There were a couple of omens that it was going to be an interesting day. My weight was exactly 166.6. When I received my race plate, it was 13. I took these as signs of luck. Perhaps signs that my inner demons would be released and exorcised in my pursuit during a hard day on the bike. It certainly felt like I was residing where demons would live — in hell. It rained on my drive to Nine Mile Forest and the forecast called for another hot day. Forget feeling like a fattened pig. In reality, I felt more like a pig in a sous vide. Slowly cooking in the wet forest by humidity and heat.
The race started with a "Le Mans" start, aka you run to your bike. I hate "Le Mans" starts. It certainly wasn't a sprint to my bike, but I wasn't too far back when I reached my bike either. Once on my bike, THEN it was a sprint to the singletrack. I got in a good pack of strong racers and spent the first half of the lap picking them off. During the second half of the first lap, a super strong racer passed me who was much smoother on the Midwestern trails. He used to live in Golden, CO! Yet another omen. Long ago when I still lived in IL, I used to be smooth as butter on the tight & twisty Midwest singletrack. However, even after spending some time riding the trails here these past few weeks, I am not as accustomed to the riding style. Regardless, if I really concentrate I can still pick a pretty damn good line. Riding behind this fast chap until the end of the first lap helped progress my skills I needed for the day. Lap #1 took 1:03:28. Thus, in a six hour race format it meant I was looking at 6 laps.
Lap #2 I didn't back off, and kept the pace high. It's hard to know where you stand in a race with 6-hour, 12-hour, 24-hour, teams, and duos formats all racing at the same time. However, I felt like lap #1 went well so my spirits were high. Also high was my heart rate. It averaged just under zone 5 that lap. As I crossed the line at 1:04:11, the announcer stated that I was sitting 2nd place.
I was pretty happy that I was sitting in 2nd entering lap #3, and still was feeling good. However, I knew I couldn't keep up the same pace. In addition, the temperature was rising and I had already ran out of water at the end of lap #2 before refilling at the end of that lap. I was only able to fill up one bottle because I missed the official aid station. Instead, I asked a nice fellow running aid for his team if I could get water. I didn't want to take any more water away from his team racers, so I only asked him to fill one. That water was the coldest water I would have the whole day, and I drank it within minutes. Once again, I was out of water. As a result, I could feel cramping coming on in my left leg and arm about halfway into lap #3. Luckily, there was an aid station about 3/4 into the lap that would be my refill spot for every lap afterwards. I chugged one bottle, then filled my two bottles back up. From that point on I would drink two water bottles an hour. Typically, I only drink one per hour. This left me feeling bloated. I started having GI issues from the excess water and heat. I completed lap #3 in 1:08:03.
By lap #4, things were not going as smoothly. At some point, someone had passed me as the announcer stated I was sitting 3rd. I was feeling gassed, and pukey. I wasn't taking in enough calories because of the nausea. Thus, I needed to slow down the pass in hopes to feel good enough to eat. Puking would mean instant dehydration, and not eating would mean bonking. Both "game over" events. Luckily, I was able to get to the point that I could sip on some Flow Formulas before feeling pukey again. I feel very fortunate I had Flow Formulas in my bottle because it's so easy on the GI system. Without it, there would have been zero chance of completing the race. At the end of lap #4, I grabbed a banana from the aid station which helped as I entered Lap #5. I completed lap #4 in 1:12:26.
Lap #5 was even more of a show. The theme was, "just don't puke" as I snailed my way through the lap. Plus, I knew I still had another lap to go. That is if I could complete the lap under 6 hours. In a 6-hour format, you can't go for another lap once you crossed the line over 6 hours. Therefore, I couldn't slow down too much. I crossed the line at 5:43:58 for a lap time of 1:15:48. My slowest by far.
Finally, the final lap — lap #6. My GI system was feeling a little better, but my legs were rubber. Regardless, I gave it my all. I stumbled over technical sections, gritted my way up every hill, and did my best to concentrate on good lines. I made it to the aid station 3/4 into the lap and knew I was almost there. Suddenly, I felt a burst of energy. From then on I was able to push the pace to the finish line. Sprinting hills, and flowing through the singletrack. I ended with a sprint to the line!
The announcer didn't state what place I finished. I feared that I lost my spot on the podium, but at that point I was just happy to be done. I felt like complete garbage, so my first priority was to not puke in front of everyone. It took a couple minutes being keeled over my bike, heavy breathing, before I could start walking towards the bike wash area. I cleaned off my bike the best I could, then checked the results. I was happily surprised I finished 3rd! Complete race time was 6:59:43. Mark that as one of the tightest days on a bike! Although my body does not like racing in this Midwest humidity, I am very proud I was able to endure. The podium spot was just icing on the cake.