When the cat’s away, the mice will play.
With Amanda Carey and other NUE podium “regulars” off at the Trans-Sylvania Epic, the battle for the podium was set to be fierce for the rest of us chasing NUE points. OK, well, Cheryl Sorensen was there… and she’s generally the only one that challenges Amanda (exception- I heard Sue Haywood gave her a pretty hard run for her money at SM100 last year). I knew short of Cheryl having a major mechanical or wreck that I’d likely be battling it out with BrendaLee Simril and Laureen Coffelt for the remainder of the podium spots.
Saturday morning, I was up before the alarm on my phone went off. After a delicious breakfast of powdered eggs and french toast from the local American Legion, I went back to camp, suited up, and rode the mile or so down the local bike path to downtown Loudonville for the race start.
The race start was fast as usual. The first half mile or so is downhill before the course shoots up a ~100-150ft climb up a road out of town. In typical singlespeed fashion, I fell back at first and passed half the pack back on the first hill (I finally settled on using a 36×21, which turned out to be a slightly overzealous choice). It also meant that I passed Laureen and caught up to Brenda. I could tell that Brenda meant business when we hit the next hill, and I heard her upshift as other riders were downshifting. It was on.
Well, at least for the next mile or so.
I entered the first singletrack a few wheels back from BrendaLee. Then I ejected a bottle and had to stop for about a minute and never saw her again. Err…
The first singletrack was otherwise great. This year, with the combination of improved speed and course conditions, I wasn’t stuck behind a bunch of people walking their bikes in the difficult pitches of singletrack. I also didn’t break all sorts of parts of my bike, which is never a bad thing. I did, however, have one rear-wheel slide-out wreck (landing me an awesome goose-egg on my left ass-cheek) and also realized that I was overgeared.
Side note(s): In case you were wondering, one of the worst feelings of impending doom is realizing at mile 15 out of 100 that you’re overgeared. Also, I still stand by the statement I made last year that the hike-a-bike (in Breckenridge) known as French Gulch was the most physically difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life (doing it three times reinforced this) compared to any other hike-a-bike.
Sometime before Aid 3, I had somewhat of a Double Rainbow moment when I crested a hill to see an amazing view of rolling farmland lit by the mid-morning sun. I realized just how fvcking lucky I was to be out there riding my bike. I mean, really… from the moment of conception, things have generally just gone right in one way or another. It’s the type of stuff you think of when you’re 40 miles into a bike race, and it’s exhilarating.
Sometime after Aid 3, I realized that the Cytomax in all of my bottles was mixed too strong. It’s the type of stuff you think of when you’re 50 miles into a bike race, and it’s nauseating. Luckily, just past the”nearly gagged when I passed an eviscerated raccoon” part of the trail, there was a water-only aid station where I topped off both bottles with plain, cold, water. Eventually after, my gut was able to function again, and I started to recover from over an hour of what felt like a near puke/bonk. I can’t say it didn’t slow me down, though. Luckily, the trail leading to the next aid included a long railroad grade that allowed me to recover a bit and get some calories down. Once I reached Aid 4, I dumped half of my cytomax bottles out and diluted them. It eventually led to me feeling (somewhat) normal.
Unfortunately, during that time, Brenda probably put a healthy chunk of her lead on me. Fortunately, Laureen didn’t catch me. After walking up part of the “gravel wall” just after Aid 5, I realized that I was inside of 20 miles from getting my first podium finish at an NUE race. It gave me the wings I needed to finish the remainder of miles despite the exhaustion and threats of cramps coming from my quads. Boom. Done. Nothing beats being on the top of the podium (literally, of course, and figuratively). However, at a race as big as anything NUE, where most entries are there to kick ass, it’s freaking amazing to get to any of the steps, even if it was behind Cheryl and Brenda. Thus… the theme song for Saturday evening, courtesy of Lady Gaga…