Well the P2A has come and gone; and with it the tradition of inclement weather continues! On the drive to Paris with Heidi (our shuttle pilot), NewfieSteve, and English Jim, the rain began (as predicted...Environment Canada got this one right!!).
Got to Paris, geared up, then did several laps on the road to get warmed up, and do a double-check of gearing and braking. Met MikeO, and we did a couple of more laps, but this resulted in getting into the paddock too far back. Note to self, for next time...’get to paddock early, and get up front’!!! (And what the hell is with people who get to the paddock later than me, but think they deserve to push their way in front??? Next time this happens, someone is gonna eat a whole lotta glove!!) It continued to rain, steadily; but at least it wasn’t too cold (about 15 degrees at 10am and getting warmer). And we were off! The several hundred racers of wave one squeezing their way through the paddock start gate.
It was a serious mistake starting too far back. The road and rail trail was packed, and it was very, very difficult to pass, and risk being rude or wiping someone out. (There was a rider down near the start, and it looked serious.) However, in hindsight, I really needed to be more aggressive. Getting stuck back in the pack, and not aggressively passing put me too far back to make up. Note #2 to self...in the future, be much more aggressive passing when necessary!!
And the mud!! The spray in the pack was saturating!! The thin, slick coating on the top of the rail trail was a shower of muddy grit, coating glasses, skin, and clothing. The quandary was to keep the glasses on and be blinded, or to take them off and get mud in the eyes. I eventually elected to take the glasses off and hang them from my camelback strap. Then diving into the first bit of single track, looking forward to getting out of the spray of pooh, only to realize the rain had turned the trail into a gravity enhancing, tire slogging, thick bed of energy sucking mud. As I ground my way into the singletrack I shifted the front derailleur from the big ring to the small to make the work easier, but no response...no shift. The mud had clogged the derailleur, blocked the cable, blackmailed the shifter, or otherwise convinced the gods I wasn’t worthy of chainring gearing...and repeated attempts had no effect. Big ring, it was for the entirety of the race; which meant having to run a couple of the steeper, slicker hills.
The remainder of the race was the same; however the last half of the race saw less single track and more open road (gravel and paved), which gave me the opportunity to pass many other racers. Several attempted to hold on and draft, but for the most part I rode away from them. This was a great opportunity to test my fitness, and the effect of my winter/spring training; and I am very happy with my fitness level!! However, at some point I decided to reach down and check on my glasses...they were gone! I had lost them!! I don't even want to say what they are worth...dammit. Anyways, I digress; back to the race. Then came the last 3 km...Martin’s hill...a technical climb for the first 2km, then just a steep gravelly monster for the last km. I contemplated, getting off to manually shift the chain into the small ring to do the climb; or complete it in the big ring, then run the final steep climb. I stubbornly elected to stay in the big ring...I didn’t want to dismount, get out of the groove, then have to get going again.
All along I was watching the clock, disappointed with how close I was getting to last year’s time (2hr 31min 15sec). My goal was to be faster than last year, and to be as close as possible to 2 hours. I also wanted to finish in the top 250 to automatically qualify for wave 1 next year. As I came up the Martin’s hill, I was dangerously closing in on my last year’s time...hence the reason I did not want to get off the bike until I had to. So I ground up the technical section, skipping the bike over the roots, rocks, dips, puddles, mud holes...and in doing so the legs were in great form...but the lungs were starting to recoil...unable to pull in the oxygen as fast as the muscles were using it. I’m sure one of my lungs is still in the mud alongside the end of Martin’s road. And as I came upon the steep section I powered into the climb...only to quickly grind to a slow crawl. So, off the bike, pick it up and start sprinting...as fast as a forty nine year old Metis, in mountain bike shoes, hacking up a lung, with a bike on his back, on a 30% grade can sprint. (Did I mention, I also had to pee??) Halfway up, CaptainSydor (a talented cyclist I met on the MTBR Forum), was already finished and took the opportunity to heckle me. Someday...! Anyways, as I approached the top of the hill, and it started to level out...I stuffed a lung back in my throat, got back on my bike to cross the finish line in proper form. Race done; result...2hr 30min 5sec with a placing of 231st.
Although disappointed in the overall time (I was hoping for better), I had reached my goal...and in far less than ideal conditions. And I learned a couple of lessons for next race. Heidi graciously met me at the finished; threw me in the wheelchair (wheelbarrow?) and dragged me over to the truck to get changed and wait for NewfieSteve Overall, a challenging but great day. Can’t wait for the next race!!