We got there just in time to pick up our cool pre-reg race packs with water bottles, gels, and other stuff, and get Naiqwan signed up for the 12 mile Junior course. Naiqwan seemed up for the challenge, looking cool in Cyclisme kit and chatting up his new friend and competitor William (from Bend).
After a short warm-up we met at the school with 250 or so other racers for the pre-race meeting, then the downhill neutral coast to the start. The start was a cluster, with people in the wrong categories clogging up the space. Fergus went off with the hardcore SS group, then Will's 19-34 Cat 2's, then my 35-44 cat 2's. The race started with a 2.5 mile gravel road climb, that quickly put the hurt on me. I watched a group of 12 or so ride off, then maintained a steady pace at a quite high, but sustainable heart rate.
Upon topping out, the fun started with a short, greasy singletrack descent. This is where the roadies stuck out like a sore thumb. Dabbing, braking, stopping (I kid you not, a Portland Velo guy actually stopping and blocking the singletrack because he could not go down it-pathetic)
My strategy became to bomb the downs and pass as many as I could, and climb in damage control mode to prevent cramping. I drank 50 ounces or so of water, plus a bottle of HEED, and ate 2or 3 Hammer gel shots from the flask and about 12 Endurolyte capsules. I felt "off" and tired the first 15 miles or so, then really got into it and rallied towards the end. I think it was a mental fatique, not so much physical. Hard to describe, but I think you all know what I mean.
At mile 11 I took off my rear fender (which in hindsight was stupid to have on in the first place) as it was getting loosened up and rubbing my tire. At mile 24 I stopped to pick it up on the way to the finish, and while I did that I let two guys past that I could not catch back up to.
Fergus greeted me at the finish, after turning in a very solid time in the SS category. His Cat is very tough. An example of the typical climb is me (granted, I'm not fast, but bear with me) in a 32 x 32 gear, spinning 50 RMP or so. Fergus ran a 32 x 22 I think, so that makes it a pretty tough grind. Word is that the Pro mens winner Carl Decker was riding a SS with a 35 x 16 gear, which is absurd.
We all then hung out, ate free food, and watched the awards and raffle.
Highlights: Naiqwan developing some solid technical MTB skills on very challenging trails (he will be on the podium very soon, I predict). Winning some gloves and Hammer gel in the raffle. Good company on the long drive. A great pre- and post-race festive scene. Riding fast down gnarly muddy singletrack through the forest. Finishing ahead of road heavies like Kent Johnston. Seeing friends and competitors that I only see at races.
Things to work on: Improve the power to weight ratio. Cut out the crap food and drop 10 pounds of fat so I can climb better.
All in all, a typical mid-pack finish for me. I'm getting motivated for some serious short-track action this summer at PIR.