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
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.