|Topping out the Fire Tower climb. |
Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival 40 (Photo - Skinnyski)
So, with all that stuff being said about the preferred start I started in the back - way back. I vowed to pin the start as hard as I could in order to climb up into the leading groups, but this is much easier said than done. There are approximately 1,900 riders in this race and weaving in and out of riders in order to get as close to the front 100 as possible is very difficult and sucks up a lot of energy. In fact, I glanced down at my gps at 57 minutes into the race and I had not ridden in the "hard" part of the trail once. I was forced to ride in the soft grass of the ski trail attempting to pass slower riders. I told myself, "if it doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger". After all, I only have one way to earn the preferred start and that's to just bear down and make it happen. I wanted to jump into fast moving groups hoping for some respite in their draft, but only found a few minutes of comfort before I felt it necessary to push on from the group and go it alone. This pattern repeated itself over and over and I found the miles ticking by.
"Going it alone" became the theme of the day. I was always surrounded by riders, but felt no kinship to them as established groups were hard to come by. However, I wasn't completely alone. I had set my gps to race the little man who lives inside that I've named Jorge. Jorge has made an appearance on my blog before and now he's back. Jorge was set to race a 2:30 Chequamegon and it was my job to beat him. I became consumed with racing Jorge. He's a fast little guy and the hills just don't seem to bother him. He goes the same speed all the time. We yo-yo'd back and forth the whole day, but I never let him get too far ahead.
Finally, with 4 miles to go I noticed that my portion of the gps that represents me was black. Black meant I was behind Jorge. Not good! I squinted hard at the fine print to find that he was .2 miles ahead of me. Not to worry, I had a couple miles of downhill gravel in front of me and I was hitting 30 mph, reeling him in fast. Damn, the last two miles of the course consisted of huge rollers, which he handles really well. We came to the final climb neck and neck, but I slowed on the hill while Jorge launched up it at 16.5 mph. I nailed the descent into the finish area as hard as I could, but he beat me by 513 feet!
It was all good though, because the course distance on my gps came to be a bit short of 40 miles, so I did beat my time of 2:30, with a 2:28:04, good enough for 118th place. I really wanted top 100 and a time better than 2:30. Maybe I could have had both if I would have had the preferred start...maybe?
The Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival is a class act and a race I just keep coming back for. Next year I'll sleep at the starting line in order to line up close to the front - just kidding.