My goal in the race was to finish in one piece and have fun. Mission accomplished.
I finished after 6 hours 41 minutes and 32 seconds, a mere 36 seconds behind 3rd place. Crazy.
The day looked to be pretty warm, so I just wore my jersey and bib and a bit of sunscreen. I was talking with Jason Stowers before the race and he pointed out the jersey unzipped all the way - so I sported my chest hair for most of the race to keep cool.
What do I remember from the race? Well, it was a rolling start and the Cat1/Pro folks took off pretty fast. I settled into a relatively comfortable pace as we began to climb. Jason Stowers and I kept passing each other, mostly me passing him as he putzed with his water bottle cages, then him passing me.
The first two trails were named "first" and "second" respectively - not very original, but entertaining on the climb up. Then we popped over to my new favorite in that forest named "Side Hill" or something like that. The trail cuts right across the side of a really steep hillside, jogging up and down. Then we rode "Dinner" and "Movie" (get it? - not everyone riding caught it), which were pretty fun downhill singletracks, with one fairly exposed/steep section which I panicked on the first time around (damn signs). It was very ride-able if you don't psych yourself out. I felt pretty embarrassed as people flew past me. Then more climbing up to the aide station.
I'd been having issues with my chain not staying in 2nd & 3rd gears in the back, so the mechanic took a look at it, adjusted it some, and for the most part fixed the issue - which was nice because I really could use the low gears on this continual climb.
The aide station had plenty of food - the chips were my favorite, mmmm... salty.
Then up briefly to a descent whose name I forget - probably the most difficult in some ways because it ducked in and out of small stands of trees, and the transition from sun to shade made visibility really poor. Then we were on the Mudslinger course, up the singletrack... and then down Panama to the second aide station.
I felt pretty good at the first aide station (12 miles in), but kinda weary at the second. I hung out for a few minutes. I saw Maggie Rising there, but she took off pretty quickly whereas I hung out taking in a bunch of liquid. I refilled my 60oz bladder at this point, plus my water bottle. This was the aide station where you could "ship" yourself a bag/box/cooler - two guys sent themselves pizzas!
Then it was time for lap number 2, more or less a repeat of the first. I rode the first half of this leapfrogging some nice young lady (gah, I'm old), but she eventually put the distance between us at Dinner/Movie down. I saw her briefly at the 3rd aide station, but I decided to rest there.
Just before the 3rd aide station I biked past a guy who was cramping up real bad - he walked his bike up to the station just before I left, and it was a good reminder to keep taking in fluids/food. I took my time at the 3rd aide station, sitting in one of the chairs there, sipping a cold can of Coke - it tasted awesome! I also created my first ever nutella/bagel sandwich with potato chips (the bagel was whole wheat - making the whole thing healthy).
The ride down was good - I joined up with a gal from Bend for the last 10 miles or so, and we chatted on the road back to the school/finish. At one point she picked up the pace, and I asked if we were going to pass the guy we saw a ways ahead of us. She said "yes" and off we went - catching him.
At this point I really thought about my learnings from the Sister's race, and I made sure nobody caught me on the last mile. I left the gal from Bend in my wake as I powered/puttered up the hill to the school. I was pretty tired, but it felt good.
I hung out with a number of folks from Team Dirt and ate the big burrito (delicious), then hosed myself off before going to change.
The awards were a little haphazard as the scoring was messed up, and I was accidentally called up to the podium to receive my 3rd place medal. But here's the picture anyway:
I like this photo of me during the first lap, only I wish the camera had the horizon level to show how steep the trail was at that section.
And this photo, on the 2nd lap, makes me look good. All the shadows are in the right spots, I look thin and fast. Soon it'll be reality, not just a lucky picture.
If you look closely, you can see me in the mass start.
What did I learn from this race? My conditioning was pretty good, my descending is still my weak point (that's where I was passed, almost never on the climb). The energy balls and bars I make are very tasty, but not very practical to eat while riding (too hard to breathe while chewing actual food). Oh, and don't sit at the last aide station for 5+ minutes only to lose out of the podium by 36 seconds.
All in all, I was happy to have done the race, it was very well organized, the trails were fun, the conditions were perfect, the support was great.
Next year I plan on trying to come in under 6 hours - that's a bit of a stretch, but I learned that Melissa Norland took nearly an hour off her time from last year to this (6 hours to 5 hours), and I've got more room to improve than she did.
Other than that, I think I'll take less food with me and rely more on the aide stations.
I drank at least 200 ounces of water during the race (2 bladders and 5 bottles) and another 100 after the race. Even with that, I didn't pee until after I got home.
I'll get to practice this in the 6 hours of Alsea - pretty much the same race for me since I was on my bike for 6 hours.
Oh, the bib worked pretty well, a little bit of chafing, but that's par for the course for me for rides over 3 hours...
Thanks to Mary and Simone for supporting me in going to this race, I'm glad they didn't come to "support" me because it would have been a long, boring day for them.
The next race is Pickett's Charge...