That one hurt, a lot, really. I can honestly say that the furious pace set by all around superhero Mark G. yesterday, coupled with the intense heat and sun leading to dehydration and overheating, that this was one of the toughest races in a number of years. The odd thing is that despite being a massive "sweater", I'm usually pretty good with the heat. Yesterday, not so much.
The start was a blur of long sprinting to get to the front which, I felt I needed to be before the initial rocky section. Given the pace laid down by an ill Rob C. and the rest of the old guys this was no easy task. I'm guessing that we were probably doing 23 mph for the first KM of the race. I got to the front and went as hard as I could but with stinging legs on the initial climb up and into the woods both Mark and Steve W. came by me. Ouch, that was a little too much. I followed Steve who dogged Mark as best he could but Mark got some distance on us. A little recovery (not really) and I made a break to bring Mark back. This too almost the entire first lap.
Off the bat I was redlined and not responding well to the intensity. Not only was I overheating but the legs were loading up badly. I could tell it would be a long hard day. It was. I came through the start with a very minor gap but as soon as we got into the technical power sections or rocky and rooted terrain, I couldn't turn it over. Mark was instantly back on me, which had me deeply concerned given he'd raced Mt. Equinox the day before. We called a truce and agreed to work together, which we did for a while, but I knew Mark wasn't going to fade and worse, that he was riding better than me and was also stronger than me. The only places I could gain ground on him were on the steady power sections, which were the same places that would benefit a drafting rider working in tandem. Late in the lap I upped the pace and managed to pry some daylight between us.
The next couple of laps were about fleeing for my life and trying to ride smooth and safe but fast. As the time wore on this became more and more difficult. Finishing up the 3rd lap I caught Cathy, who was riding well despite having crashed hard. That always reminds me that no matter how hard I am suffering, she is always suffering at least as hard and typically for longer period of time. That is my inspiration and I soon realize that my efforts pale and that I need to just suck it up. By the end of the race I was a sloppy mess. I could feel the leg cramps itching to seize my quads and calves should I make the mistake of standing. Despite drinking what seemed constantly and throwing down a gel despite the complaints of my stomach, I also had some chills going. The end simply couldn't come soon enough.
Despite not being able to see Mark, who believe me, I kept looking over my shoulder for expecting to see him charging ahead, I managed to get across by a very narrow margin, though not totally unscathed. I'd soon begin the back-payment while baking in the sun afterwards waiting for the awards.
The sun cooked me and I could tell my core temp was over the top. We jumped in the van with the A/C cranked and drove quietly for home as quickly as possible while I concentrated my hardest on keeping composure. The core temp came down and the torrential sweats stopped but then the stomach took a turn for the worse. The final few miles home on back roads were excruciating but we made it home where I showered and laid down, only to soon lose it. Fortunately it was nothing compared to that time at Mount Snow when I really overdid it and got crazy sick after a MTB race. Withing an hour or two I was able to start to rehydrate and also started feeling like eating something.
Congratulations to everyone for suffering through that yesterday. It was great to see so many cycling friends and many thanks to Frankie M. and others for all of the cheering. It really did help. If yesterday was a shot across the bow in terms of the upcoming cyclocross season, I can tell it's going to be really, really tough season in the 45+ field.