Monday, May 16, 2011

We'll Take Two Orders of Suffering, With a Side of Wind and Rain...

My cozy little pit
This past weekend saw a double dose of pain. Amy and I hit the road to our neighboring state of Wisconsin. The mission was simple, I'd rip off a quick little 100 mile mountain bike race and the next day she'd qualify for the Boston Marathon. It all seemed so nice... Ahh, but Mother Nature can be a fickle bitch.

The first entree came in the form of a 100 mile mountain bike race in Green Bay, Wisconsin's sweet Stump Farm single track. This is the first of the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series races or WEMS. It has consistently been known to boast some quality riders so I figured a good standing in this race wouldn't come for free.

Still in a mental whirlwind of sorts from my Trans Iowa experience I resolved to ride this race hard, but was reluctant to shake hands with the devil AGAIN. However, the spirit of competition tends to raise it's ugly head once the mud gets flyin'.

I'd attend this race solo as Amy had other things on her plate (so to speak), mainly resting up for marathon day coming on Sunday. My morning was calm and I had plenty of time to set up my pit, register, and grab a little nap in the car before a pleasant conversation with a fellow Salsa owner, Andy. Andy would be racing the single speed category on an ole school El Mariachi. He had the Gran Daddy of my El M. Ti set up pretty sweet I must admit. Andy would go on to a second place finish in his category. I silently rooted for him while I kept my own demons down throughout the day.

Drizzle and at times a steady rain fell as the hours wore on. I was in the woods though, so I was happy. My 4th ride on my El M. Ti was going swimmingly and the 'Racing Ralph's' had me hooked up as if the Scwalbe guys called the Stump Farm's trail designers before they started production on the tires. It was really that good.

My plan was to ride my "own race" and try to avoid getting caught up in one on one battles. However, a wrong turn on the second lap had me frustrated as I lost contact with the leaders for what would end up being forever, as well as adding about 15 extra minutes to my lap. This error found me riding steady and often trading positions with a young Tyler Welnak. This boy could ride and ride he did. It soon became clear that we were meant to be together throughout this slop fest. After four hours of hugging each other's wheels small attacks began to emerge. I would watch Tyler surge through sections of single track, gapping me significantly, while I went deep to gain his wheel. Finally, on lap 7 of this 10 lap race I thought I had caught Tyler napping on a climb. I came into the bottom with a ton of momentum so I jumped on the pedals and swung off to his right. I'd attack here on lap 7 even if it was early. I poured what little energy I had into my Mariachi gaining considerable space on him. I wept inside when I felt him back on my wheel a few minutes later. "What is this kid's deal?", I asked myself. Later, he'd call me the "Boogey Man that just kept showing up". This thing was going to go off on the final lap and there wasn't a damn thing we could do about it.

Thinking through my strategy as lap 8 was coming to a close I decided I absolutely had to pit as my drive train was groaning and I needed to grab another bottle. We moved through the pits together, I stopped, he didn't. A 30 second stop left me with a lubed chain and two fresh bottles. Tyler had nothing and I knew he'd be going into lap 10 dry as a bone. This would be my chance. I left the pit with him out of my sight, but I had every thing banked on him cracking. I was scraping the bottom of the barrel myself as the last lap seemed to go on and on. Then, without warning a 30 mile distance racer went down hard in front of me and slammed into a tree. This was a nasty looking crash. I needed to stop to see if he was o.k., so I did. Seeing this rider "eat it" like he did put the racing second as I thought for sure this guy was heading to the hospital. Surprisingly, he was o.k. I pushed on hoping against hope that I'd see the familiar jersey I'd been looking at for the second half of the day. Alas, it was not to be. The next time I'd see that jersey would be when the owner of it was unclipping his helmet and shaking my hand. I came in two minutes behind Tyler for 5th overall. It felt good to hear him say, "I was so scared you were going to catch me". So cool... 

I never have a problem losing a battle to a classy competitor. This would be the case at this year's Stump Farm.

My El Mariachi Ti performed flawlessly

On Sunday morning the second entree was served. This one came with a side of wind. Amy has trained for a year with this qualifying race on her mind. She has done it all, long distance runs, intervals, cold weather, and even 19 mile treadmill runs. We'd be heading to Boston next year for sure - I had no doubt.

Battered, but not beaten
 It's tough when you put all your eggs in one basket, but that's why they call 'em goals. They ain't easy, so you gotta dream. And, dream she did. You see when Amy goes for something she goes big and she doesn't quit until she gets it. This is why the girl has never gotten a "B" in her life, has a masters degree in counseling, and basically turns every thing she touches into perfection. Running is her passion. She'll be the first to tell you she isn't the best one out there, but she's damn sure going to be the best she can be.

So, all the aforementioned eggs were in the basket, but Mother Nature was wagging her finger and saying, "Hold on there girl, I'm not sure about this one". The wind just kept coming and coming. She (Mother damn Nature) had those things sustained at 31 mph with gusts going over 40 mph. It's an understatement to say that I was concerned. I reminded Amy that (much the way us cyclists look at hills with the old addage, "what comes up, must come down"), if the wind is in your face, it's bound to be at your back at some point, right?

I received her splits on the cell phone and things were running well. She was right on pace and definitely wearing her game face as I noted at the 10 mile mark while giving her a hand up. "Dang, she's focused", I thought. I loved it! Support crew is awesome!

Mile 20, my next hand up position told a different story. I was met with a determined girl who was simply hurting. The wind had been a gorrilla on her back for several miles, buffeting her 120 pound frame like a plastic bag in the wind. The tears on her cheeks told me she was losing this round.

I walked with her for a bit, telling her to keep fighting, that things could turn around. Her pace group was just a hundred meters ahead. I yelled to her that she'd have the wind working for her in the final couple miles. She started "picking 'em up and putting 'em down" and ran out of my view. I had a lump in my throat as I knew we wouldn't be heading to Boston on Green Bay's race result.

You know it just wasn't her fault. I've never seen better preparation. And, you know what else, the good girls, the ones who do every thing right, just don't deserve to lose these battles. I told her that Chicago is where it will happen, I'm certain of it. The irony of it all is that Amy will qualify for the 2012 Boston Marathon in the Windy City. Take that Mother Nature, you B....!

One sister helping another



Jeremy Kershaw said...

Way to go you guys! Such a bummer for Amy!

Andy said...

Thanks Tim....needed all the rooting I could get. The El Mar ran great. Great bike for a great race.

Charlie Farrow said...

SO COOL...WELL WRITTEN!!! Running a marathon is way way harder than drafting, no coasting, no where to hide...Brave Amy....

Danielle Musto said...

Amy is ultra brave. Stupid wind!!! Tim you will be required to do minute by minute updates when she runs in Chicago so that we can all root for her over the internet :-)

Cassie said...

And this one brought tears to me eyes. Amy has been working so hard for this for so long. She is going to kick the Chicago Marathon in its teeth!