Official Race Report Here
Up at 6:45 AM. Eggs and Toast. Coffee.
Double-check gear and load car.
Arrive at Camp Pendalouan at 8 AM
8:05 AM Ate 1/2 banana
Bike: Trek Fuel, full-suspension, tubeless tires. Bontrager components.
I have disc brakes. While unloading my bike I accidently squeezed the lever while the front wheel was out. I had to pry the brake pads apart with a screw driver. During my pre-ride I could hear the disc brushing against the pad, but I didn't feel much resistance and after taking it a part and trying to repair it 5 times, I figured it was fine. While riding my bike into the transition area I hugged the fence a little too closely and snagged my handlebars causing myself to fall over. Men immediately rushed to my aide, grabbing me by the arms and pulling me up. It was embarrassing.
The course is 15.5 miles of technical, hilly single track. There is only .75 miles of two-tracks and dirt roads.
The Race (9:00 AM)
Immediately there is a drop down a steep hill into a sandpit and then a technical section with lots of tree roots and tight single-track around the lake. I love this section. Not only is it beautiful, but it's flat. At the end of this section is a rustic log bridge you could knock your brain loose while crossing. At this point there was the one and only water station--just two miles into the race.
The next few miles have steady climbs, lots of sandpits, and tight turns. Somewhere in here I was passed by the first of several women over the course. She informed me that I had dropped my water bottle about a mile back. Shoot! It was hot, humid, and I was a long way from the finish. I started to panic a little.
In fact, I actually prayed something like: God, you said we could drink your water and never this again . . . puhlease do not let me dehydrate! At that moment, I was getting passed again. This time by my friend, Jim, who had an extra water bottle. Thank you, Jim.
I made sure to take in as much water as I could because I was coming up on the most challenging 5 miles of the course: climb after climb after climb followed by Dead Man's Curve into another steep climb.
By the time you get to Dead Man's Curve, you've ridden a challenging 7 miles. Your thighs are burning. Your legs are so wasted they can no longer hold your body weight. Your vision is blurred by the sweat pouring down your face. But its a race so you push yourself to the limit and get that butt behind the saddle, stand and hunch over those bars for the most hair-raising descent in West Michigan. Straight down into a blind left-turn onto a ridge.
You keep those eyes 6 feet in front of you on that trail. Whatever you do, you do not look down into the tumbling ravine where you will immediately picture your mangled and bloodied body lying there. And you do not look to the rising wall on your left for fear of snagging a handlebar and crashing to a mangled and bloodied death.
You follow that 2-foot wide ridge all the way around for a quarter mile until you face a stairwell of tree roots and erosion leading up to your salvation. Once you are able to claw yourself out of the ravine, you are free to puke.
At this point I was discouraged, I had been passed by 3 to 4 more cyclists. However, I was also at he last five miles which is a walk in the park, comparatively. There are some awesome downhills, technical sections and climbs but nothing that pulls your intestines inside out. A highlight in this section is a crooked bridge that goes up and then changes direction mid-point. This leads into the final downhill followed by a challenging switch-back. I pushed through the pain up that final climb and turned onto the 1/2 mile of dirt road leading to the finish.
I was stunned to see the 3 cyclists that had passed me more than 30 minutes ago riding just 10 feet in front of me. There was no time to think about the pain that I was in, I needed to act fast if I was going to take back some time. I cranked into my big ring, pretended I had fresh legs and dug deep. I managed to pass them all just as we crossed into the transition area.
I managed to take 8 minutes off my time from the previous year and was two minutes faster than my goal. I am ecstatic.