Monday, June 25, 2007

24 Hrs of Summer Solstice

At times, I can be a pessimist . . . anyone who knows me, knows this. So it wasn’t surprising that my frame of mind the leading up to the Summer Solstice was one of panic, gloom and despair. I was feeling sick and thought the worse. However, my health prevailed, turned a corner and I recovered. I owe a lot of it to resting, drinking liters of juice, taking Cold Fx and echinacea. Saturday morning I could still feel my swollen glands, but my energy seemed to be back. Turned out that Gilles and Mark, who I did part of Rideau Lakes with last weekend, also felt ill.

I love the atmosphere of 24 Hr races. Everyone is having fun, joking around, but pumped to ride their best. I shared a site with Rick & Matt, who were tag teaming, and we got our pit are set up Friday afternoon. The rest of the evening was spent on last minute preparation, eating and relaxing.

Saturday morning was pretty uneventful, with the regular race preparation-taking place by everyone in Chico’s Fishing Hole. A large Ottawa representation was there, as always. I made the mistake of waiting around for Rick to go line up at the start. We ended up standing in line about three quarters the way back from the start – the furthest back that I’ve ever started a race. The start of the largest 24 hour race in North America.

As a result, after the gun went off and we started moving, I stood in line at the numerous bottlenecks leading into the first three or four single-track sections. Out of the starting gate.Up, up , up.Coming into the pit area.
I felt very discouraged by this and ended up going pretty hard on my first lap once I had room to move. I remember picking up the pace on my second as well, trying to make up the time that I had lost on the starting lap.

A door opened inside of me and I met “The Man with the Hammer” – pain, misery, and a general hate-on for mountain biking. I can't explain what happened or why I felt that way. Was I not over whatever bug that I had? Did I go out too hard? I rode my first three laps thinking that I would settle into the race and start feeling better. All throughout my fourth lap I thought of excuses that I could use to give up and quit. I hoped for a race ending mechanical or injury. I even considered poking myself in the eye with a stick. Anything to stop. It was by far the worse I felt on a bike.

Somebody, please, shoot me.

At the end of my 5th I was ready to quit. I came into the pit, threw down the bike, had a temper tantrum and lay in the tent. Chris, Jenn, Rick, Doris & Ruth and everyone around who saw me like this did everything they could to get me out there again. I had a bite to eat and, grudgingly, went back out. About a quarter of the way through my sixth lap I passed Chris, who was watching me from a spectators spot, and yelled to her to pack the car, that this was my last lap. I was convinced I wanted nothing more to do with riding a bike, let alone this race.

Something happened to me shortly after I made that comment to Chris and I haven’t told anyone until now. I was on this steep’ish climb, standing, grunting through it and for some reason remembered an article on mental toughness I read in a mtn bike magazine a while back. The guy who wrote it said, “Envision your mind being the driver of a chariot, and your body is the horse. Command your body to obey and drive through” or something to that effect. Corny and silly as it sounds, it was a turning point for me in the race. I accepted it that this was going to hurt (how’s a 24 hr solo effort not going to hurt?!) and got on with it. Even if you are in top notched shape, it's still going hurt. As Greg Lemond once said, "It doesn't get any easier, you just get faster."

I came into the pit at the end of that lap and had some hot soup, watermelon and water. It helped lift my spirit and moral more. I got back out and started to ride, and most importantly, started enjoying it. I closed the door on “The Man with the Hammer”.

More tomorrow . . . . cheers.


Pete Strittmatter (PJ63) said...

Hey Craig...congrats again on your hard work at SS07 and way to go on slamming the ‘door’ – love the blog – your comments continue to inspired me more than ever to improve on my own results…Pete

Squirrel said...

Hell yeah way to finish it out brutha. Great write up.


Anonymous said...

Nice work Craig! You were putting down some fast lap times out there. I was blown away watching you climb one of those hills standing towards the end of the race - you looked so fresh!
Awesome job!!!

gwadzilla said...

great job

I think the top guys are zombies
but for the rest of the folks out there
it is about spirit
then spirit

I am going to watch 24 solo this weekend
saw it in the theater
got it on dvd