Sunday, July 06, 2008

MTB Marathon National Championships

I must have still been in the hurt locker when I took this shakey picture.

High altitude racing in Colorado… nothing like racing on our ‘manicured’ trails that we have in the upper Midwest. The course for the Firecracker 50, home of the USA Cycling Marathon National Championships was classic Colorado. A lot of lung busting climbs, a couple of which topped out at over 11,000 feet for a grand total of around 10500 climbing for the race. The course also had a lot of sweet, fast, flowy singletrack that we mountain bikers crave, a few smokin’ fast fire road descents and a lot of descending on crazy steep, rock and root littered ‘roads’. Looking back, it wasn’t so much the climbing at altitude that slowed me down, but more the technical descents. The guys that finished 1st and 2nd in my age group absolutely killed me on the technical descents.
I took a look at the start list prior to registering and the Pro field was stacked, which made for a pretty easy decision to do the crusty old guys category instead! WWJ, Jean and I stayed at my sisters in Denver the night before the race and headed up to Breckenridge the morning of. We got there about three hours before the start so we had plenty of time to get registered and chill. They started the race in waves which made things so much easier. The Pro field went first, the 40-49 field started three minutes after the Pro’s. The first 2 ½ miles were on paved road and it was all uphill. By the time the road turn to dirt, there were probably about 7 or 8 of us left in the lead group. As we approached the first section of singletrack there were only three of us left, Mike Hogan, Thane Wright and myself.
I ended up taking the lead into the singletrack with Mike and Thane in tow. We hit the climb up Little French Gulch and Mike took the lead and kept right on goin’. About a minute later, all that I could see of him was the plume of dust from his back tire. I couldn’t hang with his pace without putting myself into the red zone so I settled into my comfort zone. I’m pretty sure that Thane was still right behind me at this point. As we approached the first gnarly descent, Thane past me and kept right on goin’! About 15 seconds later all that I could see of him was a huge dust cloud with rocks and other crap flyin' in every which direction. The guys that live out here can absolutely tear the rocky, root infested descents up. I felt pretty pathetic as I watched him disappear down the hill. I never saw Mike or Thane again and didn’t really expect to either. I settled into my own pace did what I thought that I needed to do to maintain my spot on the podium.
I finished the first lap in about 2:03 and felt OK. I could tell that I put in a pretty significant effort and might be paying the price for it later. My average heart rate for the first lap was 170, a tad on the high side for a race of this length. I started lap two and passed quite a few peeps goin’ up the paved and dirt road. Nothing real significant happened during the 2nd lap. My time over the second lap was around 2:17 with an average HR of 161. So yeah, I did end up paying a small price for the first lap effort, but in the end it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I never did get passed by another 40+ rider and ended up finishing 3rd in my age, good enough for a spot on the podium! Never mind that Mike won with a time of 4:03:30, a scant 16+ minutes ahead of me! I didn’t really care, it was a fun but very painful race. My arms were quite a bit more fatigued than my legs and made for some pretty sketchy moments on a couple of the descents. My long shot goal for the race was to be the man pulling the stars and stripes over my head. My main goal was to finish on the podium, so it was a great day!

Tired, hungry, thirsty and ready to be finished

The 40-49 rostrum

If you were to ask me if I'd do the race again, I'd say no way. Ask me again in another week, and I'll probably change my tune. It was the most brutal race that I've ever done, but, for some sick reason, I guess that's part of the appeal to doing a race like this.
Full results can be found here.
Jeff Kerkove did a pretty nice summary of the race also, check it out here. I talked to him a little after the race. He’s livin’ the good life and couldn’t be happier… good stuff!

Next up is my annual pilgrimage to Durango! I’ll try to update as often as possible, so stay tuned if your interested.

Thanks for reading,


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