It was 2010 when i first did bone bender... it's been a torrid love affair ever since.
Back then the race was held on the trails at Smithville Lake, then in 2011 they moved it to Clinton Lake in Lawrence, KS. The two trails are totally opposites of each other. Smithville, although i only did it once so the memory is old, is smooth and fast... Clinton is full of rocks, big ones, they're everywhere.
Clinton is a mans course.
I prefer the women's courses.
But... you cant deny the satisfaction of tackling a f'ing hard course. I just rode 4 hours of intense mountain bike trails and while i'm extremely tired right now i'm by no means totally wrecked. Instead im sitting here typing away in my underwear drinking a corona and still covered in mud from the race.
This post may be suffering for a bit of post race euphoria... What a day!
I pick up my pal J Sink and we arrive on site at around 845. plenty of time to get ready for the 10am mass start. Just like the previous 2 years im doing the 3 hr solo, sport category. Last year i actually entered the open category, on a whim, and my time put me around 10th in the sport. So i figured i was more of a sport rider than an open rider.
I felt calm before the race and everything went great while getting ready. The guys next to us in the parking lot were from Lincoln, NE so we chatted a bit. And of course there were familiar faces everywhere. Bone Bender seems to be the one cant miss local Mountain Bike race of the year. Practically everybody was there and they all seemed to be in good spirits.
I load up the camelback with co2, tube, pump, multi tool and the jersey pockets with double expresso clif shot x2, orange shot blocks, clif protein balls, camera, and roll to the start line.
Chris Locke dons his awesome motorcycle helmet and leads the neutral roll out on a little motor cycle.
Last year i started way too fast. The year before i started way too slow. This year i think i got it just right. It took about 5-10 minutes to get to the singletrack and at one point i thought i was way too far back, then i looked back to see a sh*t ton of people behind me and i felt much better.
We hit the single track and the stop and go starts pretty much immediately. didn't bother me though, i was already breathing hard from the first part. Within 15 minutes the traffic jam is over. On top of being very technical the trails were also slippery due to the recent rain. Luckily i have an amazing bike (thanks X!) and i was smart enough (thank's Britton) to put the right amount of pressure in my tires. The bike felt good.
The first lap was great, i was riding well and feeling pretty confident. then the rear tired started to deflate. At first i wasn't sure, kind of like that time me and some friends found what appeared to be a sweet breath bottle of acid so we all took some and then for the next hour or two we kept saying, "is it acid, are you tripping? no, maybe, no, yes" well, it was acid, in a manner of speaking. Except instead of listening to disc 2 of the white album on repeat i was keeling on the side of the trail putting co2 into a mountain bike tire.
Funny how 10 years changes things.
Luckily the stans tubeless wheels setup plugged the leak so i was pedaling again within no time.
Did i mention that my fingers started cramping after about 10 minutes. No kidding. Not a good sign. i finish the first lap in around 1:35 and started the second lap thinking it might be hard to beat the cutoff to get in a 3rd lap. Then i hit the deck. Then i hit the deck again. Than i came completly unglued for about 10 minutes (maybe this is like the white album on repeat night) and the prospect of a 3rd lap looked grim.
When things got really bad i said to myself, out loud, "ride your bike". That helped. I calmed down and rode a descent lap that finished 2:45 from the start... beating the cutoff by 15 minutes.
Lap 3 here we come
The first half of each lap was by far the hardest so my strategy for survival was to ride it very slow so that i had enough juice to make it over the technical sports, which were plenteful. It was a good strategy and one i dont think i could have executed a few years ago. Back than i would have gotten all worked up like jo jo the idiot circus boy, not now. i'm going grew, i'm wise.
Despite the fact that i was doing what i needed to do i was still hurting bad. The finger cramps were so bad that i basically had to leave two fingers over the break lever at all times otherwise they would lock up and i couldnt move them to grab the breaks when necessary. Plus feet and thigh muscles were beginning to cramp. I tried to turn up the focus because i could see a serious injury happening at any moment.
i got past the hard parts and actually had a spurt of energy on the fastest section of the trail. For 10 minutes i was flying. then reality kicked in (and the double espresso gu kicked off) and i was hanging on for dear life.
But i finished.
It was one of the best feelings ever.
i quickly wondered over to the food tent where the gravel whisperer (owner of the top notch westport restaurant Pot Pie) was cooking up fried chicken. I had a few pcs. Plus some soda. Then i kind of wondered around in a daze.
I had no idea where i placed but i thought it was pretty good because throughout the race not too many people passed me. I checked the results once and didnt see my name, then i looked again to see i finished 2nd.
I had no idea. The mind can be weird during a long race when you're alone in the woods and i alternated between thinking i was doing okay to thinking i was riding like a little bi*th.
So at the end of it all i got to stand on the podium.
What a day!
Big thanks to everyone who made it happen. I have no idea what it takes to put on an event that big but i'm sure it's really hard.
I hope everybody else had even half as much fun as i did.
See y'all next time, perhaps on the start-line of the open race... perhaps.