I had come into the race more in the frame of mind of getting some good training in which was good as I stayed pretty 'chill' leading into the race, but apparently not enough 'chill' enough so as to keep me from feeling under the weather. It was tough packing for the trip since doing a lap race, one has the opportunity to change in between laps and be picky about what you want to eat. The weather forecast was not spectacular, upper 40s/low 50s for a high with a chance of rain. So, I packed just about every piece of bike clothing I own. It was ridiculous but I figured I'd be happy to have it "just in case" versus being there on race day thinking, gee, why didn't I bring that?...
I drove down to Doug's in Maryland Thursday afternoon with Bruschi in tote. It was pretty uneventful drive down. It did finally dawn on me that I hadn't packed everything. The race would require a couple laps after dark, and while I did remember my light, I forgot my helmet in my basement that has my helmet strap on it. Too late now. At least we had all day Friday to deal with that.
Friday was a pretty mellow day. I slept in hoping to kick the 'not feeling so good' feeling. We stopped by a bike shop on our way to the race site to see about getting a helmet strap. The bike shop didn't have one but they gave us some good ideas of how to rig mine up. We continued on to the race site, which was only about 45 minutes away, to set up an Easy Up tent and regular tent for hanging out in during the race day. Getting a good spot along the course in the transition area was important and we weren't sure how crazy it would be to find a good spot - not really that 'crazy' but good that we planned ahead. We were hoping to do a pre-ride lap which would have been nice to loosen up the legs after my long drive on Thursday, but it started raining pretty good and other racers who had shown up earlier were coming back from riding a lap pretty muddy, so we bagged that idea. It's not as if we wouldn't have plenty of time to ride the course the next day.
Doug was able to attach my light onto his helmet strap with some zip ties that evening. It worked out pretty well so that was the end of worrying about that. He had a handlebar mount that he would use for his light. We ate some dinner and got to bed early. I actually slept pretty well and woke up feeling ok, but still not quite 100%. I was still pretty relaxed, especially since Doug was doing the first lap so I figured I wouldn't be riding until almost 10AM. Doug wanted to get to the race site early as he thought it was going to be a mob scene with racers setting up camp etc. But we got there plenty early and were all set to go in no time. It was a pretty cold, damp, overcast day. I was starting to wish I had packed my very warm winter down jacket, but I had convinced myself that that was overkill, maybe not.
The race went off at 9AM in a mass start with not a lot of space to spread out before hitting the sinlgetrack. I was happy it wasn't me having to deal with the mayhem of a large group all vying for the front. I went back to the tent and checked on the dogs and made sure I had everything ready to go for my first lap. Doug came through in about 56 minutes which was pretty decent lap time having had to deal with bottlenecks the first lap at the few tough obstacles on the course, that are all rideable so long as no one is in your way. We swapped the timing chip and off I went up the field to start out my first lap. It hurt a lot at first. I realized I was kind of an idiot for not warming up at all, especially after not riding too much for a few days. The legs and lungs weren't crazy about going hard right off the bat. The course was slick and slippery after the rain from Friday. It thankfully wasn't too muddy and dried out some as the day wore on, but it became more of a tacky, sticky, suck your energy kind of feel. It would be a very, very fast course if it were dry. It was pretty rolling terrain, in and out of woods and through fields, with no major climbs. I was happy to have the 2nd lap as the racers were all pretty spread out by then. It was tough to pass sometimes on the singletrack, and I would look up ahead and see I was gaining on a group, I was like, hmm.. this will be fun to get by. But, it usually wasn't too bad, mostly racers would let you pass.
Once I got into my lap, I was feeling ok. I didn't have "race" legs that felt fresh and snappy but they weren't awful either. I finished up my lap in about 50 minutes and was happy to have a break. We had talked about riding a single lap for the first couple of turns and then going to doubles. I wasn't so sure after that lap if that's what I would be up for, but then after waiting around for 10 minutes and starting to freeze as I cooled down, I figured it would ultimately be better to go to double laps to stay 'warm' while you're riding and then having a longer time to eat and be in dry clothes while you waited. I get chilled fast though so it was rough waiting around. I cleaned up the bike some. There was a bike wash but Doug said the line was long and my bike wasn't that bad I figured I'd pass on wasting my 'down time' standing in line.
From that point on, we both did another single lap and then went to double laps. I felt fine on the 2nd single lap, and the first of my double laps. By the end of my double laps I wasn't sure I wanted to do another double lap but left it up to Doug which way he wanted to go on that and he went for double's again. My 2nd double lap would put me on the course when it was getting dark so that meant I had to carry my light with me for those two laps despite not needing it to well into the 2nd of my double lap as it would take too long to get it all set up in between laps. It's an older style light (the technology of newer lights is amazing, lightweight, super bright, etc.) so the light would keep kind of pushing my helmet down my forehead some. Oh well. I was definitely starting to feel the hurt on the 2nd lap of my double (6th lap) and starting to go down the path of "why do I do this?" and "how much longer do I want to make myself suffer like this?"... not good. I didn't wander too much down this path of thinking. I tried to assure myself that I'll feel better when it's a nice, warm sunny day out and I'm not trying to fight off being sick. I finished up telling myself just one more lap, one more lap.
Doug went out for what was supposed to be his last lap. Neither of use had checked the stats on where stood placing wise in the race all that much. We just knew we were in 3rd and thought our lead was ok enough. He rode a pretty strong night lap and when he came through, I was all set to go out and jokingly said "don't make me do it" and he just kept on pedaling through then. I shouted "I'm kidding!" but it was too late unless I hopped on my bike to chase him down and get the timing chip off his ankle from him. I was thinking he's going to regret that when he gets up to the top of the field. That, and he told me his battery for his light was only good for maybe 2hrs and at that point his lap time was just over an hour, and doing a double?...He's going to run out of battery. Oh, well. I just changed out of my riding clothes and starting packing up. I figured he'd be doing the packing up while I finished up racing.
He came in about 10:15 with his hiking light. His bike light died about a mile from the finish. The hiking light is definitely not a lot of light to ride by so we lost a bit of time there and ended up in 4th instead. I wasn't terribly distressed about this. Doug seemed more bummed out about. All in all, it was some good hard training in my book. We finished packing up and ate some post-race pizza and hit the road home with some tired pups in the car too boot.
A hot shower was welcome. Sleep took a bit as my stomach was not all that happy that night. It was tough eating race foods all day and my systems were just out of whack. Seems like I get sick before the first race of the season, thankfully it wasn't a 100 miler this year as the first race. I woke up Sunday with a pretty bad head cold and must have gone through a box of kleenix throughout the day. I didn't feel too bad race legs wise, just pretty bad in my head. There's been lots of stuff going around. Anyway, the drive home was equally uneventful as the drive down, well aside from a lot of knee steering to be able to blow my nose. Bruschi was pooped out and slept like a baby the whole way. And I slept like a baby Sunday night. Feeling a bit better today, but got some resting up to do before hitting the next race, this Sunday, just a short one. Hopefully the weather is better. I don't think I have too many more cold, wet races or rides in me. Am I getting too old ? :)
Oh, pretty cool - Brian is 12 years old and rode his unicycle for a lap!!!! holy cow! He's amazing.