I did know two things going in:
1. I was going to start
2. I was going to ride as well as I could for as long as I could.
When I rolled to the line at 10am on Saturday I was surprisingly free of the typical butterflies I find swimming in my stomach at an XC race. I guess having no plan and having no expectations removes a lot of pressure. Besides, six hour events are more like a bike festival or a 24 hour race than a twitchy cross country affair. I did want to be close to the front when the gun went off. The start was uphill on pavement for about a two miles designed to spread everyone out. When I did this event last year I got stuck behind so many riders going into the singletrack that it was impossible to pass for a long, long time. I didn't want a repeat of that fiasco.
So when the signal was given, I hopped on the pain train. If I had to guess I would imagine that I was in the top 20 into the woods out of 200+ racers. Now all I could think about was not holding anyone up. We hammered pretty hard. It felt almost like a twitchy XC race, especially when the dufus with the blue BMCC jersey who didn't know how to ride his freakin' bicycle tried to pass me when there was no room and nowhere to go and crashed me into a ravine. Idiot. There was a line of at least 10 riders in front of me, and we were not slow. Where the hell were you gonna go? I've been doing this for a while and I've never seen anyone pull such a dumb-assed move. You crashed me and caused me to lose about 15 positions because you thought you were fast. Then within 5 minutes of knocking me off the trail I'm right back on your wheel? You obviously are not fast. I hope you DNFed.
Whew! It felt good to get that off my chest.
As I settled in once my blood stopped boiling, I continued on my cross-country race pace to finish my first 12-mile lap in about 56 minutes. The first rider across the line was at 52 minutes. I knew I was pushing a good pace. Perhaps too good. This was going to be a long day if I tried to keep it up for six hours.
I swung into our Roanoke/Lynchburg compound and Pookie was ready with an icy cold Cytomax and some Powerbar Bites. She was my pit crew and I owe her a huge return favor for taking care of me this day.
After my brief respite I headed out for lap two. I could feel lap 1 in my lower back and feet (new shoes, whole different story). My legs told me to lay off the throttle & conserve, but my brain told me to punch it. Lap 2 was slower than lap 1, but still too fast for a six hour pace.
Lap 2 intermission: repeat same as lap 1.
Lap 3 - Oh the pain. My feet were killing me, and my back was getting worse too. Mile 35 was the point when the leg cramps met up with me on the trail. I finished lap 3 with some doubts about getting the 5 laps that I was gunning for.
Lap 4 - Agony, suffering, survival. I made it to mile 48 (4 laps total) and called it a day. The rules stated that your last lap had to be started by 3:30pm. I ended my 4th lap at about 10 after 3. I had time, but no will power, legs, lower back, feet or desire. Other than that, I was good!
The thing I dislike about endurance races is that you have no idea where you are in the standing until the end. If I had gone out for one more lap, I would have finished in the top 10 in the solo 40+ category. Turns out I finished 12th. I'll take it.
Here's what I learned:
1. I need new shoes with a wider toe box.
2. I really need new brakes.
3. Man can not live on Cytomax and Powebar Bites alone. More solid food for next year.
I'll test my mettle again in July at the Dirty Dawg Six Hour Race at Mountain Lake. Nothing but short 5-hour races between now and then. :)