The other riders clued me in at the lineup: the course was different from last week. Three laps, not two, and no big climb. I wasn't sure what to do about that, so I just went with my goal of starting strong and hanging with the lead pack as long as I could.
That turned out well for me. The guys at the front controlled the pace for the first quarter mile or so before opening up a bit when we hit dirt. The field would spread out and come back together as we negotiated a few side trails east of the start/finish area.
I was with the lead group, but I could see that I was working harder than them. Then we hit the asphalt leading out the gravel access road, and they hit the gas. I tried to go, but simply didn't have it. Wasn't even a question. The field split, and I did my best to mark my position. It seemed like about 7 guys ahead, and maybe 3 behind? I wasn't sure.
The first and second laps get kind of hazy after that. I just tried to keep the pressure on, not overcook the rises, make the most of the downhills, and pass efficiently where I could. I took mental notes about where I could coast without losing position, and where bunch-ups were happening.
I do rememember getting passed by a kid (might have been 14 or so?) on one of the climbs. "Good job!" he said as he went by. So, so great. One of the things that impressed me the most about this event was how involved all the kids were, and how positive the vibe was around them. I really hope I can share something like this with my daughter when she's ready.
On the third lap, I caught a rider in blue on the gravel road. I tucked in behind him for a minute, trying to relax get ready for the quick climb coming up. His pace flagged for a few seconds, so I pulled around and tried to open a gap.
That mostly worked, but we came back together on the short rise at the end of the fire road, and a rider in green came around and got ahead of us on the doubletrack.
The three of us leapfrogged for a few minutes, then I managed to pass them both on the wide climb after the doubletrack, and keep the pressure on to the top of the downhill. I was definitely spending the rest of my matches, but there was nothing left to save them for anyway. The course was super-fast from the last downhill to the finish, so I figured I might be able to hold them off if I cranked the downhill and held my speed.
The guy in blue was on my ass the whole time, which gave me the adrenline kick I needed to stay on the gas. But in the end it worked-- I held out for 9th place, Blue took 10th, and the guy in green ended up about 10 seconds back in 11th.
The three of us ended up chatting after the finish about how much fun that last lap had been. This really is a huge part of why I love these local races-- even if you're sitting well off the podium, there will be a few other riders at your level and you can have a great time just racing them.
So, how did I fare with my goals for this race?
Line up early, start strong, and hang with the lead pack as long as I can.
The race takes shape on the one and only climb. Give it all I've got.
The course change made this one moot. But I did manage to find a decisive moment (the last few climbs before the speedy finish) and make the most of it. So I'm happy with this one.
Don't finish last.
Check! Solid mid-pack finish and a ride I'm happy with.
Keep my head in the game, and have fun.
I've been looking to put my bad day at Santiago behind me, and I did that.
So... what now?
I really want to do more of these next year. I had a great time, and I'm now super-motivated to get into better shape.
My endurance is fine for these short races. Last night's race was about 10 minutes longer than usual, and I picked up at least 2 positions in that last 10 minutes.
And while I can feel that the weight training is helping, my top-end W/kg is where I lacked last night. So I'm on the right track. The plan is more heavy deadlifts and squats, and looking to get my weight down under 175 lbs.
All in all, great fun, and I can't wait to jump in again next year!