Friday, I laid around and watched the Tour, checked out of my hotel as late as possible, and got moving up to Ketchum. Once I was there, I had a snack, waited for a little afternoon raincloud to pass, then went out to get a feel for how the race course would start. After a short prologue loop at the ski hill base, it took to a bike path for a mile or so before turning off right and beginning the looooong climb up Mt. Baldy. Apparently, the are a is shared with the local goat hearders, because there was a temporary fence and a heard of goats over the part of the course that linked the bike path and the beginning of the forest road climb:
Once I’d found a way around the goats, I climbed a half mile or so before getting to a gate/fence with a bunch of snowmoving/ski lift equipment behind it. It looked like the road kept going, but it wasn’t clear as to how legal it was to climb the gate. So, I turned and went back to the city and rode the pump track.
I was feeling good. As I’d predicted, since I had spent the last two nights at 3700ft, I wasn’t feeling the effects of altitude.
Saturday morning, I went through my usual pre-race routine of coffee, breakfast, and sitting around staring off into space waiting for said coffee to take effect. It obviously wasn’t strong enough, because I ended up packing up and leaving the room on my bike without sticking my gel flask in my pocket. Fortunately, the race start area was about a 5 minute ride from my hotel, and I always arrive early enough to allow time for situations exactly like that. So, I just warmed up by spinning nice & fast to the hotel & back, getting back to the start area with plenty of time to spare.
When online registration closed, there had been 5 riders on the start list. However, registration was open Friday afternoon as well, and we’d had a late addition… Rebecca Rusch.
My training has gone really well lately. And, while the entrants (other than RR) included women who’d beaten me in the past (Carey Lowery and another girl from Pierre’s Hole 50 last year), I was confident in my ability to hang with them this time. So, when we started, everyone was off onto the first mini-loop. I was able to hang right up with the front couple of ladies, which, at first, made me feel great. We circled around and were on the bike path in no time.
Rebecca and I were dropping everyone, and she seemed to be spinning more than me. Hmmm.
We got to the start of the climb, and she kept the hammer down. My inner dialogues yelled at each other…
OMG, RACE REBECCA!
NO. STOP THAT. DO NOT CHASE REBECCA RUSCH. BAD! NO!
The more reasonable side won out, and I watched her ride off like the world champion she is. As I got past the gate I’d stopped at before (now open), the road continued to pitch up. I stood on my gear and ground out what was probably a cadence of about 60rpms. Other singlespeeders were catching up, and everyone seemed to be pretty cozy with their gear and NOT standing up at 60rpms (except maybe one woman, who seemed to be chasing Rebecca). Carey said something to me about rolling a 32×22.
I was on 32×20.
The next hour of climbing was painful. I kept up the slow grind, all the while, passing rider after rider that had started ahead of us. Some realized that they were bringing up the rear of their field and moved immediately. Others didn’t want to let anyone by, but would eventually slow for a second and move over barely enough to squeeze by on the skinny ribbon of bench trail. Carey eventually asked to pass me… I let her go, and she spun off like nobody’s business.
How much did it hurt to have the wrong gear? Well, I sat down 4 times in the hour+ of climbing. Yeah. I counted.
At the top, I filled my bottle (I was carrying a Camelbak full of Roctane and had a bottle of plain water for drinking along with my Roctane gels & Chomps) and headed down the mountain. I descended with slight caution. Being in 4th place, I didn’t want to screw anything up by wrecking or flatting. On the way down, the two other women in my category passed me like I was sitting still. So, wrapping up lap 1, I was DFL.
As I started lap 2, I came upon the woman who was 5th. She was getting a CO2 from another rider (against the USA cycling rules) and filling her flat rear tire. As I passed, she hopped back on her bike, said something about it going low on the descent, and rode off. I have no idea if she was even carrying flat repair equipment, but I’ve learned the hard way to carry extra.
Great. I’m DFL and my competition is cheating a little.
The second time up the climb was (as expected) more painful than the first. My left foot and toes started to experience excruciating amounts of nerve pain- enough so that, about 3/4 of the way up, I had to get off of my bike and beat my left calf with my fist to make it go away enough to finish the climb. Then, as I hit one of two “kicker” climbs on the way down, the muscles behind BOTH shoulders fully cramped up. The race couldn’t be over soon enough.
Ok, so a pre-ride would have been helpful- I could have at least put my 21t cog on the back and had a slightly better time on the climb. However, I am reasonably certain that, if I’d spent the day running around at close to 6,000ft on Thursday, I would have traded the better gearing off for not feeling as good because of the elevation. The “last minute elevation” part of my race was actually a huge success. I felt great in that respect, which made it all the more frustrating that my choice of gears put me into so much difficulty. I don’t know what gear everyone else was on (except for Carey), but I’m guessing by the way they fell off so far on the bike path that they were all more spinny than myself.
So, that was a first. I’ve never finished last before. I pedaled slowly back to the hotel to clean up and recover. Later, I decided to ease the pain with some delicious Mexican food, a margarita, and downing half a pint of locally-made caramel ice cream while watching the day’s stage of the Tour.