Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Weeping Willow 2017

Ah, the good ole days.  Do you remember those?  The days when you weren't twice the age as some of your competition?  Or when your legs could ride at plaid speed for, like, ever?  Well, sadly, those days are gone and now I tend to focus not on the young man's version of mtb racing (xc distance) but more on the old fart version (endurance) because old man legs are a thing.  A thing that likes to go long but mebbe not so hard.

Having said that, I do enjoy me some XC suffering and it's a great way to remind my whiny legs that things could be worse.  I could still be focusing on this shit!

Anywhoo, early winter I decided that a good way to prep for my two "A" races was to sneak some XC races into the mix so that I could work on my leg speed and excuse making.  Mostly excuse making (seems like it's working brilliantly so far...).

Willowdale is the first such prep race.  It's historically, one of the favorite races in New England because of it's fast, flowy and dry trails.  Oh, and lack of real hills.  These elements add up to a fun but very painful experience because you can go full gas almost all of the time with very few downhills to coast or tricky areas to pick through.  Brap, BRAPPPPPP!!!!!

Because I'm a sucker for punishment and the fact that I know the only way to get truly fast is to go race against dudes faster than you, I signed up for the elite field and immediately put on a cup because I knew I was gonna get my dick beat in. 

I'm liking how all of my Stio gear matches my bike.  If you look closely, you'll see that I'm still rockin' the dork spoke protector.  nothing yells ELITE! like having that bad boy still on...

Anyway, lets get on with it.  Somewhere around 22-24 (although results only list 19) elites lined up.  I recognized some of the faces as perennial fast guys and a few that I didn't know but they got call-ups and looked to be fit as a fiddle so I knew the hurts were about to begin.  

The start was painful and I do mean painful.  Despite a solid warm-up, I was struggling immediately in the first open section.  Can you say "cotton mouth"???
Tell me this doesn't look like a motivated, hard charging bunch!
Photo by Gary Waldeck

That's me in the middle of the pic, black Stio shorts and red/black Bikeman jersey.

Thankfully, we soon hit some trails and I was able to grab back on somewhere around mid-pack.  Sadly, that was short lived as we soon found ourselves on another dirt road-ish section and the speed just got faster.  At one point, I looked down and we were doing 26 mph on a flat section, on MOUNTAIN BIKES!  This, coincidentally, is when I decided I probably wasn't going to win today.

Photo by Gary Waldeck

I eventually found myself in a small group that were all going the same speed and seemed to be about the same skill level so there was some nice racing and trying not to crash into trees at 20mph going on.  Somehow, as I always seem to do, I found myself all by my lonesome by the end of lap one (of three).  I hadn't seen the guy in front of me (I had already caught all of my carrots) and had one guy maybe 30 seconds back.

 All by my say-eelf (hint, you have to sing it)
Photo by Gary Waldeck

This is when the sads hit.  I was in no-mans-land.  My legs hurt, my ears hurt and I was seeing blury from the effort of the first lap.  I willed myself to keep pushing though and soon started to catch glimpses of the next guy up the trail.  I tried digging deeper to catch the guy ahead but I just couldn't seem to do it.  Even worse, I noticed two guys catching me from behind. 

Run boi, RUN!
Photo by Jim Paiva

Inevitably, I was caught at the very beginning of the last lap.  Sportingly, they let me pull through all of the fast opening sections and then one of them (who turned out to be Greg Jancaitus) blazed past me at a speed that I can only describe as excitedly stupid.  Lucky for me, I do excitedly stupid pretty well because excitedly stupid is way more fun than mopey I was able to dig deep and stay with Greg all the while wondering when excitedly stupid would turn into ouchy crashy.  Turns out, I didn't have to wait long.

I clung to Greg's wheel for about 10 minutes until he took an alternate line that I hadn't tried.  Not wanting to get gapped, I followed him and immediately went down (Hi there pointy rocks!) and tore the crap out of my right butt cheek.  This, coincidentally was when I realized my days as a butt model were over.  I hoped back up quick-ishly and with a bit of effort was able to grab the rear wheel of the other dude in our trio.  Sadly though, Greg had gotten away.

