Part Two: Race Day
The day of: After a night of poor sleep, I awoke to my knee wound still aching from the crash, sleepy and nervous about how the day would unfold. I was anxious to get on my bike and start riding. I was bursting with anticipation as we lined up at the start line. After a short delay we started down the road for our neutral start.
As the race officially began, we all filed into a short section of river trail. It was madness. Everyone was clustered together in a tight, impatient line, waiting to get up the hike-a-bike sections. If I pushed past someone, my heart rate skyrocketed. If I stayed behind someone, I got delayed even longer. I cursed the pile up and made another tally mark on my mental checklist of reasons why I dislike river trails. Eventually we started to spread out and we hit the gravel road. I was already frazzled, but the miles of climbing started to melt the frustration away. I was in the back of the group, but I started to catch people along the gravel road climb. I found my friend (and hopefully future No Apologies! member) Bridget. We leap frogged back and forth as we began the descent. Her single speeder legs destroyed me on the climbs as I would sit down and spin. Then I would catch her on the downhill.
I love the Cream Puff course (seriously, sign up for the 50 miler). It is on one of my all time favorite routes and I kept getting caught up in it. It was hard not to enjoy the wonderful views in the open meadows. I wanted to stop and hang out but I had to keep going. I felt good. Or at least I did until I rounded up to the last big climb of the first lap. Once we hit the newly built singletrack climb, the day started to catch up with me. But somehow, like magic, the last downhill portion of that lap erased it all, and I found myself at the lap point, ecstatic from the descent. I looked at my time and thought: I can do this! I hit the river trail again with all my might. That is when it all started to fall apart. As I mentioned earlier, I kind of hate river trails. I think they are beautiful, but I’ve never gotten used to the constant ups and downs. The rolling terrain really takes it out of me. I would much rather tuck my head down for a brutal climb than deal with the constant undulation of a river trail. I tried to ignore the pain and enjoy the sound of the water. I focused a little too much on that sound and I started to think it was calling to me. I imagined stopping there and taking a swim. It was a hot day and nothing sounded better than jumping in that cold water. But somehow I kept going. I hit the gravel road climb for the second time, put my head down and started spinning. I kept spotting Bridget in the distance, but she was pulling away from me. I became keenly aware of my declining speed. I looked at the time. It started to sink in that there was no possible way for me to make the final cut off. I could make the first cut off but probably not the second, and definitely not the final one. This realization really took the wind out of my sails. How far would I keep going? Would I wait for them to pull me off?
I watched as more and more people passed me going the wrong way on the road. They had officially pulled out of the race and were headed back to the staging area. It was hard to keep my spirits up as I watched my fellow racers give up. When I was nearing the next aid station, I found my Jim limping along the road. He looked worse than I felt. I knew then that we were done. It was time to call it. One of the sweeps started circling us like a vulture, waiting for our bodies to drop to the ground. We alternated between walking and riding to the next aid station. When we rolled in, our friends confirmed our decision to stop. Bridget had decided to keep pushing until she was pulled (at her next pass of this aid station). We asked about our other friends who were still in the fight (one of them eventually made it across the finish line). But we were done. We gave it everything and we didn’t make it. As we waited for the shuttle to take us back down, I didn’t even have the energy or mental capacity to feel bad yet. It was over.
Have you ever pulled out of a race? How did you feel about it later? Tell us about it! I will share more about my experience in part 3: the aftermath.