QOM Points: Part 4- THE Leadville Trail 100 MTB

We arrived in Leadville, the highest incorporated city in North America at 10, 200 feet above sea level.  Lets just say that Quinn and Margarita were thinking twice about following me upstairs at the awesome house we rented (the entire trip they surveyed whether or not I would be up there for a long or short trip before committing).  My favorite quote about the “city” of Leadville was when the mayor spoke at the pre-race meeting and said: “Welcome to Leadville, where you are two miles closer to Heaven.”

Welcome, flatlanders, to Leadville-where even talking is hard….

I found the house on my favorite go-to travel-with-the-pups website, vrbo.com, and, man, was it AMAZING!  It could not have been better, the woman we rented from could not have been nicer or cooler, and location, location, location!!  This house was practically ON the start line (and, right down the road from the National Mining Hall of Fame!!!!!!).

Woo hoo! Nice little Sunday planned–Mining Hall of Fame, if there’s time

We knew this would come in handy race morning, especially when noting that each morning the temps hovered around a balmy 36 degrees, the less the time to get to the start line the better!

It was definitely easy to spot….assuming you are not color blind

Not a bad view from the living room!

And, the house an AMAZING fenced in yard for Q and M! Q definitely liked it!

We settled into our house which we were sharing with friends from Miami also racing the event: Fast Freddy, LG (another teammate of mine), and her friend who was also from FL.  Ironman Danish and I knew it was important to stick to our ride plan and not get derailed by other training options.

The HUGE bump in the middle is Columbine…the first climb is St. Keeevins, the second Powerline….

Our first pre-ride of the course was set to be the Columbine Mine Climb.  I was tasked with riding this beast “easy.”  We drove to the parking lot just before the Twin Lakes aid station (at the base of Columbine) and began our trek.  There were several Florida-esque power climbs before you hit the valley that leads you the the mountain and all of it was on jeep road–rugged jeep road.  I also knew I did not want to ride for more than 1.5 hours, which would most likely for me mean that I would not see the top of Columbine on my pre-ride.  Ironman Danish did though and here is a sweet vid he took while up there (it looks a lot busier up here on race day):

While this climb is difficult, it was easier than anything we rode in Breckenridge that was for certain.  The only major issue (which is pretty major) is the lack of oxygen at the top, but, again, it was the same amount of oxygen we didn’t have when we were up on Wheeler Pass….Could it be that we actually were well oiled for this race?

Smiling at the top of Wheeler Pass–so, Columbine should bring some smiles?

The next pre-ride took place the day before the race (we always rest two days prior to any race).  St. Kevins (pronounced Keeeeeevins) where we would ride and integrate a few intervals to make sure we were warmed up for the big day.  I was a little worried, Fast Freddy said it was WAYY harder than Columbine.  So, in my head, I had began to picture St. Kevins looking like “Little French.”  We drove the three miles from our house to the base of St. Keeeeevins, parked, and set out to see what this beast was made of….or what I was made of, since it might be pretty tough.  While difficult due to the lack of oxygen, I was able to ride steady up this mountain at a reasonably easy pace (which was my goal for that day of training other than the intervals) and, in fact, turned to Ironman Danish when we were 3/4 the way up and stated “it must get harder.”  Turns out, it doesn’t and, in fact, I decided if St. Kevins and Little French got in a fight, it wouldn’t even be fair–Little French would crush St. Kevins.  You could give St. Kevins a spear even.

The start line being set up in downtown…

I was ready to do my thing at the LT100, nothing could make me feel unprepared for this race–not even the all night torrential rain the night before the race (yeah, that happened).  I had done a ton of research trying to figure what to expect for a finish time, and learned that almost everyone who also did ORAMM had finished the LT100 in their ORAMM time plus 3 hours–ok, so 11:03…then, I did some more research, consulting my favorite Joe Friel, to learn that I should expect to perform at 20% less capacity at altitude–ok so lets figure 9 mph avg speed if you take my usual race pace minus 20%–11:14.  So, my goal was 11:14 for a finish time.  I knew that this wouldn’t be easy, but it was going to be possible as long as I kept the push on the pedals– he is a video of Me, keeping the push on the pedals.

