Monday, July 19, 2010

the one with something left

Yesterday was the Fair Hill race.  Here is my long race report of a pretty solid day. 

Aside: two years ago, my first race ever on a bike and only a bike was at Fair Hill (I did a couple tri's in Utah before realizing that I naturally sink and hate running... I'm a slow learner).  I surprised myself by placing 2nd in the beginner race, the best finish I would have for a while.  That's before I even knew that cyclocross existed.  No, I'm not kidding.  What a difference two years makes.

For reasons that aren't entirely clear if you ask me, I've been doing some enduro stuff this year and was in for 50 miles.  A hot day - it was due to be 90 long before I was due to be off my bike.  And I knew the field was stacked with women that have beaten me by a little and a lot at some of the other long races on the MASS series this year.  But I had a time goal and was going out hard, figuring that it would mean fewer miles in the heat later, even if I bonked.

After a couple miles of doubletrack, we were strung out enough to find some twisty, rooty Fair Hill singletrack.  I am starting to get over the need to yield every time a guy is behind me - finally realizing that I've earned my spot in the train just as much as they have and I'm only slightly more likely to dab on some rocks or a log.  And I'm getting faster at dabbing.

Aside: I also am getting better at holding my line for passes.  This didn't work out for one guy yesterday, who assumed when he called a pass that he could take the trail and I should venture into the derailleur-threatening-stick-laden grass next to it.  He locked handlebars, we both went down for a second, and he rode off.  Note to guys passing me - call your pass and let me have my line and we'll get along just fine.

Lap 1 (27 miles) felt good.  My heart rate was up there for at least the first 1 1/2 hours - almost my normal XC race pace and I was riding clean.  In one swoopy section, I had my own little train of guys behind me.  One of them commented that I smelled better than the last guy he was riding behind.  Eventually they broke off and I was spinning in the woods, drinking Heed and Perpetuem, taking water over my head at the aid stations, and mostly riding smart.

I crashed once on a sharp left hand turn - just leaned it over too far and found myself laying near my bike in the middle of the trail.  Whoops.  A guy with an Aussie accent helped me up.  There are advantages to crashing, I guess.

For about the last 8 miles of lap 1, I was dreaming of the Coke I had safely tucked in my cooler at the finish/start of lap 2.  I could almost taste it.  I was awesome - I finally made it through the rather significant climbing in the last part of the lap, Shea was sitting in a chair, waiting for me.  A fresh supply of Heed and Cerasport, 3/4 of that coke and a couple electrolyte pills later, I was back on my bike for 23 miles of "fun".

This is about the time I usually bonk mentally and have a tough time keeping my pace up.  A guy came by who claimed that every time he passed me he broke his chain (twice at that point) - he must be a bit faster, I thought, so I decided to keep him in sight.  About 5 miles later, he was having some trouble on the climbs and my legs were still feeling good, I passed him and found out later that he broke his chain... again.

Alone for a bit, I squinted when I saw a Bike Line riding across a field ahead of me - hmmm... looked like ponytails.  I was surprised to see Loretta that close, but was gaining on her.  About a mile before the last aid station, she offered the pass, I took it.  Then she realized she'd just given up a spot, and I attacked a bit.  She held on tight.  After a quick move around me on a road section into singletrack, she was gone to the races.  Ah, well.  I had not attacked so hard that I was gassed - I knew we had several steep-ish climbs left, but I figured I wouldn't see her again.

I did.  She was walking up one of those climbs.  When I passed her, she said she cracked. Okay, this never happens to me.  I'm never the one with something left at the end.  Especially on days where I go out hard.  I gapped her and rode semi-conservatively but still, like I was being chased.

About a mile from the finish, I saw two riders moving a bit slower.  A pink jersey... hmmm... but the hips looked like they were too skinny... still, I was pushing my own pace and came up on them in a truly lucky spot in the field, figured out that this was a woman in my race and passed easily.  Shea watched that pass.  I was surprised but determined to ride cleanly on the singletrack and be prepared for a sprint to the finish.

Pink jersey (found out later she's Lisa) was giving it what she had, but I had more.  I got around a slow moving 4 wheeler in the middle of the trail and started the sprint as soon as I hit the asphalt.  By the time I shifted into my big ring, I had no idea how much of a gap I had and was going too fast/too dizzy to look back.  I rode hard to the finish - turns out she gave up on the sprint just after the asphalt started...

I feel a bit bad - I didn't get to congratulate her on a good race.  I was too busy hiding under a tree, trying not to puke.

I was in disbelief when they said I was 3rd.  Seriously?!  I was right in the middle of my goal time window and it was true, I'd squeaked onto the podium in the last 3 miles.

First and second were two of the faster riders in the mid-atlantic and came in nearly 40 minutes ahead of me... I still have some work to do, but what a difference two years makes.

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