Me and dude who's name I don't know scampered along merrily and eventually caught back up to Greg who had very kindly caught the guy who I had been fruitlessly chasing a while back.  Now we were four with a couple of miles to race and the distinct possibility of a 4-up sprint finish.  The potential for ouchy's was extremely high.

Things went swimmingly for the next couple of miles with me barely holding 4th wheel when we came into the field leading to the finish.  This is when things blew the f' up!  No name dude went first from third wheel.  I think he got around Greg and the other no name just as we caught an expert female who was finishing her race.  Unfortunately, the guy in front of me clipped her bars and she went down.  After a bit of brow beating from me, no name went back to check on her as I rolled across 3rd in the 4-up.

I circled back to check on the woman but she was already gone.  I heard that she finished the race.  I sure hope she was ok.

Checking the results, I ended up in 13th about 8 minutes down on the winner.  Not exactly my greatest performance.  Comparing my lap times to the top experts (and adjusting for my extra lap) I would been at or near the top of the expert field so I guess middling in the elite field is where I belong.

I must say, the Kona Hei Hei DL performed flawlessly and I continue to be impressed by this bike.  Comfortable and flippin' fast.  oh and stupid fun.  so fun that I counted at least 5 (4-DL's and one Supreme) Hei Hei's in the Elite start corral.   Want one?  I hear Bikeman would love to sell you one.

Monday, May 01, 2017

2017 Austin Rattler

For this year's Austin Rattler, my main goal was to improve on last year's surprisingly good finish (it's tough for Mainah's coming out of winter to compete against guys who are in mid-season form...) and my best bet for doing that was to get a much better starting position, even if it meant getting to the start line 1 hour before the start.  I burned WAY too many matches last year trying to get past the hordes of dudes in front of me so I was hell bent on being at the front this year.

Race morning, I arrived at the venue with my bike 100% ready to race so I very quickly dropped my cooler with bottles on course and then took my bike over to the start corral and leaned it against the fence right near the front.
Race morning was cool enough to necessitate the need for the Stio coat.  Man that thing is versatile. 

Back to the car for final prep and over to the bike 10 minutes later to see that they had put the starting tape up right on top of my bike so I had an almost front row position (the pros were starting in the very front).  40 minutes of additional waiting and we were ready to go.

When the shotgun went off, the 30-ish dudes in front of me and the 600 behind were off in a dusty conga line.  I was immediately amazed at how much more comfortable the pace was this year because I wasn't frantically trying to get past 100+ riders before we entered the wood.
After the initial shuffling, I found myself around 20th riding the opening dirt roads at a pace that I felt was sustainable for a 4+ hour race.  Unfortunately, that didn't last long.  On the first quick rocky uphill, two or three guys fell immediately in front of me (on a friggin dirt road!) which let a 100' gap open between the top 10-12 guys and us.  100' isn't a big deal in single track but it sucks when you're in a paceline at 25mph!  Myself and a couple of others tried to bridge the gap but after a few minutes it was clear that, although we were catching them, I was going way into the red and was going to pay for it later so I decided to learn from last year and dialed it back.  Hopefully I'd see some of those guys later.

I found myself in a bit of no-mans-land for a bit but soon was joined by a guy riding at the same pace as me.  It was nice to have the company and it was definitely helpful to have a drafting partner on the fast sections.  About 1/2 way through the 1st (of 3) laps, we were joined by a couple of fun loving Texans who were eager to up the pace.  I was happy to let them pull (because they were oh-so eager!) through the last fast sections with me helping with the effort but in a conservative manner.

Our happy foursome, me dutifully sucking wheel
When we hit the later sections of singletrack, I found myself at the front of the group.  I got into a nice singletrack trance and soon found myself alone having gapped the other guys.  It wasn't intentional and it was way too early to ride solo so I decided to change up my pre-race fueling plan.  Initially, I had planned to stop for my fresh bottles after the second lap but, with my gap, I decided to stop after the first lap to allow our group to get back together.

sucking more Texan wheel
My plan worked perfectly with all four of us back in our bromance shortly into the second lap.  Somewhere along the mid-point of lap two, we lost one of our riding partners.  I'm not sure what happened, he just sort of drifted off the back.  Lucky for me, I still had my two happy Texans chatting away and doing their fair share of pulling.  We were also steadily picking up people being dropped from the front group so things were looking good!

