Saturday, June 10, 2006

Nordsjørittet Race Report

For an exercise in complete masochism, I refer you to the Nordsjørittet-- a "mountain bike race" of 80-something kilometer from Egersund to Sandnes. I present you with the fact that I have owned a mountain bike for maybe a six weeks. We drove down to Egersund, rather than taking the train. Originally, Lise was going to meet up with a friend down there, but plans changed. It was too late to take the train, and actually it was very nice to take a wide assortment of clothing so I had options based on the weather. When we left, the temperature was around 46 degrees. It rose to the mid-50s during the day- which after you live here awhile, seems like the mid-70s. The sun was shining-- beautiful. Of course it also means the wind if out of the north-- the direction of the race.

I was feeling better than I had all week. I was a little discouraged by how far the drive was, knowing full well that I would have to race all the way home. Eventually we arrived and set up. There were people everywhere. There were a total of five starting waves, elites, and ones through four. I chose group two, since I had no idea how technical it would be. Looking around, I was thinking I should have chosen the ones, but it was too late to do anything about it at that point. Eventually the ones were coralled for their start, then we filled in behind them and waited fifteen minutes before our start. There were hundreds in our group. When we started, it took me over a full minute to get to the start line-- and I lined up toward the front. Eventually we were on the road. Many people were riding a relatively leisurely pace. We quickly turned off the road onto a very loose gravel travel. At the bottom of a hill, a poor guy from the first group was being imobilized on a stretcher. It looked like his face had been torn off-- not what you want to see a few km into a long race. The uphills were so steep that people in front had to dismount and walk up, creating a chain reaction-- so we really had no choice but to walk.

The race ended up being a mix of gravel, where I tended to loose a lot of time, and pavement, where I ended up passing everyone who just passed me. I really need more mountain biking skills. The gravel was so loose that there was terrible traction, but it seemed to bother me more than other people. Eventually we made it to the North Sea (nordskjø) where there was some very deep single track. There was no passing as we rode through these nasty ruts. We came out to a clearing that was getting very technical-- rocks almost like a staircase. I was getting very nervous, but then everyone had to dismount, so it really didn't matter. We crossed a few streams (hopping across them, rock to rock while carrying our bikes), biked through pine forests so dark I couldn't see anything in front of me, biked through nasty mud pits, across pastures, along the sea again, then back on some roads.

By this point, both water bottles were empty, and my legs were cramping up. I had to pee. It wasn't a good situation. After leaving a muddy hill of foot, there was a water station. I grabbed two cups, then decided since we had done this much walking, peeing isn't going to matter much, so I made room for more liquid. It is always difficult to stay hydrated under those circumstances, and my calves were cramping up already.

The rest of the race was more of the same. Up, down, gravel, pavement, gravel. Eventually we reached familiar territory. I knew we were not far from Sandnes-- and we were flying on pavement. I couldn't wait for this to be over. It would be one thing to ride 80-something kilomters on the road, but I would guess that less than 25% was on pavement. I was a muddy, dusty mess. My good fortune didn't last for long as we ended up on gravel trails again in the heart of Sandnes. Then we were routed though a strange series of gates to the finish area. Finally it was over, and I saw Lise at the finish line. I don't think I have ever been so happy to finish a race. I might post some photos later, but I need to get ready for some work travel for tomorrow.

1 comment:

Lectron said...

A perfect day!