|Cool schwag ... as usual.|
This was the 10th year anniversary. It began in 2005 with 50 racers (1 of them was little ol' me) and the course was run in the opposite direction. I have raced it every year and wonder how many out there have done all 10 of them as well. This year had a total of 500 racers!
I got to the start super early and Laurie held my place in line while I lightened my load. The starting temperature was 43 degrees and it was 53 at the finish ... perfect! No chemical warmers needed today. I started out in the top 20 and pretty much was in my own little bubble of happiness all day. Knowing that my legs would be happier with a slow start, I gave them time to warm up before I really called upon them. As I approached the creek crossing, much to my surprise, there was a bridge. Sweet! No wet feet today! Once again, I have got to hand it to the NWGA Sorba crew ... they have got their act together!
Climbing up to the first bit of single track, I was making the usual mental/physical assessments and everything seemed just o.k. My heart rate monitor was not reading correctly early on so I had to rely on perceived exertion. As I entered the single track, I saw that ALOT of trail work had been done since February. Another nice surprise! I was able to motor on through and before I knew it, I was barrelling down the fire road to Pine Needle Hill.
At this point, the legs were fully awake and happy to be hammering. I had looked at my Garmin a couple times, but did not know if I was besting my February time ... yet. I decided not to look again until I was at the halfway point. Traffic was minimal and everyone was being nice. The trail was in superb shape and the typical muddy spots were nowhere to be found. After the road crossing, the remainder of the first half flew by and before I knew it, I was bombing the last descent to the SAG ... Ligety-style.
|Proud to be a part of the team. There is no one with a bigger heart than James.|
As I pulled in the parking lot to my cooler of goodies, I finally looked at my Garmin. 1:27! Say what??? I was 6 minutes faster than February and I felt great! I could see a PR happening. With a quick bottle swap and gel guzzle, I was off to conquer. The climb out of the Snake Creek Gap parking lot was the easiest it has been ... since 2010! In no time, I was on top, hammering the ridge line. Now that I knew what was possible could happen, I began to fear the rocks. Oh, I love to ride the rocks, but I was worried that a flat could blow my chances. So I began to say my anti-flat mantra, "float like a butterfly." I really believe that this works because it allows me to focus what is on hand and not what is coming 5, 10, 20 minutes from now. My lines become smoother, I carry my momentum, and I feather the brakes.
Before I knew it, I was flying up the last bit of fire road to my favorite section of the race. As I turned in to the single track, I sniffed the air. Could it be? I have never smelled it this far out. But, yes! The odor was unmistakable. IT WAS THE BARN!!
It was here that my bike morphed into a magic carpet. I was on a definite high. Granted, I did opt out of riding a couple sections I normally can do. But I knew I would be just as fast, if not faster, running them. And it would engage a different group of muscles, affording my cycling muscles a brief respite. It has taken me years (for my ego) to acknowledge this.
I came upon Matt in this last section. A big guy, but he could climb like no one's business! We fed off one another's energy and it helped both of us to go faster than we would have, had we been alone. It was all I could do to keep him in sight on the descents. I would be able to close the gap back on the climbs. However, once on the pavement descent, he turned his nitrous on ... and was gone!
With burning quads, I pedaled a mean streak all the way down to the finish. Passing under the finish line, having gave it my all, I turned a 3:21:18. So stoked to have crushed my previous PR. I must give some props to the trail crews and the weather. The trail was in the best shape ... every! There were alot of racers who had PR's.
|Just when you thought the trophies could not get any better, BAM!|
Now that this chapter has closed, on to the next. P ... 3 ... 6! I am scared, very scared, for Eric can be an evil, evil man.