When I got in on Thursday, I helped crew for a bit in the evening and on Friday morning. That was a very valuable experience because I was able to learn from some very talented, experienced riders what to do to make life as easy as possible for your crew as they work to help you.
It was hard to force myself to sleep before my ride, but I got enough sleep in. I was so excited for my race that my heart rate was way up for the beginning of the ride. I was going to try and keep it low, but that apparently wasn't really an option. So for the first 13 miles I kept it slow, and was battling this one guy for last place :-) Eventually I broke down and started cranking and going fast, didn't think I was going that fast but looking back I probably could have gone a little slower.
The course is incredibly scenic, with great views, rolling hills, and beautiful river crossings. It's a tough course because it is really hilly, but the hills are short enough that you can just power through them and still keep your speed up. This is fine if you aren't going for too long, or if you are a machine. But eventually you will start to get tired and have to climb the hills more slowly. And at that point, the hills are really tough. As you can see from the elevation graph there are no real flat spots:
Riding at night was tough, but also a lot of fun. It made it challenging to know how big of a hill you were climbing because you couldn't see the top. It was also a lot of fun to not have any traffic and be able to go wherever was smoothest on the road.
There were lots of tricks that my mind played on me while I was riding at night. One of which was thinking that there was someone banging on the door of an abandoned building, when in fact it was just a windmill that made noise. There were some rednecks going around in a giant truck blaring a loud train horn at around 2 am. Instead of getting pissed at them I just laughed to myself because they didn't realize that they were doing me a service for making sure that I was wide awake after that! :-)
Riding in the day went well, but started to tired slowly. At my lap number 10 it started to rain. My commuting in the rain really paid off here, and this time I had the goggles I mentioned in my post about commuting in the rain. I was able to really pick up the pace in the rain. I don't know what it was, but I had renewed energy in my legs. So I was biking away in the pouring rain, munching on some dark chocolate, it was awesome.
Unfortunately since I pushed so hard in the rain, the next lap was really tough. At the end of that my feet, and legs were just screaming in pain. I got back to the rest area and told my crew that I was done, 290 miles was good enough for me. I was happy with that. Thankfully they said, "No you're not done, you've got one more lap in you." And after resting for 30 minutes I was ready to go. At that point I knew how to put in a fast lap without taxing my body too much. I had enough energy on the last lap to sprint the last mile to the finish with about 20 minutes to spare.
I realized that this was my very first cycling event that I raced in! Pretty good start I say. And even though I placed pretty well in this event, that doesn't mean much to me. Doing well against my own goals and expectations is far greater than being able to finish in some position, ahead of someone else. As far as I see it, there is always going to be someone out there that's faster, stronger, or bigger than you. But at the end of the day if you are able to do something to the level that you set out to do, or better, then that's what you should be proud of! Though getting one of these bad ass trophies isn't too bad either :-)
Some good things that I learned was that eventually I got so tired of sweet things and having some soup and crackers really saved me there. Having a wide variety of things was great and incredibly valuable because I knew I would get tired of eating certain things. Having a crew is an amazing help. And having a REALLY great crew like I did is invaluable. There is no way I could have done what I did without them!
- 317 miles (510K)
- ~20,000 ft climbed (6000m)
- 20,000+ calories burned
- ~4.5 gallons of liquid consumed (17 liters)
- 1 skunk narrowly avoided by a couple feet