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2018 XCM National Champs Report

2018 XCM National Champs Report

Post Series: Cody Waite

My “early season target” event was indeed early this last weekend in the woods of Arkansas. The 2018 USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike Race was my first race as a 40-year-old Masters athlete. Entering my 40th year of life, I’ve been enjoying putting more and more of my daily efforts into other areas of my life alongside my own training and racing. Running a business, coaching, family, and kids training & racing have been extremely rewarding. Being a competitive person, and one that enjoys the pursuit of health and fitness, I’m not ready to put my own racing down for good, but stepping back to high level age-group racing provides plenty of competition and motivation to keep my standards high.

The long distance course in Arkansas was certainly a challenging one.

One 4 mile “start loop”, followed by two 23 mile laps of tight, twisty, rocky single track required intense focus and nearly nonstop pedaling for the 3+ hours of planned racing. Total elevation gain was moderate, but with all of it coming as short punchy climbs or less obvious shallow twisting grinds, the course kept racing pretty darn challenging. In addition, starting several waves back on the start grid and having to work through traffic on course is something new to add to the challenge of Masters MTB racing.

Race morning was cool and clear. Pre-race routine was set and executed. The race plan was to sit second or third wheel for the first 27+ miles and feel out the competition and pace. Then from there, assessing when and where to try and make a move to get away. With the gun going off, things settled in for the opening three miles on the road before really getting lit up as we entered the single track.

The 40-year-old field may not be as deep the Pro field, but the pointy end is just as sharp!

My plan was intact through the first full lap as I sat in second with the leader in sight with 20+ miles to go. Races rarely ever go as planned, and unfortunately my plans began to unravel halfway around the second lap. I begin to feel my hands and elbows getting fatigued, almost like a tendonitis or arthritis type feeling. Then my pace began to drop and as I lost sight of the lead, I also struggled to keep my bike on the rocky trail. I chalked it up to some late-race fatigue and something I would bounce back from, after some calories and hydration, like I’ve experienced in the past.

Unlike previous experiences however, I wasn’t coming back. Rather continuing to fade backwards as riders in my group began to catch and pass me. I was getting frustrated mainly because the first 30+ miles I was riding so well and railing the single track, to now find myself seemingly unable to even stay on the trail! Once back to about 7th or 8th pace and grip strength diminishing, I decided to stop to gather myself. I stretched out my hands and back, squeezed my tires to check pressure, and pushed on my suspension for squish.

No squish was found on my fork.

I took a closer look and saw that my left fork seal had blown off and was at the top of the stanchion. I tried continuing on some more, but my motivation had vanished and I honestly felt like I was in the way, having to let riders go around me until I called it a day at a road crossing at mile 43. Post race I learned that loss of air in one chamber of the fork can create pressure to build and blow off fork seals. Then more air can be lost and the imbalance causes the fork to “lock out” and/or become basically inoperable. On a different course, perhaps not a race ending disaster, but on this nearly entirely rocky single track course, without a fully functioning fork you don’t stand a chance.

It’s never a good feeling to DNF a race. Thankfully I’ve only had to a very few times over my 20+ year racing career. The thoughts going through your head as you make your back to the start area are full of mixed emotions with disappointment being the primary. Mechanicals, crashes, mistakes of all kinds, and disappointment are a big part of racing. I try not to dwell on the negative for too long, but rather just long enough to evaluate and learn from the incident to hopefully not allow it to happen again in the future.

All said and done, overall it was good experience and one that I hope to have another crack at in the future. In the meantime, after a short recovery break, it will be back to an 8 week block of training and racing, building up towards my primary goal of my 2018 season in the Leadville 100 MTB later this summer. More on this to come!

 

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

 

 

 

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