Monday, July 4, 2011

No One Said it was Going to be Easy

Relaxin' before start time.
The Thunderdown in the Underdown is a staple in the Wisconsin Endurance Series line up. It is notoriously difficult. Not only is it physically difficult, but technically demanding as well. Riders have to scratch and claw for every mile in this one. This year's Thunderdown wouldn't be any different.

I told myself I was going to stay calm for this thing. Instead, I broke for the lead right off the gun as I was lined up with all 10 hour soloists, which is rare. Typically, teams and duos are lined up with us so discerning the actual competition can be difficult. This time I knew all of them.

20 minutes in and I was riding hard with a clear view in front, but I was conscious to not go over my head with effort. A quick glance back saw two riders still hooked on. 30 minutes in and a couple of significant climbs and I noticed an eery silence. Stealing a glance, I found myself all alone. I kept the pressure on telling myself that this was all insurance and that I'd need to control the "pop factor" when it happened.

Soon enough I finished the two hour lap in about 1:50 still alone, but a little gassed from the effort. I made a rookie mistake of staring at an ominous boulder, then drove right into it, stopping my El Mariachi dead in it's tracks. I began to tip toward the fall line, in other words, the long way down. My left foot refused to release from the pedal, oh that's right I switched the pedal before the race and it must have had a slightly different release point than I'm used to. Like a pilot who knows he's going down I braced for impact. Impact happened to be into a small boulder field strewn with broken off sticks pointed up. The first one cut through my glove and poked into my hand. The next two went hard into my left glute shredding my bibs and my ASS!
Sorry, but it had to be shown for the purpose of the story.
Needless to say I could feel the breeze throughout the rest of the day. On a more serious note, part of my skin was sitting right on the saddle without any pad or short to protect it. This slowly nagged at me and became a bit of a problem as my skin rubbed and rubbed and rubbed.

Of course I entered the darkness of my mind during the second lap. I had a hard time shaking the crash off and began to question whether I had gone to hard on lap 1. Then, the negative thoughts began, "You suck at mountain biking, why do you even do it?", "Who are you kidding man? I should be laughing at you right now (my inner self talking to my self)." I tried to tell myself that this is all part of it, it's just the demons, block them out! Then, I got caught and passed. It was so discouraging. I tried to keep up, but he just slowly rode away. I figured I'd pit at the conclusion of this lap and try to get my head right.

Pulling in I saw Amy at the pit. She was really interested in my torn up butt and thought it was pretty funny. I, however, wasn't in the mood. I was over my shredded bibs and was more concerned about my horrible, crabby attitude. I told her I got passed and that I didn't care, and how I was hating it, etc. She then told me to "Get 'er Done", which is what one of my kids at work always says that makes me laugh. Sad thing is, he uses this phrase as his mantra for life and doesn't understand why we're all laughing. Somehow the joke rang true for me and I finished eating, jumped back on my bike and was outta there in about 5 minutes.

The third lap is when everything came back around. I pinned it as hard as I could and found myself very alone again. I began to pick off 6 hour racers one by one and was notified by volunteers that I was out front again. Angry at myself for having such a horrible 2nd lap I continued to pour on the pressure at the expense of fatigue. I figured the 4th and final lap would be one in which I just held on. It was...
Final corner to the finish.
2 years in a row! Now, please get me to the lake.

Chris Schotz puts on an A+ event and the course is a pure mountain biker's dream come true, all by his design, I might add. Thanks to Chris and his crew. Thanks to Salsa Cycles as well. The El Mariachi Ti really took a thrashing out there and responded perfectly. Also, thanks to Red Eye Brewing for the awesome growler!
My kind of brew house. Those are some vintage machines.


LeLan Dains said...

Way to go!!!

Jeremy Kershaw said...

Atta boy, Sir Eki!!!

Ben Welnak said...

Hell of a job Mr. Ek!!

jeffwilsonn said...

Nice. We'll see about the three peat next year-- ha

thunderdown12 said...

Let's see all of the Duluth boys down here next year. Rhinelander owns the Thunderdown Cup, but Duluth has the guns to take it.

t-nuts said...

oh yeah!