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The Rumble in The Rape Seed

3.5.2016 14:39

To paraphrase Johnny Cash: "I hurt myself on Saturday, to see if I still feel" And I did hurt myself, and I felt it all.

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KPZ Hustopeče Marathon - 53k. 4000 feet of elevation gain.
I had big plans for this race. I actually rode somewhat during the week, made sure my seatpost didn't slip and decided I didn't need to run 35psi in my tires; that they were tubeless and >20 would do fine, thank you very much. For those of you on the metric system, that's 1.6 bar, or thereabouts. I also switched my chainring to a 34. 
I was excited on Friday AM to find out that I would start in the second start pen - with the 100 series numbers. So I rolled the 4k from the train to Hustopece and the course with a good feeling. It was also brilliantly sunny and warm. This was a far cry from the snow we drove through on the way to Poland on Wednesday. 
While last week featured a couple of climbs, then a long flat across a ridge, and some climbs to finish things off, this week featured a series of 8 climbs, back to back to back to back...and you get the idea. 
Hustopeče, for those of you not looking at a map right now, is in Southern Moravia, between the City of Brno, (20 min by train) and the Austrian border. It is smack dab in the wine region of the Czech Republic and an area of heavily agricultural in general. It made sense then, that the race was held in the back lot of a large farm machinery dealership. I felt like I was in Kentucky, or even the Central Valley of California.
I was surprised, however, to learn that the race would not spend much time in the rape seed fields. These are fields of brilliantly yellow flowers that cover the country between now and the end of the summer. They look great, and yield - you guessed it - "rape seed" (from the latin "rapum" or turnip). It functions as both a biofuel, and the raw ingredient for "rape seed oil" or if you're in the US - Canola oil. (Canola coming from "Canada Oil"). It's effective for frying, because it has a higher smoke point than olive oil or butter - so fried food is cooked through, yet still golden brown. With 2% of the country given over to the crop, you get a lot of nice views of yellow fields before it gets harvested. 
The downside, as I would come to realize, was that while the weather was beautiful and dry, this meant that the first 15k was super dusty. This had negative effects. 
The gun went off, and I, super motivated, am weaving and dodging through people trying to get as far forward as I can. I do ok at this and avoid the crash near me when some guy breaks his chain. We go through a large tunnel, and then into a cloud of dust. A cloud like "I can't see where I'm going, I'll steer with the force" level cloud. I bottom my wheel out on something but don't flat. I keep going. 
We hit the first climb and I'm riding well, continuing to make up places and catch Ondrej Hladik. This is a major achievement, since Ondra has been training. I try to keep forward momentum across to the second climb, and while I lose a little bit, and Ondra - who has been training - goes away from me slowly, I keep the gap to 10 seconds. The top of the climb is very steep and loose. I ride it. I am very pleased with myself. 
Down the next descent - a corkscrew on chewed up pavement - and I'm along a river. I start to cough. The coughing gets worse, suddenly I feel like less like coughing and more like my lungs are trying to jump out of my mouth. This happens several times in succession. I back the pace down to "please let's not fall off the bike after 20 min" and creep forward. I am left with nothing, totally empty. I am passed by everyone. Hikers pass me. Small woodland creatures pass me, as do turtles. I contemplate quitting. I contemplate it seriously. But I realize that I would need to ride at least 40min straight to the finish in order to quit. I keep pedaling.

I feel better slowly. And I make up spots. Things start to come around. To the second zone and I'm really moving along in a happily surprised manner, moving through group after group. The third to last climb isn't amazing, but I feel I'm going well. My time overall to this point is shockingly fast. I am not complaining.
Then it all goes to hell again. My hamstring, which had given me sensations of cramp, suddenly locks up. Tightly. I cry out in pain. I cannot move my leg and cannot move the bike forward because walking makes it worse. I drag myself to the side of the course so that those behind can move forward. The cramp comes in waves. It gets better, then 30 seconds later it is back with full force. I take some water and a quick snack. Many more people pass me. Many. Slowly the cramp subsides to where I feel like I can push a bit. So I do. I limp over the climb, and descend to the base of the final hill. It is roughly 500m, with gradients of 24%. Fearing another likely cramp, I dismount and push. I do not lose that many spots. 
I ride from the top of the course down to the end. I give it what I can. But what I have is mostly gone. 
I finish - having lost 20 places in my category between the split-time post, and the end. 
But my back - which was horrendous after TransBrdy, is fine. My bike is good. I have completed another tough bike race. I am happy.
Gordon Daniell

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