WHEN 700 PEOPLE LINE UP AT A 100K MOUNTAIN BIKE RACE, only a few think they will actually win. The rest of us have our own metrics to ride by. We start in mass. Other than our number plates there are no indicators of racing category.
We collaborate with older and younger and opposite sex.
We ask ourselves, How old is that cat?
Less than 90 seconds separated 1st-3rd in my race. Here's how it went down:
At 4am, I got up and enjoyed my race-proven, possibly superstitious, sardines and beans breakfast. That's 3 hours prior to the start. Failed at more sleep.
530am, warmed up my engines in a hot bath.
615, drove to start with one awesome trophy wife for support.
650, line up in 3rd row.
7, we're off.
705, I'm at least 50 guys back. Do I like it? Hell no, I love it! I tell myself it's all according to plan.
8ish, no more people are passing me. I'm settled in, and I ask myself...
Can you ride this pace 2.5 hours from now?... that's about how long it's going to take me to do a lap and be right back here.
I'm also asking myself, Why do I do this? Why didn't I sign up for the 50 instead of the hundred? Why am I so slow? How come that lady, who's my age, on a single-speed passed me? ... because these are the kinds of questions we ask ourselves at this point.
And the answer is always the same: to find out what I'm made of. Specifically today, I want to see if I can get into Leadville. That's the same thing at least 100 of the racers want to know.
90 minutes in and I think I'm on pace, but I'm not sure. We are starting to shred the amazing single track, and The Old Diesel is in the zone. All the fools who started fast - too harsh?, no because I've been there many times and will be there again - are starting to come back to papa. I'm not sure if I'm on track because a fast section I relished has been replaced with a snappy, zigzaggy section. It adds time, but how much?
2 hours in and a silver fox eases on by on the final climb of each of 2 laps. He looks awesome, and I'm pretty sure he's around my age.
At about 2 hours 34 min I complete lap 1. Surfergirl, aka Trophy Wife, is resplendent in her Tour de Donut jersey. We swap bottles, she jams food in my pocket, I lube my chain - lots of dust and water crossings take a toll up here.
Typical of this style of racing is to form alliances with people about the same speed, trading pulls and chatting a bit. I rolled with Singlespeedguy from Utah and Mike from Edmonton enough to chat. The rest either passed me or I passed them too fast. These alliances break up the mind battle, and really make it fun.
Lap 2, and the answer is YES! I can go as fast as I went the first lap. In fact, I go about 3 minutes faster. Some of this is due to holding tight to the reigns on lap 1 and some is that the course is just wide open... nobody to slow me down. So fun!
330 in. I've got 90 minutes left, and I'm daring to cut loose. Outta the saddle jamming up the little stuff, and steadily grinding the bigger climbs. This allows me to use different muscles in my legs.
Cramps threaten - forgot to mention I pounded a good amount of real pickle juice when I stopped to reload - but yes, cramps threaten and I'm downing Salt Stick chewable tablets. They abide, and ride like hell. It's on.
430 in. I see silver fox... and damn!... another silver fox. We've got the final, hideous climb... the one I fell over on 6 years ago because both my legs cramped simultaneously - took me 37 minutes that day, the same climb I went hellalot slower on the 2nd lap 3 years ago. There's no mailing it in today, these two racers are the real deal and I can only hope I don't crack.
This is what it's all about. Amir attacked hard, got a decent gap. I ground on. It's an undulating climb, and each steep ramp I stood. We battled, then I slowly opened up my own gap. There is no way I would have ever ridden that climb that fast, that hard if awesome athletes like these two weren't pushing me.
I took just over a minute off my PR, 21:26.
Here's the point dear rider: As a dude, I need these silly contests in my life... cause when all the shiz goes down at work, or things aren't copacetic at home, I can look back at today and remember I can do hard stuff.
All these guys and gals hope they can lottery in to Leadville.
These 3 got in
Time to rest, recover, reload
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