Instinctively Nervous (long and painful)

Hammerfest Ten is now over and what a weekend. Shane and I headed to Nanaimo on Friday so we could do practice runs on Saturday. No problem. We got up at a reasonable time Saturday morning, made our way to the course, grabbed a shuttle, and began our day.

The first run down was a slow roll. Shane needed to see the course, and I needed to see what had changed. There were a couple new sections that were a little tricky, and the last section to the pits was brand new. Actually the end bit was pretty nasty. A sandy uphill section, that then dropped into some really loose sandy berms before a step down jump to the finish line. We headed back up for a second slightly quicker run, and I felt a bit better about the berms.

Time for the third run. I thought I would pick up my speed a little and check out some of the sections at a little more speed. We got to the top, I got on the platform to start, and off I went. Shane was to follow me a few seconds later. I started off well, and felt pretty good. I got to the ladder drop, and decided to air off the top. I landed my rear wheel exactly where I wanted, and the front touched down a millisecond later. I went to slow and turn to avoid a tree when disaster struck. My right hand slipped off the bar. I couldn’t slow, and I couldn’t steer. I headed straight for the tree. All I was thinking was “Not again!“. I was going in, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. I instinctively brought my hands up to protect my face. I hit the tree hard, then my bike hit, and I bounced off landing on the ground with a thud. I lay there in the middle of the trail a little stunned for a couple minutes. I wanted to get up, but I couldn’t. A couple other riders that were watching came to see if I was alright. One of them must have had some first aid experience since he was checking the bones out. I heard the other guy yell rider down, just as Shane rounded the corner. My wrist was starting to swell, and I knew I had to go get it checked out. Shane seemed pretty concerned (thanks Shane), but I told him to finish the run, and I would meet him at the bottom (I was headed to the shuttle point to take it back down).

At the bottom I got checked out by the ambulance attendant. She poked, prodded, bent, twisted, pushed and pulled on my wrist, and after each test she would say that is good (since I wasn’t screaming in pain). I got off very lucky with only a sprain. The attendant wrapped my wrist, then taped it, and told me to test it out a bit before doing another run. I had a dull ache, so I took a breather for a couple hours while I iced my wrist. I lent my goggles to Shane, and told him to do a few runs. I ended up doing two more runs later that day, and for both of them my grip was a little weaker than it should have been, but at least there was no pain.

Sunday morning arrives, and I am tired, and more than a little sore. Shane and I are slow to get going, and that turned out to be a very bad thing. We got to the site, just in time to miss the last shuttle to the pits. We needed to get our mandatory training run in by 10, and it was around 9:30. Crap! We had to hoof it up to the pits pretty quickly. We then barged through the shuttle line, and crammed ourselves into the cube van. The van dropped us off at 9:55. We still had to get to the top of the course by 10. We hustled, and got there just in time. I finished suiting up, then ripped down the course. I felt pretty good about that run, so we waited at the bottom for our start time.

Race time approacheth. We jumped into the cube van for the last time. We got to the top with plenty of time to spare. We sat, rested, ate, and drank. Setting the gear up one last time for one last run. My race face comes on when I get into the line up for the starting gate. I down my PowerGel, snug up the straps on my pads, don my gloves, and flex my fingers to get some warmth. I set my bike in the right gear. A nervous energy fills me. Shane gets up on the starting block, the beeps count down, and he is away. I climb up, and mount my bike. One last time I flexed my sore wrist. It felt pretty good. I knew it only had to last at most 5 minutes longer.

All too soon the countdown beeps start. I think “wow that was quick”. I set my mind, I focus my stare, and I launch down the start ramp. The first little jump I get too sideways, and almost go off course. I curse myself to stay focused, and I slip in a couple pedal strokes. The ladder ramp/launch that I messed up the day previous is nearing, and I instinctively tap the brakes to slow. I curse myself, and move my fingers off the brakes, I pull up off the ramp, land, slow a bit, and slither past the tree that claimed me the day before. Yay! With that roadblock out of the way I pick up speed. I conserve energy where I can, but still keep my speed up. I near the first road crossing, and prepare for the drop. I messed up, and ended up way over to the left on the road crossing, so I hit the binders hard, and lean to the right. I dropped off the far side of the road, nicely lined up for the mud pit. I got sucked into one hole pretty bad, and I lost a lot of momentum. A few pedal strokes later I was again hurtling down the course. Over a couple jumps, around a few turns, and I was back into the trees. Over the rutty roots, and ahead is my least favorite corner of the run. I messed up badly. The turn before I needed to put my right foot out to save my balance. This meant I was ill prepared for the sharp left. As quick as I could I rolled the bike to the left, got my right foot on the pedal, and stuck out the left foot to push myself around the corner.

With that out of the way I pedal some more, do a couple drops, prejump the nasty rock garden, the drop to the right of a gap jump. Railing the berm I pedal hard to get through a bumpy section. Cutting the corners I try to make the straightest line possible, but by this time my thighs are burning. The first of the uphill climbs is right ahead. I sit and pedal hard as I ascend the ladder bridge. As I near the crest I am about to downshift, but I realized I was too far to the right, and I wouldn’t be able to make the corner which was fast approaching. Right at this instant my front tire washes out off the course, and I go down. I jump up, grab my bike, and run to the top of the hill. I jump back on and get set for the off camber rooty turn that is next. As I approach it I find my brake lever is twisted up from the crash. I bang on it to get it back in place while rolling down the course. I come to the third road crossing, and I almost had enough speed for the stepdown. In the back of my mind I hear Sue and Cathy cheering and yelling. I hear them say my name, but I was too focused to look around. Across the road, down the other side, and back into the trees.

Down, the up. There is the log crossing that claimed me a couple years ago. I am still feeling pretty good. One last road crossing, and one last uphill. This one is killer. The rain has helped pack it down, but it is still pretty loose. I keep up my speed, and wait until I can do some good pedaling. I crest the hill, shift up one gear, head past the nasty log (last one yay!), then into the berms. I managed to upshift again, but I should have gone up two or three times. I exit the berms, lift off the lip, get a little squirrely, launch the best I can over the last step down, then pedal as fast as I can across the line ( here is where I needed the extra high gear).

My time was 4:33.57, and I placed 22 out of 28. When all is said and done, my race run was definitely my quickest run on the weekend. I am happy with it, but reading back on this, there is definitely room for improvement. I had a good time this weekend, but I am a little stiff and sore today (especially my wrist). I may head home early today and ice my wrist.