Yesterday (was it only yesterday?), I competed in the inaugural (it’s not often you get to say that) Austin Rattler 100. The Austin Rattler 100 is a marathon mountain bike race that’s about 100 kilometers long. I’m not sure of the exact conversion, but I know the course was 15.5 miles long and there were four laps. That’s like 62 miles on a mountain bike.
I’ll just cut to the end: I didn’t finish.
The morning started early, I got up, got dressed, ate my normal race day meal, loaded the car and checked out of my hotel room. I then drove the few miles down the road and got all set up there and wandered around lost, trying to figure out where to get my timing chip and where to put the plethora of numbered stickers they gave me (229, if you’re interested in the number on the stickers). A short while later I, with about 499 other people (total guesstimate), was lined up waiting for the shotgun to go off. Literally, they had a shotgun and they shot it and we started.
We started off in a huge pack, people passing left and right, and we all just kept pedaling. The race starts you off with jeep trail, some of which was cut just for this race. Which means there’s big rocks, and everything is just rough.
I wanted to take it slow, so I was chilling with some of the people in the group I found myself in. I didn’t want to burn myself out, since I had to do this three more times. I ended up following these two ladies, Cynthia and Caroline (I think, it could be Carolyn. Doesn’t Brian Regan have a joke about that?). They were just chatting up a storm and picking good likes and taking an easy pace. I hung out with them until one of them got a bent chain link and they had to take it out. So we said our farewells and I went on my way.
By then we just started the second half of the first loop, where all the single track starts. This was my first time to Rocky Hill Ranch, and I rather enjoyed it. You got to weave in and out of pine trees and there wasn’t anything that was too technical. I ended up hitting a good groove and finished that first lap strong feeling. Looking at the time clock, it took me 1:50 minutes to make the first lap and re-supply. Much longer than I wanted if I wanted to finish before 7 hours. So, I started to do the whole thing again.
Since I was already warmed up and in my stride, the first half of the second lap, with all its climbing, I felt that I did much better. While I was still weak and slow climbing, I could pound it out during the flatter sections and started picking people off. You see someone up a head, and you catch up to them. You hang on their wheel for a little bit, maybe make some small talk, and then you ask if you could go around. It was a lot of fun. Towards the end of that lap, I caught up with a woman who races cross-country (like me) and we tore up the single track part of the second lap. At the rest area at the start/finish, we parted ways and I refueled and went on my way. I managed to do that lap in an hour and forty minutes, knocking ten minutes off my previous lap.
Lap three started okay, I knew I was getting a little tired, I’ve already done like 31 miles (previous record was 39.1). I just crawled up some of the hills: walking up some and just being in the granniest of the granny gears on my bike for the rest. About halfway through the lap, I started to lose hold of my steely thoughts and started to doubt. Would I actually be able to make another lap? Do I want to? And as the lap wore on, my thoughts got worse and worse until the actual thought crossed my mind “let’s just stop after this lap”. It’s those thoughts that you want to keep out of your mind, those are the thoughts that will make you quit.
That last half of the lap was horrible. I had a headache that drinking no amount of water/electrolytes could fix. My lower back was killing me. My triceps were so weak. My hip flexors would cramp if I turned a certain way. The only things that seemed to be fine, and would actually work when my brain could muster up the strength to command them, were my legs.
After pretty much coasting back, weak and defeated, I did manage to work up the strength to pass one last guy at the finish line. That lap took me about 2 hours.
My saving grace was that there was a cut off point and I got there like 2 or 3 minutes late. They wouldn’t let me go back out there.
So I laid on the ground next to all my stuff and just moaned (mostly inside my head, but one or two may have escaped). I was saddened by my first DNF and relieved that I didn’t have to go back out there and do one more lap. I finally dusted myself off (literally), changed, grabbed some free BBQ, a free beer, packed up my stuff and drove home. Driving home after an event like that is something that I wouldn’t recommend. I almost fell asleep driving a few times. And I’m pretty sure the amount of caffeine I ingested on that drive home kept waking me up thought the night.
Would I do it again? Yes. I want to beat this race. I know I would train a lot harder for it. I know I would either bring someone along to drive me home or I would get a second night at a hotel.
I wanted to do this in the first place because it’s put on by the same people who put on the big race in Leadville. I’ve read a lot of fun race reports about Leadville and I put it on my goals list. To finish under 9 hours. Now that I’ve done this race, I am re-evaluating that goal. I’m not saying that I can’t do it and that I need to pick something a little easier, I’m re-evaluating if that goal is something that’s really mine and not something that I picked up from someone else.
Well, it’s late and it’s been a long weekend. Good night.