On Saturday, when I realized the grinding from my rear wheel was coming from inside the hub, I figured I'd have to take my bike to the shop.
But I really hate having factors outside my control ruin my day. And I generally like to do my own wrenching. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I'd feel a lot better doing the repairs myself.
So I pulled my rear hub assembly apart and got to the bottom of what killed my race.
I'd originally guessed it was the freehub. But I guessed wrong: the drive side cartridge bearing had completely disintegrated. There were a dozen tiny ball bearings loose between the freehub pawls & the hub body. Many of them were ground down to little flattened hemispheres.
But, happily, there doesn't seem to be any damage to the axle or hub, or even the freehub pawls.
I found the manual for my hubs, and set about pulling apart and cleaning the whole assembly. The hardest part was removing the bearing races from the hub and axle. The outer race didn't leave a lot of accessible area to get a grip on, and the inner race was pretty well clamped around the axle. But ultimately everything came loose with no damage.
New bearings arrived last night, and my improvised bearing press (a 10-inch 3/8'' bolt with a nut & some washers) performed like a champ. And light traffic this morning let me squeeze in a great ride before work. Rear wheel showed no sign of trouble.
(I'm holding off putting on the new freehub until I'm sure the new bearing fixed the whole problem. I don't want my brand new freehub to end up a casualty if I didn't install everything correctly.)
Feels good. I'm not happy that I DNF-ed a race, but I feel good that I didn't just say, "Well, shit happens," and drop my bike at the shop. It feels good to take ownership of the issue, learn something and become a better mechanic.
And I don't want to let the learning stop there.
I'm relearning that it takes me forever to get all cylinders firing on early, cold mornings. For Aliso, I'm going to make sure I get 15-20 minute of steady pedalling before the race.
I made the classic mistake: I went out too fast, and ended up with my heart rate pinned on the way up Dreaded. Once I was on the climb, it simply wasn't possible to get my HR under control. The result is that I pushed my HR from a Z4, threshold pace to a Z5c anaerobic pace for just a seven-second gain over my "take-it-easy" time.
Aliso has a similar start: flat, then a steep hill. I'll do it right this time.
I also feel like I didn't warm up well. At Aliso, I'll get 10-20 minutes of steady pedaling.
I'm going to check the bearings in the front hub to make sure they're in good order.
My fork is (over)due for an overhaul. That's going to happen before the next race. (And it'll happen at the shop-- I don't yet have the know-how to do that job right, and it's a big job.)
One of the other racers actually offered me his rear wheel so I could at least finish. That was incredibly nice of him, and it reminded me that I have my own spare set of wheels: the stock wheels that came with my bike. I'm tempted to put them together with an old cassette and tires, and just have them ready for the next race. Might be overkill, but it's something to think about.
I feel like my training got completely derailed over the last couple of weeks. I felt slow on Saturday, all mishaps aside, and I was sluggish on my lunchtime road ride yesterday. (About a minute behind PR pace on the climb up Mulholland.) I felt better this morning, and I'm going to make sure that I'm climbing strong and pinning my HR on a regular basis.