|Course map, racing around Lake Sonoma|
|The bridge, part of the neutral start and a sight for sore legs after 3 hours into the race!|
Having never ridden any of these trails before I really didn't know what to expect or how to pace myself. Not knowing if the climb you just started was one you could stand up and hammer over because it's short or sit and spin steady because it's a half mile long is a little disconcerting. Oh well, just ride the bike... hard.
We busted out of the trees and up to the road again for about a half mile stretch. I could see to the other side where the turnoff was and I think I saw Levi right then, maybe about a minute or two ahead. I had worked up to about 8th place at that point. I got off the road and just after this picture...
|Climbing up the bank from the road at about mile 6.|
|Coming into the aid station at about mile 8|
|The climb where I passed into 6th place.|
|The view from the mile 8 aid station. See the bridge way down there?|
If I recall correctly the race director said there was about 12 miles left after that last aid station. And man was that slow going. I hit that third aid station at 1hr and 55min so I was feeling good mentally about my time and position, but wondering what the last third of the course had in store. It was all singletrack and on the shaded north face which was great, but just so loose and gravely. After racing for over two hours some serious fatigue starts to set in, both physically and mentally. One could really get into trouble here as the trail was narrow, true singletrack, cut in on the hillside with blind turns. I really had to keep my speed in check and stay focused because overshooting some of those turns could end up with quite the tumble down the hill. I was cursing my back tire's lack of grip as I slid around under hard braking, and then slipped out on the next climb, again and again. As I passed another rider I asked "any clue where we are?!" He said we had 11 miles to go, but the last two were on pavement. Sweet. But then he said the rest of the course was just like "this." And "this" meaning the sketchy, no flow, loose singletrack I had just let out a yell of frustration about after having to run up another climb due to slipping out, again. I figured it'd be about an hour to the finish after that, which turned out to be a pretty close estimate.
For that last hour I was all by myself, except for the random member of the EMT crew standing in the middle of nowhere with a backboard. Good to see. This race was definitely well staffed for medic crew. The creek crossings had more water in them than on the first half of the course but I was able to ride them all except one. That one being a really big gully with a sandy bottom and no clear way, that I could see anyways, up the other side. I saw a spot where it looked like the right spot and scrambled up the 5 ft ledge. I got tangled up in the limbs and vines and my bike seat and bars kept getting hooked as I tried to get through. Ahhh!!! So frustrating!! I was sure someone was going to catch me because of this. I finally got through and about 20 ft down the gully would have been a much better place to climb up, dang. But after some more rolling hills and good fun singletrack, dodging the limbs and rocks Menso had knocked onto the trail, I FINALLY came around a corner to see the bridge. YES!!! I got quite the burst of energy from that, until the trail turned up and away from the bridge! But, but... no! Not fair! My brain gets kind of whiny when this happens. It wasn't long though before I came up onto the road and made my way back down to the base of the dam, finishing in 3 hours and 12 minutes in 4th place overall. And as Menso (3rd in 3:08) pointed out, the 2nd non "pro tour" rider to finish. Levi finished in 2:57 and Christopher Jones (Team Type 1) in 3:03. I'm really happy with how things turned out and I don't think I could have given it much more effort, the metaphorical "fork" was in me.
Pretty cool to be standing up there with the big shots.
|The top 4|
|The top 10|
|No question of who's bike this is...|