 Lapping through and loving my Hei Hei DL

When we got to the last half of the lap where all of the single track is located, I found myself at the front again and, once again, I got all single tracky and soon had a big gap.  This time I decided to see if I could make it stick.  25 miles solo with about 8 miles of fast dirt road was going to be tough to hold those guys off but I knew that I'd need to make a move at some point so I went for it!

Solo suffering
At the beginning of the third lap, my legs started to cramp a bit (hello last year!) so I took a Hot Shot! and within a few minutes the cramps subsided but I knew the cure was only temporary so I tried my darndest to keep the pace high without going into redline.

I succeeded in getting through the opening miles of road without the happy Texans from catching up.  I knew at this point my chances were good as long as I didn't cramp up or crash.  There are a few sections on course where the trail doubles back so you can get a good sense of how close people are behind you.  Through the first few, I saw no competitors approaching but I was catching a lot of riders.  I was lapping some but also picking up the ever more shredded lead group.  Some blew up so completely that, when I'd catch them, they didn't even try to grab my wheel.  I'm pretty certain I would have been in the same boat if I hadn't dialed it back on lap one.

A hard charging Texan 
On the very last out and back section of trail with a few miles of singletrack to go, I finally saw one of the happy Texans closing in on my wheel.  Frick!  We waved, exchanged pleasantries and then I ran for my friggin life.  Up to that point I was being relatively conservative with my pace but I now knew I had to drill it if I wanted to stay away.  Thankfully, it was mostly single track from that point on and I knew from the couple of laps that I was at least on par with Nevada (turns out that was his name as I peruse the results).
Yay for finishing with no-one on my wheel!

About 10 minutes later, I crossed the line in what turned out to be 10th place, about a minute and a half behind Lance Armstrong with Nevada coming in merely 20 seconds later.  Damn, that was close! 

 I figured if Lance got to see my wenis before the race, the least he could do is take a pic with me after...

Friday, April 21, 2017

2017 Austin Rattler - the preamble

Last year was my first try at the Austin Rattler 100k Leadville qualifier race in Austin Texas.  It was fun and hard and a good early season test of the racing legs.  You can go here to read about my wicked good decisions and a bit of course info. 

This year, I decided to be a bit more smartah' and try to improve over last year's performance.  That meant some more focused winter training and a few fat bike races to remind the legs how to work hard.  The winter prep started out all grand like with me finally podiuming at Moose Brook and then having a solid finish at Sugarloaf despite suffering two flats early in the race.  Sadly, that's when things started to go south.  I was hit with "issues" during the Titcomb fat bike race and then spent a month not feeling quite right.  I began to wonder if I was overtrained, although that didn't seem likely, but I sure as hell wasn't feeling good on the bike. 

About a week and a half before heading to Austin, the mystery was solved when a painful rash showed up on my right arm.  It turns out that all of my symptoms were the early signs of shingles!  As pissed as I was to have shingles, it sure was nice to finally know what had been going on with my body....So, the doc put me on a super high dose of anti-viral meds and told me I'd likely be ok for the trip.  I finished my meds 1 1/2 days before departure and, thankfully, the rash was still there (still is right now actually) but under control and no longer painful. 

 Lotsa Hei Hei's on the trip...

Once in Texas, I built up my new Kona Hei Hei DL which I'd barely been able to ride because of the abundance of snow back in Maine.  I guess this trip would be my chance to dial it in.  Afterall, there's not better way to get to know a bike than to do a 100k race on it!  Ride day one included 4 hours of mixed single track.  Some fast flowing, some gnarly, rocky goodness and some boulder field scrambling.  Basically just a good solid day of riding and getting to know my bike and all of it's capabilities (of which there are many!).  I probably dug a bit too deep on these rides but it was hard to not be super stoked on riding outside, on dirt, in 70+ degree weather so I figured it was worth it.

