I'm going out of order here- it's been a long long week. First, I had to have one of my cats put to sleep on Tuesday. Then one Wednesday I did two workouts including a Spinervals, which made my coach think I was nuts. Thursday I dropped my son off at daycare and drove to Rochester. The luckier of my two friends landed an hour late, which was the only reason I made it in time to do the airport pick-up. The less lucky one spent the night in O'Hare airport.
Saturday morning came threatening rain. I'd been up late, had gotten wicked post-nasal drip the second I'd gotten to Rochester and woken up with a sore ear at 6:20 in the morning. I couldn't help but be frustrated with myself- yet another race on five or less hours of sleep, although I'd gone to Rochester to hang with friends, not race. I also thought about the article I'd just posted on Eric's site and reminded myself that like everyone, I've raced sick- one time I ran the Boston Build-Up 10K with earmuffs on so Margit wouldn't realise that my ear was swollen to twice its normal size due to a sinus infection (I ran a lousy time and was attacked by a dog).
I had to get on the internet and look up directions to the race, sneak my mountain bike out of the hotel room without waking up the guys, and drive to a place I'd never been before. However, packet pickup the day before had been in the same general area, and after being up there for races the last four years and actually driving places (something I never did when I lived there), I'm starting to feel like my sense of direction is starting to click.
Although it was very grey, it was about 60 degrees by race time (9 am) and I was a little incredulous to see some of my fellow competitors wearing full-finger gloves, tights, and light jackets. I mean you race in Rochester, you learn about cold- I think I've done as many races in the snow up there as I have down here.
It was an off-road sprint 2-10-2. Totally trail run, mostly off-road bike with about a mile of single track. I know there's one guy up there who owns me- that's a terrible thing to admit, I suppose, but the guy always beats me. Jason Urckfitz. Well, there he was, standing right on the line. While I'm not shy about standing right on the starting line at most local races, whether I belong there or not, and sometimes I don't, I didn't think I should do it there. I was already in my Force Five kit and was going to ride with my TT helmet. I didn't need to be trying to elbow my way into between people.
We started out and it was like every duathlon. I swear there were twenty people in front of me after 50 yards as we started up what would be a quarter mile of steady climbing, some parts steep and some shallow. I've thrown up all sorts of clunkers this year- Arizona, Extrememan, Marty's duathlon that I dropped out of, but one thing I have gotten much better at is being patient and not panicking. That certainly helped me at Brian's and again at Shamrock. I just needed to remind myself this always happens at duathlons.
I started moving up. Soon I was in the top ten, the top eight, then I worked quickly into fourth. I was watching Jason run and my evaluation was a simple as it was unfortunate. I was not going to be able to run down Jason and still be in any shape to get on the bike. I admit I was looking past the other two guys in front of me, but only because I was waiting for the right moment to pass them in the woods. I worked my way into second. I have to be honest, I'm not sure when, somewhere in the back during the grass loop. I came through the loop and promptly headed in the wrong direction. A course marshall redirected me and I started bushwacking- I was quickly back on course, headed downhill towards transition and came in second, but with third right on my back- he was in transition before I got out. The other guy that was in the mix I'd put thirty seconds on, but I'd see him again.
I was in and out of transition very quickly- toe clips, yes, I'm the guy who still uses them. I settled down on my aerobars- yes, aerobars, but at least I have a straight up Stump Jumper mountain bike with nobby tires, not a cyclo-cross bike. I even asked about the aeros to make sure they were legal for the race. Turns out so were cyclo-cross bikes, but i don't think anyone gets an advantage using one when there's any amount of single-track or mush. I started pedaling like mad but Jason was slowly pulling away. the trail we rode on is what you'd expect for a well-kept trail by a railroad track, hard-packed dirt with small crushed stone. Perfectly fine for aero work except for where larger stone was used to fill holes or at intersections.
Then we hit a section that was grass, like the run and your legs start to feel rubbery as you climb uphill on grass that's wet and kind of soggy (it had rained the night before). There were two-three inch deep ruts that you had to stay out of. Then it was back on the trail. Somebody yelled 'Go alan.' Still don't know who and I know they were talking to me. Then it was into the single track. I haven't been on single-track in a long time, months to years, depending on how strict your definition is. Halfway through I had to take my left foot out of the clip and it had to stay out until I got back on the trail. I rode well, but the guy that had been fourth on the run caught me after we got on the trail. He wasn't sure what to do- he sat off my shoulder about three lengths back and decided on when to make his move. That, well, I don't like that. But I'm sure it was clean. he went by and I went into 'no panic' mode. I'd beaten this guy on the first run, he had to change his shoes. I just needed to keep him in sight. I let him get four bike lengths and then tried to hold him there.
He was looking back, which was good. But four became six became eight. Ten. then we hit a wicked downhill with 'loose gravel' signs warning the bottom was dangerous. He went full throttle. I did not. I went into transaition almost thirty seconds down.
There was an announcer. He made a BIG deal about how much time I'd caught back in transition and as we ran out estimated that I'd make the catch within twenty seconds and he also said we were 1:38 behind the leader. I made the catch.
I'm very proud of the fact my second 2 mile loop was only 3 seconds slower than the first loop. But the marathon and 5k double had toasted me and the second loop was HARD all the way to the final downhill. I ended up losing by over two minutes. Jason would have beat me if I'd trained a month for the race and gotten ten hours sleep and drank five less beers then night before, but again, I went to the reunion to hang out.
This was a great race with great sponsors. But when the race director talked about how he'd been trying for three years to get Jason to come do the race, i had to laugh. He'd actively recruited the only guy that beat me. Too funny.
If you're in upstate New York next year the third weekend in October, take the mountain bike and expect a fun, well-run race with great timing by Score-This, pizza after the race, and a good fair course...