As the first long, hilly race of the season, this would be an ideal opportunity to see if my Tuesday night not-quite-getting-dropped-on little-hills and sprinting would mean anything in the real world of racing. Any prognostications?
I stopped in Poky to pick up teammate Brian, and we buzzed on down to the lovely East Canyon Resort just over the hills from Salt Lake City (via a highway still closed for the winter - didn't bother me as I arrive from the north anyway). The course, identical to last year's, a thirty-mile out followed by a little-more-than-thirty-mile back. About sixty. A nice climb in the middle of the leg that meant good coasting on the way out, pain on the way back. A short (way too short) flat section then some small rollers up to the 9-10% grunter to the turnaround. Then back to the start and past it a mile to a final climb to the finish, up the closed highway. Climbing, my favorite activity.
The starts were in reverse order, for the alleged purpose of having everyone finish at about the same time: women 4 (half distance), 5, 4 + master 3-4, 3, 1-2. Lots of catching, is what that means out on the road. There were 15-20 5s, but only 7 4s so we were combined with the 9 master 3-4s. Slightly larger (20-25) fields of 3s and 1-2s, maybe 15 women 4s plus a couple studly-women riding with the 1-2s or 3s.
Following my usual strategy, I rode near the front at an easy pace until the first climb, where I started drifting back. Surprisingly, I didn't entirely lose contact, even though we caught a couple blown 5s (already) and one of our group fell off. Then I was feeling so fine that I pushed the pace on the way down, though that's easier for me to do than for the lightweights. They let me dangle out front for a while, even, and on into the rollers where I would dangle in front on the flats, dawdle up the little climbs, get caught, get bored going down the other side and roll off the front again. As I say, in fine fettle.
But at approximately one hour into the race - coincidentally, the length of a Tuesday night ride - a strange thing happened when we arrived at the base of the climb up to the turnaround. I bonked. Way hard. Maybe those masters were just waiting for the climbs, but I have a theory that I was going to get dropped on that climb anyway even if I had been a total wheelsucker up to that point. Anyway, boom, I fell off the back. Here come the 5s back down, kind of strung out. Almost to the turnaround, here comes my field down, also strung out. Headed back down, feeling a little tired, here come the 3s and 1-2s up the hill.
Now the race numbers were distributed in a pattern that was not quite obvious, so the three guys that caught me first were either 1-2s or 3s but I couldn't tell which. Actually they slowed down after they caught me, so I dropped them for all of two minutes and sat on for a couple more. Then, a climb and buh-bye. Rode by myself for a while, could see my field ahead in the distance but I wasn't making any ground on them. Next group of 1-2s comes by, I know they are 1-2s because Allan Butler is with them and he says "hop on", and I sit on them for quite a while. They aren't moving that fast on the flats, destroying my image of the brutal pace of the 1-2 supermen. They are riding echelon all over the road, though, so they must be 1-2s. Another group catches them/us (probably more 1-2s but maybe some 3s as well) and shortly I see them all recede in the distance up the next little hill.
Just not enough miles in me, that's the problem. Next Brian passes with the 3s, and I don't sit with them very long before a small climb dislodges me. Back through the small easy-off-easy-on town of Henefer, and it's up the same hill that was so nice to descend earlier. Which means a nice long climb, it's warmer out than I have ridden in all year-to-date, and so I am running low on water. Making an effort to conserve water, and besides it's not that much fun, I catch a 5 and am passed by a couple 3s on the way up. Of course nobody passes me on the way down, but one more 3 goes by as I make my way along the shore of the lake to the base of the finish climb. And slowly climb it, now really out of water.
Luckily the resort is but a very short coast downhill away, the one good thing about finishing on a hill. I go slug some water at the car, then we hear of the goodies out back on the veranda. Pasta salad, bagels, cookies. Mmm. At that point I am firmly convinced that post-race food is much more important than silly prizes or t-shirts. Take note, all you promoters. After reaching maximum density I lie in the warm sun, an unfamiliar experience.
The results are eventually posted, and with the unexpected breakout of 4s separate from masters I am listed at 6th. Of 7 finishers, true, but at least all the 4s finished the race - only 7 masters are listed on that sheet. No times, either, darn it. Well, no big and deep prize list, and Brian didn't win anything either, so we boogie for home.