Reimer's Ranch

The day before the race we did a pre-ride of the course.  It turned out to be almost identical to last year's course (with just a few minor tweaks) and I was smart for this one and kept the effort low so I'd be fresh for the next days suffering. 

That's all the time I have for now.  Part 2 tomorrow (or whenever I get to it...)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2017 Sugarloaf Fat Tire Race

Well, that didn't go as planned.  I've been looking forward to the Sugarloaf fat bike race for a while now and felt that I was in reasonably good shape leading up to the race.  The weather had thrown us all a curve ball with lots of recent snow so outdoor riding had been in short supply but I supplemented what I could get with some quality trainer time.  Trainer time ≠ ride time but it would have to suffice.

As race day approached, the venue got a bunch of fresh snow so they frantically packed and re-packed the single track.  thankfully, the vast majority of the race would be on groomed xc ski trails so hopefully non-prime single track would be ok. 

Race day.  I got to the venue two hours early so that I could pick up my stuff and get a loop in on the course only to find that they weren't allowing pre-riding.  Not even on the xc ski trails!  I get that they were trying to save the single track for the race but they should definitely open a section of the groomers so riders can warm up without risking riding on the area roads in the winter.  hopefully that will change for next season.

It was cold, with temps just about zero at the start, so I opted to rock my new Stio gear for the race instead of my standard 12 year old Castelli fleece jersey.  Warm and dapper!

Starting to line up.  Looking stylie in my Stio Second Light Alpha
Race start, I got a good start from the front row, nabbing the hole shot but quickly relinquishing it to my buddy Warren for second on the first short climb.  No sense burning too many matches this early. 
race start video

Grabbing the hole shot now down to my Stio Eddie Check Shirt

We made our way through the first single track section and it seemed to hold up pretty well but showed signs of softness in some of the corners.  Back out onto the xc stuff and we were joined by Brian and Brett.  The four of us rode together until the first long climb when Brian and Brett put a bit of a gap on us.  Warren went ahead of me on the next s.t. section and we quickly brought Brian and Brett back so we were four again.  Unfortunately, I started to notice some softness in my rear tubeless tire.  Sure enough, I look down and I'm now almost flat but the bead was still holding.  I was carrying two CO2's so I decided to gamble and air the tire back up and see if the Stans would fix whatever the issue was.  So I stopped, futzed around with my inflater (nothing goes as quick in the winter...) dumped a whole 40g canister into it and jumped back on my bike losing somewhere around 2 minutes on the leaders. 

Shortly after the flat.  the chase begins!
I frantically chased for the rest of the first lap and the first half of lap two, working back up to 4th place when I noticed my tire going flat again.  frig!  It was tube time and end of all hope time.  But, but, but, this shit builds character right?  I figured it would be good practice for this summer's 100k races when a flat isn't necessarily the end of your race so I got about changing it. 

No mans land.
The good news is that I still had one CO2 canister, the bad news is that only half filled my 4.8" tire so it took me an ass ton of frantic hand pumping to get the tire to a manageable pressure wasting around 10 more minutes as I watched half of the long course racers pass me by. 

Gasping for air

With the fix finally done, I hopped back on the bike and chased and chased and chased.  I made decent time but only managed to claw my way back to 7th.  A disappointing finish but pretty good given the circumstances. 


 There's still two more races in the Maine winter series so I have a couple more chances to represent my team and Kona Wo well. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Moosebrook 2017

The Moosebrook Fat Bike Race is the (as far as I know) original single track fat bike race in New England.  They do a superb job each year packing out 5-ish miles of ripping single track for our bike racing pleasure.  As is always the case with winter riding, conditions can be fickle.  Over the previous years we've seen brutal cold (below 0), cold with blistering winds and maybe one year when things were relatively comfy but there was never a year when ma nature threw a precip curve ball at them by dumping snow or rain or whatever leading up to the race which meant that conditions were always pretty close to primo.  That was then, this is now.

