Today was perfect weather. I think the high for the day ended up being something like 80 or 81 with sunshine and a light breeze. Talk about a nice respite from the 98-106 range.
Getting out of bed this morning (thanks to the dogs begging for breakfast bright and early) I noticed my legs were still pretty stiff from the week's training effort. Not a huge deal, but I made note of the legs needing another day off. I headed up to Seven Oaks Ski Area just outside of Boone. Police were everywhere with their radar, and luckily I had plenty of time to get there so was driving the speed limit. I pulled into the parking lot at Seven Oaks about 11:15 and headed over to get registered. Turnout looked pretty good with a full parking lot, sunshine and cool temperatures. I believe I heard the number or racers was around 60.
A storm had blown through on Saturday and it was determined that the southwestern side of the traditional loop was too muddy/wet to use for the race, so the laps would be shorter. CAT 2's were scheduled to do 3 laps. I headed out to warm-up, rode up the gravel rode and rode a portion of the singletrack back down to the start/finish area. The dirt was in perfect shape and my legs were, well - at least they were behaving enough to work. This was a "train through the race week", so I was fine with their condition.
There was the usual joking around with all the old guys and we lined up for our start around noon. Two guys had to run and relieve themselves at the very last minute, so jokes about the aging bladder ensued. Especially about the need to go more often thanks to Sterling's need to pee. Kyle Sedore had organized beautiful weather, a well marked course and had everything under control. Kyle asked the CAT 2's if we were ready, and Bart hollered out "Bikini Alert!". There was a young woman in the parking lot getting ready to go on one of the Seven Oaks Canoe trips and she was lathering herself up with suntan lotion in the parking lot. So, the start of the race was delayed as we all partook of the local scenery. Finally, she was finished and we were ready (heart rates high thank you very much). Off we went (racing that is...)...and I snuggled up about mid-pack to top 12 or so in line going up the big switchback climb.
The group wasn't going too fast, so I dropped it on the smallest of my 2 rings and spun up climb #1. At the top of this opening climb where one would normally turn left and descend back down the other side of the ski hill, we were routed to the right and up a small climb to skip that entire back section due to mud. One guy passed me on a short open section and settled right in the spot in front of me. Lap one was only eventful for the sake that several riders were having difficulty negotiating the switchbacks and were dismounting to push their bikes up the hill. I managed to get around 2 or 3 riders because of this. The descent into the start finish area was super fun and fast. We got to nail a right hand bender at the bottom of the hill on grass over to the start/finish area and fly over a small hill. It was a nice thrill ride portion of the course and got the juices going for lap 2.
I hit the climb on lap 2 pretty hard as things had opened up now and there was nobody in front of me. I guess I hit it too hard because by the time I had gone through the re-route, my stomach was having a discussion with my brain on whether or not it should heave-ho! I didn't want that, so I backed off a touch to recover. I ran into some riders off their bikes due to failed negotiations of switchbacks again and was able to pass another pair of riders. I was not climbing as well as I wanted to because the legs were tired. I opted for a lot of out of saddle power climbs to make up for it, and a lot of seated/high-spin climbs between. Not bad, but not top form. Lap two felt quicker for me and after enjoying the descent again, I realized my time was going to be sub-60 minutes making this a pretty short race indeed. I didn't mind that a bit considering the 10 hours during the build phase week I spent training on the bike.
I survived the opening switchback climb again, this time making sure not to turn myself inside out like I did on lap 2. I got passed by 4 or 5 CAT 1's during this lap that had started 6 minutes or so in front of my wave. And I was reminded that my speed was close to a standing still pace compared to what they are able to churn out throughout a lap. I heard and saw a couple of guys I had passed on lap 2 a bit behind me and had at it to fight them off and keep them far enough back they wouldn't catch me. I was flying on the final descent to hold them off, but managed to open up a nice gap to roll across with a time of 57:01 - good enough for 2nd Place in the 45+ age group. John Peters was 1st with 52:16 - so by about 5 minutes, and Sterling was 3rd in our age group at 59:26 and David Fish took 4th coming in at 1:02:02.
The weather was so nice, it was fun to hang out in it, visit, down a few beers and talk about the race series, costs, training for the Dakota Five-0, etc... . Kudos to Kyle and Julie for a great job. It was really enjoyable.