Always look forward to this race since the Riverside boys moved it over from Fort Rock a few years ago. Great venue and always tough competition and a great scene. This year was touch and go leading into the race. This past Wednesday I felt the beginnings of a scratchy throat coming on and sure enough Thursday a cold bug was taking hold. I was committed to leading our CNH Thursday ride that evening which I did (on cold meds) and after that I could feel that I was gonna get temporarily knocked out.
The knock out came the next morning when I woke up thrashed. I called in to work hoping two super lazy days on the couch with a ton of rest could get me over the hump in time for race day. My strategy worked for the most part. I made a ton of progress Fri and luckily I never really got too congested. Saturday I was feeling good enough to head down to Naro's place for a cookout and a place to crash 20mins from Willowdale. Good company does wonders to take your mind of sub par health. I surprisingly got a decent nights sleep on the couch and woke up feeling about as good as I could have hoped considering two days prior I was running a 100 degree fever.
I got to Ipswitch early to avoid parking hassles and to see our Novice and Sport riders off. We had a huge contingent from the team racing and it was great to have such a crowded tent all day. It was like grand central station. The temps were climbing constantly through the morning and I was starting to dread the time I was going to have. I was worried the heat would sap the truncated strength I might have had after fighting off my cold. Plus heat and me just don't really mesh...at all. It was interesting trying to gauge nutrition heading into a 12pm start. Never really had to do that before, but I guess it ended up going ok. I guess it was nice being able to see our Sport/Novice racers start and finish but part of me always likes to still have part of my Sunday when all is said and done, this ended up being a pretty solid full day affair.
stolen from Mark
The singlespeeders got lined up behind the Elites with a decent sized field of 24ish? (24 pre-reg only 18 names on the results sheet when I left though...) Things are so crazy at the start its pretty hard to tell what the hell is going on. Things actually got off to a somewhat civil start compared to some races, I think everyone knew we were in for a long hot one. I was about where I usually end up, towards the front of the 'second group' as we headed towards the first small singletrack section. I got passed a bit it the first few miles but also did some passing so I was starting to loose track of where exactly I was in the field. I knew I was mid pack which I was fine with. No expectations for today considering I had no idea how my energy would hold up.
I got to blowing serious snot rockets pretty constantly. I probably spent a good portion of the race covered in snot. I kinda wish I could just do that normally when I have a cold...way easier and less kleenex waste. My energy was holding up though and I was breathing fine once the snot was outta there so I got to business and the course was super fun this year. I think it was my favorite iteration of the past few years. I thought it was a pretty solid mix of doubletrack with huge sections of sustained singletrack that was all a great mix of terrain that was super fast but still required your undivided attention.
Lap 1 went ok, no issues and my pace felt ok. Lap 2 I made the mistake of grabbing Expert wheels as they went by. I like trying to do that usually because it tends to get me to ride harder than I would if I was isolated in spurts that I can usually manage but I think I did this one too many times and ended up getting a tad burnt out by the tail end of that lap. I felt like I was fading pretty bad on the first doubletrack section of lap 3. And it showed because I was passed by a SSer I had gotten by on lap 2 and shortly after that I was also caught by Brad B who I have been perpetually yo-yo'ing with over the past few years at every race we both show up at. Sometimes he gets me, sometimes I get him. I love when he comes out though because he tends to bring out the best in me. Hes strong and I know he might be able to beat me but I know I might be able to beat him and I always dig deep when hes around to make sure it tips in my favor that time around.
I was able to get back by him and I tried to keep my pace not necessarily blistering (not like I could have anyway) but I focused on consistent clean lines...just keep moving forward and don't forget those fluids. I also remembered to take a 'no-cramp' pill at a very opportune time as well which I think did wonders. No cramp issues and I heard all kinds of horror stories from other riders at the finish. Things were starting to get a little loose in the last few miles and I kept thinking I was hearing Brad breathing down my neck so I was getting a bit frantic just wanting to be done.
Coming through a little chicane section I slightly misjudged and reacted too late and ended up pinballing off one small tree into another at pretty high speed. Then dumping the bike I planted my right hand as I went down and something awesome happened to my middle finger. All happened too fast to be certain but I think its probably the most likely that I popped it out of socket for a second jamming it on a root as I planted my hand. It felt very weird when it happened and the way it felt I was fully expecting to see a gross crooked finger when I picked my hand up. Luckily that was not the case and the finger still worked when I went to grab the bars again so I got back at it knowing full well I probably had about 10mins before the adrenaline wore off and it started to hurt real bad. It worked out and I was not that far from the finish and I immediately got to the tent for some ice.
FINALLY got my top ten at Willowdale with an 8th place on the day. I'm really happy with that considering my health at the time. I think if I was 100% I might have not gotten passed late and maybe I could have been a place or two higher. Hard tellin' but I'm pumped. Hopefully I finish off kicking this cold in the nuts and my finger heals efficiently so I can continue this hot streak I'm on.