Once again, the Snake lived up to its reputation. Although it was 25 degrees warmer than last year's January start, it was a muddy mess. Mother Nature decided to up the technicality by having it rain Friday and on into Saturday morning. It reminded me of a Transrockies day, what with the heavy fog and drizzle.
On top of that, I picked the shuttle that arrived DEAD LAST. By the time I found my bike, pee'd, and made my way to the start, I was 17 waves back. Ughhh! Oh, well, at least I could put my "On your left" skills to the test.
I bolted at the start. Being cold, I was wanting to get warm ASAP. The initial 3 miles of fireroads/doubletrack was very chewed up and slick. Once my core warmed up, I backed off the pace a bit to allow my screaming muscles a chance to warm up. I took it a bit easy on the initial climb; I forgot my HR strap, but could tell I was going too fast to keep the pace up for the whole 34 miles.
Once I was into the first singletrack, I knew it was going to be an interval type of day, as there was a line of racers as far as I could see. Knowing it was my fault for the bad start, I was patient and polite as I passed each and every one of them. I ended passing 35 racers en route to the finish. Only 2 passed me, but I eventually passed them back. I was just thankful that on the many times of going off the trail to pass, I did not encounter any cat-head rocks or dildos that love to leap up into your derailleur.
The singletrack held up well under the deluge of rain, but the fireroads and doubletrack was like peanut butter ... very energy-sapping. The first 17 miles flew by; when I hit the Snake Creek Gap parking lot, I was 5 minutes faster than the previous year's time. My legs felt great! I had passed all but one of my competitors. I swapped Camelbaks and began to climb out of the parking lot. I passed Kylie in the parking lot; at this point I had no other "carrots" save for Zeke. I knew he was somewhere up ahead and having a great race of his own.
Halfway through this first climb of the second half of the race, my legs began to hurt. Kylie came back around me (on a singlespeed). This helped to motivate me and to forget the pain. At the top of the climb, I passed her back, as she seemed to be in her own little "pain cave." I have got to hand it to her, she was doing very well with one gear; a lot better than I could ever hope to do.
Once to the top, the rollers were pleasant. I was still passing people right and left, and each effort to do so hurt and sapped a little more energy from me. Although tiring, I was still on a PR pace. I pushed it on the descent to the multiple creek crossings, wanting to gain as much time as possible before I entered the final 8 miles of rocks.
The climb up to the last rocky section was slicker 'n snot. Just last Thursday I had ridden this section and it was SO FAST! I tried to put the noise of my chain grinding through the mud out of my mind and focus on what lay ahead.
About halfway through the rocky section, I heard the unmistakable voice of Zeke ahead. He was a cussin' and a swarpin' those stupid rocks. It seems as if he still hasn't learned to finesse it through and kept banging his pedals. But I have got to hand it to him, he had a great race and I think is currently in second in his class. Not bad for an old man!
I seemed to still be on record pace through the rocky section. The last 4 miles I began to fumble through the rocks and decided that running through some of the sections was faster than riding through it ... especially after seeing a number of racers crash.
Once I hit the pavement, I tucked into an aero position and let gravity take hold. This last 1 1/2 miles I always look forward to, as I can give my legs a bit of a reprieve. With the road being wet and with a heavy fog, I had to focus a bit more.
I rolled into the finish with the time to beat and a PR ... 2 minutes faster than last year! I was stoked! And so thankful to have a coach that knows me better than I do!
I learned a lot during the race and will do a few things differently next time. Like provide my own shuttle so that I can have a better start. And if I do need to pass people, I will lower my voice a few octaves and try to sound like a guy. There are still those out there that for some reason are offended that a woman wants to pass them. And to those I say, "GET OVER IT! See it as a challenge to improve!" I will never forget being passed by a 9 year old during a 5k race; I was 16 at the time. I saw that pass as awesome for the kid and a motivator for me.
Stumpy rocked! She smoothed out the trail for me. And the Captain tires gripped the rocks like a gecko gripping glass. Rapidade kept me fueled and my Swiftwicks kept my toesies warm, even when wet. And although my shorts were muddied through and through, my Chamois butt'r kept my taint comfy.
I am so looking forward to the next Snake!