The Salsa Two Four was supposed to be a 24 hour team effort that devolved into me doing a solo 8 hour version. The night before the event I was able to finally meet my teammate, Danielle Musto. Together we'd host an hour long ride for those interested, followed by a little chat time about endurance racing.
I felt pretty good going into this race and was really resting on the fact that I'm used to races in the 12 hour range. Overly confident I found that I was quickly "B-slapped" by Afton Alps. The event was phenomenally organized and Salsa just blew it up as a title sponsor! Full on body cramps and a mechanical eventually did me in on this baby. I was all done in at about the 5 hour mark - still good enough for a 7th overall. Everyone was hurting. It's safe to say I left this race disappointed and demoralized.
The WEMS' 12 Hours of Pitch Black Single Track came on the heels of an 11 day vacation complete with an over abundance of walking through downtown Chicago (over 50 miles in 3 days). Hoofing it through the concrete jungle doesn't sound that hard, but let me tell you it wears on you. My lower back was killing me and my hips were...my God my hips! "Please just get me on my bike where I belong!", was all I thought. The 'Pitch Black' would do just that.
I approached this one differently as I went out much slower and put less pressure on myself to try to take the race into my hands early. I wanted to see if I could come up from the back later in the race with conservation of energy being the focus, rather than "give it all up and then hold on!". I found that I had so much fun handling the race this way and the alone time in the trail was sublime. There's something about riding over night that bonds you to the bike and to what you're doing. I loved it and was able to rally late in the race closing on the leader, but not enough to grab the win. I'd settle for 2nd and be very pleased at the same time. A great way to end vacation.
Oh, the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival. What can you say about this race? You've got to be there to feel it. I've been there several times and it's addicting, you just can't say "no".
I had high expectations for the Cheq. Coming off of a solid effort last year I was looking for more. 2009's race had me on track for about a 2:20 and a top 100 for sure until a flat at the top of the Fire Tower climb took me out of that pace.
I brought Jorge into this race with me. You remember Jorge, the little guy that lives in my GPS. I set him up to finish in 2:20 then I proceeded to watch him totally kick my A%$. I just couldn't hang with the little B@S*&$D. He dropped me on every hill and rolling out near the back of the field didn't help my chances much either (at the start). Jorge got to start right on pace after the national anthem was done. I however, was forced for the first 15 minutes to ride like I was heading to the store for some milk.
There are no excuses. I just didn't have the top end speed, although I did the best I could. The Chequamegon left me smiling and disappointed (a little) at the same time. Hey, they aren't goals if they're easy to get, at least that's what I say.
Last but not least the glorious Heck of the North. My home town race and last scheduled event of the year. Oh, and back to the gravel. Chili would come back off the hook for this race and I'd be happy to offer her more than just my daily commutes to work and home. The pace began in what I would deem a casual speed. The main field stuck together despite a few concerted efforts to break things up. Miles clicked off before it was evident that it would be the off road sections that decided this thing. In other words, the guy who gets through the woods the fastest wins the race.
Due to time constraints and the risk of boring you the reader, I am obliged to let you know that I went into the pain cave/rabbit hole/red zone more than I ever planned during this thing. The pace went from complete boredom to sheer panic in a nano second. I was fortunate to grab a 3rd place overall due to some climbing still left in the 'ole legs. I should have worn a heart rate monitor in this one, pretty sure I was in humming bird status at times.
To sum up, it was a great year! Riding with Salsa Cycles made it extra special, not to mention getting to know the good folks responsible for these bikes. I like to think I've made some pretty good friends with those that work and ride for the brand. Also, thank you Amy for driving to all those little towns miles from home just so I can do what I love. Thank you Charlie, Jason, Jeremy and all the others who put up with my nonstop babbling through those cold winter rides. Thanks everyone, looking forward to starting it all over again.