Thoughts popped through my head as my legs and I had a disagreement about what they should be doing on the steep ending of Lehrbach, our last climb of the day.
Was it a stronger group this year?
Am I not in the fitness that I thought I was?
Was I having a bad day?
Did I give Chipotle too much of my business?
Was the effort I put in in miles 75-85 trying to break up the group catching up with me?
Was the course that much harder?
Was the 111 miles just a little too far for me?
Did I not eat enough?
Did I not drink enough?
Was it a combination of my leg injury/lack of sleep/and back flare up leading up to the race?
Combination of all or none of the above?
No matter what on that last climb, I forced my legs through leg seizing cramps to the degree that I have not experienced in years, forced to sit when I wanted to stand, forced to watch the top four guys crest the hill in the position I wanted, forced to watch my hope for the "Tri-Peat" escape. By far the most painful of the 3 Rags I have entered.
I can honestly say that the course felt tougher. I swear the hills were not only more plentiful this year, but the front group of guys rode them at a faster pace. The front group this year was stronger and more aggressive. Heath, your hill was a SOB in gradient, height, and it's really soft surface. "Heath's Hill" came at about mile 90 and was the toughest of the day. I headed back there to snap the picture above and enjoy other racer's pain while I ate my post race meal.
The race took 30 minutes longer than 2 years ago, but I consumed 500 calories less. I had some bad back flare ups this week that historically also mess with my digestion and makes it harder to process the contents. Thursday, my chiropractor was marveling how 3 of my vertebrae were so messed up they were tender to the touch. They were the same 3 that have been a problem at times before (in the upper thoracic region for those interested). So did I consume less from neglect or inability? I am not sure. I do know that my upper back hurt more on the car ride home then anything else on my body.
With the legs hinting at cramping just 60 miles into the race I was glad to make it to the bottom of the last hill in the front group. Brandon, Eki, Joe, Jeff, and Buff were strong and impressive as we hit that last climb and it was an honor to fight for the win with all of you (results). Although I crested that hill in 5th, I was able to rally and take 4th by passing Jeff, a guy I thought had the race won when he gaped us all on Heath's hill. I commend you all on a job well done and warn you that I will be back to try for the third 'Rok win in 2011.
The Superfly hard tail was absolutely amazing in it's performance. Torsionaly, I have have never been on a bike so fricking stiff and ready to attack. It has not been off road yet, but that will come Tuesday and I am excited for that ride.
Oh, and I highly recommend this race. Great/hard/scenic course and great organization make this a race to attend. See you next year!