Yeah, so I'm getting pretty lazy about putting anything on this blog. Oh well...if I were posting anything it would just say stuff like "laid on the couch all day with ice and hot packs on my head trying to make this god-forsaken pounding go away" or "had a coughing fit that I'm pretty sure resulted in three broken ribs today..."
Its been a pretty miserable week. Six days after getting back to Alaska after RAAM, and just over two weeks after finishing RAAM I was on the start line for the Fireweed 200. I know it wasn't a smart thing to do, and I knew I was going to pay for it, but I didn't think it would be quite this bad. I really like the Fireweed. I like the course, I like the atmosphere, I like the fact that it gets over 700 Alaskans out for a cycling event, I REALLY liked the cookout in Valdez...it was just something I didn't want to miss.
And it didn't disappoint. There was a little bit of everything...big tailwinds, rain, sun, huge headwinds, lots of friendly folks, a little smooth asphalt, a little rough chip seal.
Rocky won the 400 by quite a bit, and after they had taken more than 2 weeks off the bike to crew for me during RAAM Heather and Gail surprised themselves winning the 2-woman 200. I think they really had a great time doing it too, because they were already talking about what they were going to do next year.
In the week before the Fireweed I felt like I was in a funk all the time. Lethargic, unmotivated, not-quite healthy but not-quite sick either...I actually generally felt better the couple of times that I got on my bike than I did the rest of the time walking around. So I made a deal with myself for the Fireweed that I'd ride hard for 3 hours and then decide whether to continue or not. It wasn't my legs I was worried about, but my motivation. I tried to tell myself that I was motivated to ride hard, but I'm not sure I really believed it, and motivation is something that comes from pretty deep inside and you just can't fake. So I figured I'd know well before 3 hours how things were gonna shake out.
In long races, rather than trying to control my heart rate or power or perceived exertion (or anything for that matter) at the start I'll generally let myself go as hard as whatever adrenaline I have will take me for about two hours and then start trying to settle into the pace I think I need. I know that this is pretty much the opposite from how a lot of people will approach ultra racing, but it works okay for me. Right from the start of the 200 I was going as hard as I could. My heart rate was holding at about 182-185 on all of the climbs in the first 50 miles and was staying above 170 on all the flats and descents. It felt like I was flying...and it was fun.
Pretty quickly my thinking changed from a 3-hour test to a sub-9 hour ride. In the 400 last year I was at about 9:11 when I turned around in Valdez. Judging by the way I felt for the first two hours of the 200 I was pretty sure an 8:45 or so was possible in the 200. At Glenallen I was averaging 26 mph...albeit with a wicked tailwind pushing me along. By the time I hit the 100 mile mark I was at 4 hrs and 6 minutes, but the wind had moved to the south and I knew that it would stay there until Valdez.
I can't remember what my time was at Teikal River, but the wind had gotten progressively worse and I remember thinking that a sub-9 was going to be pretty tough. Plus I was getting a little fatigued from trying push into the wind. Somewhere in there I came upon a 2-man team from Ohio and a 4- person mixed team from Anchorage. They were pushing pretty hard and it helped me to just be riding near some people; plus whenever one of us would pass the other we'd try to shout some encouragement. They'd change out riders and drop me and I'd slowly close the gap and overtake them and then they'd change out and blow by me again. On the final two pitches up Thompson Pass they both rode away from me. I was pretty cooked at this point.
The wind on the south side was worse and I knew sub-9 hrs wasn't going to happen. I tried to coast down the first grade to recover a little from the climb, but the wind was so crazy that pedaling made it easier to hold a decent line. So I did that for a couple minutes and then put my head down and tried to hammer out the rest of the race. I caught both of the teams I'd been leapfrogging and eventually got to Valdez in 9hrs 9 mins.
I was fairly happy with my time in those conditions. It wasn't easy to push that hard, especially the last 5 hours into the wind. The cookout in Valdez was great. I got to see and talk to some friends and some bike people that I sort of know, or know of.
But I knew at the finish line I was going to be sick for a while. The ride was just a bit more than my body was ready for.