This year, conditions were not cooperating.  They had a good base and some well packed trails until a little over a week before race day and then things went to shit.  First, a bunch of warm weather and rain and then, a few days before the race they got several inches of fresh powder.  A course re-design was in order.  some quick regiggering and they had a course that seemed like it would hold up.  Fingers crossed...

Race day. I got there uber early so that I could hopefully do a full loop to see what conditions would be like and to set tire pressures.  Unfortunately, because of the course change, I couldn't figure out where to go or what direction so, instead, I rode as much course as I could in the direction I thought we would be going.  I was happy to see that, while the conditions were tricky, it seemed like almost everything was rideable but there would definitely be some running involved.

Race start.  For once, I was ready and snagged a front row start position so I wouldn't see the leaders disappear in the distance like years past.  When the gun went off, it was a full on sprint up the lead out snowmobile trail and I ducked into the woods in 4th, behind Mike Rowell, Garth Schwallenbach and Brian Oickle my best ever start here.  Most of the single track in the first half of the course was pretty good (even though I road ALL OF IT the wrong was in my pre-ride).  I had my buddy Brian riding just in front of me in 3rd and teammate Ryan just behind me in 5th.

Somewhere in the opening few miles, Brian bobbled in the single track and I was able to slip by.  That was shortly followed by a long-ish snowmo trail climb.  Sadly, of the three of us, I'm the worst climber so Ryan slipped by me and entered the second half of the single track in 3rd.  The second half of the course had some seriously dicey downhill S.T. but finished with some super firm track in an evergreen forest that put a smile on your face.

When we entered lap 2, we hit a section of S.T. that was skipped in the first lap so that the field could spread out.  Thank god we did.  With temps in the mid-30's this section was already tough to ride even before 100 fat bikes had been over it.  This would become the section with the most running.

Up until this point, I was following Ryan rather comfortably but found that I could run faster than him so, just before we hit the snowmo climb again, I put in a dig, passed him and drilled it through the next section of trail.  and, by god, it worked!  I gapped him nicely but, like I said, he's a better climber so he just rolled on past me towards the top of the climb.  Hmm, how was I going to get away from him?

The rest of lap two and three saw us jokey back and forth between 3rd and 4th.  considering how hard the conditions were getting (slushy ice ruts and literal single tire width wide tracks to ride in many areas) we were somehow having fun.  Unfortunately, we hadn't seen 1st or 2nd in a while so we knew we were fighting for the last podium position.

Last lap.  Ryan was leading me but I took over 3rd in one of the running sections.  At this point, remounting your bike was a gamble unless you knew that you could stay on for more than a couple of minutes so I made a strategic decision to run ALMOST EVERYTHING until we got to the firmer sections.  No gambles, just head down suffering.  The strategery worked and by the time I got to the snowmo climb, Ryan was nowhere in sight so, after another 15-ish minutes of  single leg butt pucker downhills, I rolled across the line in 3rd.  Mike Rowell took the win with Gareth in second.  Finally a Moosebrook podium.

Many thanks to and Kona Bikes for the
awesome gear and support.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Pats Peak 6 hr

So, last year I got recruited to do a 4-man 24 hour team at Pat’s Peak.  It was “fun” in a way but I couldn’t help but be jealous of the 6hr solo racers who were finishing up their day (and cracking a beer) before I had even done my 3rd lap.  This year I decided to right this wrong by doing the 6hr instead.

My focus this year is a bit more on endurance races and the Bond Brook Treadfest is coming up in two weeks so this seemed like a perfect way to prepare for one of my “A” races…

There were approximately 30 dudes registered for the solo race but I didn’t know many of the names so I had no clue how I would fare so instead of marking any particular racers, I decided to just find a rhythm and see how things unfolded. 

The race starts with a short run and then a quick gravel road climb before entering the single track.  I didn’t get the best start (why are these guys sprinting for their bikes???) so I entered the woods somewhere around 10th with at least two (or maybe more) 6hr guys in front of me.  It’s a long race though so I tried not to panic and instead just tried to keep them in sight. 

