Today came very close to being the last stage for me. I hung on by a mere two minutes, finishing dead last but making the time cut. It was the hardest race I have done this year, not because of the pace, but because of how bad my legs were today.
My lack of recovery caught up to me. I’ve been riding to and from some of the races, sometimes hanging around in the parking lot at the finish for hours, waiting for a ride back into Bend. Yesterday after the time trial, I rode around trying to find the MBSF building downtown where they store all the discarded water bottles (because I ran out of bottles) then rode to a couple bike shops to get more goo, electrolyte pills, and cliff bars. Then I rode across town back to the house I’m staying at. Way too much time not spent lying down on the couch.
I was on the brink of making it over the first climb today, but came up short by just a bit, which made for a much longer day than I had planned for. I suspect that last little bit of power that I was lacking on the climb was due to all the extra time spent on my feet in the heat. Next year I hope to have some team support so this doesn’t happen again. And next year I also plan on finishing first instead of last.
We started out at Summit high school again, leaving at 10 and winding our way out to that road that goes to Mt. Bachelor. I was feeling fine, chipper even. I was excited to place in the top 20 today–my goal that I didn’t even second guess to becoming reality.
My slide to the back of the pack was gradual. There seemed to be a lot fewer people in the peloton today, and before I knew it I was at the very tail end. I had never been at the very back before during this race, and didn’t like the feel of it. I moved back up without too much effort, but kept on finding myself there on the gradual ascent (which was getting steeper all the time). Pretty soon I was breathing hard, then I was struggling, then almost immediately I couldn’t go at the pace any more. I went from being comfortable to blowing up within a few minutes. I swear, this has never happened before. Ok maybe, but usually not. Still talking about cycling.
I fought hard to stay in contention, but the pack slowly kept getting farther away. And the hill kept on going and going. Other dropped riders would either draft me or I’d draft them, then one of us would blow up, drop back, and later on catch back up and then the other guy would blow up. Just when you’d think the climb would end around the next bend, the stupid thing would rise up even steeper, just to spite you for your wishful thinking. Then the stupid 5K sign to the KOM decided to come around, just when you thought there couldn’t be more than half a K to go.
I started the decent by myself with no one in view in front of me and no one in view behind. It seemed like everyone who had been suffering with me up the climb had vanished. I think most of them had turned around, but there were two guys that eventually caught me by the time I had given up. I had been thinking about making a sandwich back at the house in Sunriver, since I’d be passing it in a few miles, but the other two guys who had just caught me were still going hard. I joined them and pretty soon we caught some other guys up ahead. It occurred to me that we might actually make the time cut. For some reason, I was thinking that if you were down 15 minutes, you’d be cut from the race. Obviously that makes no sense, considering that I knew that the cut off point was %115 of the winner’s time. I realized this, figured that the winner would finish in about 3 hours, which meant that we could finish 45 minutes behind and still make the time cut. This of course also doesn’t make sense, but when you’re working hard and have already blown up 17 times in the last hour, it won’t necessarily occur to you that there are 60 minutes in an hour, not 100.
First it was five of us, then four, then we dropped another guy and it was down to three. I was feeling pretty good so I started taking some big pulls. Too big actually, because half an hour later I was dying pretty badly. And there was a long way to go. Very long.
The three of us caught another guy to make it four, then two more about 30 minutes later to make six. And then we started going fast. It was me, Sean Passage, Sam Johnson, and three other guys and at this point I was pretty confident that we’d easily make the time cut. Then we reached the rollers. Sam dropped off, I started bonking really badly, and the other guys drastically slowed down also.
I had drank about 8 bottles at this point, Sam had come by in a car after he pulled the plug and handed us some cokes, and I had eaten two cliff bars, four gels, 6 electrolyte pills, and a couple caffeine tablets. It wasn’t even close to enough. We still had 25 miles to go, and it was almost all up hill or false flat into a head wind. Pretty soon it became a huge effort just to hold on over the rollers, doing 350 watts (shouldn’t be a problem). Then it became hard on the slight down hill sections, doing 200 watts. I was in trouble. But I held off on that last gel until 15 miles to go.
One more guy dropped off on a steep roller, and I lost contact with the what was left of our group–three guys not counting me. I gave one final effort, thinking that every 30 seconds I was able to hold on was worth it. I made it over the hill and was rewarded with a slight down hill. Then another roller. I barely made it. Then another one, and another. I don’t know how I stayed on, but pretty soon I was helping with the pulls again. Really weak pulls of course. I’m talking about 300 watt pulls for like 8 seconds, but at least they were pulls.
We finally came to the base of the climb. 5 more miles to go, but all up hill. The three guys immediately went up the road and I went backwards. Sean dropped off and hovered in between the two guys and me, and stayed there. I was putting out 250 watts, hurting like a mad man and fighting one of the worst bonks I’ve ever had. Someone form the side of the road handed me a gatorade. I downed it instantly like Adam Sandler downs the ‘Fizzy Bubbly’ in You Don’t Mess With The Zohan.
The guy who we had dropped a few miles back caught me and I stayed on his wheel for the next 6K and finally dropped off with 200 meters to go when we reached the finish line. I made the cut off time with only 2 minutes to spare. I was done. My mind a blank for the next 3 hours (while I sat in the hot parking lot waiting for a ride down to Bend). I felt sick. Nauseous. I was hungry and thirsty, but at the same time not. Of course I ate as much as I could, but I didn’t start feeling good until I took an ice bath when I got home.
The results were just posted. I was 143rd today, the last finisher. Down 27 minutes 45 seconds from the stage winner. And I think I’m 142nd on GC now.