A Note from Fatty: This is part 6 in my 6 Hours in Frog Hollow race report. If you somehow wound up here before reading the first five parts, you might want to read them first: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.
“One last lap.” I said it out loud, again, to myself. “One last lap.” And then I asked myself the rhetorical question that I have asked myself dozens — maybe hundreds — of times during dozens of races when I felt like I was out of gas:
“Can’t you be strong for just one more hour?”
Maybe I could. I was sure trying to be.
Where is Mike?
For the entire race, Mike from Boise and I had been racing in a familiar pattern — I would catch and pass him in the five mile climb, then he would catch and pass me during the eight mile descent, then I would catch him in the home stretch and we would finish the lap more or less together.
But in the fourth lap — the penultimate lap — he had broken that pattern by getting far enough ahead of me that I didn’t know where he was. Didn’t know how far ahead of me he was, or how I’d manage to find a way to finish ahead of him.
Because I definitely wanted to finish ahead of him.
And so I rode my brains out during the climb. In spite of being tired, in spite of not having any idea how I would manage to keep him from passing me and leaving me in the dust during the downhill.
“I’ll work out a strategy for keeping him behind me once I’ve actually got him behind me,” I thought.
And I stepped it up again. I had to catch him. Had to.
But I couldn’t catch him. Couldn’t even see him. Whenever I was in a stretch where I could see a few turns ahead, I’d strain my eyes, looking for his now-familiar Spot.
He wasn’t there. He had — somehow — gotten so far ahead of me that I just couldn’t catch him. Couldn’t even find him.
And the doubts crept in. “Maybe I’m not going fast at all. Maybe I’m so cooked that what feels like a big effort is hardly moving.”
I kept going, but as I got to the top of the climb, the urgency dropped out of my racing. If I hadn’t caught him by the top, I wasn’t going to catch Mike in the downhill.
And so I eased up. Not really on purpose, but once the motivation is gone…it’s gone.
I wasn’t going to catch Mike, and — as far as I knew, nobody was going to catch me — so I just coasted. Sure, I pedaled when I had to, but I took it easy. Hey, why not?
I got through the first part of the downhill, just rolling along, avoiding bumps — my wrists were hurting.
I rolled through the first section of soft, dusty singletrack, leading up to the short uphill section on dirt road — the place where, on two other laps, Mike had caught and passed me. I wondered where he was now. Maybe already finished?
I took a moment to feel sorry for myself. I had tried so hard. But I just hadn’t done it.
“Well, I’m glad this race is about over,” said a voice from behind me.
It was Mike.
“WWHHHHUHH?” I said, very intelligently. Then I followed up with, “I was sure you were in front of me this whole lap!”
But he hadn’t been. He had been behind me; I just hadn’t seen him taking a break or using the bathroom or whatever at the beginning of this lap.
But through the clever technique of giving up and slowing to a crawl on the descent, I had made it possible for Mike to catch me in the same place he had several times before.
“I’m going to beat myself up for months,” I thought to myself. And, aloud, I said, “Nice work catching me; you’d better go on ahead. You’re much better on the descents.”
As he pulled onto the singletrack and pulled away, I said, “Hey, it’s been really great racing with you.”
Because it had been. Mike from Boise had been the perfect motivation for me to really push myself during this race.
Somehow, knowing that I had let an opportunity to beat Mike go by — if only I hadn’t taken it easy on the downhill! — completely deflated me. The competition between Mike and me was over, and I had let it go by giving up well before I needed to.
So I moped along, riding in what felt like slow motion.
I was whipped. Physically and mentally. And then, from behind me, I heard it:
The Hammer. Flying. Downhilling through the dusty course like I had never seen her ride before. Like a pro.
“Move over, Mister Nelson!” she called. “I am racing!”
Obediently, meekly, I yielded.
“Are you OK?” she called as she went by.
“I’m fine,” I said, wondering if she’d realize that “fine” was code for “miserable and self-pitying.”
“I’ve got to go, there’s another racer hot on my tail!” she called.
“OK,” I said.
And just like that, the moment I have been wondering about for the past couple months — the moment when my wife becomes faster than me — had come to pass.
She pulled away, disappearing from view.
“Well, I can try to keep up,” I thought, and started giving chase…and managed to keep up. Barely.
We crossed the line together. The Hammer triumphant, me…not so much.
But I had learned an invaluable lesson, the hard way. I will never again give up before a race is over. Because you never know what’s going to happen, and what opportunities will arise. But if you’re not trying your hardest, you won’t be in any position to take advantage when those opportunities do present themselves.
We packed up and headed over to the city park for the awards ceremony. While we waited for it to begin (it’s a cardinal rule of racing that no awards ceremony can ever start on time), we took some photos of how dirty we were.
And that’s pretty dirty.
The Hammer’s division went first, and she took…second!
The only woman who beat her in the Women’s Solo category, in fact, was Joey Lithgoe, a pro (Joey hadn’t gotten to the awards ceremony yet).
The Hammer’s prize? a nice tanktoppish jersey:
Then it was my turn:
Mike from Boise had taken third, I had taken fourth. And I just had to get a picture of me with the guy who had pushed me so hard.
It was a great moment: a couple of racers, having given their all, now getting a photo together.
And then Cimarron Chacon, the owner/promoter of Gro-Promotions, which puts on this race yelled, “Hey old guys! Go get your prizes and get out of the way!”
Which, when you think about it, sorta puts the whole thing into perspective.