5hrs, 33 minutes- 21 minutes faster than last year.
I felt like I was feeling good, but one never knows until about 5-10 minutes into the ride.
My friend Rick came out and spared me the scenic trolley ride, giving us a ride to the start at Kuykendal Group Campground. After finally getting started and splashing through the creek, I stettled into my own pace, one that would last for 42 miles. I took advantage of people nearby, sucking wheels, only feeling a little shame for not taking a pull.
The 9 mile climb up to Farlow finally ended, and then it was time to descend. I'm ok at descending but also overly cautious because I really don't want to get hurt. I get passed quite a bit on the downhills and hit happened again. My strength is definitely climbing, and it shows when I catch and drop the people who pass me on the downhills.
I was in a rythym and got down Farlow in one piece, crossing the creek and turning onto Daniel Ridge. I was surprised that I was riding most of it, kept my pace in check and kept turning the pedals. Cruising through the forest with leaves changing and the air starting to warm, past the gate, up the gravel road and right on Cove Creek. At this point I realized that sucking the last drop of water out of a Camelback is a similar sensation to running out of air while deep underwater. I was totally out of water, and it was warm. Cove Creek is mostly downhill with a steep climb out of the campground, so I kept a steady pace and got to the next rest stop.
The rest stop staff at this race are stellar and I am making record fast re-fills. On down Davidson, onto the pavement, left on the gravel road that winds up and around Looking Glass rock, reminded me that I need to bring the wife and kid out here soon.
I was alone for close to an hour until I made it to the next stop at the bottom of Club Gap. I got refilled and lubed thanks to David Wood and friends. I rode up the first steep part of Club, but was fading, so I started walking. It felt so good to be walking that I ended up walking most of the steeps. I was going the same speed and using less energy, so I kept going. Up and over the mountain, past the shelter, into the gap, right on Clawhammer, got passed by Claire from Australia, then Garnett from Canada. I managed to hang with Garnett, letting him take the lead on the blazing fast gravel descents. We ended up riding and chatting all the way up Maxwell, passing Claire and catching up to Chris Baker.
Once over the top, I was alone again, relaxing and focusing on the downhill. For some reason, this downhill seems way shorter than last year. I was cruising, but it was still moist and slick in spots so I rode conservatively.
And then I finished. After checking the results later, I found that I am now in 5th place in Men's Open cat. Pretty exciting!
Today: The Carl Schenk Loop: 25 miles, 3200 ft elevation gain..... "rest day"