Mr. R&R and I got up at Stupid O'Clock, went through all the usual pre-race stuff, loaded up our bikes and set out for the race site in the dark. As we made our way West, we could see the sun rising in the rearview mirror and once we turned off onto the rural highways, watching the low fog rising off the fields as the sun broke over the horizon was absolutely stunning.
Per the Brent-recommended pre-race ritual, we were among the first people to arrive at the race site and when we got out of the car, it was absolutely frickin' freezing out!
We bumped into Dr. Beast, stood around lamenting the cold, and she informed us that the bike course was a serious hillfest. It turns out we took a wrong turn on our course preview last night and missed the worst of it! I already had incredibly low expectations going into this race after checking out results from 2013 and 2014. My best case scenario going into this race was finishing around 2 hours, which would have put in me in the bottom 5-10 in previous years. Dr. Beast's warning had me mentally preparing myself for a Dead Last Finish. After we parted ways with Dr. Beast, we continued to follow Brent's ritual: got on our bikes and went for a quick 2-3 mile warm up/shake out ride. It was so cold that I couldn't feel my hands after only 2 miles!
Following our warm up, we racked our bikes, set up our transition areas (pretty easy for a du), and went for a quick 2 block warm up jog and stretched out. I usually go to a start line feeling cold and stiff, and I was actually feeling pretty good as they called the athletes to the Start Line.
The first wave was made up of elites (like Dr. Beast) and relay racers (1 person did both run legs and another did the bike). My wave was next - everyone 35 and under, followed by athletes 36 and older (like Mr. R&R) 3 minutes later. Usually the 35 and under crowd is pretty thick at these things and I was shocked to see maybe 20 people around me. The gun went off and I started running. I quickly found myself toward the back of the pack - and I was running around 8:38 pace! I ended up passing a couple of people who had gone out too fast as the course wound uphill and I felt like maybe I had a chance at finishing better than dead last. I was extra happy when the way back was all downhill!
Run 1: 2 Miles (1.86 miles according to Garmin)
Official Time: 16:39 (8:57/mile)
Garmin Time: 16:40 (8:57/mile)
I flew into transition, stripping off the fleece jacket I'd worn for the run since I was sufficiently warmed up at that point, jammed my helmet on, and hauled ass to the mount line.
Official Time: 1:39
Garmin Time: 1:37
No sooner had I mounted, I heard a horrible noise. I pulled over to investigate thinking that maybe one of my wheels had gotten knocked on the rack and was rubbing against the brakes or something like that. I wasted a valuable couple of minutes trying to figure out what was going on, but nothing was obviously wrong, so I got back on the bike, hoped for the best, and set out to tackle 17 miles of hills. The first few miles were pretty good. I stayed in aero as much as possible, did a little passing, and generally didn't hate life. Then the rolling hills started. I kind of sucked on the ups and felt awesome on the downs. Periodically, when I found myself getting super-tired, I'd eat a Shot Blok (like a big, caffeinated, gummy bear), take a drink, and find the ability to keep going. There were several sections of road that were just awful. It was so bumpy that it felt like riding on top of a washing machine (and incredibly rough on any part of me that was touching the bike seat), and I ended up cutting the inside of my lip when I went to take a drink from my aero bottle. Fortunately, the fields and farmhouses lining the roads were nice to look at, so it took my mind off some of the hills.
I got passed a lot on the bike, but I made it my personal mission to pass every mountain bike I came across and not get re-passed. I'm pleased to say I was successful. The last one was tough since I had to attack her on a steep uphill. I got past her and hauled ass to T2 - so ready to be off the bike.
Bike: 17 Miles (Garmin Distance: 17.11)
Official Time: 1:03:20 (16.1mph)
Garmin Time: 1:03:28 (16.3mph)
I dismounted and attempted to jog into transition, but that was not happening. My legs were pretty shot and wobbly, so I was reduced to shuffling back to the rack. Just as I was hanging up my bike, Miss Mountain Bike was suddenly racking next to me! Damn...I thought I put her further behind me. I finished tying my shoes and attempted to start running.
Official Time: 1:31
Garmin Time: 1:28
The second run was pretty much identical to the first run and I felt like I was practically crawling as I left transition, but a quick look at my watch said I was running at 7:42/mile pace! I guess there's something to be said for being a little numb from the waist down, but I knew there was no way I could hold it, so I dialed it back a bit. On my way to the hill, I was able to see people still coming off the bike, so I knew I wasn't dead last. Yes!
The uphill was rough, but I knew if I just kept plugging away, it would be downhill and flat to the finish. I hit the turnaround and started counting the people still headed out, trying to figure out how far in front of Dead Last I was. I counted about 24 - give or take. I was so happy to see the volunteers waving me into the last turn toward the Finish Line. I'd been trying to chase down a guy for the last half mile and wasn't having any luck, so I was ready to be done.
I sped up a little, but not my usual full out sprint. Out of nowhere, I heard a grunt over my right shoulder and there was Miss Mountain Bike, sprinting like hell. Nuh-uh. I started sprinting too. Holy hell...she gave me a run for my money. It was a really tiny race (only 115 people), but people started hooting and hollering and the announcer said, "This guy has no idea what's about to hit him!" He wasn't kidding. This chick was out for blood and I wasn't about to give her mine! We blew across the line - much to the guy's surprise. I went to to shake her hand afterward and I swear she would probably have preferred to slap me instead of shaking my hand. Oh well.
|Coming in hot...and surprising the heck out of this guy.|
Official Time: 17:15 (8:38/mile)
Garmin Time: 17:16 (9:05/mile)
Official Time: 1:40:21
Garmin Time: 1:40:06
I found Mr. R&R (who finished in a speedy 1:29:49) and Dr. Beast (who won her age group and took 4th place overall among the women) and we traded war stories while waiting for the results to be updated. When they were posted, you could have knocked me over with a feather: 2/6 in my age group (which was actually one of the slowest age groups instead of the fastest like it usually is)!
Well, that sealed the deal. We were staying for awards. If I was shocked at being 2nd in my age group, imagine my surprise when they called me up as the winner of the 35-39 year old women. It turns out that the overall female winner was in my age group and you're only allowed to win in one category - so obviously she took the overall win, which bumped me into 1st! My prize for my first (and probably only) age group win: a water bottle.
|I won my age group?|
We hung around to watch Dr. Beast collect her award and then headed off to collect our stuff from transition and head home - in search of coffee and a nap!
|Let's go home.|