Today was the Lookout Mountain Hill Climb.
Before today I've climbed Lookout twice (on the road -- I've done a few more times on the mountain bike trail). Once in the freeeeeezing cold a few Januarys ago... it took me around 45 minutes to go 4.5 miles. The second was last week, while on antibiotics in between the first plague and the second plague that weekend. Chris, Bill, and I spun up it in about 40 minutes, but this time... gasp... it was fun.
So those two experiences put me on the start line of the race this morning at 9 am.
For once the women went off before the men, which allowed Chris to actually see me start a race and take some pictures. The Cat 4 Women's group was much larger than I expected -- no results are posted yet so I'm not sure how many were actually there.
After a quick miss of a girl falling at the start, the rest of the race went off nicely. Teammate Nicolette was there after originally planning not to be, so it was great to have someone to warmup with, chat at the starting line with, and freeze my butt off on the way down with.
We started together, but got gapped from each other by a few girls at the start and I wasn't ever able to catch back on her wheel. She's a strong climber and, despite never really riding her road bike very much, she did a great job and was quickly gone. I was left to fend for myself, passing girls that immediately imploded after their hard starts, but never really able to bridge up to a group which I know ended up hurting my time at least a bit. I kept a few rabbits in sight and tried not to let them go. My arms immediately cramped up (same thing happened at the TT on Wednesday -- not sure what that's all about, as I've never had my arms cramp up before) and my eyesight started to go a little weird despite not pushing all that hard, so I settled into a rhythm that was easier than I had planned. Eventually the eyesight got better and I was able to push harder and get more into a racing rhythm. I passed some girls but knew the main group was up the road too far to catch. At some point a girl passed me and I didn't want to let her away. I kept her within 10-15 ft the rest of the climb despite her efforts to shake me a few times.
I had a good rabbit.
As we reached the 3 mile mark (of the 4.5 mile climb), I started thinking tactics. I was feeling good and felt like I could probably pass the girl in front of me, my rabbit from before, but decided that it was too close to the end to pass up a good finish-line push past her. So, I settled into a good rhythm a few feet behind her and basically drafted up the last few switchbacks. As the road turned flat/down for the final push to the finish, she clicked up gears and I immediately matched. I could tell she knew I was there now, and seemed to be getting annoyed. With each effort she would put in, I would put it in too. I thought of the millions of times we've watched road races and I know the sprint finish protocol... let the guy in front do all of the work as they try to shake you, then swing wide and sprint past them to the finish line. Sounded like fun.
And it was.
We were really cruising as we clicked up the gears, and the last right turn was coming up that leads to the finish which is on a slight hill. On the turn she took the inside, right line and I decided to surprise her and make my move. I took the outside line, swung past her, stood up, and flew to the finish. Too bad no one was around to watch the fun except for strangers who probably didn't care, because it felt awesome. I probably really pissed her off, and the nice side of me feels a little bad, but it made the whole race worth it. I ended up with a time of 31.something and I'm disappointed that I didn't make it in under the 30 minute mark, because I know I can do it. But the finish was the highlight of the race, and it was serious fun playing the tactical game. Even if it was only the difference between 29th and 30th place or something.
Did I mention that after that push I had to cruise over to a secluded area because then I almost puked?
That's a good effort right there! Can't be disappointed with that!
I already can't wait for next year. The race is short, slightly expensive, and they didn't even have so much as water at the top... but to me it was worth it. Nicolette had a great race and got up in 28 or 29 minutes. We hung out at the top for a little while, saw some preliminary results, and then piled on some clothes (but not nearly enough) for the freeeeeezing cold decent. It was great to have someone to complain to the whole way down! We stopped at a parking lot on the climb and waited for Chris, Shawn, and Bill to make their way up in the Cat 4 Men. While we froze our butts off, it was so fun to watch them mid-race and cheer them on. We quickly headed down after we saw them and hopped in her car with a full heater blast to warm us up.
As it turns out, Shawn got 3rd place with some beer, cash, and a medal as prize. Chris was not far behind him... less than a minute... and he crushed his PR for the climb with a 20.something finish. Chris also enjoyed the team tactical aspect of the race -- something I think we both could get used to! Bill did awesome and crushed his PR by 5 minutes or something. For having 3 of the 4 most ghetto bikes in the Cat 4 Men, our team kicked some serious butt. I'm proud of them!
Overall, the race was a blast.
I can't wait to go back and prove to myself what I really can do.