Though the week leading up to the Soldier Hollow race was absolutely NOTHING but rain, I was still hoping that the race would occur. Sure enough, Ed Chauner (race organizer) used his magic tweets to convince me the course would be dry enough and the race was on.
Having spent two weeks in Europe eating too much bread, cheese, fatty sausages, and chocolate, not to mention not getting in too many bike rides, I wasn't feeling too optimistic for this race. Regardless, I'd show up and give it my best.
I reviewed last year's times for the expert class and the winners came in ~1 hour 30 minutes. I'd forgotten, though, that Ed shortened the course last year due to--wait for it--rain. So my expectations for race duration were seriously screwed up. Total race time ended up being ~2 hours 10 minutes.
I have participated in the Soldier Hollow weekly race series many times, so I know the course fairly well, but I never expected the Pain Cave to hit me as hard as it did on this race. We took off from the start (Expert men 19 - 29) and began cranking it on the pavement before the first singletrack. A Kuhl racer got ahead of me and was the first to enter the singletrack, I was the 2nd. I figured I could stick on his wheel for the first little while then try to pass him, but as it turned out, the distance between the two of us kept increasing. The Lindt factory chocolates in Switzerland had gotten to me and I was now slow again!
The Kuhl racer continued to gap me as we did the initial climbs and descents right around the Soldier Hollow complex, but as we hit the long switchbacks heading up to the top of the loop, I noticed I was making ground on him. Eventually, we got to a short pitch where he spun out in the mud and I was able to pass him. As I passed he said, "Dude, you rock," or something like that. My only response was, "You.reamsdimaldf." I meant to say, "You're an animal." I was red lining it too much to provide a coherent response.
Later on in the race, making the downhill turns in style
Needless to say, that was the last time I saw anyone from my category for the rest of the race. As the race continued and the Pain Cave became more Painful, I'd pretty much passed every Expert 30 - 39 (they started before us) by the end of the 2nd lap. I don't know if it was the mud, the race duration expectations, or the 'interval-esque' type course, but that race immediately threw me in the Pain Cave and kept me there the entire time. Even though I usually finish stronger than I start, I really had to dig deep to keep my pace up for the last lap of that race.
The Pain Cave
Near the end, I found that I'd gotten within 15 seconds of the last Pro rider, so that made me happy that I'd caught up to the tail end of the Pros (I never ended up passing him as he started his final 1/2 lap).
Ultimately, the race ended quite positively for me. I took first place out of all expert men by about 2 - 3 minutes, so I'm feeling that I'll probably do one more expert race at Draper, then move up to Pro so I can get my butt kicked week in, week out. Sounds like fun, eh?
A MUCH more reasonable length of post, was it not?