As you can see from the video, I finished!  Not only did I finish, but I crossed the line at 11:13 race clock time, and on my chip time 11:11!!! (yeah, the gun went off and there were sooo many people and we were in the back due to it being out first year it took us 2 full minutes to get to the start line timing matt!  Yikes!)

Approaching the finish!

A post race fist pump for Ironman Danish

While finishing was pretty awesome there were a lot of fun parts during this exceptionally long day of riding my bike….

1.  Power Line Descent.  This thing is Fun, FUn, FUN!!!!!  I had a BLAST bombing down this descent.

Woo hoo!!!

2.  Columbine Mine Climb.  While it is a grueling climb and being a flatlander I am not good at going up, the best part was seeing the WHOLE race developing in front of you while you are slowly climbing up the mtn.  I saw Ironman Danish bombing down the hill, all the top pros, Fatty, the runner, Fast Freddy, and caught up to teammate LG.  How cool!!  A chance to check in with EVERYONE.

Riders going up, leaders coming down….

3.  St. Kevins descent on the way home.  You are soooo close and you know it–so, again, bomb that thing!!

4.  Being done.  Yeah, the finish was pretty awesome.  I also got to meet celebrity The Fat Cyclist aka “Fatty” who WON the single speed division!  Now that is just asking for punishment….

Fatty!! Not the best picture quality, but you get the idea!

So, mission accomplished!  11:11 official time for DD!  103.3 miles most of which is above 10, 200ft.  Not bad for a flatlander.  Ironman Danish (aka freak o’ nature) finished in 7:58, Fast Freddy in 9:30, and LG in 11:37!!  Great day for all of us flatlanders!!

Celebs!!

Flatlanders (minus IM Danish) posing with our finishers sweatshirts and buckles!

Done and done.

Ironman Danish’s HUGE buckle is on the left….my more wearable version on the right…

QOM Points Part 3: Breck is Epic!!!

Finally!!  We arrived at our pre-LT100 training location: Breckenridge, Colorado.  Quinn, Margarita, Ironman Danish, and I were all happy to finally have no use for a car for the next 10 days.  I found us this AMAZING ski-in ski-out condo in town that in the summer transforms into ride-in ride-out.

Quinn checking out the view of the trails from our condo

Not 24hrs into being at this amazing condo was I reassured that great minds think alike when I contacted a teammate who I knew was also in Colorado for the summer only to find out that she was not only in Breckenridge, but was in the SAME building we were.  So now we had friends in the building, the Olympics on TV, and some of the most amazing trails right outside our door–how could this get better?

Awesome views!

Well, it did the day we first rode these trails.  The town and trails were amazing.  Granted, I had been here before and skied some of the same trails I was now riding, but I had never stopped and thought what it would look like without snow everywhere.

Ski trails=bike trails! If only I used the lift to get up here….

Turns out, underneath all that fluffy white stuff is beautiful green stuff, flowers, and intensly technical mountain bike trials.  The only real downside to riding out in Breck is that there is no downside–as in, uphill is your only real option for a ride-giving all new meaning to an easy spin (they arent as easy when your only choice is going up hill).

Anyway, we decided that our ride plan for the days leading up to the Leadville Trail 100 would not be to go crazy pre-riding sections of the course, but it would be best spent soaking in the Colorado mountain bike experience and ride sections of the Brek Epic race course.  Here is a description of the Brek Epic as described by the organizers:

Attention Weekend Warriors.

if you’re the type of guy who likes to give yourself one extreme challenge once a year…well, this is probably not the event for you. The courses will be long. They will be difficult. 90% of the terrain will be above 10,000 feet. Cut-off times will be strictly enforced. You could end up seriously hurt, having to sell what’s left of your bike and pay off your hospital bills by inspecting socks and underwear with your one good arm. At night.

If it rains you might end up dead. Seriously. Rain here is no joke. Especially the lightning-y parts. Sizzle! Getting fried will take your mind off the discomfort and uncontrollable shivering that come with a nice dose of hypothermia though. See? The glass is half full!

