The day started like any other. I woke up nauseously hungry from my calorie-restricted diet of fruit salads and chicken broth soup, I stepped on the scale, thought about all the climbing at Mt. Hood and Cascade Classic and every other NRC race of the year…thought about not eating breakfast, started making breakfast anyways, chased Thomas around the yard trying to get a dead bird out of his mouth…!!?? Thomas had caught another animal! He comes through with a double victory this week! The victim this time was an unsuspecting quail, its short life ending in Thomas’ slobbery mouth, bones crunched and lungs collapsed in an agonizing spasm of pain and suffering as Thomas cruelly, and without remorse, bloodied his mouth with warm quail meat. This would be my goal for the day too.
Thomas’ kill gave me motivation to bring that type of bone-crunching furry to the OBRA state champs that afternoon. I angrily and savagely devoured two pancakes with fruit. And I crushed a cup of coffee. And furiously drank a couple liters of water. A small breakfast by my normal standards, but hey, I have to become a “light and nimble” bone crushing beast, not a gigantic mammoth-like bone crushing beast. I need to be like the Kangaroo mouse, agile feather weights capable of great feats of strength. Kangaroo mice are known to take down much larger prey than their own body size. The average Kangaroo mouse is eight ounces but regularly kills prey such as large lizards, snakes, weasels, juvenile emu, and white foxes (all that prey being up to 15 pounds!) Pretty amazing and almost hard to believe…but that’s nature for you. (Another little-known fact about Kangaroo mice is that they never drink water. They get all their needed fluids from their prey’s blood).
My mom, brother, and I drove down to Silverton for the race with me envisioning myself as a great white Kangaroo mouse named Thomas T, blood-thirsty for lizard meat and quail liver. The previous day I had gone on my first ride in five (FIVE!!) days. After Joe Martin I took four full days off the bike and on Friday I finally broke the hiatus with a short ride. My legs felt stiff but strong. I was easily pushing decent watts and had to hold back. It was amazing that I felt so good. The first time in months that I’ve felt somewhat fresh. I’m going to start incorporating this rest thing in my training more often.
After Friday’s good sensations I knew I would have some energy to burn off. And since the race was relatively short at 70 miles I decided to make things hard from the start–which I would have done anyways no matter what. The course featured four rolling laps with 6,000 feet of climbing in total. A strong tailwind on one straight of the course and a strong headwind on the other. Unfortunately there was no cross wind since the ends of the rectangular course were short, but I knew it would be an attritious race anyways.
I got away very easily on the first tailwind climb with Team Veloce’s Michael Palmer. I was amazed the pack let me get up the road like that. Maybe they were planning on letting me wear myself out. I wasn’t sure if that’s what their plan was, but I knew they’d be making a terrible mistake if they gave me too much time so I punched it and accidentally dropped my break-mate a half mile later when we got to the short crosswind section at the top of the climb. Whateves. The course turned a corner and I was blasted in the face with wind. I tucked into a tight ball as tight and small as a Kennett can get and continued to drive it by myself for a good 15 minutes or so until I saw two guys finally start to come across. I sat up and let them catch me, then drove it immediately when they got on my wheel. One guy was immediately dropped and went back to the pack for some R&R. It was going to be a hard race after all and off the front in the wind was no place for those who weren’t content with going all in.
The other guy who stuck with me (a Team Oregon rider named Stephen Bedford) helped drill it from there on out. He was taking some big pulls and sprinting up the small risers while we stuck it to the field. I was impressed with how strongly he road…those first 30 minutes. I knew he would crack pretty soon after we finished that first lap as he began coming off my wheel on the longer tailwind climb when we started the second lap. By now we had two minutes, which wasn’t even close to enough for me to attempt it solo for the next three laps. I coaxed Bedford on, trying to get our gap up to four or five minutes before I either dropped him or let him sit on. Another seldom-known attribute of the Kangaroo mouse is its ability to lure its prey in with its coaxing pure. The mouse actually purrs like a friendly cat, brain-washing its prey directly into its skeleton-filled den.
Now I don’t want to screw anyone over in a local race (though I’d have no problem doing it in an NRC because all those guys would do the same to me) so my plan was to keep drilling it with Bedford until our gap was four or five minutes, let Team Oregon back in the pack keep the peloton in check and smother any bridging moves, and then ride tempo to the end and let Bedford keep on my wheel for a podium placing. Either that or attack with one lap to go.
This all went to shit as we came across the finish line a second time to start the third lap. By now our gap was 3:50. I looked behind me to see how Bedford was doing while we went up the tailwind climb and saw I had a large gap. My instincts kicked in as I saw weakness and I punched it. Damn it. This was a dumb move. I knew it. I slowed down a second. My instincts kicked in again and I continued to turn the screws the rest of the way up the climb. Damn it stop it Kennett you idiot!!! I had a sure thing just a minute ago and now I was sabotaging the whole plan because of a pair of itchy legs!
