That's the only shot I took all day- no time for pictures, sorry. I will try to steal some from someone else here soon. Someone took a couple of Charlie Farrow and I leading the Peloton at about mile 30 and I'd love to get one of that!
Chris went above and beyond. Everything from the check-in gathering at Kathy's to the hand-shakes, cokes, cookies and place to hang out at the finish was just about perfect. It was cool to see the huge number of entrants show up and amazing that they were all there to ride 100 miles of gravel.
I rested most of the week other than some commuting, but still was feeling a bit tired Thursday and Friday. I was worried that I'd partied too much at the concert and had caught the same bug that Laura had (she hasn't worked since last Monday or so due to being sick). I was careful to rest as much as possible and eat "good" meals Thursday and Friday and it all turned out to be nothing but worries. Saturday AM dawned beautiful and I was feeling well-rested and healthy. Finally, a race day where I felt ready. I felt calm, healthy, organized, ready, whatever.
Enjoyed seeing some friends prior to the race start, but tried to keep focused on how I wanted to ride. My plan for this race was to ride aggressively- no better way to put it. I've spent much of the last 6 months preparing to be able to ride 100+ miles of gravel, and yesterday was a chance to at least "act as if" I was ready to do it. I would climb hard, ride at the front of groups, take risks and let the consequences be what they would. I put aside the doubts that had crept in after my relative failures at the Ragnarok and the Sandwich 50.
The start was relatively calm and it was nice to get going. Worked enough to stay in touch with front, went all the way to front prior to the big downhill... may have saved my day. Joe Meiser almost went down in front of me (with me right behind him), but pulled it out. However, some number of riders behind us did fall in the same spot. At least a couple of them were hurt bad enough to end their days. At the time I had no idea though, as I was busy fighting up the first small climb and into another fast downhill near the front.
About 10 miles in we had the first long climb (which I believe to be the largest of the day too) and I took the lead going in. It was a hill I had ridden a few times in training and I knew how hard I could go within my safety zone. I crested the hill near enough the front, but didn't have enough left for the next little one and I wound up off the back a bit. However, I/we were quickly able to re-organize and a few of us took turns at the front reeling in other stragglers and eventually the main group. Rode with the main group at a comfortable pace for the next hr or hr and a half or so and then the group split. The few people who got "away" at this point were straight up FLYING. I wound up in a chase group with some strong riders and we collected more. I should have just sat where I was and worked with that group for as long as possible. However, I had to pee and thought I could ride faster than that group anyways (stupidly). I tried to jump out ahead of them and quickly jump off and pee- but couldn't. Took me literally 90-100 seconds to pee. Group was 60-70 seconds ahead of me and they stayed there for a long time. They eventually pulled ahead. I was kicking myself for stopping and also kicking myself for not trying harder to close the gap RIGHT AWAY rather than waiting and giving half-assed chase for a while. I should have been less sure of myself.
Meanwhile I was still making great time. Didn't catch any riders before it, but I pulled into the 64? mile checkpoint at about 3:34 e.t., swapped water bottles and was on the road by 3:35. I was in a good rhythm at this point and kept pushing my pace. Rode with another fellow for a while, but really only helped him catch 3 riders in front of us while hurting myself too much to seal the deal. Had a rough time of it from mile 80-92 or so- lots of doubts, thoughts of walking the final climbs. Two guys caught me from behind (who had been ahead but had gotten off course a bit) and a strange thing happened... The second they caught me I felt rejuvenated. It was nice to have someone to talk to and something to take my mind off of the way my legs and lower back felt. I rode the two remaining climbs reasonably strongly and we all rode hard across the flats back into town. Those guys sort of saved my day, without them I might have limped in 5 or 10 minutes slower than I did- thanks!
In the end I had my finish time at about 5:45 and I don't know or really care what place I got (although I believe it was in the teens). I feel great about that time even with the beautiful, easy, low wind conditions. I had ridden a time that represented the best of my training rides and done so mostly without "draft" type help from others. It felt great to get that handshake from Chris, lay down by the cooler of coke and talk to my competitors.
On the way home I couldn't help but ask myself if it was worth it? Last years Almanzo had been the 2nd time I'd ever ridden 100 miles and the first time I'd done it offroad. In some ways much of the last 12 months had been working towards going faster this year. There had been a lot of early mornings, late nights, cold days, "no I can't have another drinks", "i need to head home and get to sleeps" and suffering. When I first started thinking about it the answer was "no", it wasn't worth it. What's going 2:20 faster over 100 miles of gravel? What does that even mean and who does it mean anything to? Then I started driving home. I drove by the spot where I stopped and ate rolos back on January 1st, the farm with the huge black mutt, the road that I found late in the spring which allowed me to ride just the "best parts" of a few of my routes, the road down to stagecoach and the little bit of gravel that is closest to my house. I thought about all the times I'd ridden those roads and I remembered how much fun I'd had.