So I’ve got a coach. I’m following a plan. And I’ve made serious progress.
I’m also as fit as I’ve ever been — and confident. Confident that I can finish, confident that I can race, confident that I am prepared.
But am I really?
I’ve long joked that I’m a Bike Barbie who has her own Ken to fix things. It’s not very egalitarian, but it’s convenient.
He handles our bike toys — sets them up and keeps them running. I only need to throw a leg across and pedal as fast as I can on race day.
But what if something goes wrong? What then?
Well I’m not helpless. I pack the requisite tools and necessary supplies just in case there’s a snafu on the trail. I know how to change a tire.
But truth be told, in seven years of riding, I’ve only changed a tire twice. Ken was always around to change it for me. And he always changed it faster – so, hey, why bother?
But I don’t have the Ken backup plan when racing and I sure smacked up against a tough obstacle at a recent race in the RME marathon series — Breck 68.
This wasn’t my first time at this rodeo — I’d been there twice before with increasing success. And given my race prep, I thought I was going to race like a star.
But things went squirrely instead — a bent front rotor, multiple flats and a hard time fixing them. Then I ran out of supplies!
Trailside help came to the rescue – but then I ran through those supplies, too. More help from a passing motorist. But after the first lap, with no supplies left and rain imminent in the high country, I called it quits.
It wasn’t all that hard. You don’t go to the high country with limited resources and almost non-existent mechanical skills in bad weather. You just don’t. To be caught unprepared in the high country in bad weather is no laughing matter.
The risk was too high so I abandoned the race.
It was the right choice — I don’t doubt that for an instant. But with a year-long goal disappointingly dashed, it was a hard pill to swallow, even with a splash of bubbly at race’s end and philosophizing acceptance, “well that’s racing.”
But I’m not convinced. How did I do all of that physical prep — intervals at 5 o’clock mornings and long weekend rides and not think about what I would do if I had a mechanical? That’s not racing. That’s just plain stupid.
After the race, in an email to experienced, endurance racer Jill Heuckman, I joked that I’d failed my Heuckman merit badge. She posed a challenge: “Have Ken take your bike apart,” with the understanding that I have to put it back together again.
That sounds awful — but brilliant. Can I do it?
So Jill, I accept your challenge. I’ve just purchased Zinn & the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance by Lennard Zinn and Todd Telander as a prep, and have alerted Ken that he has my permission to dismantle my mountain bike so that I can put it back together again.
My Amazon order includes a box of white taper candles that I imagine I will need to set the tone and to keep my anxiety level down. I joked to Ken that I might need some vino to go with the candles, to which a friend of his responded, “You must drink beer while working on bikes.”
Maybe this explains the brake failures and mechanicals that I’ve experienced recently.