Friday, October 28, 2016
2016 BT Epic by Scott Shaw - Captain Ahab,
The 2016 BT Epic was the first race I have ever really wanted to quit. I had raced it two times before and registered a third time, but wasn’t able to go due to illness in the family, so this should have been my 4th finish. It clearly should have been easier since I knew what to expect, but it turned out to be something I never expected. In my first BT I hallucinated, but crossed the line in 7hr 47 min, in my second I cramped, had to recover using yoga, and finished in 6 hr 43 min, my 3rd should have been sub 6 hr, but would be riddled with problems that would lead me to coming the closest I have ever been to just calling it quits. I feel like I have suffered and endured a lot in races, and a lot in life period, but this situation almost got the best of me.
I started off race day still recovering from the last weekend 30 hour Adventure Race, but I had made sure to rest well all week especially since I had caught a cold. I slept at home like I normally do and drove in morning of, arriving early as usual. The only thing to note is I forgot to put my number on my bike and had to scramble at the last minute to do so. Climbing the gravel hill I noticed immediately my knees were still sore from the AR and I was sucking snot like crazy. I knew that I was going to have a hard race and needed to quickly find my pace and comfort zone. I dropped back some before hitting the single track, which was actually a mistake since I started passing people. I rode for a while and waited for traffic jams to bump air and drink. I then took a second to stop to remove my jacket and eat, and was upset that at least 20 riders passed me. I got moving again, dropped the front big ring, and started feeling in the grove and felt I was finally moving at my pace. I started getting aggressive on the downhills and worried I would flat and then at around 19 miles I did. I quickly threw a tube in and thought “well I’m still in this” and hurried on. Only about a mile later I flatted again! I patched the tube and thought “well I’m no longer going sub 6, but maybe I can still beat my last time.” I started nearing Berryman and felt it going flat again. I stopped at Berryman and removed the tire a 3rd time. Some nice individuals came over to inspect my tire as I rooted through my pack looking for another tube that I swore I had brought. I couldn’t find it, so I looked at the patched tube and noticed the patches had fallen off. I sanded the pinch flat area once more, cleaned it, and applied two more new patches. A man told me my tire was good and my patches sucked, and another man came over with a floor pump and loaded me to 40 psi. I thought that should be enough not to pinch flat again and I could endure a rough ride. Whomever you two are, I thank you.
I left Berryman and rode for some time until that rear tire started feeling sloppy again. Most of my friends from opposing teams had already passed me and others were coming up. I told them what was going on, but I was too frustrated to take a tube or more CO2, so I would run flat, pump it up, ride, run flat, pump it up, ride, and repeat. I kept doing this for a while until it got so annoying I was going to quit. I made it to the spring and filled some water and decided to catch Derrick Boos, who had earlier offered me his spare patch kit, so I could take him up on the offer. Having more patches made me feel a lot better about finishing. The race was over, a nice day long trail ride was over, now I just wanted to finish before dark since I hadn’t brought lights. I stopped and re-applied patches. I had two more of my patches left and then Derrick’s entire kit. I rode more in the cycle of flatting and pumping, I got mad and rode flat for a while. I started losing count of my flats and my arm was burning from pumping.
I started thinking about quitting. When I’m hurting I usually think of someone I personally know that has inspired me to try harder in my life. Someone who got a raw deal in life, but keeps going no matter. I know a few of them. People that beat cancer, had heart surgery, had back surgery, people that just had a raw deal, but people that keep running, keep pedaling, keep smiling. I wasn’t hurting though, I was just flatting. I kept telling myself, “it’s just a tire and you can fix it, well keep fixing it.” I started thinking that my tubeless wheel must not be meshing well with the tubed tire that I installed shortly before my AR, after I slashed the tubeless in training. I was glad that I hadn’t had this problem in the AR. I thought, “Well this is now going to be just another adventure.” I started thinking about what I was doing wrong, why was it not holding air, what could I do to finish? I then heard my old Marine dad say, “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome!” How many times have I heard that growing up? I started thinking about improvising a tube boot to protect the tube I had patched. In my mind it worked well; take my small knife, cut out the presta valve, cut it length wise and then wrap it around the tube. I decided enough was enough and went for a fifth total tire breakdown. I decided this time to look for a safe, shaded, semi-clean spot to sit and work. I took the wheel off and got to work, but then thought this would be an ideal time to eat and drink too. I said a prayer of thanks and that I would not get anymore flats and I would finish. I started cutting up the tube, it was so ugly! People stopped to see what I was doing. I told them it was a desperate measure and I was improvising. They offered help, but I told them I would see them in a bit. I couldn’t get the “tube boot” to fit, so I threw it in my pack. I thought about the ole fabled leaves and dirt trick. I sat there and ate and looked through my bag and remembered I had shoved another tube in my saddle bag. I grabbed it out swapped it with the patched one. I checked it all over to make sure it held air. I really wanted to protect it with a boot or patches as sometimes I put a small square of tube or leather around the Presta valve to keep from getting valve cuts. I decided to just install it and check that it wasn’t pinched. I pumped and pumped and pumped until it was hard. I got on the bike and it felt squishy, got off and pumped, got on and felt squishy, got off and pumped until it felt solid. Improvise failed, but it gave me time to recover and become calm enough to remember I had another tube. I started thinking that was the fifth full tire off rim change, and probably the seventh full flat. I thought I was going to pinch flat again and thought “time to adapt.” I changed my riding speed and style to protect the rear tire at all cost. I knew I wouldn’t “overcome” until I crossed the finish line.
I rode for many miles and felt the squishiness returning, or it was just in my head, but to be sure I pumped some more. I came across riders with broken chains, derailleurs, fingers, and I was still headed to the finish and they were headed back for help. I was glad I only had flats and wasn’t them, but then I crashed right before a rock garden. I normally ride them, but I decided at the last minute to stop, unclip, and walk, but I couldn’t unclip and fell over. I laid there stuck to the bike and I couldn’t get either foot to release. If you never had this happen to you, you don’t really understand how hard it is to unclip horizontally or upside down with one foot pinned to the ground and the other in the air. I thought someone is going to come by and run me over, like I almost did to both a guy and girl when they crashed. I kept trying to unclip, but it started feeling nice laying there. “I could just lay here, rest, find a road near by later and quit.” I then heard my dad’s voice, “Scotty, get up!” I heard that a lot when I was learning to walk again as a 4 year old with nine toes. I laughed to myself and said “you have nine more toes and Derrick Boo’s mother fn patch kit, get unclipped and get up!” I moaned, cussed, moved around like a snake that someone was pinning to the ground with their boot, but finally got unclipped. I got up and decided this finish is for my old man. I rode the rest of the “race” without any issues. I rode determined not to flat again. The tire held, my body held, my spirits lifted, and I overcame at 7hr 8min! I used 3 tubes, 4 CO2s, an entire patch kit, and probably wore out a brand new pump. Thanks dad for being a hard ass Marine and never letting me quit…Semper Fi!
Dad, after the race, I took a shit, and yes, I felt better! Love you, Scott. -Ahab