team owner/mascot/cheerleader and NOT feel like my head was going to explode ever again, but eventually crossed the line as someone said “last lap,” and I realized I was on the verge of ending the pain. I headed through the switchbacks, and into the trees for the first muddy section. Made it down into the bottom and started back up the other side, where I had just wiped out on the last lap. My rear end started sliding out, but I cranked harder and kept the bike vertical, but felt something wonky in that last moment. Sure enough, I had rolled the tire, caught the tube, and was quickly getting to just a ride on the rim. By the time I got to the bottom of the hill by the first pit, all the air was gone, and a guy in the pit said “last lap, you might as well ride it out.” Then he changed his mind and said, “but be careful you don’t rip that tire up.” Since we were just about to ride some mixed rocky/muddy/bumpy path, I opted out of riding the rim, hoisted the bike and started jogging.
A few yards into the run, someone said “man, keep it up, I ran from that same spot last lap.” I remembered him when I passed him on my bike the last lap. Several thoughts crossed my mind. Walk off the course, there are at least 3/4’s of the 2 mile track left. Get on and ride, so what if you trash the tire. Run faster. Run slower. Walk. And then the blisters I put on my heels earlier in the day started kicking in to make it all the more enjoyable. I ran into the Crusade guys changing up the course for the C’s when one asked if I was the last rider, and they called ahead to let them know I was still coming.
I jogged/walked the rest of the way. Over the barriers, up both hills, around the corner, and when I reached the finish line, I leaned over to make it easier for the cameras to record my number…since I was moving so fast. Then I put the bike down and walked off the course, once I made sure they marked me down for completing my 4th lap. Sucked to have to cover all that distance on foot, but felt good to stick with it ’til the end of the lap.
I was really wiped the rest of the day, but had a great time cheering on the rest of the Pacific Pedaling team. Pat, Ellen, James, Tyler and Martha all worked hard and continued to represent with solid performances. James even came within 1 place of top ten in Men’s A. Soon grasshopper, soon. Between races we grilled up some burgers and sausages and left them to warm on the grill until after the races where we threw a little party with other racing buddies, and shut down the Equestrian Center. Dave proudly proclaimed that the race had cost him his breakfast, and we met a cool dude named Mike from Kansas City who was on a bike tour through the Northwest and had stopped in to race the Crusade for a bit. All in all, a great day of racing in Sherwood Forest.
How was your race at Sherwood? Feel free to give a report in the comments!