I'm not sure if he swaps me, but it doesn't really matter. 40+ is always pretty hotly contested anyways. I usually race my age group (or some non-SS class) at least once every year, so why not? Would just be nice to have no idea how I'm doing in the standings all day, so I can just focus on being safe'ish.
Head over to the Ohio People house. They haven't checked in with registration yet. Hop back in the car and head back to the venue. See Yuri and ask him if he switched me or if would be willing to.
Back to the Ohio people house. Jimmy the Gimp makes me a steak the size of my forearm. I eat it and wonder what's going to push that through my system by morning. They tell me there's a garden out back, and I can pick my own salad if I want to. I do. Then I hope.
I sleep on the couch... mostly sleep. Wake up coughing, once with tears running down my face. Allergies. Joy.
Wake up at 5:00AM, eat my cookies, drink my coffee... nothing. There's a steak stuck in my butt. At least the rain stopped tho.
Drive over to the venue, park next to Watts, we seriously contemplate racing on the tandem he just happened to have brought with him. It's not set up toobless, so a wheel swap would be in order... meaning a cassette as well. 180mm rotors? Another swap? Fuck it. Let's just ride our own bikes. Mebbe next year.
I ask Yuri one more time if he'll swap me to the 40+ class.
Now my chances for a podium are just as unlikely as before, but I won't feel the pull to chase down every idiot I see on a single speed (we're all idiots).
The coffee never took effect, so I went to the starting line still "steaked-up." It tasted so good tho...
Five minutes before the start, I realize I never put on that stupid heart rate monitor thing. Was hoping it would tell me to not blow myself up too early. Oh well. The race starts, and one minute in, I'm pretty sure I'm maxed out. Tons of people roll by me on the "neutral start," but once we start up Clawhammer, I make my way back into a happy place. Over the top and then the long, gentle descent down the Wheelchair Ramp. I get out of the way for people when I need to. I'm recovering and waiting, occasionally spinning the pedals for no good reason at all.
I notice my rear brake is behaving badly. I'm more than a little bummed because the rear pads are new, while the front ones are... old? Yeth, very old. So much for nursing that front brake trying to eek out what's left of the pads over 70 wet miles and relying mostly on the rear. I bled my brakes more than a month ago, and they were fine at PMBAR. Now the lever goes to the bar on the first squeeze, better on the second try, solid on the third pull. I'm going to have to really prepare when I need to slow down...
Speaking of which, the descents on Squirrel and Cantrell are most interesting... at least while I figuring out my new braking system. I can't quit the race because the Ohio People have a horrid looking skirt that the person who finishes last must wear. I've been told I'm one of them. No quitting, no shame skirt for me.
Roll into Aid Station #1. Tom Van Damage tells me Watts is just ahead. I mention my brake and he tells me Watts had the same complaint. Cool. My misery loves his company. Grab a cup of Peanut M&M's and shove them in my jersey pocket. Down to Bradley Creek, pass a single speeder, let him know I'm not in his class, and leave him. Up 5015, see another single speeder. Pass him. Same deal. Not in your class.
Up to Aid Station #2. They have bacon. I am filled with joy. Two handfuls in the mouth and one up the leg of my shorts. Onward to North Mills. Up Wash Creek Road with a single speeder and then leave him behind. Start to catch another one, but he punches it before I can tell him not to worry about me. Down Spencer and my rear brake is acting more like a brake. Over to Fletcher and down, and my brake is now only needing double pumped occasionally. My bike is healing itself... although my drooper isn't being as droopy as it should be. Maybe I shoulda replaced that frayed cable as opposed to seeing how much longer it would last.
Down at the bottom of the world, I know the long climb out of the hole to the top of Laurel Mountain is ahead. Not bragging, but I designed this course for Eric all those years ago not really thinking about how backloaded it is with absolute horror. The hardest climb, followed by the most difficult descent down Pilot Rock, and then hike-a-bike over Black Mountain for the full, mind-blowing drop from the top. I really start to loathe me (more than normal).
I catch the single speeder who alluded me earlier on the way up 1206. I let him know that I'm in the 40+, and he lets me know that Watts is just ahead. My misery companion. I chase up to the top yelling "WATTS!" occasionally. Nothing. Dick.
Back at the Aid Station #2 which is now #3 coming this way. Same bacon treatment. A banana to eat on the way up shoved in my pocket. My mind is showing signs of wear. I wreck three times while climbing. I guess that can happen. I need caffeine... like the stuff that woulda been in the Coke at the last Aid Station. Meh. Finally at the top, I realize I'm in no place mentally to descend Pilot Rock. I dig in my pockets and pull out all my emergency gels. Not one of them has caffeine. Who's in charge of me? I descend with a fuzzy head and quickly come to terms with the fact that one of my favorite rigid fork descents in Pisgah has really morphed over the last decade and change. It's now tops on my most-hated list. Fuck me, I'm a pile of shit.
Done with that and still clinging to some fantasy of finishing safely, I get to the final Aid Station. I grab a tiny Coke. I chase it with a much tastier 12oz beverage. I feel like a god.
I run down the two geared riders who left me at the aid station while I was beveraging. I pass them and fly up the hike-a-bike, fueled with my new favorite last leg nutrition. I get another geared rider on the way up. I can't see them behind me when I top out, but all three of them had caught and passed me on Pilot Rock. Forgetting my commitment to myself to not do anything stupid that might end up injuring me in a way that could mess up my Trans-Sylvnia Epic next week, I let it go.
Except for one horrifically exciting, last minute roll-in (that ended up being not very rollable at all) that caused me to have to drop it at the last minute causing an entire quad cramp, I escape unscathed and cross the finish line having never been caught.
Shortly after I finish, they post the results. I got 3rd place 40+... or not. Captain Morgan is listed as Open Men, so I let him know that they gave me his spot. He went over and got it fixed, bumping me to where I deserved to be, 4th place. For those that want to know, I woulda been fifth place single speed, so nothing really mattered... aside from the fact that I never felt like I was "racing" anyone all day long.
From there, the evening was a haze of beer, steak butt, watching everyone finish, taking the podium (as a shirtless Captain Morgan, since he went home too early), fireworks, very little sleep, and then a brisk awakening at 6:50AM to make the drive home and start getting ready for TSE.
photo cred: Icon Media Asheville