With race day on Sunday…we had time to play. Friday and most of Saturday were spent riding pavement, eating good food, grabbing last minute supplies and doing a little shopping.
<a href=”http://www.thecasualcyclist.bike/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/image-3.jpeg”><img class=” wp-image-977 aligncenter” src=”http://www.thecasualcyclist.bike/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/image-3-300×300.jpeg” alt=”image” width=”220″ height=”220″ /></a>Smitty and I even had time to enjoy some hot tub relaxation. Yeah Smitty!!! The house was perfect. Dan Hughes and his son Charlie stayed there as well as Janeen McCrae. Really a good house crew. We even had a garage for storing and working on the bikes. Perfect. I can say this because I won the separate bedroom while Smitty, Rick and Ryan had to share the bunk bed room and Janeen stayed on the couch. 🙂 I KNOW. I KNOW. I KNOW. I could have been the ultimate gentleman and offered Janeen my hard earned bedroom while I moved into the bunk room but I…I…I…did what I HAD to do okay??? It’s what Janeen deserves for claiming that she’s never seen my This Is Gravel web show thingy ma jig….
…sorry Janeen…the bed was really comfy…
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Saturday evening is like all the races we travel to…things get serious the night before. Registration was a breeze, beer was traded out for water, pizza was ordered to be delivered, bikes prepped, kit laid out and layers carefully selected. Beginning ride temp in the low 40’s. Highs in the low 50’s. Overcast and chance for rain.
The alarm went off early and everyone moved methodically through their own little pre ride prep routines. I’m always interested by the different approaches people take. There’s truly not just one way. Just go ride bikes. We all rode about a mile to the start line. Dan, Janeen, Kristi and Tim and ven Rick all got call ups from Rebecca to the front of the line. Go Rick!!
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RPI has a slow rollout to start through town. You have to be careful as there a lot of “racers” here. I saw shoulder leans, elbows raised and even one retaliation hard bump. You really have to pay attention. Once we hit open pavement speed was increased and groups formed. There’s a good amount of pavement before the big mountain climb and you want to use that to position yourself for the climb. The climb took me 35 minutes. Faster than 2015 but not the 30 I had hoped for. Rebecca rode beside me for awhile which was a bright moment. Hey look there’s Rebecca! Hey look there goes Rebecca!
(Yeah right. Like I had the energy or bike skillz to ride a bike one handed while taking a picture of the Queen of Pain ride by me…it happened. Trust me.)
<a href=”http://www.thecasualcyclist.bike/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/File_000.jpeg”><img class=”wp-image-1002 size-medium” src=”http://www.thecasualcyclist.bike/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/File_000-300×225.jpeg” alt=”File_000″ width=”300″ height=”225″ /></a> Kinda like this but with Reba’s Redbull helmet to my side… 😉
I always pass up the aid station at the top of the climb. It’s all downhill at that point and I really don’t like stopping unless I have to. When I have a lot of layers on, I have a hard time enjoying the ride so I just want to move along. By the time I reached the next aid station I was beginning to realize…I was hot and sweaty. The temps were 40’s… Stubbornly I pedaled on methodically to the 3rd aid station right before the “lollipop loop”. This loop kicked my butt in 2015 and I wanted so badly to attack it in 2016. Unfortunately by the time I got to the 3rd station I was completely saturated with sweat…and cold. Even my windbreaker was wet. Too many layers. My fault. I should have simply unzipped earlier when I felt hot. Oh well. Better late than never lets get the loop over with.
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It’s strange but in 2 years riding this loop I catch very few people and I’ve been caught by only a few. It’s a weird eerie little twilight zone area for me where time stands still. The roads are really rough and the wind is strong. I really feel no rhythm pedaling on this stretch. I just keep moving forward. I did see a dude dry heaving who waved me on by. I think it was about 1.5 hours when I saw the aid station tent again on the back side of the loop. The loop had taken its toll. I was in a dark place at that point. I noticed road trip buddy Ryan “Railroad Man” Balkenhol taking in some food or water but I didn’t even care. I just kept the cranks spinning and crept on by.
I tried to focus on the beautiful stream rolling next to me. I tried to enjoy the mountain views all around me. One rider tried to make civil conversation with me. Ryan B was leading a train like a boss by and told me to jump on. I think I just nodded at him. Sorry, Ryan…I may have said a few other words. I was not excited about the long slow climb back up out of the valley that I knew was coming. I simply had no energy. I was cold. I hated all these damn clothing layers. I craved warmth. Where was the damn sun?! I pulled up to the last aid station before the climb out completely exhausted and worn out mentally.
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I spent a couple minutes here regrouping. I finally took off the damn windbreaker that I should have taken off hours ago. I felt better. It’s amazing what effect on me mentally layers have. If I wasn’t so tired I would have taken off my pullover leggings as well. I could now see the sun trying to push through. Okay…lets go get up that dang climb so we can coast gone downhill… No real enthusiasm here. No Eye of the Tiger. Just determined will. Just the knowledge that if you keep moving forward you’ll get there. Move. Now.
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I’m not going to say I started feeling great. BUT…I started passing people. The wind was not as bad as in 2015 here. 2015 I was averaging 8-10mph here. Now…10-12. That’s a huge mental difference! Sometimes faster but point is I was feeling strength in my legs for really the first time that day. I felt like “pushing”. There’s a punchy climb just before the downhill and I was able to shift down and ride up it no issues. I passed up the last aid station and the top and headed downhill!!
I had a time limit in my head. I wanted to break 6.5 hrs. I knew I had lost my bolo challenge but I had just minutes to still break 6.5 hours. I went down as fast as I my skills would allow. I had to come to a heart jumping skidding stop once when a truck passed a car on a blind corner and I had washboards. Holy crap that was “iffy”. Breaks don’t work well going downhill on gravel at 30+mph with washboards. Public Safety Announcement. I made it back down to pavement and pushed 20+ mph all the way to the Redbull finish line. I watched the minutes tick away and I pushed as hard as I could!!!
Crossing the line I looked at my Garmin!! 6:28!!! Yes!!! Not my best day but secondary goal still accomplished!!
….except… It wasn’t…
You see I had stopped my Garmin at that last aid station. Yep. I was racing a ghost. Official time. 6:32. Still better than 2015. Time to laugh. Time to find friends. Time to find some hot food. Time find a cold beer. Time to find some warmth.
Time for the hot tub, right??? I wish. Tim, Rick, Smitty and I had yet another race ahead of us in about 3 hours. We have a Gelande Quaffing title to defend. Seriously? Yeah, apparently…seriously…