3rd place. Not disappointed in the placing, but it was only out of 10 (presumably a fast 10, or at least that’s what I’d like to think). How I felt was pretty crappy. My climbing was about 75% of what it should be and I suffered at the end with cramping. I am questioning whether a trip to Vermont is worth it since I don’t feel that much better and it’s only going to be a faster and harder race. Can I reasonably hope to improve on 3rd?
Friday was a long (6+ hour) drive north to Windham with Jed Prentice (he took 21st in the semi-pro class). After setting up camp we pre-rode the course: A 5 mile loop, the first half is climbing – lots. 1100′ per lap. 2nd half descending – fast. It was a great layout. The climbs were broken up between cutting through forested single track and exposed double track. The descent was ripping and loose. Lots of rocks both up and down.
I felt ok, but was still dealing with tight breathing and coughing. We did one lap and headed back to dial in the bikes, eat, and rest. Later that night I hacked my way through a restless night of “sleep”.
Saturday I woke feeling ok, but hoping things would get better. My hacking had subsided and my legs were only mildly tired, so it seemed promising. My group (expert 30-34) was small – 10 guys – so getting a good start wasn’t necessary. Plus, since the course climbed for the first half there would be plenty of room to pass each lap if need be. Well, it didn’t end up being that tactical. The race started and 3 of us moved to the front. One guy was drilling it. The 2nd guy was holding back a little. I was sitting back behind these two thinking (hoping) they might blow; trying to race within myself. That’s how it ended. The 2nd place guy put in an effort and seemed to bridge to the first guy early in the first lap and I never saw them again. They crushed me by 4 minutes so I don’t know how they’re battle went down. My race was sort of uneventful. I passed a lot of guys in the other categories who started before me, but didn’t see anyone from my group chasing. That was until the last lap. As I finished the first of the 2 major double track climbs and was about to duck into the woods I looked back and saw a guy from my group I had spoke to on the start line coming up. This was a bad sight. I was really starting to fall apart – cramping and fatigued – I was near slobbering stage. I talked myself into getting through the single track sections and to the next climb quickly. Once on the climb I put my head down and set the quickest tempo I could muster without cramping or blowing a gasket. I told myself all I had to do was get to the descent and then throttle it and that should be enough. It was, but barely. I came across the line 7 seconds ahead of this guy. Phew – dodged a bullet. I proceeded to go for a light spin and cramp so bad that I had to stand next to my bike on the side of the road for few minutes.
Funny side story time: On the way through the Catskills I caught sight of a dirt road intersecting route 23 at the base of the climb up to North South lake. My memory fired and was flooded with the recollection of that same intersection over 13 years ago.
I was visiting my sister and (now) brother-in-law. I was in school in Albany, they lived in New Paltz. We decided to go to this mountain top lake and I had brought my first mountain bike along (Giant Iguana) to explore the trails. They didn’t seem to promising at first, but then I started to descend some nice switchback single track with great views of the Hudson Valley to the east. Being a grommet I was totally unprepared. Not sure if I had a helmet, but I recall not having gloves (my hands were mince meat by the bottom. A rigid bike will do that). I definitely didn’t have water. When I hit the bottom of the hill (aka mountain) and rode out to this intersection I knew I was in big trouble. No way I could ride back up the single track and I wasn’t quite sure where I was. I soon realized I was at the base on the road climb and decided to take that route back up. What followed was pure suffering. I remember it being a long, tough climb. Weather conditions were hot and sunny. I wasn’t a cyclist so I had no fitness to be doing this AND, most importantly, I had NO water. Not even a bottle. I remember this because I finally hit the hairpin turn at Kaaterskill Falls and went down to the stream to recover some water. The water level was low but I could manage to take sips anyway. Uncertain how much more I was going to climb I figured I should take some water with me. What to do? Mellow Yellow to the rescue. I found an ancient pull-tab mellow yellow can, rinsed it the best I could, and the proceeded to fill it with nasty fly-infested water. Amazingly I didn’t die (or crap myself the rest of the week). Oh, the good old days of riding.