Like Wachusett a month ago, I hoped to get some training value out of it and socialize with other like-minded folk. Achieving a new best was not an objective. I did one of my most punishing rides of the season on Wednesday, which I still felt, and I did back breaking driveway work most of the day Friday. I had to take Aleve for my back just to get out of bed Saturday morning. Hunched over in an aero position was going to feel great!
Some readers may say "what a minute Hill Junkie, you always say this BS, then you win!" The fact of the matter is, I used to treat most races as "A" races, tapering for them, doing my best, especially road races. My penchant for racing is slowly waning though. I have only a couple "A" races planned this year, Mt Washington in August and the Vermont 50 in September. Everything else is a fun or training race. Maybe most competitors treat all races this way, but I used to be more serious about it.
It was a tad on the warm side warming up. Slight headwind on the course. Got a good warmup in. Legs didn't feel too bad, but I didn't push any Watts warming up either.
Queuing up at the start. Photo by Heather Dunkerley
Brett and Eiric queued up 60 and 90 seconds ahead of me. Last year I beat them by 2 and 4 minutes respectively. The guy I was most worried about was Dave Kellogg. He was staged 60 seconds behind me. That was a rabbit I really wanted ahead of me. I've been in road race breaks with Dave and know how he can climb. My only hope was to put seconds on him on the lower, less steep part where wind resistance is greater than gravitational resistance. I'm bigger than Dave and presumably put out more raw Watts, which helps on the flats, but probably less Watts/kg, which will hurt me on the steep part.
I go off. My legs immediately rebelled. I was not surprised at that, but I was surprised how miserable I felt two minutes in. For the longest time, I did not even see Brett. I thought he was either doing really well or I was sucking big time. I gained nothing on him in the first five miles, which climbs at only a few percent. I kept looking over my shoulder for Dave.
When the gradient got steeper, I started seeing Brett. Very slowly, I reeled him in. When I passed, it must have given him extra motivation, as the gap behind me refused to grow. I'm now two-thirds of the way up and still no Eiric. Dang. I put four minutes on him last year, he started only 90 seconds up, so all things being equal, I should have passed him already. All things were not equal...
It wasn't until about 1km to go that I started to close in on Eiric. I struggled mightily to pass him on one of the steepest parts. And he claims to not be a climber. BS!
Approaching the finish. Photo by Heather Dunkerley
I crossed the line in about 37:22, almost a minute slower than last year. Eiric was two minutes faster than last year. Brett was a little faster too. So their increased speediness only compounded my mental anguish. I thought it was all me that sucked so bad, but no, I was chasing guys that got faster. I got the workout I sought and managed to stay ahead of Dave, who was planning to do the circuit race the next day.
Dave, Bill and myself, 2nd, 3rd and 1st place finishers Masters 50+. Photo by Heather Dunkerley
The rain held off. Other than being a little muggy, it was a great day to climb the biggest paved pass in the White Mountains.
Myself, Brett and Eiric at awards.
Don't let Eiric tell you he's not a climber. Photo by Bill Dunkerley
Here's some non-related news that gets me really stoked. The National Forest Service is going to construct a new section of continental divide singletrack trail to replace valley roads the current CDT route follows. Their recommendation was to exclude mountain biking on this new 31.2 mile trail. When they opened the proposal up for public comment, 900 mountain bikers, myself included, responded. The forest service reversed their decision. In fact, they went further and said the trail could probably not be completed and maintained without mountain biker volunteer support. We've come a long way in the last 10 years. You can read IMBA's press release here. This trail, which hoovers around 10,000ft elevation, could rival the Monarch Crest Trail in beauty and be 3-4 times longer! A Colorado trip will definitely be scheduled when this trail is complete.