I didn't know it at the time, but the tone for this race would be set a week before it. Saturday morning I was getting ready to head up to Razorback. There was a wasp nest going strong above my garage door that I decided to do something about. I grabbed the can of bug spray, aimed it at the nest and fired. The dribble that came out of the can did nothing but piss the wasps off. I felt one land on my back and retreated across the loose rock walkway leading to the back deck and house. I lost my footing (I was wearing flip-flops) and slid across the rocks and into the deck, banging up both knees in the process. Danielle would've been proud.
It didn't hamper my riding, but all my rides last week were with a dull ache in my left knee. I believe in knowing how my body really feels and not taking drugs unless I really need them, so I'm not one to pop vitamin I on a regular basis. I thought it would be a good idea pre-load my system with it before the 101, but constantly forgot. I started with a few Friday, a few more before the race Saturday and a few more during the race. I actually think I ate 6 during the race. Dimwit.
My goal was for an 8:30 finish time, about 40 minutes faster than last year. I planned to do this by not going so hard in the first half so I didn't bonk during the technical second half. That was where I would make up my time, being able to attack the technical sections instead of barely surviving them.
The plan was going well. I let the lead group go when we started climbing and settled into my own pace. I rolled through aid stations 1 and 2 with about the same times as I did last year and felt good. I made it down Croyle's without flatting. Man, that trail rocks. It's probably the best section of trail in the race.
The plan was going into effect by the time I reached aid station 3. I didn't know it at the time, but I beat my 2-3 split from last year by 15 minutes. I took care of business and started up Sassafras, where the real work was to begin with the most demanding part of the race. I rolled through all the rocky goodness, still feeling pretty good, and hit aid station 4 10 minutes faster than last year. I was now 30 minutes up on last year with about 25 miles to go. I ran into Jeff there, who had just busted his seatpost and was out of the race. Jeff was having one hell of a ride, too.
I rolled out of aid station 4 and started up the loose gravel climb. Then it started. Stomach cramps. Anything over a recovery effort resulted in twisting cramps. I would've puked if I could, but nothing would come up. Eating was out of the question. I got in a few calories through my drink mix, but it wasn't enough as I had to rely primarily on plain water. I walked up a lot of that climb, asking everybody who passed me for a gun so I could put myself out of my misery.
I limped into aid station 5, having given up something like a gazillion spots in the overall. Pringles looked appetizing, so I ate a handful, topped off bottles and set out to try to salvage my race. I was able to finally pick up the pace up the rail grade, through the first tunnel and starting up the climb. Then my stomach started turning somersaults again, so I shut it down and gave up another gazillion spots. I was finally able to open it up again thanks to some big guy in baggy shorts who was wearing a huge pack. When he passed me I had to salvage some dignity, so I dug in, flew throught the last tunnel and pinned it to the finish.
The end result was a 9:00 finish, 11 minutes better than last year. I was right on pace to meet my race goal before the gastric implosion. I'm boycotting Ibuprofen.
The 2800 mile adventure that was getting to this race is a story in itself, and one that I've decided to give its own blog entry, which will be up soon.