Since I was sitting 5th in the BARR for Masters C, I decided to enter that field for the race. My start time wasn't until 12:00pm so my friend John who races for Bryne and I met up at 8:00am to head up to Crystal. It was pretty cloudy and cool on the drive up but just out of Greenwater it started to clear. Neither of us had done the race before so as we were driving up the Crystal Mt. Hwy. we tried to figure out our strategy. We knew about the course from reading about it online and talking to other racers. The first three miles are the steepest. It starts at about 5%, goes up to 6% for a good stretch then hits 7% to 8% for a bit. It drops back to 6% then it "flattens out" to 4% to 5% before a short kicker at the end. We took note the different areas where the gradient changed. When driving in your car and going 40 mph it all looks pretty easy. :)
By the time we reached the lot it was sunny and cool but was warming up. As we got dressed we had a hard time deciding what to wear but ended up going with the bare minimum and discarded base layers and arm warmers. We figured that by our start time we would be plenty warm.
We wanted to get a good warm up in and I didn't want to just sit on the trainer and spin so we started down the hill. After we were about half way down we turned around and headed back up. This is where it "levels off". That is when realty sank in. Six miles of climbing seems like nothing, especially when you're in a car heading up to go skiing but as we went the three miles back to the finish you realized how tough it would be. We turned around and headed back to Hwy. 410 and started heading up the pass to get the heart rate up. We got a good 16 miles of riding in before the start and I was feeling pretty good. We went to check the start clock to make sure we were synced up and then did a couple extra miles. We headed to the start to queue up, four minutes to go.
Since I usually seem to go out too hard at the start of time trials my plan was to go easy on the first half of the race where it is the steepest, power through the 4% to 5% section and give it my all in the last 1K. I was third in line to go and a couple of guys coming down the hill were commenting that the wind was starting to pick up (you all know how that works up there) and that there would be a little tail wind for us. I quickly decided to throw my strategy out the window as I figured you wouldn't gain too much time on the "flat" section as everyone would be aided by the wind and most people would recover and pick up speed there. . I decided I would go out at about 85% to 90% right from the start, keep up a good pace while recovering where it leveled off then hopefully have enough gas in the tank for a strong finish.
5,4,3,2,1, I'm off. I wanted to manage my heart rate and keep my cadence above 90 as long as I could. I also didn't want to get out of the saddle unless it was absolutely necessary. I was feeling pretty good and caught my 30 and 60 men within the first half mile. My heart rate was at 162 and I was breathing smoothly. At mile 1 I passed my 1:30 man and soon after my 2:00 guy. I felt I was doing OK for an old guy. I hit the steepest part of the course and was starting to feel the pain. I wasn't even half way done yet. Where the hell is the "flat" section? I was still in a good rhythm and soon passed my 2:30 guy. My heart rate finally started to climb and hit 175bpm. I was still feeling OK. I kept up the pace and my mph never went down. Finally, we hit the section where it levels off. I decided to stay in the small ring even though I could have moved up to the big. I saw four guys just in front of me but tried not to focus on them but to just keep a good rhythm going. Even though the grade fell to 4%-5% here it was no cake walk. Your brain and legs are starting to question your heart and asking "What the hell are you doing to me!!" I just kept pushing, telling myself there was only a couple of miles to go. It was here that a had a a moment that kind of cracked me up. For some reason my mind decided to wonder(those that know me know that this isn't hard for me to do) and was thinking about which bindings I was going to put on the new powder skis I'd just bought. Do I want to get the Dukes or the Barons, should I mount them slightly forward or back, etc..... It was weird and I don't know how long I was in this trance but I must have gone about a 1/4 mile or so before I snapped out of it and forced myself to focus. I noticed that I was smiling, but only for a second. The brain was starting to remember the pain! I finally saw the 1K mark coming up and I got a little jumpy but forced myself not go harder yet. 1K on a bike, while climbing and while pushing your body to its limits is a lot farther then you think. I went past the 1K and just ahead were the four guys I was catching and they looked like they were going to fall over. I flew past two of them right away. I wanted to jump out of the saddle but just kept my controlled pace going. At the 200 meter mark I finally jumped out of the saddle, passed two more guys, sat down and pushed as hard as I could through the line. Talk about the hardest six miles you'll ever ride. I had nothing left. It's a terrible and awesome feeling all at the same time. I was barely able to pedal to the end of the lot but felt really good about my effort. I was breathing so hard I thought one of my lungs was going to fly out. We had to roll back to the finish tent to weigh in. I got off my bike and could barely stand. One of the volunteers said he would hold my bike while I jumped on the scale. I had to wait a few seconds before I gave it to him because I figured I might fall over without it. After a few seconds I handed it over and jumped on the scale. It took a while before the scale reset and registered and I was having trouble staying on. The official laughed and told me that at least I didn't fall off, a bunch of guys did. I quickly recovered after walking around for a few minutes.
I felt good about the race but with time trials you never really know how you actually did until the results are posted. John came across the line and felt he accomplished his goal and was pretty happy. As he stepped off his bike to get on the scale we noticed that his rear wheel was rubbing on his brake really hard. After further inspection we discovered he had a broken spoke. He remembered hearing a "pop" about half way through the race. He rode the last three miles with a broken spoke!! That had to have sucked and likely added to his time.
We headed over towards the Snorting Elk where the BBQ was set up. We grabbed one of the best beers I'd ever had and chowed down on some food. We finally saw the result for our category being posted. For some reason I started looking from the bottom of the page. I kept moving my finger up and finally got to my name and saw that I finished 4th. It was a great result but since it was a state championship race I just missed out on a medal. I looked at the times and saw that I missed third by three tiny seconds. Three seconds away from being on the podium!! I wasn't too upset as the guy that got third, Richie Strong, is a great guy and I was really happy for him. I started to replay my race in my head and tried to figure out where I could have lost those precious seconds. I soon realized that you can't think about that because you don't know how other racers are doing while you're out there. I was pretty sure I left it all out there and had nothing to be upset about.
John took this picture after the race with the caption "4th place sucks!!"