Back to weekend warriors – you guys can’t come. Then again, the architect of this event is a drooling fat-ass whose pinnacle of athletic acheivement was reaching the exalted ranks of the middle of the pack of the Expert field. And he (OK, “I”) could make the time cut-offs if I had to, and I’d put myself optimistically in the middle of the Sport class right now.

Bottom line? If you’re a lunchbucket Sport-class rider you CAN do this. And it’ll be awesome. If you’re prone to complaint you may want to bite off something a little more pedestrian. There’s a zany Herb Tarlek-looking dude with a nice little race about 10 miles west (as the crow flies)…

So, as you can see, the Breck Epic wards off weekend warriors with more than a stick, and in fact, claims that the place for them in the LT100.  Interesting.  So, what better way to practice for the LT100 than to ride a course that claims to be substantially harder?

Fuzzy Blumkin?

Lucky for us, the race also promotes seeing what the course is like and publishes Strava segments for the race stages on their website.  We decided to for the first time test the navigational powers of my Garmin Edge 705 and uploaded these segments so we didn’t get helplessly lost in the Rockies and end up bear food (luckily, I still have my bear whistle but not sure it works on coyotes or mountain lions….hmmm…dont want to test this either….actually, I am not even sure it works on bears).

I was not taking this picture to get a close up of Ironman Danish, but rather I was fairly certain I was going to catch a Mountain Lion or Bear lurking like “Where’s Waldo” in the background…

Our first ride was one of the stages that takes you up Little French Gulch.  All I have to say is that if this is “little” French, I would hate to meet “big” French.  This trail was NO JOKE and pictures would never do it justice.  Suffice to say that even the pros walk bits of this one.  In my head this is also what I had imagined Columbine and/or St Kevins to look like (good thing Columbine looks like beginner trail compared to this).

So, as you can tell, Little French is pretty easy to climb up…or walk, just ask this racer….

Our second ride was the stage that takes you up over Wheeler Pass.

If you ride the whole Wheeler Pass loop you can actually go up the mountain range in Breck and descend down Copper Mountain.

We choose to bail out early as it was appoximately 35 degrees and windy at the ol’ mountain top (snow up there too!).

We continued to ride different stages of this EPIC race in preparation and all I could think of was how hard that Breck Epic race is and how if I did the race, I would imagine that over the six days and 200 miles of racing I would most likely get in about 32 HOURS of riding/racing at altitude.  YIKES!!!!  And, that 32 is being optimistic.

Boreas Pass…another “easy spin”….

The hardest part about riding all these stages was that Ironman Danish was training straight through the races for, well, the Ironman.  This year he was selected as the US Coast Guard Ironman team member.  Pretty cool, right?  It’s cool, unless you are Duffy Danish (me) and forced to ride with the ol’ Ironman Danish when he has to do intervals.  We realized that we would have to develop plans that would enable him to get in his workouts and not kill me.

Luckily, we were able to pull this off no problem and we were even able to still both have energy left at the end of the day to have some family time with the pups!

Family long arm picture!

Q and M enjoying one of their many trail hikes…we saw a fox and a coyote on our walk one day!

We were actually bummed that we would have to leave Breck and head to Leadville.  But on day 10, we packed up the pups, bikes, and our crap and headed up another thousand feet to the town of Leadville….

QOM Points: Part 3- the LONG Road to Leadville

It was a true whirlwind.  We returned home from ORAMM, pups in tow, and just a few days later loaded up the Jetta for our journey west.  We took the usual precautions before leaving for any sort of long road trip:  make sure the Jetta was serviced and ready to roll, dog meds filled, stocked up on Ensure for us and Blue Buffalo for the pups, and made sure all necessary cold weather cycling apparel was dusted off and placed in our luggage.

Big Ben….Parliament

We loaded the Jetta to the brim, Google mapped our directions, and headed out on the long road to Colorado.  We got a late start on the road with a lofty goal of making it to Macon, GA before the point when we would need toothpicks to keep our eyelids open in order to stay awake.  Luckily, we made it, at midnight, but, we made it AND in time to catch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics where I desperately searched for friend and Olympian Amanda Clark in the crowd.  Unfortunately, we passed out pretty quickly. But, at least we would be ready to roll out nice and early the next morning with another lofty goal-this time to make it to Kansas City aka Oz.

