The first race of the series was here in our backyard - I will avoid any political discussion regarding how the new series pulled of a race in Lake Norman State Park when previous attempts had been denied.... The race kinda snuck up on me, but I was about to go out to pre-ride the course to gauge what to expect.
Leaving my pre-ride left me with questions... Keep the Charlotte gearing I had on to take advantage of the fast rolling course (many PRs on the pre-ride) or gear a bit easier for the long haul? I kept going back and forth, but ultimately I decided to go easier on myself as I was jumping back into things.
Leading up to the race I wasn't too worried. I knew some fast guys would be racing SS, so I had no podium concern - I was free to ride against myself. What I was worried about was parking. The promoters got me a bit nervous the night before with this post.
The race sold out. No problem. But a sold out race with limited parking... and parking not open until 8?? All I could picture was a line of cars waiting at a locked gate to grab precious parking/pit areas. Nerves all riled up.. What time do I have to get there, what time do I have to get up. What if we don't get a spot - Annie was coming with me and there was no way she was parking down the road... My plan was to get there early and deal with no spot if it happened (with Annie manning the pit and plenty of parking in the upper and lower lots we would have made it happen).
As I was driving up to Lake Norman I didn't see vehicles with bikes... I'm beating the crowd! A mile before the exit I see a mountain bike on the back of a vehicle - "You aren't taking my spot!" I pass them and off the highway we go. As they follow I realize it's Craig and Emily. I only saw one bike though... Either way, it's my parking spot!!
Pulling in the place is pretty much empty. Choice of spots. Nerves riled for not good reason. In fact, the spot next to me was open up until about 9:15. Whatever. Pit area set up. Annie taking a nap. Sitting around for waaaaaay too long before the race.
Long enough to get my picture taken.
6 hour race on the Glow Worm, of course I'm racing for Team Glow Worm!
- Short cut out of Monbo to avoid the two way entrance/exit - figured (and good call!).
- $50 hole shot award. Not going to be me.
- Strict 6 hour cut off - whatever you finish when the clock hits 6 hours is what you finish with, if you are still on the trail that lap doesn't count. This is a little different than other 6 hour races, typically they have a cut off for when you can leave for a final lap... so this makes my goal of 6 laps a little more challenging.
We head out en mass. I pass a couple people on the initial gravel incline and into the trail we go. The pace is quick as we run through the first loop which probably has all of the technical and short ups for the entire course. Everyone seems to handle it ok, so I stick with a group. We hit the pavement for a short bit to get to the second, larger loop. I let a couple guys get by on the pavement and then on we go. First lap feels ok. My legs don't seem to be completely there, but my pace is quick and they don't seem to be fighting me too much about it.
First lap through and I've been good about staying hydrated as the temps at start time were way too high for my first race back (being a northerner and all - it's too damn muggy this time of year!). I don't stop and roll through for my second loop (Annie cheering me on as I toss an empty bottle). I fly through the first section and onto pavement, again I look to let any geared rider by before we hit the single track. I catch a couple riders and pass them as they gear down for a climb. I have a geared rider latched onto me and offer to let him go as things turn down - he declines noting that the biggest climb is coming up. I let it rip and drop him on the downs. He catches back up when it's more horizontal, and I drop him on the climbs. We have a good chat as I pull him through the remainder of the lap. I don't realize how fast I am pushing things until he mentions the pace I'm pushing as we hit a fire road halfway (or a bit more) through the second loop. 12mph - whatevs (in subsequent laps I check my speed on this bit and I'm more in the 8-9mph solo).
As we hit the pavement back to the finish/start he sticks with me - class act really. I expected him to drop me hard once we got onto the pavement, but I guess he appreciated the ride I gave him. Time to pit. I stop - eat a little, refill bottles, and try to keep it moving.
I head out with no one around. My legs have dropped completely off as my mind fades. I feel like I have nothing at all as I grind the slightest climbs. Downhills are still fun as all hell so I try to push as hard as I can there to keep some sort of race performance going. Here and there I get some mojo back, but more so than not I feel like I'm dragging cinderblocks on fumes. Grinding up one of the final climbs I find a younger rider on the side of the trail. I yell to see if he is ok and he says he is not. I stop to see what is going on - his quads are killing him - cramps. I offer him some mustard. He looks at me like I'm crazy but downs it with a little coaxing. I advise him to keep drinking and rest and hydrate when he gets back to the pit area.
I am forced to pit again. This time I lay about, trying to collect myself. I elevate my legs some, eat more and pull myself up for another lap. This time my legs are kinda back. I've got a little more zip and I'm able to push harder here and there. Again, riding mostly solo hurts mentally and I let myself slow roll a little too much. I'm starting to feel it EVERYWHERE. My legs don't so much hurt as they just don't seem to work well. The rest of my body is hurting, my ass especially. My first go around with a 6 hour I used too much chamois cream. This time, I forgot about that... coulda used some!
Pulling into the start/finish area I'm debating if I should roll through to claim 5 laps (allowing me AMPLE time to slow roll the entire lap if need be) or stop and see what happens. I elect to stop to see if I can get even more life back into my legs after a stop. When I roll out again I know it's my final lap, but I also know I have plenty of time so all I have to do is get through the lap. My final lap goes similarly as my 4th. Not great, but not horrible.
I finish. But on the way I see a familiar, and not so familiar, face. TheMutt is out there with his mutt (Carl) he he snaps an