Through the course of the lap (and all that damn climbing) I moved up to around 5th wheel and now was pretty certain I was in 3rd for the 6hr.  The end of each lap is punctuated by a long and fun series of downhill sections.  They are technical in spots but totally rideable on xc machines so I was really annoyed when we entered those sections and the guys right in front of me started to suck really bad.  Even worse is that they would suck really bad, block the trail, run with their bike (while still blocking the trail) and then jump back on the bike only to suck and crash some more.  The sucks made me lose sight and maybe a couple of minutes on the solo guys in front of me so when I rolled through the start finish, I did an uber quick bottle change and stormed back out.  

Thanks to the quick change, I now found myself in 2nd place just behind the leader, Jake Inger.  Jake and I were soon joined by Andrew Lints and we had ourselves a party.  We rode for a bit at “I’m feeling comfortable enough to chat” pace so when Jake offered for me to take the lead, I took the opportunity and upped the pace just a bit. 

I soon had a 15-20 second lead and decided to keep it there for a while since I wasn’t sure how sustainable my pace would be for 6 hours.  When I got to the last sections of downhill I thought I was totally railing it until I heard Andrew come screaming up behind me totally eliminating my lead in the blink of an eye.  Note to self, get at least two blinks ahead of Andrew before the day’s final descent!

My quick stop after lap one was so successful that I decided to skip my second stop to see how much of a gap I could get.  The temps were cool and there were three opportunities to get neutral hand ups of water and gels on course so I figured it was a reasonably safe gamble and worth the risk.  Andrew and Jake stayed within sight on lap three but never made contact.

Fast forward a few laps and I was still in the lead and I was only catching occasional glimpses of Jake and Andrew but I didn’t have any sense of how big my lead was or if I was truly in the lead at all since there was a part of me that thought there was a chance somebody had gotten away in the first lap.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have anybody to confirm my place so I just continued to ride and hope…

At some point it rained off and on for a few laps making some parts of the course kind of greasy but overall, things held up well and somehow the whole “downhill” finish stayed bone dry.  Weird.
Finally at approximately 4:45 into the race, I finished my 6th lap and started to feel like I had this one in the bag.  As a result, I decided to give it to ‘er and see how quick of a lap I could tick off this late in the race.  That fantastic plan lasted for about 15 minutes before my left quad started to cramp soon to be joined by my right hamstring.  Oops, maybe going through only 2 ½ bottles and two dixie cups of water in 5 hours wasn’t enough??? Stupid.  The damage was done though so I went into cramp maintenance mode by taking it easy on the climbs and drilling all of the flatish and downhill sections to keep from hemorrhaging too much time. 

This is also when I started doing the math in my head (which is always tough in an endurance race) to see how many laps I had left to do.  At my current pace of 1 lap per 45-ish minutes, it looked like I’d finish just after 6 pm.  Perfect.  About ½ way through my 8th lap I started hearing noises behind me.  Was it Andrew of Jake catching me?  Was it the guy I just passed?  Or was it my brain talking shit to itself?  I had no way of knowing so I scampered as quickly as my crampy legs would allow hoping not to get caught on the last downhill. 

Thankfully, at 6:02, I rolled through the finish and got the unofficial word that I got the win.  16 minutes later, Andrew rolled through with Jake following shortly after.  I guess it was in my head after all... Looking back at my lap times, my second lap was the fastest at 41:51 and my 6th was the slowest at 47:55 due to a couple of minor mechanicals so I'd say my pacing was pretty solid with only a 6 minute differential. 

All in all, I thought the race was great.  They made major course changes for this iteration which eliminated all of the ski hill climbs and added a bunch of really nice (albeit fresh) singletrack.  I’ll be back next year for sure.   

A big thanks to Bikeman for pulling out the stops and fixing my bike a few days before the race when I realized a couple of suspension bushings had gone to shit and a shout out to Kona for producing a kick ass line of xc bikes that are both fun to ride and super fast both up and down!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

2016 Austin Rattler

It's been a while since I've blogged or posted a race report so lets see how this goes...

Around December a buddy of mine invited me to go to the Austin Texas area for a few days with some like minded dudes to do some riding as well as race the Austin Rattler (part of the Leadville Series).  I'll be honest, on paper it didn't look like a race I'd enjoy with so many dirt road miles and almost no technical challenges but it's hard to argue with 5 days of riding in 70-80 degree weather when it's likely 40 back home so I said ok. 

