The LAST MTB biathlon this season: we collected in the field at Navy Road, lined up like in the school-yard and waited for the high-tech "ready steady GO"!
Again, I promised myself that this race would be different, that I would start calmly in the pack, build intensity as I warmed up, and not blow up like the previous three weekends, but again, I found myself chasing down Ed Cashin, Mikey Bahel and a few other billygoats, sucking wind at the one mile mark as their heels disappeared around a tree ahead of me, and I felt the blood in my breath..
We use to call this hypoxic state "cyclocross lung", but now I have to broaden the term's use, as I haven't done a single cross race this year yet..
The run was beautiful: along by the shore for a fast 1/4 mile, then into hilly twisty trails through the autumn trees in Montauk, the leaves thick on the ground covering the baby-head rocks, the ankle breakers! I suffered well on the run, managing 16.30 for the 2.3 miler, then calmed down a tad as I buckled the helmet and struggled into the bikeshoes.. on the bike, hoping that my heart-rate would settle somewhat over the next 10 miles: I felt strong and was able to pick it up for a few hundred yards at a time, not super powerful on the short climbs, but able to build some nice tempo on the longer easier gradients. I resolved to call Jen Gatz, my wonder-coach, and talk to her about doing some short hard efforts in this coming couple of months, all the better to suffer on the hard kicks in the local 'cross events. The bike course took us on a tour of the gems of eastern Long Island's MTB trails, opening up over the bay to get a brief view of the clear waters and golden beaches, then ducking back into the woods to dodge and weave the overhanging locust and pine trees. The Ho-Chi-Min trail (giving serpents back race its' name,) was famoulsy hairy, fast, scrabbly, gruelling and more fun than a barrel of monkeys..The fall is slightly past full glory now, and there are holes appearing in the canopy as the windy afternoons clear out tons of vegetation, I love this time of year, and it makes me look forward to the winter rides even more, through these naked woods, piled thick with winter gear, sweating and with foaming snot as we shift back into single-speed mode.. all the better for strength-training..outdoors!!
The second run was a blast, it always seems to be smoother once the blood, adrenaline and Gu is flowing, I eased into my own rhythm, having not had anyone pass in a while, able to finally settle into my own race! I approached the last mile, I caught a glimpse of a fellow racer, Marty Ross, ahead through the trees. Ever the comptitive one, I was able to pick it up a notch, eeking up onto his heels as we came out onto the last stretch on Navy road.. I think I still had some juice left, and thought that I could possibly pip him if i took the risk and sprinted for the line..a second thought crossed my mind.. that I might lose a hamstring in the process (the initial cramps were hinting in my legs..) but I figured it would be worth it!! I pulled it out, barreled up the field and with a whack on his backside, passed him by a nose on the line.. wipe the foaming snot off, photos, prizes, pizza and beer.. What a way to spend a morning with your budddies!!
On a sadder note, I read of our fellow athlete Sam, who is scheduled to have an amputation of his hand in 3 weeks, following survival of a devastating bomb blast in Iraq. Sam is one of the superstars of our sports world, and I hear he has already entered an Ironman next year, to aim for with his new hand.. Sam, you are an inspiration.. I was thinking of you as I swam this morning, bubbles up my nose, aching arms, tired lungs.. I look forward to your new limb, and your continued success. You make us all push a bit harder and dig a little deeper.