Prologue: Highly depressing winter. I could never imagine that I'd hate going downstairs to ride the trainer as much as I have. The only thing keeping me going was the knowledge that if I didn't train regularly, I'd get all pudgy again and have to work that off--no thank you. So somewhat religiously (haha, the only religion I claim to have now) I would suit up, head down to the trainer and let Bruce of UMB.com beat me down with the "Utah Mountain Biking Power DVD." It is quite the workout. Thankfully, three to four months of winter pass and the signs of ICup racing are starting to poke out from under the snow, and I'm starting to get excited. I have been training pretty well all winter, I'm feeling strong in my riding, I'm going to move up to the expert racing category--life is good! (Yeah, like it's going to turn out that easy.)
The weekend before the Red Rock Rampage I was actually planning on heading down to St. George with a friend / co-worker to do the "Zion Early Spring Century." As the date approached, the weather down there seemed to be getting worse and worse, so I opted to not go since riding 100 miles in 35 - 45 degree rainy weather was not my idea of fun. It's a good thing I opted out because starting on Friday I starting coming down with a little cold. "Not to worry," I thought. "I get over little sicknesses in a jiffy." Well, this one (given to me by my kid with a double ear infection) wasn't so tiny--I was completely knocked out for the entire weekend and Monday. Great. One week before the first ICup race and I'm completely laid out, suffering in solitude since The Wife was taking care of The Kid (and doing all of her school work simultaneously).
Ensue more depression. Blech. Well, Tuesday comes and I'm feeling a bit better--not phenomenal, but I can get by. At this point, I'm thinking I won't do the race, but just head down to enjoy the nice weather and spend time with the fam. As Wednesday and Thursday come, though, I start feeling much better (my Wolverine powers kicked in), and I was able to get ~1 hour on the trainer each night--no hacking cough, not too difficult to breathe. I was feeling pretty good! The race was on.
The Pre-race: Saturday started off quite nicely--breakfast at the hotel, packed up everything in the car and headed to the Green Valley Race Loop for the event. Once there, I did a quick review of my bike to make sure everything was good. Uh oh--I'd failed to check my disc brakes the night before, and my front pads were nearly worn out. I ran over to the UMB tent to see if they had any available and thankfully, they did. I grabbed a pair, ran back to the bike, replaced the pads, and thought everything was good to go. Well, as I pumped by brake lever to make sure the pads were braking properly, the lever stuck. What. The. Crap. I'd never experienced this.
So I ran like a little girl in a pretty little dress over to the UMB tent where I asked Mike (the UMB fix-it guy) if he'd ever seen this. He'd never seen it, but he got to work trying to bleed the brakes thinking some air / pressure might be causing the lever to stick. It wasn't that since he couldn't get any oil to flow through the brakes, so we were now down to taking apart the entire brake lever (and the multitude of tiny little pieces involved) to solve the problem. To make an already long story somewhat shorter, Mike ultimately got the lever piston up top unstuck (I helped a little bit!) and my brakes worked flawlessly for the race. A MAJOR thank you to Mike for that (he told me that I'd need to bring a blue ribbon for payment, but I knew that wasn't going to happen. OR was it?!?!? Forebode.)
The Race: With my brakes fixed, I was ready to go. Having decided to race Expert Men 19-29 now, I was hoping to come in middle of the category and somewhat middle of the pack for all experts. Truthfully, I didn't exactly know how I'd do. As we lined up, I did recognize a couple of those phenom younger kids (aged like 15 - 18) in my category who would definitely kick my butt since they are like national champions in their age category. Oh well! I'm out here to have fun, right?
After the Pro Men took off, our category was up next. Side note: expert men racers are so much more friendly / congenial on the trail during passing situations than sport men racers, and a benefit of starting right after the pro men is not having to pass expert / pro women who REFUSE to move over because you are a lowly 'sport' racer. --End rant--. Lining up, it looked like there would be eight guys in the 19-29 category. "Ok--shoot for 3rd or 4th," were my thoughts as I prepared to take off. 5-4-3-2-1-Go! We were off. The start was actually not too intense, but we all kept a pretty good clip from the get-go. The two phenom kids led the way out and I was close behind in 3rd.
As we continued up the first long climb of the loop (a total of 3 loops for expert), the two younger phenom kids were beginning to gap me and a couple of the guys who were behind me had covered some ground, one of which was right on my tail. After the first long climb, there is a relatively long descent before the 2nd major climb of the loop. As I started bombing down the descent, I could see one of the phenom kids not too far ahead of me, but one of the kids had experienced a mechanical and was off on the side of the trail presumably looking for a part of his bike (sucks). So I was back in 2nd! Didn't last long though. On the 2nd major climb of the 1st loop, the guy behind me in my category (as well as two guys from the expert men 30-39 group) passed me. Nuts.
I wasn't too worried though as I was feeling pretty strong and was enjoying the race. On the major descent back to the starting line, I actually caught up to the guy in my category and passed him, following one of the guys in the 30-39 group closely for the rest of the descent. I was back in 2nd and feeling good as I began the 2nd lap.
One of the few pictures where I don't look too much like a doofus hyperventilating
The 2nd lap flew by without much happening. No one in my category passed me, and only one guy from the 30-39 group passed me (and I believe I caught up to a Pro racer or two as well!).
As I began the 3rd lap, I was feeling a bit of the fatigue I was expecting, so I downed a Gu and sloppily drank from the water cup that the volunteers were passing out. As I motored through the first half of the 3rd lap on both the ascent and the descent, I didn't see anyone close on my tail. I was still riding strong, and I figured I could finish in 2nd. On the final climb of the 3rd lap, I switched positions with a Pro rider a couple times who ultimately passed me before the finish, but he was off to do his final lap (boy was I glad I only had three to do rather than four).
On the top of the last climb, I looked back and didn't see anyone I could recognize (by now I was passing a lot of sport riders so it was difficult to know with whom I was competing anyway). On the final descent I knew I wouldn't get passed because I was handling this downhill extremely well, and I was just BOMBING down the trail. Concentrating on getting the 2nd place finish, I was enjoying this quick descent. But wait! Who is that up ahead? The 15 year old phenom kid (Justin Griffin is his name) isn't that far ahead of me!?! I decided to let off the brakes a bit more and rocket down the trail as fast as I could. As I caught his wheel, I waited for one second for the trail to open up and shouted "PASS!" (quite breathlessly I might add) and zipped by him. I couldn't believe that I'd caught up to him no more than two minutes until the end of the race.
After the long downhill, there is a short 'flatish' section right before the end. I motored my way to the finish line and crossed with a time of 1:24:33. Wow. I was glad I was done. I was also quite pleased with how my bike performed during the race. And I'd taken 1st place. Not bad.
Net net, I took 5th out of all ~70 expert men (3 30-39 men, and 1 40+ had better overall times than me), so I'm feeling pretty good right now, especially after having come back from a sickness. Ironically, doing well only makes me want to train harder (I have probably done the Suncrest loop 3 times since then just to keep my climbing legs going).
Oh, as an aside: the following morning, I did the Zen trail and my rear derailleur somehow got ripped off as I descended some rocks. So there's another $200 repair I'll have to take care of. But I went on an awesome hike with The Wife and The Kid, so I didn't really care about damaging the bike.
Man I am wordy. Hope you enjoyed.