We arrived a couple of days early and I was a good little boy and didn't totally bury myself pre-race (like I did at Circumburke last year but you wouldn't know that since I never did a write-up...) with a solid ride on Thursday and then an easy pre-ride of the course on Friday.  It turns out that they changed the course a bit from years past and added way more single track and cut out some of the later dirt road sections.  (yay me!)  Sure, you still needed to suffer through 7-ish miles of dirt road but they were almost all flat or slightly downhill so the mental punishment would be minimized. 

Race day, we show up and get our shit together (for once, I did almost all prep the night before so I didn't forget ANYTHING.  weird).  with about an hour before race time, we notice that a lot of people are lining up already.  shit!  guess it's good I had my stuff together so Warren and I hopped in line and waited, and waited...somewhere in the 100-150 riders back range.  I wished I was closer to the front but knew that I could make up lots of places in the opening road sections.

Thats a lot of dudes

When the gun fired we were off!  well almost, the front guys were OFF! but further back in the pack, things were a bit slower with me officially entering the race 17 seconds later.  The first 5 minutes of the race saw me making all sorts of aggressive moves for passes (which isn't easy when everybody is riding 5-wide).  When things finally sorted out, I was absolutely amped up and ready to do some serious damage!  At this point, I'd estimate that I was somewhere in the 40's but there was a group of about 10 dangling ahead of us a tantalizing 20 seconds up.  I'm wicked smaht and amped at this point so I proceeded to pull my whole group of maybe thirty dudes for about 10 minutes with only occasional help but I was racing and it was April and I kind of forgot how to do this smartly...

Eventually, we hit the more singley track and me and a couple of other guys who had shelled the rest of the group (I think?  we were going too fast to look back) caught the group ahead of us in the miles of twisties.  I couldn't open things up in here but it did at least allow my heart rate to drop below redline which is good since I still had about 3.5 hours to race. 

At the start of lap 2, I felt my first quad cramps ramping up (sweet!  only 40 miles to go!  this shouldn't hurt a bit!) so I wisely found a group and sat in for most of the road miles so that when we hit the single track again, I was fresher, had clean trail in front of me and was able to make good time. 

Rolling around to start lap 3 (what?  that's it for lap 2?  yes, little drama and lap 3 is more interesting), I shot my last gel and (mercifully!) grabbed a gel hand-up at the start/finish because I could feel myself imploding.  Fast.  For me, at this point, the race was now about maintaining my position as much as possible.  I felt like I was gonna pop at any moment (why did I go so fast on lap one?  oh yeah, bike racing is fun!  until you're le'tired) and my quads were about ready to pack their bags and leave.  Thank goodness for me, I found a dude with massive WATTS who was more than happy to pull my sad group of 4 along the dirt roads at what felt like Plaid Speed but was probably more in the 20 mph range.  Things were merry until we finally hit the trails where drafting didn't work and I had to let the group go.  My legs were poo and I was feeling the impending cramps of doom descending upon me. 
the watts monster

Finally, on a small rise, when I stood to climb, both quads completely seized on me.  I looked down and it looked like my left quad in particular had completely migrated from my knee area to my fun zone.  I very briefly thought about walking it off but figured I'd just end up a heap of quivering nothing on the side of the trail if I did so I simply dialed it back a bit more and spun as if my life depended on it. 
nearing the end

the next hour was pure and utter hell but I worked my way through the pain with lots of positive self talk, drinking and looking back to make sure nobody was going to pass me.  Thankfully, it all worked out with me crossing the line in 4:17 which was almost exactly my pre-race best case scenario goal and 24th place overall (in a registered field of 850) and 8th in the massive 40-49 age group.  Good enough to qualify for Leadville by a good margin. 

 done.  beer in hand.

 texas dirt in mouth

 qualifiers coin

Overall, it was a fantastic race.  Well run, good course and lots of cool folks around.  I'll be back again next year but (hopefully) with a slightly smarter game plan and a better starting position.