It’s been 2 weeks since the end of the race. I’ve had time to think that I want to do the race again, maybe solo, maybe do the 308 solo. Then, I had time to remember that I don’t have the time to train for these ultra endurance races and decide I won’t do one in 2015, but it’s not out of the picture for 2016. The only thing I would need to attempt an ultra endurance race like this is a TT bike. The guys with those seemed to have a real advantage.
The race itself went good, but not great. I rode stage 1 slightly above what a wanted to do. This probably led to the bad feeling I experienced in stage 3. The race rolled out at 7am with what was supposed to be a relatively short neutral roll out. Well, the group stayed together for the first 10 miles, up to the first climb. The group was riding a bit faster than I really wanted to, but the gpx files didn’t load onto my garmin correctly, so I wouldn’t know where to turn if it wasn’t for the group. After we hit the climb, I found out what the real hard part was of this race, staying at your own pace.
See, riding at your own pace isn’t difficult, except when you can’t draft. I would slowly catch someone, then put in a harder effort to get around them in a timely fashion. Well, they would pick up the pace and sort of be in the draft zone, which would upset me because drafting is prohibited. So, I would pick up the pace a bit more until they would eventually drop my wheel. This cycle repeated itself until I was eventually pushing way too hard for too long. After the first 40 miles in stage 3, the passing stopped any I think everyone was settling into their paces, finally.
Stage 3 is where I had to battle with myself. I was feeling good, really good. The stage started out flat with a couple small hills, before gradually ramping up into a long steady climb. I was riding a nice pace and all was feeling good until I started getting really thirsty. I drank a bit more water hoping I’d feel normal again, but the thirst seemed to get worse and worse and I couldn’t quench it. Then, I stopped eating and started to feel really bad. The last mile up the climb was a real struggle. It was also when the race got really interesting.
After the climb, I tried to recover as best I couldn’t descending down the back side. At this point in time, the two man team behind us caught and passed me (he was on a TT bike, of course). I kept pushing on and ended up catching and passing a different two man team that was ahead of us. After those two passes, we held our position for the remainder of the stage.
Stage 5 was the first stage after the turn around point. It was now dark so I headed out with my lights on. I didn’t really need my lights, though, because the lights on Brian’s truck were bright enough to light up the road for me and about 10 other people. So off I went into the dark. I eventually caught and passed two teams, but I was riding conservatively because I knew there were two good climbs at the end of the stage.right before the climb, the two man team I passed on stage 3 passed me back. I held my pace because I knew the climb was coming up and that was where I wanted to push harder. Sure enough we hit the climb and I increased my effort. The plan worked out because I caught and passed 3 teams on that climb. I barely made the descent back into town (vision was not focusing and had a deer run across the road feet in front of me). Once in town it was time to rest while Brian went out.
My last stage was short, only 25.5 miles, and slightly uphill. On stage 6, the two, two-man teams I had passed had gotten back in front of us. So when Brian got in from stage 6, I took off as hard as I could hoping to rope one of those two teams back in. It felt like we had a perpetual headwind, regardless of the he direction I was heading. After about 10 miles I could see the team in front of us. I kept pushing and eventually caught the guy at the top of a small hill, 2-3 miles before the end of the stage. I passed him and put a small gap on him that I held down to the end of the stage.
In the end, Brian pulled it together and got passed the second team that we had been battling with since stage 3 and put a very nice gap on them on stage 8. We had a controversial finish, in which we came across the line in 3rd, but were given 4th, but I won’t get into that. Regardless of our place, our time was the same. I’ve tried telling a the story from both points of view and nobody in my audience sided with the race director, but I digress.
The event was a fun one. My only advice to the race director would be to enforce the rules a bit more. I saw many traffic infractions (speeding, running stop signs), I saw drafting, I saw people without lights on their bikes at night, but I did not see any race officials on course. I would also suggest two finish lines. One where the clock stops and one where the team members can hop on the course so the relay teams can ride in together, holding hands or whatever they want to do.
Now, after re-living the experience, I think I am a little less likely to do the 508 again. If i do decide to go for an ultra distance event, I think I’ll stick to the mountain bike. There is, however, a small chance that I go for the 308 solo in a couple years.