I got into a really good position off the start, sitting in 3rd behind two very fast individuals who are still pretty out of my league and I felt pretty good for the first mile or so...no red lining and riding the technical stuff pretty well. That all came crashing down (literally) when I was introduced to a very deep mud pothole. I chose just about the worst line possible with my first attempt and performed a perfect display of the family jewels to stem / superman into the woods routine. There were 3 or so SS'ers behind me when it happened, one of which asked me if I wanted a medic sent out haha must have looked awesome...didn't feel awesome though.
So those guys all passed me while I was sorting myself out and I spent the next 10-15 minutes trying to recover a bit. I took a few more sweet spills that 1st lap....just getting the cobwebs out. Crashing like I was at least means I was going fast. My first lap was my slowest I think...just under 40 minutes for 6 miles.
The second and third laps felt better...less crashes, decent pace. For the first time ever I wasnt all by myself, I was still in a field of Experts with wheels to ride and pace on and I wasnt only being passed I was also passing people...especially the third lap. I caught one of the SS'ers who passed me when I crashed on the first lap at about mile 15, I came up on him fast and it was apparent he was in damage control mode. I was 80% sure I was feeling better than he was and that I had more left in the tank for the last 3 miles.
I rode his wheel for a bit waiting for a short portion of the course with some punchy little climbs and technical terrain and as soon as the trail tilted I passed him and up'd the pace. I didnt look at the time to see if he noticed I was SS or not or if he just didnt even bother trying to stay with me but I dropped him fairly quick. I kept my pace high for the remainder of the race to make sure I wouldnt see him again...this led to some sweet cramping in my calves but I was able to pull it out.
I broke 2 hours coming in at 1h:56m. This is a huge accomplishment for me. I have never broken that threshold on a course like this. I have never still been actually racing with experts on the third lap of an 18 mile race...I technically 'attacked' someone on a climb, it could be argued that I used 'race tactics'. Seems lame but this was pretty cool for me. But now to the big pay off...I came in 4th of 7 or so starters. 6 finishers were listed when I left not sure about the 7th. I was only 6 minutes away from third. No more DFL (AKA last)
my sweet rental car...pray for the Echo.
*UPDATE*: Apparently I was semi deceived by the 'unofficial' results posted the day of the race. The official results were posted on the EFTA website last night and it turns out there were two more people who finished 3 minutes ahead of me at 1h:53m. I am still pleased with my results even though I came in 6th out of 8 starters as opposed to 4th. All that really means is that I get less points towards the series. I still broke 2 hours and I met my goal of being in the SS pack and there is no denying that I have continued to improve my fitness over the last few years. Plus I easily lost a few minutes during my epic crash early on the first lap so I think if I could have kept the rubber side down I may have been right with those guys till the end.