Monday, September 14, 2009
Better than perfect?
Great day at the races! So many of my fellow racers had bad days - heat exhaustion, cramping, vomiting, worse - that it's almost embarrassing to admit that I had a PR on the course. By...quite a bit.
In 100 degree heat.
On a recumbent.
With something like 14k' of climbing.
My race support was excellent - I was well fed, well hydrated, and my core temperature never got close to redline. Thanks Robert (and Zoe and Cog - my all-star canine cheering squad - they were the GOOD dogs who didn't run away...unlike our pal Harlem, who made the Great Escape from the Team 2LiveCrew support vehicle).
I felt good from the get-go - I am SO glad that we pre-rode the course two weeks ago; it made a huge difference in my confidence level. I passed my 1:00 before the top of the climb at mile 3 - upright guy, full-on TT bike.
We kept it simple: I rode the bike, Robert did everything else. He didn't totally discourage me from thinking - if I had an idea, he would listen - but he did make it clear that I hadn't been hired for my brains, at least not that day.
The ride went on without incident; there were definitely times I wished for a bigger gear. We put an 11-28 cassette on the bike that morning, replacing the 12-26 that was there. Dumb move, Earl! For reasons we didn't have time to explore, I couldn't hold the 11T cog. So I had a 12-28. Still not a bad upgrade; I made AMPLE use of the 28.
One cramping moment of any consequence - on one of the steeper bits of FR44, just as the temperatures were starting to soar. We ramped the electrolytes a bit (actually just accelerated the next scheduled dose), upped the water, and went into core-temperature relief mode...much ice dumped in the jersey. I discovered one MORE benefit of riding a 'bent - you can dump ice down your shirt, have it totally exposed to moving air, and you don't have to worry so much if your shorts get wet - you're not likely to chafe as you would be on an upright.
Spent much of the descent into Dufur (OK, Robert, there's the Hunter S Thompson title for you: Descent Into Dufur....) totally spun out. Bummer - that's always been a working descent on the upright, and I've always had a blast pushing, pushing, pushing. I guess that coasting, coasting, coasting is okay, especially if you're catching racers.
The climb on Dufur Gap was okay! It was my undoing last year (on the upright!). After that, it was party time again, down Hwy 197 at breakneck speeds (disclaimer: no actual necks were broken in the setting of this course record, not to let the cat out of the bag...) and around to Hwy 216 (freshly chip-sealed, thanks). We saw Linda Bott quite a bit about then - it was fun and motivating to race her through this stretch.
Robert had been giving me periodic time/speed updates; I'd always been close to my goal, but, say, 1 or 2 miles short (55 miles at 4 hours instead of 56, for instance). Now he asked me, "Tell me again how many miles you want?" "ONE HUNDRED SIXTY EIGHT!" "OK, how many MORE do you want?" Oh - my. This was the first time I'd gotten that news - that I might actually be gaining on my goal pace. So I refocused yet again on best-pacing.
We finished the day loop in 8:01 - essentially 14.0 mph - so all I had to do to keep on track for 168 was to finish 2 short loops, then do two "bonus" miles before time expired. Naturally, those two miles would be straight up, so the more time I could give myself, the better.
We did a sub 1:00 pit, me picking up two bottles of fluids, a couple hundred calories of solids, and as much cold water as Robert could dump on me in :30. I was bone-dry by the top of the climb, but it had done its job: I wasn't cooked, and I got to cool off a little on the descent.
Somewhere around the 12-mile point on my first loop, I saw...Chris ("Tater.") Heron - Team Huffin Herons (brother and sister Chris and Carly Heron) were two members of my support crew from RAO. Their mom and dad were out on the course cheering. Jan had been my support person for my very first ultra race. Full circle! Woo-hoo!. Chris didn't take to being caught, especially by me, so when I hollered, "TATER!", he looked back and took off. I caught him in the flat section along River Road - we were both flying; I was just flying...faster.
Came in on the first loop in 1:45 - woo-hoo! An even shorter pit this time - Adrienne was along for the ride - 2LiveCrew was out on their first night loop, too, so she dumped water while Robert did ice, bottles, and food. Took on a Monster Energy shot - 200mg caffeine - did the trick.
Second lap: 1:46 - I had :33 left to get as far as I could. I made 5 miles. I tried SO hard to get something more going on those steepest two miles - just couldn't get myself to go above steady-state. Decided not to push it. Got to 3: 9 minutes left. From 3 to 4 - barely climbing...4 minutes left. To 5 - almost a minute on the clock, but I was NOT going to get to 6. So I sat there and watched time expire, just took it in.
And then I headed down. No particular rush. Literally rode into the sunset. Shower, burger, root beer float, join the night shift to support the 24-hour racers. A day well spent.
I'd figured if everything went perfectly, I'd do 168 miles, beating the womens' course record of 130 by enough to be respectable. I did 171. "Better than perfect" is a great way to end the season.