I walked back to the start, registered and got dressed. I decided to get out on the road instead of warming up on the trainer so I could get a sense of how I was feeling. Prognosis..... Not good. The chest started hurting when I ramped up my effort and I was coughing up some nasty chest goo. This could suck. As I rode back to the parking lot I was starting to wonder if it was a stupid move for me to race. I sat in my car with the heat cranked and drank a full bottle of water and ate an energy bar. With 15 minutes to the start I rolled down and hooked up with Jeff and Rhett. We rolled to the start and got ready for five laps on a the 12 mile course. I was now just hoping I could just finish the 60 miles.
We noticed that all the afternoon fields were a lot smaller than last year. I wasn't really happy about this but the competition was still high. We rolled out neutral up to turn one and were given the signal to race. Right away one of the KR guys attacked and the race was on. I decided to go with him but as soon as I got on his wheel he sat up. Once the pack was all back he jumped again. I went with him again and he did the same thing. I think he was just checking out how the field was feeling. He jumped for a third time. This time he went a little harder and two of us jumped on. We got a small gap and I was hoping we would give this a shot. The three of us might be able to make some noise. We each took a few pulls up front but when the KR guy got to the front again he slowed. Since we had a small gap I decided to pull through and force the tempo. A few seconds later I looked back and saw that no one come with me. I looked down at my Garmin and saw were were not quite five miles into the race. Hmmmmmm. 55 miles to go. There is no way I could hold this on my own that long. It was about this time that I noticed that I wasn't feeling too bad. Maybe I'll give this a shot. I decided I would keep this pace up for a few minutes to see what would happen. I put my head down and gunned it. I didn't look back for a couple of minutes and when I finally did I had about a 30 second gap. OK, I'm going all in. I will probably get roped in or blow up and end up being the guy getting passed by the wheel car. I didn't care. I got in the drops and just kept driving. A minute or so later I took another look back and my lead was still growing. No one had broken away to try to bridge. I came up on turn three and took a really good look back before I entered the turn. No one was in sight. How big of a gap do I have? I decided to give it a little extra until the end of the lap. I didn't let up once.
As I started lap two I had no idea what was happening behind me. Was my lead growing? Did they organize and were now barreling down on me at a fast pace? As I got to turn two on the top of the course our lead car slowed and motioned for me to ride up. He told me I had a 1:10 gap. Hmmmm. It wasn't large enough to be comfortable but it was enough to inspire me to keep going. My chest was hurting a little but overall I was still feeling pretty good. I decided that I would keep a hard pace for the next two laps. By the end of lap two my lead had increased to 2:2o. I couldn't believe my lead was still growing. By the end of lap three I had a 3:50 gap!!!
I had planned on letting up a little on lap 4 but adrenaline was getting the better of me. I was surprised about how good I was feeling. I pressed on, going as hard as I did on the first three laps.
It was a weird feeling racing on this course for this long all alone. I saw it in a whole different way. I was able to take any line I wanted throughout the course and noticed things I'd never noticed before...nice houses on the lake, every single pothole, hawks landing in trees, etc. The other thing that happened was my mind started to wander. I didn't have to concentrate like I normally do when riding in a pack. I started to think about what I wanted to eat after the race. A beer sounds good too! What if I have a huge lead and get a flat? Would I just throw my hands in the air when I won or would I come up with some stupid pose? For some reason I started to get an INSX song in in my head and couldn't get it out. I had to keep telling myself to snap out of it and focus on what I was doing. It was hard. I was getting excited and bummed out within seconds. I would get excited that I had 4 of the 5 laps under my belt and then a minute later freak out that I still had a lap to go.
I started noticing many of my teammates that had probably been there since 7:00 am were still hanging out on the course cheering me on and it gave me more inspiration. I finally hit the finish line and had only one lap to go. This time, when our lead car motioned me up he just told me that I had a HUGE lead and to not get alarmed if a group showed up behind me. There was a breakaway group in the CAT 1/2 race that was closing.
I was now starting to falter a little. I noticed my speed was dropping and my legs were starting to get heavy. Half way through the final lap I started to doubt whether I could actually pull this off. I'd gone solo a couple of times in races but never longer than 8 miles. I had pushed so hard for so long and now the last lap was taking forever. I started to think about my good friend Rob who is starting a big battle with cancer and it helped me. If he can have a positive attitude and face that battle, I can make it six more F'ing miles!
I was finally on the home stretch and every mile felt like five. I looked back and finally saw the CAT 1/2 breakaway group coming up fast. They must have thought I was a someone that had been dropped from another field. I still didn't think I had it in the bag. My lead car had to pull over to let the 1/2 field go by and when I came up on him I asked him about my lead. He told me I had a 7:30 gap......7:30!!! I have this! I hit the 1K mark and basically sat up. I soft pedalled the rest of the way in. It was the best 1K ever. I finally saw the finish line and I took it all in. Hands raised high I coasted in with a big ass smile on my face. I just went solo in a 60 mile race for 55 miles. I know this will probably never happen again so I am going to enjoy the hell out of it.Big props to my teammates Jeff and Rhett for helping me keep my lead and thanks to my teammates that had been up since probably 5:00am and were still out there cheering me on. Also, after I finished I found out that Mirna finished 6th in the Women's CAT 3 race! It was a great day.
all photos by Kirsten Reed