So, I told Mom that whatever happened in the race, happened. I didn't train as much as I wanted to in Colorado, but considering I held back a little my first week because the altitude was choking me, I still rode 631 miles from July 6 to July 24th, which was a lot of hard riding, and my improvement in my uphill riding from July 6 was alarming. I chatted and joked with aa lot of guys at the start and when one fellow competitor asked me how I did last year, I frowned and gave him my time. He laughed and said,"I was about 20 minutes slower than you". I replied,"Thanks! I'm glad you're racing then!" We laughed. He was sweet. I never saw him again.
The first 10 kilometers are always some of the least steep, and last year we went out at about 23 miles an hour on a slight uphill. This year we were headed into a block headwind, and the fastest speed I saw during the first 10 kilometers was less than 17 miles an hour. Once the climbs started, despite living and training between 8400 and 9800 feet for 19 days, I didn’t feel any stronger than last year. My breathing was much better, and my technique was a lot different. I was in my bottom gear most of the time, pounding out a Lance-Armstrongish 105 rpm but only achieving about 8-9 miles an hour most of the time. At the water bottle exchange in Echo Lake, some moron in front of me decided to stop and wanted the organizers to “fill” his water bottle rather than just exchange them. I was the lucky guy who was stuck behind him, a little ticked off, and politely yelling,”WATER! WATER! WATER!” As the gentleman was filling this guy’s water bottle, he handed me a water bottle. I probably lost about 15-20 seconds there. I had a good tempo ride to the top, but nothing in reserve to kick up at the finish. It did disturb me that last year, during the opening miles, I wanted to break away, but this year, the thought never entered my mind. Did I enter the race too tired???
At Summit Lake, over 12,000 feet, there is a downhill of about one kilometer. The problem with this is that once you get past Echo Lake, the roads become very bumpy, and I may have hit 20 miles an hour at Summit Lake, but it was so treacherous, you couldn’t control the bicycle much faster than that. I even had to hit my brakes a few times because the road dips sharply a lot, and quite violently. Summit Lake got me a little choked up, because it’s the first place you can clearly see the summit of Mount Evans—like an old friend who likes to make you suffer. I looked up and there she was, towering over me. When my father, who was a big cowboy movie fan, used to talk about Mount Evans, I thought it was a porn flick about Roy Rogers’ wife. Now I know. Perhaps I should move from Evansville to Mount Evans.
We rode into the mist, and the overcast sky was a little scary. The temperature seemed to drop about 20 degrees. One thing I can attest to is that I don’t recall being passed during the entire race. I was steady, unlike last year, and the only time I dramatically slowed was when I had to take a drink of energy drink. I couldn’t breathe, so that slowed me down. During most of the race, I came to a conclusion--I’m not a climber anymore. I told myself this, and sadly, it was true. Although I’d marked the last one kilometer, I could only dial it up to ten miles an hour, and even that I could not hold, but I still blew past about four riders, effortlessly. I was about five pounds heavier than last year. I think that made a difference. My finishing time, my official finishing time, was 2:51:36, and to be realistic, take about 15 seconds off that for the bottle-exchange fiasco, but it still puts me six minutes slower than last year. I was pretty disappointed and have yet to figure what happened. I was only 37th of the 56 finishers in my category (last year I was 57 of 82 finishers), which is a slight improvement in placing. It appears there were a lot who did not finish—I don’t blame them---it was a very hard race. Based on the starting list, there were over 80 starters in my race. Ned Overend, mountain biking legend and winner of the first ever world mountain bike championship was racing that day too. He finished second.
I got to the top and someone came up to me and said,”Welcome to the top. Do you have a bag up here? (queue Groucho Marx comeback) Can you see it from where you are? Do you want some water?” Wow—the last two times I did this race, they ignored me at the top. I was just one of the herd, trotting to the top, and no one would help me down. So I said,”Uh, yeah--it’s over there (pointing)—were you going to ask me out?” About a minute later, someone came up to me and asked,”Do you have any warm clothes”—I replied,”Yes” and he said,”Would you please put them on?” I was thinking,”Don’t you mean *wink, wink* take them off?” Was this guy wanting to ask me out or what? Last year I was afraid of getting pushed off the mountain by a goat, and now this guy seemed to be paying special attention to me. I was on low oxygen, but I still didn’t like men.