Yesterday, Denver reached a record high of 75 degrees.
So we headed for the hills for what we expected to be colder weather.
(not on purpose of course, how nice it would've been to have seen such a warm day around here)
It was the third winter race in the Leadville series. Chris has completed and, frankly, done extraordinary in the first two races. I intended to do the first one, but got sick in time to knock me out of that one. I expected to get better and race the second. Unfortunately that mad illness lasted longer than I would've liked and I was merely a spectator at the second. This week, I wanted to ride. No matter how I felt.
Lucky for me, I was totally healthy for once.
Despite the fact that this is a fairly small race series in a sleepy (and snowy) mountain town, the pre-race jitters were ridiculous. Whenever you put a nice mug of hot chocolate, plate of pancakes, eggs, and bacon in front of me and I hardly eat two bites... you know something must be up. I didn't really care how I placed, but I've never really even ridden in snow (minus commuting in college). I was nervous that I'd be cold. Nervous that I'd have to walk the whole thing. Nervous that I'd do something stupid in the unknown medium beneath the borrowed tires.
Once the race started though, I had a blast. And that cold weather? Yeah, no. It was so warm. My guess is in the 40s. Downright spring-like for Leadville.
We rode as a group up onto the groomed ski trail and within 20 feet we all were walking because of the choppy snow. I had a chance to look up ahead as Chris zoomed off the front of the pack on Pugs and I quietly cheered him on. Every once in a while I'd try to get back on, but would ultimately only go about three feet before getting off and resigning myself to walking in the slush. I ended up getting back on for a little bit and passed a few people walking. The first few miles looked a bit like this. Ride for a while, walk for a while, ride for a while, walk for a while...
I walked several sections but not nearly as much as I'd worried about before the race. Generally there was a ridable line on the left of the groomed track, but my wheel would often get sucked into the middle and I'd get myself into trouble. Once, near an old mine, I stepped off the edge of the track and postholed my left leg into the powder all the way to my hips. As my right leg stayed up on the trail, I used the bike to pull my other side out. I laughed hysterically to myself as I got myself out of the stupid predicament. At this point in the ride I could see Dave Nice up ahead of me a little ways and someone really far behind me, but generally saw and rode with no one. It was peaceful, quiet, and unbelievably beautiful.
The race itself was fairly uneventful. Just me, trying to beat myself into completing a snow race. My goal was to finish.
The most exciting moment came as I started a big downhill on a really well groomed section. The snow was hard and the bike rolled nicely. I cranked it up a few gears and pedaled my way down. It was nice to be moving on top of the snow instead of battling through it as I'd been doing previously. Unfortunately for me, I got sucked into someone else's tracks and my front end grabbed to the right and I hit the snow. Hard. I went over the bars, but wasn't going fast enough to actually fly past the bike, so I simply tumbled to the ground tangled with my machine. I got a handlebar to the thigh (which has left a fancy bruise and big fat lump), a seat to the ankle, and took the front end impact on my forearm and shoulder. Judging from the achiness today, I think I also got some bike part to a rib. I sat there for a second, pondering crying because it hurt, but instead I untangled myself (which actually took some thought and effort) and moved everything, realized I was ok, and quickly jumped back on the bike. My right quad felt totally dead where I'd hit it on the bars and my wrist was throbbing, but I knew I had no bad injuries so I went as long as I could for as fast as I could before the adrenaline wore off. I knew I should milk those endorphins for all they were worth. I kept repeating to myself -- that hurt, but that would've hurt a lot more on dirt, rocks, or pavement. So I laughed a little -- mostly at my own noise that I made as I crashed... a true oooooooomph.
I rode along some more, enjoying the scenery and ignoring my ouch leg. After a while I saw Chris coming back up my way. He was riding back to make sure I was doing ok and that I didn't have any mechanical issues. He told me he had won -- in 51 minutes. Dang. He's a serious rock-star. He rode near me for a little while, encouraging me to keep going and told me what I had left of the course. After a while he zoomed ahead to meet me at the finish line. Shortly after that I saw and passed Dave Nice who was not only battling the snow but also a killer hangover.
Pretty soon I saw the finish line and I slowly slopped my way across.
The beautiful weather was unbelievable to ride in. I was hot and pealed off my jacket in the first five minutes. The bad part was that the snow turned from nice, crunchy consistency to snowconeish by the end. It was one heck of a workout.
11 miles took me an hour and 41 minutes. It took Chris 51 minutes. Dang. He could've lapped me and almost beat me! I had a blast though and it was totally worth it. Today I am sore in the crash spots and my face looks like a tomato from the sun.
Chris got to add another big Win to his arsenal of awesomeness. I'm so proud of him!
How'd I end up placing?
I won the women's class.
And came away with an awesome Melanzana base layer, SmartWool socks, and a super warm hat.
Just don't ask me how many women braved the course...