This early season has been a strange one in Colorado, especially up here in the high country
where I'm writing now; watching it snow again.
As I prepared for the Front Range 60 Marathon, I imagined racing with temperatures in the 80's was going to be a treat. It would be great to ride without arm warmers, knee warmers or a jacket. I also knew that a highlander like me would have to deal with "hot" temperatures - yes 80's is hot for us mountain folk!
The racecourse consisted of super fast single track with short grunty climbs, power sections and fast descents - a great early season training ground.
From the gun the pace was fast and I found myself a little off the back. I had managed to stay in the top 20 and as I settled in, I tried to pick off a few more riders or grab a wheel. On the approach of the Mount Carbon climb I was caught and passed by a friend Tony who was climbing great and looked comfortable. I tried to grab his wheel but my legs and mind didn't want anything to do with that. Climbing has been a little hard to come by up here in the mountains. I guess I have something work on!
For much of the race I tried to keep my friend in sight; he would pull away on the climbs and descents, and then I would make up some time on the flats and power sections. Today the descents seemed a little alien; I was consistently checking my speed, sliding around corners and losing time. Nothing like a little race pace to expose some rust; better get out and ride some more dirt!
Even though the form and skills seemed a little off, I was happy with my lap times and my pace, which kept me pushing as hard as I could. I was consistently in the 38-minute range and my goal of a sub four-hour race was still attainable.
As the laps wore on, the temperature began to rise. I stopped for some endurolytes before going out on lap five. It was hot and cramps are always on the mind this late in a race. Endurance events of this length are when your training counts; the heart and legs are pushing as hard as they can and it takes a little extra concentration to keep your mind focused on the race at hand and the intensity of race pace.
As I rolled through the start finish area to go out on lap 6, I grabbed a water bottle and hoped it would be enough. I definitely wasn't feeling my best but I figured I might catch a few people who were feeling worse. I had been told once that "no matter how bad you feel, everyone else is feeling just as bad or worse". That thought kept me pushing as hard as I could and hoping for a catch or two. As I made my way through the course, that advice came true. I was happy to get back a spot or two before I rolled to the finish.
Hitting the finish line always feels good, with the sense of accomplishment and reward of reaching your goals. This race had drained me quite a bit more than Voodoo Fire. Maybe it was the heat or lack of early season form; but once again, I had a blast suffering through the ups and downs of a mountain bike race!
Ezekiel Hersh, Rider and Racer