A Rude Awakening
4 years ago this weekend I was in St. George for the first XC race of the 2002 season. It was the first race of what would be my first real competitive year as a bike racer. It was in the summer of 2001 that I started racing my bike at all, so at this point I was still pretty new to pre-race nutrition, proper warm up/cooldown techniques and really anything other than just pedaling my bike as fast as I could when the gun went off. I learned. I learned the hard way.
The morning of this race I was pretty nervous. So much so in fact that I had zero appetite. I managed to eat half of a banana about 3 hours before race time. That was it. I lined up a the start line on my new 2002 Fuel 100. I had 1 bottle with some crappy caffeine water in it. I was racing in the sport category, so I had two 7 mile laps ahead of me. The race course at Green Valley in St. George is a ton of fun to ride. It has singletrack, techy climbs, and dirt roads to hammer. There are no real difficult sections, it is just rolling desert mountain biking.
Everything was going well until about half way through my second lap. I started to get light headed and dizzy. It was getting hard to steer my bike and keep it on the trail. I figured I needed to drink, so I downed some of the worthless caffeine water. I continued on for a few more minutes, until I came to the bottom of a long technical climb that takes riders up a dry wash. It is a really fun section to ride. This time up however I was fading fast. The dizziness was increasing, and was now attended by blurred vision. I got to the point where I could no longer ride. I was to dizzy to keep my bike upright. I dismounted and tried to walk, but my legs felt like thick jello.
I remember laying the bike down on the side of the trail, then sitting down. At some point I layed down on my back. I am not certain if I passed out or not. I remember people asking me if I was ok as they passed by. I also remember feeling the race slip away as riders continued to pass. I do not know how long I layed there. I was not to far from the top of the climb, where there were volunteer EMTs. I opened my eyes and one of them was standing above me. He asked how I was doing, and I don’t know if I even replied.
A few minutes later I was in the cab of a pick up truck being hauled off the course. The EMT gave me 2 PowerBars, which I devoured. He gave me some advice about replacing electrolytes during intense activity. I felt stupid. I felt embarassed. I returned to the start/finish area to a worried wife and curious teamates. I learned that day the importance of proper nutrition before and during a race. Have I made that mistake again? Well sadly, yes. But let’s not talk about that! I managed to bounce back 3 weeks later on the same course, where I exorcised the demons and finished a strong 3rd. I also went on that year to win the overall Sport 19-29 series title.
Curiously enough, there are only 2 races that I have ever DNF’d. Both were this St. George innaugral race. The second time was in 2003 when it snowed and rained enough to fill the dry washes with gushing water and cause brand new brake pads to wear out over the course of a couple of hours. I called it a day after 2 of 3 laps when I had no stopping power, and no desire to continue on in the conditions that existed that day.
I can’t make it down this weekend for the 2006 version of this race. I will have to settle on reflecting about past efforts down there and wonder why I ever thought that half of a banana and some caffeine water would fuel me through 90 minutes of redline effort.
Ah well, as they say you live and you learn!