My favorite part of driving in the middle of the country is you feel like you are actually in AMERICA (you don’t really get this feeling in Miami)

Kansas….

The next morning, we hit the road.  Of course we cannot hit the road without drugging Margarita.  I know, this may sound cruel and insensitive, but I have tried EVERYTHING natural to get her to be less anxious in the car.  Quinn, we have always said, get the right amount car sick–just enough to pass out asleep no matter how long the drive but not enough to throw up, get sick, or annoyed that he is in the car.  Margarita, on the other hand, gets the wrong amount car sick.  She isn’t as tall as Q, so she can’t quite see out the window–which I think contributes to her car crazy.  She spends every second no matter how long we are in the car desperately trying in vain to fetch overpasses, signs, trees, etc.  Once she realizes this is not possible, she just cries a fast whimper with the occasional squeel.  Needless to say, its awesome spending the day in the car with her.

We made it to Kansas City, pretty pleased with our Westward progress and were planning to arrive at our pre-Leadville training destination, Breckenridge, on day 3.  Unfortunately, our car had other plans.  As we gained more altitude, we realized that the car was really stuttering (for lack of a better word) when we accelerated.  I sorta felt like the turbo was on ultra lag, but Ironman Danish said that after replacing three clutches, he was certain our clutch was expired (the Jetta has 105, 000 miles on her).  So, rather than make our way up the final climb to Breck, we were forced to spend the night in Golden, CO and take the Jetta to a shop in the morning for a new clutch.  Lucky for us, Golden has some AMAZING trails and they happened to be less than one mile away from the La Quinta of choice for our pit stop (not an accident).

Howdy Golden, CO

One of the many trails on top of the foothills in Golden….

We had an awesome two days of trail riding in Golden while waiting for the Jetta to get her new clutch.  I learned that there are real live mountain lions out there (the put cages around kids school playgrounds–yikes!), rabid rabbits, and lots of amazing trails (one trail even looks down on the Coors brewing facility-aka Mecca)

Fight back! Don’t quit! (I mean, you have the rest of you life to figure out how to get out of this pickle right?)

Trail view of “Mecca”

We got the call the Jetta was ready and hit the road.  Man did that clutch feel nice!  But, the car still wasnt operating awesomely–turns out it was a turbo lag we were ALSO feeling (the clutch was done) thanks to a small exhaust leak.  As luck would have it, the ol’ leak has probably been there for a while but isnt noticeable at sea level thanks to the thick Miami air but once we hit 6, 000 ft, it became easily noticeable.  The mechanic said nothing to really worry about and that the trip up and back to MIA should not be an issue, we just might not get as awesome gas mileage in the diesal Jetta as usual.  We carried on to our home for the next 10 days in Breck.

Hello Rockies!

I had done some research (by research I mean I watched the Tour of California and its commercials) to learn that Breck has OVER 500 miles of mtb trails in the summer.  So, I decided that would be our pre-Leadville stomping grounds.  Turns out, I looked like a genius to Ironman Danish because they have some of the most EPIC trails ever….

QOM Points: Part 2-ORAMM

It was much warmer on race morning, making at least that portion of the race more enjoyable than last year right away.  We lined up next to Dicky, Garth, and just behind Thomas and Jeremiah (no big deal just bumping elbows with celebs).  The gun went off and we were underway for my second ORAMM.  So rather than provide you with a boring race recap, I have decided to spell out why this race is awesome (the reasons this race is awesome are also, I believe, the reasons why I was going to have an enjoyable experience in CO).  I have also included a video here that documents many awesome parts of the ORAMM (I am RIGHT there in the start of the video):

1.  Black Mountain, the town.  We rented an awesome bear-proof cabin just outside of town.  This town is AMAZING.  It has great views, awesome restaurants, and is a stones throw from AWESOME riding.  I can’t say enough.

