Google maps had Mountain View Arkansas clocked out at a 15hr drive from Oxford Michigan. It was going to take quite an effort to get there and back for round 2 of the National Ultra Endurance Series. This would be my first effort at the Syllamoe’s course, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d never been to Arkansas, and it’s one of those places only a mountain bike race would bring you to.
The course is very technical and layered with big sharp rocks and gravel. I was a little off the pace heading up the opening dirt road climb, but I figured I would be able to bridge back up once we got into the singletrack. But of course, shortly after we entered the singletrack, I was hit with flat tire #1. Normally the Nano’s hold up pretty well for me and have proven to be a solid choice even on courses like the W101, but this course definitely requires something a little more beefy. It took a little while to fix it. I found myself struggling with the age old debate of a quick blast of C02 and let the stans do the work, or opt for the full on tube change. I chose the latter, and ended up wasting an entire 40 gram canister. Luckily, Dan K dropped me a fresh C02 and I went to work.
So I’m back to rolling down the trail and I’m steadily picking up spots. To be honest, I wasn’t really riding the techy trails all that well. I felt slow, and a little apprehensive about crashing, so I just sort of took my time and picked my way through the brush. Coming down a short descent, it happened again. Flat #2. This time I was stranded with no tube or C02. Luckily with a little begging, I was able to track down a pump, then a few riders later, another tube. I went to work again and got it fixed. Thanks to those who donated for the cause!
OK, so now I’ve lost so much time, that it’s just turned into the principal of finishing this dam thing. I’m rolling along and about to get to aid#5 when it happens again. Flat#3. Holy hell! I have a tube, a pair of C02’s, and a multi-tool. This time I’m getting mid-evil on this thing. I yanked out the flat tube and bit out the valve stem like some sort of possessed flesh eating monster. I peeled open the tube all the way around. Then I took my new tube and wrapped it inside the carcass of the old tube. Voila! Flat fixed for good.
The rest of my race was just me bouncing off more rocks just waiting for the finish line to present itself, but I got through it. Then as I was sitting in my folding chair drinking my recovery drink, the front tire flatted again. How ironic. It was just one of those races that made me want to quit racing mountain bikes. It made me feel stupid, like I am wasting my time with all this. 14hrs of driving to a Podunk town in the middle of nowhere, silly course, mechanicals… all we needed was a thunderstorm and it would have made it a complete mountain bike experience. But for every 3 bad races, there’s one good one, and that’s what keeps us coming back.
I had a lot of time to reflect on the drive home, and tried to focus on the positives, rather than the negatives. At least I didn’t hurt myself, it was still a good training effort, we got to see the Ozarks… etc. I thought about other sports, and other athletes, who go through the same kind of struggles. I thought about how fortunate I am to able to compete at such a high level, and how lucky I am to truly experience my passion. No, it’s not stupid, it’s not a waste of time, it’s what I love to do, it’s what gets me out of bed on a Monday morning, and after a bad race, it’s important to keep reminding myself of that. I’ll still keep having my special moments on the bike that we all chase after week in and week out, but it just wasn’t in the cards this past weekend. With that being said, I hope to see you all at NUE round #3 in Ohio, right there with me chasing that perfect race. Happy thoughts.