Saturday, November 14, 2009

Iceman Cometh and Goeth

A few years ago, Chris and I went up to Iceman to hang out and watch some friends race. The weather that year was phenomenal. It was a sunny, unseasonably warm day. At the time, I remember really wishing I had been ready to race it that year (although at that point I hadn't raced anything yet), just so I could have taken advantage of the weather. I was sure that by the time I was ready to race Iceman it would be freezing and precipitating. I couldn't have been more wrong.

After obsessing over the entire tights issue for a couple weeks (wherein I couldn't find mine and ended up ordering another pair at the last minute, as well as having to drive across town on Friday to get them out of the bike shop owner's car, which was in the shop, and was where he left the box with my tights in it), I found myself again obsessing over them at the start line, wondering whether or not I had overdressed. I'm not sure of the exact temperature, but I think it ended up being about 65.

When we pulled into the parking lot, my stomach was churning. I have never felt as nervous for a race as I did that day. Luckily, I had my own personal pit crew. I paced the parking lot and made last minute trips to the bathroom as Chris got my bike put together, attached water bottle cages and even secured a bento box and filled it with shot blocks (with the wrappers pre-ripped so I wouldn't have to struggle). It was several blocks to the start line and I worried that Chris wouldn't get there on foot fast enough to take my picture, but my fears were unfounded. He made it just in time to catch my nervousness with his Nikon.

Even Frankie Andreu's calming voice giving commentary and answering Tour trivia wasn't enough to calm me down. I felt like a basketcase. As I zipped down the pavement before hitting the dirt, I tried to remind myself over and over that there was nothing technical on the course, and that everything was going to be okay.

By the time we were on the trail, I felt better. There were only a couple people behind me, but I passed a few more as they struggled in the sand. I even felt good enough to joke to a person near me when we saw the 26 sign that I couldn't believe we had already ridden 26 miles. (For those of you who don't know, the signs were counting down how many miles we had left.)

Though it was somewhat overcast at the start, it quickly started to break up and the sun came pouring through the clouds. It was a beautiful day, the trail wasn't particularly challenging and I was able to just enjoy the ride and the atmosphere. My main concern at that point was to make it to Williamsburg road by 2 p.m. I knew if I didn't I would get pulled from the course to make room for the pros. However, it didn't seem like even I could be that slow and I felt pretty confident I could make it.

I loved the course. Absolutely loved it. Singletrack snobs can scoff all they want, but that was my kind of race. Dirt and woods, but no fear. It was perfect for me. I just wished I was in better shape. My attitude was positive, but I kept thinking that if I was in the kind of shape I was for Barry-Roubaix or even Yankee earlier this year, I could have killed that course.

The thing that truly surprised me was how early and often people were walking the hills. Hills that seemed not even challenging, in the early parts of the race, had people bailing off left and right. I personally think it takes a lot more energy to push a bike up a hill than it does to ride one, even if you are in your granny gear and going 2.5 mph, so I tried to ride them as much as I could. I often rode up a hill where everyone else was walking. It made me feel pretty good, so I gave myself a large pat on the back.

After about an hour, it became clear that I couldn't continue with the tights on any longer. I pulled over and ripped them off, right over my shoes, and stuffed them in my back pocket. So much for that.

I didn't stop for the first aid station. At Williamsburg Road, I had plenty of time and knew I would finish, but I just stopped briefly to adjust a couple of things and throw away a few wrappers. With about 10 miles to go I started watching the time. I had determined that I wanted to finish in under 4 hours (yes, I know that's really slow), but I started thinking maybe I could make it in 3:30.

That time became a pipe dream as I slogged through the last five miles. I did end up walking up three hills at the very end because I just had nothing left in my legs. Overall, I felt really good for the whole race up until the last couple miles. Those were extreme torture because I was so close to the finish line and could hear everyone but it just kept dragging on and on.

When I was almost to the finish line, I started looking for Chris. We weren't sure how he was going to make it from the start to the finish with no available ride, but I saw him right before the finish line ready to take my picture and that was just the icing on the cake.

My final time was 3:53, which is painfully slow, but made me happy because I met my goal. I finished 38 of 42 in my class and 3038 of 3372 finishers overall. So, there actually were people slower than me. All in all, I had a great race; I felt good, had no mechanicals and no crashes and I truly enjoyed it. I can't wait to come back and race it again. It's too bad I have to wait an entire year.


1 comment:

Jake said...

Nice write up. That is great that you did it.

Nice shots of you too.

Why is there some guy rolling out with the ladies at the start though??