Though definitely not my first time riding Custer, it was my first race there. I thought the route was okay, especially given the fact that there really wasn't that much climbing to do. I'm a terrible climber and fell UPHILL 3 times within the first 5 miles (this happens when I'm trying too hard to keep pace). I didn't feel right from the start. I have never ridden a race in the afternoon either, so I'm sure my nutrition and hydration schedule were all "off". So after 5 miles, I was already feeling 1/2 empty. Granny kicked my a$$ in her (stupid) garden, I had to walk up the final climb both times. Why does granny have to be so mean?
I signed up for Sport class, men 35-39. There were only 32 or so registered riders in my class. Sport - two (2) laps, each lap about 9.5 miles long. So, you do the math...out of gas, after 5 out of 19 miles, I was already being to flake out about how the finish was going to be. Not a good spot mentally to be in at the start of the race.
Since most of the route was on single track, at times there were lines of men on bikes waiting to pass slower riders. I don't think I ever had anyone ride past me that was pissed that they had to wait in line for me. I was spending my extra breath to queue them up and say, "ready!? up here, take it", or "you coming?" or "you need some?". I just didn't want anyone else other than me to pay for my slowness. Everyone said thanks, so somewhere deep down inside, I was glad I could help them reach their goal even if I wasn't going to reach mine. (my own cheap way of pretending to be satisfied, when my total day was $hit.)
At mile 14 (4.5 miles from the finish) I noticed that my rear tire was sliding out from underneath me. Handling was beginning to become a big problem. I looked down and saw pressure was dwindling. At the next available spot (at the top of "Endo Junction") I stopped to try topping off with a CO2 cartridge. It held for about 10 seconds, then I could feel the tire becoming soft right away. If I were to finish the race at all, I had to replace the tube. And so the next 10-15 minutes was filled with a (very) tired, shaky and dizzy (starting to bonk) man peeling away the tire and tube and trying to get it all seated in just right and fumbling with the CO2 fitments. My second (and last) CO2 cartridge blew out the stem seal O-ring thingy, so I only got about 15 lbs of air in the new tube before ice cold CO2 was shooting out everywhere. F@*k!
All kinds of people (and friggin kids) went zooming by. Many asked if I was okay, I answered ("yup, thanks") knowing that if I said "eff no, m-effer, don't you see me here with a flat tire!? My sugar is low and I don't know where I am right now. How am I even standing up!? Where am I? I want my mommy!", they'd be gone so fast, they'd never hear anything more than russian mumbling after "eff no, m-effer", so what's the point in telling the truth?
Anyways, I planned on cruising the last 4 miles on a flat tire at 5 mph just to finish, when behold, SPECTATORS only 100 yards away! At this point, it was like seeing a mirage of bikini-laden brunettes applying lotion to each other on the horizon. (well, maybe not that fancy), so I pulled aside and asked a question: "You don't happen to have a pump do you?" The guy excitedly answered, "yeah! anything else you need, tube or something?" and ran to his minivan to fetch a pump and even pumped the air for me. I requested 40 lbs, and that is what he precisely put in it. I made sure to thank him, shake his hand and off I went. I think he was waiting all dang day to help someone out - he was so excited. Again, glad I could help keep someone else happy.
At least at this point, I was CRUSHING the slow riders and blowing by every last one of them I was so pissed (and now somewhat rested), till I was riding by myself. When I got to the finish line, everyone was having fun, drinking beer and socializing all I wanted to do was get changed, pack up and head home. I felt like I had missed everything.
I'm guessing I finished dead last in my age group (I didn't even check) - so next time I do this race I'm (almost) guaranteed significant improvement. So I got that going for me, which is nice.
Oh, and for the record, this was the fifth time out of six, riding Custer in the last 2 years where I have left with blood on the outside of my skin, instead of inside. At least, that is one thing I could count on.
I felt like garbage and performed even worse, but all-in-all it was still fun. I guess the basic reason for doing any of this in the first place. I should be happy about that at least. I don't know. Will I ever be satisfied? Probably not.