Yesterday was the Lookout Mountain Hill Climb.
Lots of people rag on this race because it's relatively expensive for a 4.5 mile race. I, however, like the race atmosphere and it's worth the $30 to me to not have to deal with cars going up and down the road when I'm trying to set my fastest time.
The forecast called for rain and snow showers.
I went to bed fully expecting to wake up to pouring rain, which would certainly have me crawling back into my nice warm bed.
When I got up at 6:15 am, I was surprised to see that, while it was cloudy, it wasn't raining and it certainly wasn't snowing. I rallied Chris out of bed and before I knew it we were in Golden registering for the race.
Girls went off at 8:40, Chris got to wait until 10:15. It was nice to warm up and have my own personal crew there taking care of my every need, including stashing a bag of warm gear in a car heading to the top. As I sat on the trainer, I thought about all of the times I've ridden up Lookout...
The first time took me around 45 minutes and I thought I was going to die. I froze on the way down.
The second time took me around 40 minutes and I thought I was going to die. I froze, again, on the way down.
The third time was in the race last year. I was gunning for the 30 minute mark, but I missed it and came in at 31:31. I froze on the way down.
The fourth time I rode it wasn't timed, but was part of a big day of riding from our house down to Golden, up Lookout, and back. I think I was actually warm that time.
The fifth time was last week when I met Chris after work for a quick spin up. I made it up in 31:50 and wasn't even breathing hard.
This year's race would be the sixth time up (at least that I remember).
I warmed up on the trainer, tapping into my new-found appreciation of a hard warmup, and then lined up with the cat 4 girls to start.
I started towards the back. I still feel like I'm not good enough to start toward the front of race packs. Perhaps one day.
The race was pretty routine. I hopped from wheel to wheel, drafting when possible, and passing girls left and right. I found one girl on a pink bike, going a pretty reasonable pace, so I settled in behind her and we cruised up the first 2/3rds of the hill.
When I rode with Chris last week, he pointed out that the big turn off parking area is around 10 minutes to the top for me. If I wanted to hit that sub-30 minute mark, I'd need to be at that point in the course around 20 minutes in. I had tried not to pay too much attention to my bike computer on the way up, since I really don't know a good pace for this route yet. However, when I hit the turn off I allowed myself to look down to see if I was near the 20 minute mark. I was fully prepared to see myself slightly over. I looked down and saw 17 minutes. I'm pretty sure a "Oh s**t" came out. I was pretty surprised to see myself going that fast.
Shortly after that part of the course I was getting major side splitting cramp things. You know, the ones you would get when you were a kid and you run too far too fast? Yeah, that didn't feel great. My legs felt good, I wasn't breathing too hard, but the side aches were really making me mad. My pace dropped a bit and I tried to follow a few different girls. Eventually I found myself in a spot between groups and I ended up riding the last sprint finish by myself.
As I crossed the line I looked down and saw the bike computer at 27 minutes.
I couldn't believe I had not only beat my 30 minute goal, but I had taken over FOUR MINUTES off my race time from last year. I hung around the top for a few minutes, putting on my many many layers of clothes for the 4.5 mile descent, and quickly bombed down to tell Chris the good news. (And no, I didn't freeze this time. The four tops, winter tights, and two pairs of gloves really helped)
I piled into Chris's big puffy belay jacket and took care of his pre-race needs, still surprised at myself. It was fun getting to watch the boys take off, Chris looking like he was shot out of a rocket immediately. He and Shawn both had good races, not far off their own best times.
The great part about a 8:30 am race in town? By noon we were home, relaxing, and settling in for a nap. After the nap we went and ate A LOT in Boulder and hung out at the bookstore while it rained.
It was a great day.