After doing 20 or so minutes of spinning/tempo/jumps up and down Rte. 22, I was at the point where I was thinking, “let’s do this thing already”. Scott Sweeney mentioned he had an upset stomach and Todd P, Jeremy and Matt seemed to me to be pretty antsy too.
Jeremy had announced his intention to be at or near the front at the top of Juniper Swamp. Sure, I thought, I’ll go for some of that.
Lined up on the center line maybe five riders back with Jeremy just in front of me and Scott and Todd to my side and behind. After a couple of minutes we were on our way.
The first couple of miles, I had some pretty good butterflies in my stomach as I was a) unsure about some of the wobbly guys around me (not my team mates) b) being hyper attentive to staying near Scott, Jeremy and Todd and c) riding on the centerline. Soon enough, the pack thinned out just enough so that the front was only 2-3 wide which left plenty of room to maneuver. After some jockeying around, I think I was around 8th wheel.
We wound our way along Rte. 313 at a fair clip when suddenly, it seemed to me, everybody slowed down a few mph. Well, most of you know me well enough to not be surprised to find out that I swung to the left and kept the pace up at the mid-20 mph place that it had been. I could almost hear Jeremy say, “There he goes again.”
Just before the turn off 313, I settled back into a slot near the front of the pack as we wound our way to Perry Mill Road. It’s only 1/2 mile or so longer than Oak Hill but oh, that extra 1/2 mile at 8% avg gradient (w/some 12% thrown in) is a killer. I stayed in the front 10 or so and hoped the descent towards Juniper Swamp would allow my HR to return from the stratosphere.
No such luck: we turned onto J.S. and were headed up with me still huffing and puffing, but my legs felt pretty good and I was able to keep up. The road surface was well packed (by previous fields?) and you could actually climb out of the saddle if you carefully kept your rear wheel to the ground. At the top, nobody seemed to spank it hard and so we settled into it once again.
The next 24 miles, from 13 to 37 are kind of a blur for me but I remember these few things:
I can’t recall exactly when it happened, but it was in this stretch that I had my last glimpse of Jeremy and the lead group as they gapped the rest of us (6?) over the top of some hill or other.
When we weren’t headed into the wind, my super-thin (and black) base layer had me feeling pretty hot, so I put it into my head to be careful about water consumption (I carried three bottles and was on vapors at the end).
As we went on, I began to get gapped on the hills, a little bit, maybe 4 or 5 bike lengths but then hammered onto the last wheel ahead on the descents. I knew this was going to cost me in the long run.
There were a couple of husky guys who were in the same get-dropped/hammer-back-on cycle and I let them pull me back on a few times, glad they were around. They were good wind blocks too.
One guy got his chain royally tangled up as he shifted on a climb, thought that was the last I’d see of him but he heroically made it back to our group.
Scott appeared steady as a rock the whole time.
Nearly two hours into the race and I realized that I didn’t take any Endurolytes since before the start. I reached into my jersey to pull them out when suddenly we were descending Carney-Cassidy Road and I thought better of one-handing it just then. Sure enough, on the next rise, I got out of the saddle to narrow a gap and BOOM: right quad cramped. My Garmin data clearly shows the moment when my cadence went from the mid 80’s to 25 rpm when it happened. I shifted to an easier gear to get my cadence back up but it was too late: they gapped me real good.
I kept them in sight for few minutes but every turn seemed to put me into more wind and I knew I would not finish at all if I kept trying to close that gap on my own. I was prepared for the likelyhood that I would finish this race on my own so I settled into finding a groove that I could carry for the next 27 miles.
These next, long, miles consisted of getting low to the wind, doing what I could on the ascents and pushing as hard as I could on the flats and descents. One part of me was half expecting a huge pack from our field to come and overtake me, the nagging thought of this helped keep me from converting the race into a sight-seeing ride.
Soon, however, I also had to deal with some serious lower back pain. Not like any I’ve had before, it was really low and overlapped the top of my hips. Strangely, it would come and go with no correlation to the effort I was putting out.
Meanwhile, I passed a couple of guys that either Jeremy’s and/or Scott’s group had dropped. I thought they’d cling to my increasingly feeble wheel, but they didn’t even try. A couple of those dirt road descents in this last third of the race were pretty hairy, with loose dirt and crushed rock dust about 2 inches thick on top. I could see some pretty wavy tracks laid down by earlier passers-by but kept an even keel as I went along. I passed one guy getting medical attention in that stretch.
|MRC Team mate Matt Pierson climbing Meeting House Road. Photo Courtesy Beth Trickett|
The ups and downs of Meeting House Road were torture, the pain enhanced for a moment when 5 guys went blasting by me on one of the rises: “Here comes the rest of the pack!”, I thought. It took me a moment to notice they had different colored numbers on and were the leaders of a field that started after ours. Phew.
Onto Stage Road and, like on most of the last climbs, there was no spark left in my legs so I shifted all the way to 39/27 and ground my way up. I was keenly aware of all the people set up on their front yards or end of the driveways, cheering, ringing bells and enjoying the passing parade of pain. It definitely gave me a lift when I really needed it.
I was in heaven when one lone lady leaning on her mailbox shouted to me: “One more climb and then five miles to go!”
The last miles had me, forearms my bar tops, in tri-mode, pedaling towards the end. Somehow, after all previous agony, I managed a 20 mph avg for the final 4 miles. That last turn into the finish straight was a real treat with people hanging over the barriers, cheering as I crossed the line with no one else in sight. My assumption was that I finished barely in the top 20 and was going to confirm that later on BikeReg, I felt good all right about it but was not exactly jazzed.
Afterwards, I greedily grabbed a bottle of water that was handed to me and downed right away. I wandered with my bike along the vendor area until I came upon Len near the start-finish line and gave him the short version of my race. Then he gave me directions back to the high school which left me dreading getting back on my bike for the short ride back.
I bounced back a bit after I changed/ate/drank and returned to the podium area with Jeremy, Scott, Todd, Matt and connected with Carl “Old Salt” Shimer and Gary “Wasabe Chin” Sclar.
Finally, I wandered over to the posted results, looked up my field and found to my surprise that I had finished 12th.