Ironman Danish checking out the vista at the end of the road where our cabin was…not too bad…

1.  Kitsuma–twice.  So, some might think that this sucks (I was one of these ‘some’ a year ago).  I, however, have sorta come to love this steep beast.  I impressed myself this year on Kitsuma (I should note, impressing myself is not an easy feat).  I rode the steep switchbacks even with a lot of walkers (of course, the photographer was not there to catch this) and somehow over the course of a year I learned how to go down hill fast (note: I still do not go up hill fast–damn it Miami!)!

Silly rabbit–tricks are for kids…

2.  Star Gap– hike a bike given new meaning.  I mean, literally, I would have a hard time WITHOUT my bike.  This thing is a SERIOUS hike.  Zone 5.5 really.  But, this hike a bike  is part of what makes this race so rugged and awesome(which this year was hiking both up and down ’cause of serious rains they have had that have cause major run off ruts).

3.  Heartbreak Ridge.  I remember wondering why it was called Heartbreak Ridge prior to racing the ORAMM last year–and, after racing, you know why.  Heartbreak=enough said.  This is not single track, this is half track.  On this trail, even pros are humbled into respecting the trail since not only is it narrow (making it technical), it is off camber with a straight drop off the side, and not exactly a smooth trail.  This translates into a slow Duffy, only descending at an average speed of 11mph, but that is the price one pays to get better technically.

Some guy riding Heartbreak

4.  The post race atmosphere.  So, you roll up to the finish line and are greeted by a pretty anti climactic scene (like most all MTB races).  You finish and are immediately reminded to go get your post race beer and food.  This doesn’t sound especially exciting, but when you bump into Jeremiah Bishop while in the beer line, you realize that this awesome event is made awesomer by how low key it is.  Even the pros can relax in the ice bath (aka mountain stream) after a long (well, not as long as my day) day on the bike.

Post ORAMM party

5.  This year, for me, the ORAMM was also an AMAZING base training event for my upcoming LT100….I mean, 8 hours on tight technical trails (vs my 8h 45min from last year!)–how could you ask for anything more?  (you could definitely ask for less time on these trails, and maybe next year I can do 7:45?)….

And, there are awesome views all race long! (luckily i didn’t look at them–eyes on the trail)

We returned home from ORAMM and two days later packed up the dogs, the bikes, and all our gear and headed out for Colorado.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Lance Armstrong….

Virginia, your little friends are wrong.  They have been caught up in the drama and craziness started by an organization that is supposed to stand for what is good and right in sport.  They believe as they read in the press, they do not think on their own and look at true facts.

Fact: Lance beat cancer

Yes, Virginia, there is a Lance Armstrong.  Lance Armstrong might not be on paper, record books, in yellow jerseys for too much longer thanks to the USADA, but Lance Armstrong is more than records and results:  Lance exists in the way modern bicycle races are today, in the drive exhibited by cancer patients to fight for their life, and in the cocky confidence that every top athlete possesses and makes us love them.  As Lance, himself, said it’s not about the bike.

Once the public heard the news (which Lance himself broke via blog), people immediately accused him of being a fraud of a fighter and, thus, immediate assumption of guilt.  I too Virginia, felt a bit like people were trying to tell the world there is no Santa Claus.

BELIEVE!

While the haters will hate, Virginia, it is important to remember that Lance is more than a bike racer.  He is a man who proved to millions upon millions that cancer can be beat and made to look the fool.  He is a man who paved the way for how we race bikes today (a team–who would have thought?).  He is a man who founded one of the most successful organizations ever dedicated to fighting cancer and inspiring others to fight the disease like hell.  So while he, to some, might no longer be a “hero” and USADA and others might try and take away yellow jerseys, remember: the most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.  So, years from now, will people choose to remember Lance the bike racer, “a doper,” and no more?  Well, if the USADA and the haters have their way yes.  But, if you continue to believe, continue to KNOW that there is more to the story– the inspiration his fight gives cancer patients and the drive his organization has to take on this deadly disease–the memory of and belief in what Lance means will Live-on and Livestrong forever.  I do not know if Lance doped, nor do I care and neither does my brother who is kicking cancer’s ass.

QOM Points: Part 1- The Buildup

So, this summer I set out with some pretty lofty goals:  I was going to race the ORAMM (aka the best Mountain Bike Race ever) and then just a month later turn around and race the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race (aka the Race Across the Sky starring a certain Lance Armstrong and a Mr Dave Weins).

As the dates got closer I was more and more convinced I was not ready to tackle these big days and began to doubt my training and preparation, I even sort of began hoping that for some catestrophic reason (in which no one was injured of course) they would have to say the LT 100 2012 was not happening.  As the date got closer and closer, I realized this was not going to be the case and I was going to have to face my fears (I wasnt really afraid, but I cant think of a better word), pull up my jock strap, and get er done (or, in the words of Ken Chlouber, I committed that I would not quit)

So, I started with the ORAMM.  This race is absolutely amazing, minus the fact that you are constantly reminded that you are surrounded by large bears, and it was just a year ago that the ORAMM was my second mountain bike race EVER–oh how time flies (as did the swear words I hurled at Ironman Danish in the painstaking process of learning this wonderful sport).  This year we did things a bit differently.  We went up about three days early, booked a house through my FAVORITE site of all time VRBO in the woods, took the dogs, and were minus one Fast Freddy and minus our friend Ra-ul (his name is actually Paul, but a friend misread his name one day and thus began our calling him Raul) who was supposed to join us.

My trusty Bear Whistle

The cabin we stayed in was fantastic, again, minus the reminder that BEARS ARE EVERYWHERE thus resulting in my not wanting to go outside alone ever (or at least not without my trusty bear whistle).

We cooked out own food, had a lovely workshop area for bike maintanence, and it was still close to town.  The plan was to ride snipits of the course in the days leading up to the race (not long rides, just carefully planned with the occasional interval as the sooth sayer Joe Friel would approve of).

Ironman Danish getting some help from “wrench” Margarita

We started our NC riding with, of course, Kitsuma.  Kitsuma=not nice to me last year.  I was pleasatly suprised upon my return to this challenging climb and descent that not only was I able to ride every switchback, but, I was able to haul serious mail on the descent (something that I had struggled with the year before).  Sweet!  The next day we took a rest day since we ALWAYS (we=Ironman Danish and I) take two days before an event as a rest day.  The day before the race, we moved on to riding some of the double track road you descend after you climb star gap.  I had erased most of this portion from my brain from the year before I discovered upon getting there since I did not recall nearly as many “rolls” on this rolling descent to the bottom of Curtis Creek Road (aka the 9 mile climb).  Good thing we rode it–phew–now I be totally aware of where I was on the miserable double track the entire time–yippee! (biting sarcasm, but, really, it was good to pre ride this part).

Race Morning on the way to the start line–this isnt even Instagrammed…

The next day=race day.  I was a bit nervous, as is usually the case for me before any race, but all things considered calm since this year I knew how to ride my bike substantially better than last year…..TBC

World Championships are hard…

So, it is rare to have someone lodge a complaint that the World Championship they just competed in was “too easy.”  This past weekend marked my second time competing in a World Championship.  My first World Championship was in the 470 with good friend and teammate Amanda Clark during her first and my first and only 470 Olympic Campaign.  The regatta was held in Koper, Slovenia and when the “Bora” blew in (aka wind from the mountains) the race was on!  The racing was hard, after all, it was the World Championships.

Not at the Worlds, but a cool shot of Amanda and me (front of the boat) in the 470

Fast forward 11 years and I found myself lining up for my second World Championships (not including the “Miami World Championship Races”) the ITU Cross World Championships this past weekend in Pelham, Alabama.  I had done the prerequisite amount of internet googling/stalking to “know” my competition and had prepared as methodically as I could for the race since qualifying out of Xterra Miami in March.  In a field that was to see 18 women in my 30-34 age group, I was hoping to place 10th and, in fact, even had a dream about it a few nights prior.  I knew my swim was not the fastest, but average.  I knew I had a strong bike (pretty much that’s all I ever have going for me in a triathlon) but would have to deal with traffic.  I also knew (and have well documented) that I am not the fastest runner out there but was confident I could at a minimum run 8:30 min miles on the trail for the 6 miles required.  This, of course, was barring any major incidents and all other items going as planned (does that ever happen?).

From Right to Left is Me (ears), Beata, and Melissa–my FL MTB buds who were about to have great days!

That being said, race morning I was feeling ok.  Not awesome, but not terrible.  In all my years of being an athlete, typically when I feel that way I end up having a pretty solid performance.  I came out of the swim with a time almost to the second that I expected.  I had a less than terrible transition and hopped on my bike for my favorite part of the day.  I noticed coming out of the swim that friends and Florida mountain bike racers Beata Wronska (racing 35-39 and who was having a GREAT day it would turn out) and Melissa Scott (racing 40-44 and was also having a good day) were RIGHT behind me.  Onto the bike I immediately got down to business.  I knew if I wanted to do well on the bike split, I would have to take major risks on the descent to get up as much speed as possible.  I began the climb up the mountain and was feeling ever so slightly flat but figured with no one in sight behind me (after passing Beata and Melissa and about 20 other women shortly after transition) I was in a good place.  I figured also I was in a good place when I saw some familiar 30-34 age group names on kits as I passed them on the big climb (4 miles long with occasional 24% grade sections).  I was ready to rip down that hill and was pretty happy with how my race was developing.  That is, until, I heard friend and fellow MTB-er say “go Duffster go” and I realized that Beata was right behind me.  Clearly, I had not been pulling away from anyone like I felt I had been.  This was exciting and disappointing.  Exciting because I knew that my friend was having a GREAT day of performance and disappointing because I knew I was not–my RPE was WAYYYY OFF.  We summited the top of the climb together and I told her she was having a great day before taking off down the hill as I am a faster descender and knew I had to be even faster than usual if I wanted to stay ahead of all my fellow age group racers who I had passed early in the race as well.  I “turned off the breaks” (ala Maja Wloszczowska) and headed down the mountain.

I was hauling–20-25mph is what my computer had me at for almost the entire descent.  I pulled out of sight and hoped that was enough to keep me ahead.  I got to “Blood Rock” (which I had pre decided I would not be riding in its entirety–I rode the first three drops and then dismounted for the really technical section) and had many spectators lined up to watch potential Blood Rock carnage.

Yeah, this is Blood Rock–you ride down it…I walk…

I was not one they would be watching take on the obstacle and I hoped to run down it so fast that my rolling descent could continue with hardly any hesitation.  Back on the bike and I again turned off the breaks and let ‘er rip again and back up to 20 mph.  I was launching over obstacles and off drops and was getting more and more confident.  So confident, in fact, that when I came across a 3 foot drop off a rock ledge I had encountered before on pre-rides (slowly and methodically descended down or walked on all pre rides) I decided that I was feeling so fast and so good I would try and launch off of it.  Well….launch I did–over the handlebars.  Apparently, I didn’t lift my front end quite enough to get past the obstacle, loaded up my shock, and flew super man style over my handlebars tucking and rolling onto my right side.  My bike was one full level up from where I landed on the natural stairs after the drop.  I felt like Ricky Bobby flying through the air….

I stood up, shook it off (as best I could) and tried to get back after it.  I figure I lost at least a minute on my bike split from the crash.  The crash didn’t only affect me on the remainder of the bike, but it hurt on my run.  I came into transition still ahead of my friends Beata and Melissa and still ahead of the girls in my age group (somewhere in 8th place or so in my age group), but not far enough as I was caught by pretty much everyone when my body said “no” to running faster than 8:45 mm pace with a VERY bruised shoulder, hip, wrist, and knee. (my run also looked a little like Ricky Bobby’s after the crash–I was all over the place and, being in a tri suit was pretty much already in my underwear).

My run–resembling Ricky Bobby post crash….

Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty.  I crossed the line 12th in my age group and last Florida mountain biker….disappointing for sure, but lesson re-learned:  World Championships are NOT easy.

Happy to be finished…

Happier to be drinking a beer on the cabin porch with Ironman Danish and buds post race (ice pack on shoulder)