6 Hours of El Lagarto, Jan. 28: 2nd solo to Tinker.
This is Red Trail Racing's answer to the LeMans start: The funniest 50 feet in mountain bike racing. I'll take this over LeMans silliness any day. Then it was down to the business of racing a mountain bike for 6 hours on a technical course that gives little room for error. Make one wrong move on one of those ridges and you're going for a swim in green slimy water riddled with 14-foot gators. I stayed out of the water, and kept my bike under me for the most part.
12 Hours of Razorback, Feb. 17: 3rd solo.
This is how it ended. That's my Indy Fab teamie Harlan Price on top and Cannondale's Rob Lichtenwalner in 2nd. They battled all day long, with Harlan finally establishing a gap in the last few laps. I battled all day long with local up-and-comer Chris Janiszewski. I put a lot of time on him during the day and thought I had seen the last of him. Then, while I'm taking my only long-ish pit of the day to put on some layers and lights, Chris rolled in and out ahead of me. I figured I'd get him back, but the fuzzy vision that had been with me since about 2PM really messed with me at night. My eyes dried out from the combination of cold air and dust. It wasn't a problem during the day, but once it got dark it was all over. When I tried to push the pace I'd crash because I couldn't judge distance very well. So I limped through the night for 4 laps, with Chris putting time into me each lap. At the end of my 12th and what I thought would be final lap, my drunken support crew (my wife Lauren and friend Kurt) told me Chris was cooked and was probably waiting for me at scoring. As I was protesting about going back out, Lauren was stuffing bottles into my cages and shoving me off. I rolled up to scoring and there he was. Game on, baby! He asked what I was doing. I said I was going out for one more and he said he'd follow. I looked back long enough to see that he wasn't following very closely. After I crested the first climb, I was stopped by Eddie O. Chris had pulled out and all I had to do was finish this lap to get on the podium. I went on an emotional rollercoaster ride during that cruiser lap. Joy, pain, laughter, tears, rain (just a bit), then total giddiness as I passed my pit one last time to hoots and hollers from my friends.
It ended like I wanted it to. I did my homework for this one, riding myself into the ground at Razorback during many weekends leading up to the race. I showed up expecting a podium spot. When I saw who the competition was, I decided that I'd be happy with a top 5. What did I learn? Ride your ride and good things will happen. Protect your eyes when it's cold, dry and dusty. Being on the podium with two of the best endurance racers in the country: priceless.
Hospice 100k, Mar. 3: 3rd solo (out of 4 contenders).
I ventured into south Florida for 3 reasons: 1) It was a good cause (all proceeds went to HospiceCare of Southeast Florida). 2) I wanted to see what I had in me 2 weeks after a 12-hour race. 3) It was finally my chance to check out Markham Park, reputed to be the best trail in south Florida.
It started with another silly LeMans run.
It ended with one last dismount to jog through scoring. I know they do it to make life easier on the scorers, but I guess the running dismount/remount practice will serve me well if I ever race 'cross.
In between, there was 10 laps on a super fun and technical 6-mile course that was more of an XC race than an endurance race. I knew the winning time would be under 5 hours and that going out hard for a couple of hours then keeping a good tempo for the rest would be the ticket. Bob McCarty (the eventual winner) knows the place like the back of his hand and his silly-fast lap times confirmed this fact. I knew he would keep it up and that short of a mechanical, he'd stay in front. I set my sights on Drew Edsall, who was running 2nd. He ran some fast initial laps and got a few minutes on me. I kept steady and hoped he'd finally crack in the summer-like heat. Word was he was cracking, but after I heard this he put 2 more minutes on me. Crap. His lap times were like a yo-yo and mine were steady. I'd get a couple of minutes on him, just to lose them the next lap. I'd given up on catching him going into my final lap, but kept the pace as high as I could while keeping the cramps at bay. He really slowed down on his last lap and I came within 30 seconds of him at the end. One more lap…
While we were waiting for the awards ceremony, we goofed off.
We tried to get Fontana to stick his head through the cutout for a photo op, but he would have none of that...
…so we opted for what he does best: Leading me out on a trail ride.
So far things are going pretty well. I'm venturing into XC this weekend at the SERC opener at Razorback, then I'll get a race break and a chance to log some quality saddle time to get ready for the NUE series opener, the Cohutta 100.