The Kangaroo mouse is known for its quick thinking and decision-making. Its rationale, though, can sometimes become befuddled by the mud and blood of battle. A National Geographic episode I saw last week shows a Kangaroo mouse attacking a large snake in the Sahari desert. The snake is badly wounded and the Kangaroo mouse circles it, moving quickly and precisely, coming in with slashing fangs every half second. The snake can’t even react in time to get in ONE self-preserving strike, not that it would matter, since the Kangaroo mouse has developed an antibody to fight this particular type of snake venom. Anyways, the snake is about to die when the Kangaroo mouse, now tired from the fight, gets a whiff of another prey animal nearby. Without thinking it bounds away in a full sprint and happens upon a large desert tortoise, easily 120 or more pounds. The mouse, which has tasted blood, attacks the tortoise without even thinking about what it’s doing, slashing at the hard shell with its claws, jump- kicking the sturdy legs (kangaroo-style), and climbing up on the back of the tortoise to gnaw on the top of the tortoise’s head. The tortoise hardly notices the mouse is there for 20 minutes and slowly plods on in search of tortoise food–which I’m pretty sure is just smaller tortoises. Finally, the tortoise realizes the mouse is there and sucks its head and limbs into its shell in fright. The tiny mouse furiously scratches and bangs its head on the tortoise shell for the next 18 hours until it dies of exhaustion, only managing to slightly dent the thick tortoise shell in a few places.
I heard later that Team Oregon had wisely been setting tempo on the front, making sure our gap didn’t get out of control in case this exact scenario played out. My lead over Bedford quickly grew and within a few more miles he was no longer in sight. I slowed down to a more manageable pace, tucking on the descents and going hard tempo everywhere else. I finished the third lap. Only 18 miles to go. I had no clue how big my lead was. No one told me for miles so I had just been riding at what I felt like I could do and not use up all my glycogen reserves before the last lap. I was out of food. I had brought two bars, two bottles of Hammer Perpetuem, and one flask of gel. That adds up to a staggering 1500 calories–staggeringly low that is. Normally I’d bring along another thousand calories of bars and gel even for this short of a race. I like to end the race with extra food in my pockets, and usually do. Just knowing you have more food to eat if you need it helps. When you run out of food you start thinking about it…about how screwed you are and soon you start feeling the beginnings of imaginary bonks. I never bonked today, but my energy went way down on that last lap. I didn’t bring much food because of my wight-loss plan for Hood. Plus 1500 calories would have been plenty if I hadn’t been off the front all day. One of the stages of Joe Martin last week was 110 miles and I only ate 1500 calories, but I spent very little time in the wind.
Anyways, I’ll wrap things up here. On the longer tailwind climb I finally got a report on my time gap and it was all the way down to 1:28 on three chasers. I kept going hard until they came into sight with about 13 miles to go. I pondered my options. Let them catch me and sit on or keep the gap the same and hope they start playing cat and mouse with each other. I looked down at my WWMTD bracelet (What Would Mark Twight Do?) and decided to keep going hard by myself in the headwind.
I finally gave in and sat up when I saw they were just letting me dangle. Time to be smart now since I no longer had the legs to ride dumb. I was caught with precisely I don’t really know how many miles. In the first couple miles of the race I had torn my wheel speed sensor off my front fork since it had come loose and was getting caught in my front spokes. I am SICK of that damn ancient technology and I’m finally going to bight the bullet and get a more up to date bike computer.
I was caught with about 10K to go and sat on. The chase group contained Scott Gray (Team Oregon), Rob English (Hutche’s) and Brad Winn (Team S&M). They rotated through for a couple miles until Rob launched a strong move on a steep riser with three miles to go. I had been pretty confident in my ability to win the uphill sprint from that group until that moment. My legs were gone. Gray and I got onto Rob’s wheel at the top OK, but I knew I might be screwed for the sprint coming in a few miles. Brad was dropped during the attack and it was now just the three of us, with me still sitting on for the next couple miles. Rob and Scott slowed up as we approached the final few kilometers. In hindsight I should have attacked on the first riser with 1200 meters to go, but I figured they’d cover the move and I’d have even less left for the sprint. The final short, steep riser approached as Scott lead into it with Rob next and me third. With 200 meters to go Scott punched it and opened a gap on Rob and I. I came around Rob but knew I was doomed for 2nd. There was no way I was catching up to Scott at that point. Normally that’s the type of finish that suits me perfectly, but not today for I had already burned a full book of matches. Lesson learned? Probably not.
After the race I ate some food and immediately felt better (no shit). In fact I was feeling good enough to ride home. Galen Mitterman and I set out in the deteriorating weather for Keizer, where he was staying, then I continued on by myself to Sherwood, ending a fun 130-mile day. One of my favorite parts about local Oregon racing is getting to catch up with everyone before and after the race and it was fun seeing everyone again. Two more days off the bike before I can start training again…here we go.
Feed from my brother.
Check out Oregon Cycling Action for race photos.