Wow, yesterday was a rough race. Physically, it's the toughest I've endured. The course wasn't technical in the least, and the climbing, though there was a lot of it, wasn't that bad, but still I felt like I was going to pass out after the race.
My goal for the day was to try to accelerate and stick with the lead as long as I could, bad decision when there are a handful of pro and semi-pro racers in your field. My heart rate spiked on the first climb out of town and I never fully recovered from that. I thought my hour long warm-up would have me ready for that, but I wasn't ready the big ring action and hypoxic conditions.
I slugged my way around the course, trading pulls with Shannon, a pro from El Paso who was back in her first race of the year after breaking several bones in a nasty crash back in January. I got out on the jeep road which I was really looking forward too with her, she pulled for a few then motioned for me to pull through. I did, but a minute later when I was ready for her to pull through I had already started to put a gap on her. I knew one of the guys in my category was up in front of me, so I just kept the pressure on. I got into Bailey's Canyon and passed that guy like he was sitting still. I love that downhill, even though I ran out of gears the first two times down it.
As I turned into the mile long march back up to Cloudcroft, I heard a voice from behind say "good job, Travis." Shannon had made contact on the downhill and was with me on the climb. She was out of shape from being laid up and I was hurting from the lack of oxygen, so we just got into a rhythm and started climbing and keeping each other company. About half way up the climb, I had to stop and ditch my long-sleeve jersey. Shannon was in sight all the way to the single-track, but I lost touch with her there and never made it again. The guy who ended up taking 2nd in the Pro/Expert 19-29 also passed me while I was re-arranging my clothing.
When I topped out of the single-track, a left turn wasn't marked and the last year I raced the course in 2003, it was a right turn. I turned right, got in my big ring, and started motoring back into town. I thought it was weird that there wasn't any flagging on the way in and that the guy who was just in front of me seemingly disappeared. When I made it back up to the ball field, I was told I missed the turn. Turns out, I took the long route distance wise, but it was probably quicker because it wasn't single-track. It took a couple of minutes to figure out what was going on before I finally just asked if I could go and have them tell me what to do next lap. All in all, I figure I cost myself about 8 minutes on that lap between the delay at the start/finish and the jersey.
The second lap I started hurting. Nothing bad, but I was in easier gears on the flat sections, and it had only been the climbs that were hurting me. A couple of the sports off of the front made contact with me during my second lap. I could hold them off until we turned up. I made it out at the bottom of Bailey's the second time and could see the guy I thought I was racing with for last place. I was closing in on him the whole time up the jeep road until the last 1/4 mile when my back just said no-more. I had to hop off of the bike for a minute and push just to stretch some different muscles. I got back on and could just see him ducking into the single-track at the top of the jeep road. I tried to make contact, and got within a 100 feet of him as we topped out onto the jeep road before the last climb to the finish, but lost contact with him as I didn't have any juice left for some big ring tempo riding and he apparently had enough to stay out of sight of me.
I rolled into the start finish asking if I was DQ'd for missing the turn or should I keep going. I was almost hoping I was DQ'd. That's not by choice. Especially since the course wasn't clearly marked when I came through. I could have stopped racing and felt good about it. It wouldn't have been a DNF of choice. But I was told I was good and to keep racing. Ok, so just one more lap. Ouch, ouch, ouch.
I had to stop at least three times that I remember to get blood back to my head. I was getting light-headed, nauseous, my legs were cramping, my heart felt like it was going to explode even though it was at only 60% - 65% of it's max (at Phoenix altitude, I can normally ride 85% - 90% in a sustained effort), I was bonking... without the full-on, body-seizing cramps or vomiting or passing out.
I made it out to the jeep road where I had dropped Shannon by accident earlier in the day and could barely turn over the big ring. I ended up having to drop back to the middle ring just to keep from cramping. Bailey's was still fun, but I had a head wind that made the descent work. I was pedaling the whole way just to keep a decent pace. As we turned up I saw a few people up in front of me. Though I'm not positive, I think one of them was in my category. As we started, I was closing a little bit of a gap. By the time I had made it 2/3rd of the way up I had closed down half the gap, but my body was done. I ended up little-ringing everything but the descents the rest of the way in to the start finish, and grabbing a seat on someone's tail-gate at the start finish to let the oxygen start flowing back into my brain again.
That makes two races that have pushed me to the limit. This felt worse that Gallup. At least there I knew I was racing for a spot on the podium. In Cloudcroft, I thought there were five guys in my category and I thought I had one behind me. Turns out I did have one behind me, but there were only 4 of us and he DNF'd early on in the race. Apparently, I wasn't the only one that the blistering pace at the start broke. I talked to a few guys who got caught up in that and DNF'd after the first lap completely wasted.
But, I finished... Sometimes, that's all it takes. I ended up in 3rd for the 19-29 Pro/Expert with 2nd place points for the Expert series. Unofficially (by my tallying anyhow) that moves me into sole possession of 1st in the points series for New Mexico. This makes 4 races in a little over a month with 4 podium finishes.
Next up won't be so forgiving for "just finishing." Last year's Whiskey Off-Road had over 100 racers in the Open Men category. I'm shooting for sub 4:30, which will put me in the top 40. I would like to be in the top 20%, which will require a time of 4:10 mas y menos. I'll be running a helmet-cam for a video that VladFoto is shooting of Epic Rides' events, so I don't know how much that'll effect my time.
Here's the MotionBased data from the race: