I think that once someone has raced long enough, he or she encounters both. Race you dominate, and races you survive. Wilson Lake was a race I survived. That being said, I can honestly admit it was the hardest XC race I've ever done, and third hardest race overall only losing to Syllamo and Ouachita.
Doug and the crew must first get my kudos. They put on a great race, and I guess they have good karma too, because the weather was spot on.
I've never ridden this course although we've had many spoiled plans on trying to get up there the last few months. We arrived Saturday around 2, checked into our lovely casa, and headed over to do the hill climb. Let me say that warming up for 10 minutes doesn't do much in regards to preparing for an all out assualt on a hill climb.
The crib. An old converted grain shed, into a nice little four bed bunkhouse.
The outhouse which I never did find my way into...
It was fun to line up and race up the hill though. I didn't do so well, had problems getting going, and then almost came to a complete stop on one of the grass switchbacks. I think I ended up at 2:27, just three seconds shy of Travis's 2:24 and not even close to Aaron's 2:10. Cam put down a 2:15. I think I was 5th overall or so... I had burning lungs, dead legs, and a smokers cough, but damn it was still a hoot.
We took a little ten mile preview ride after that. I stuck with Cam, Trav, and Aaron E. I felt amazing. Didn't even feel like I was putting in that much effort, and kept thinking, these hills aren't too bad. I should have know I would eat my words the next day.
We arrived at the race Sunday morning after an amazing nights sleep. Something about being out in the country makes me sleep well. It was quiet, minus the owners dog who I think was protecting us from unseen predators by barking non-stop all night long.
I did a short warmup, after learning from my warm up mistake last week at Neosho. We lined up, and all be damned, there was another SS Expert! I knew this dude was serious, mainly because he was rocking a 17 pound GF Superfly, and also because he kicked my ass on the hill climb the day before.
We took off and I spun my brains out. Too much road for my taste to start, specially going up agains 16 other geared experts. Then there were us two SS'ers. He got a good postition, my wasn't bad. I came into the trail in about 10th.
We bobbled the first tech section and come the first hill I was able to pass a few riders. The next hill I did the same, where upon I'd stumble into my finishing spot, 6th.
The race was long... 27 miles of Wilson Lake goodness. I felt pretty good for the first 8-10 miles but then hit a wall. My legs went dead and I lost contact of eventual 1st place 19-29 rider, Justin G. I caught him early and rode for him a bit, but once the hills really kicked in, he was gone.
The race was a blur, as that's the way surviving usually plays out. There were times where I cursed my choice to race Expert on a SS. There were times where I wondered why the hell I even put myself in those situations. Why would anyone want to hurt this bad? I'm going to quit. No, I'm not, because I'd never hear the end of it. That is the one up side of having a bunch of dickhead buddies who you ride and race with. They're never short on sharp blows to the ego if in fact you do puss out and DNF.
I eventually manned up and decided that I was going to finish, and damnit was I was going to do it in style. I knew I was in 3rd in my group, but what I didn't know was that just up ahead, Cam had to pull out do to a major bonk.
The first 17 mile lapped passed and Amber was spot on with my bottle handup. From there it was counting down the last 10 miles. I knew once I got to mile 7, I'd be home free. That was the turn off.
Those last 10 miles were actually not as bad as the last 7 of the first lap. I muscled my way up most of the hills, but did have to dismount and briskly walk some. I had cramp twinges starting at mile 12, and had to be super careful to ride smart and not entise the cramps to full bore, laying on the side of the trail in the fetal postition, debilatating cramps. That would cost me time, and places. I had made it this far and wasn't giving up ground now.
Once we hit the turn off, it was one more big climb and then costing flats to the finish. I pounded my sprint to the finish mainly out of a pure estatic feeling of being done. It was over, I had survived.
There are times when you want nothing more than to give in and break under pressure. Times when you don't think you have anything else left to give, and that the next step is throwing in the towel. I think what seperates the good from the best is that the best know how to break through the wall, and pull through it no matter how bad it hurts, or how horrible you feel. This was one of those races. It took every last mental ounce of energy I had to finish like I did, but the upside of pushing yourself past your known physical limit, is that next time, you know you can push just a little harder.
Ethos had a good showing, with Travis taking 2nd overall, and his age group to a raging Aaron Elwell, Kevin doing what he does best, and rocking the 40-49 sport group, and I managed 2nd in the 19-29 and 6th ove 18 overall experts. Cam had a bad day, shit happens, and he had to pull. Sometimes no matter how bad you want to, you really can't push on. Luckily for me, I managed, and now I'm feeling like my legs got ran over by the beer truck. Get strong little men, get strong...