Thursday, June 3, 2010

My First Ultra Cup Win.

This is my race write up for the Balltown Double. Thanks Joe and Dave for putting on a fun event.

The race weekend started with a road trip with my daughters, Katelyn and Rachel. We drove up to St Louis on Thursday before the race. We got into town about 7 and stopped to see the arch up close and personal. Rachel decided that she really needed to go to the top of the arch so we grabbed a close hotel for the night. We returned first thing Friday morning and took the trolley ride to the top and then headed on our way to De Witt - via Monmouth to visit college.

We got to De Witt about 4:00 on Friday which gave me enough time to do a 11 mile leg stretch in the early afternoon to recover from two days in the car. I rode out with Wendel Hyink and got a chance to talk with him about his riding. After this quick preride, I took a quick shower then we were off to "Happy Joes" for a group dinner which was quite enjoyable. I was hanging with Larry, but also met Steve Wartenburg who is writing a book about ultra racing.

The race started off at 5:30. It was already light enough that we did not need our lights so it was a great time of the morning to ride. The temp was in the low 60's but wouldn't stay that way for long. We headed east thru town and then turned north. I pulled the group out for about the first 5 miles then started working in a group with Steph M and a couple of others. For about the first 35 miles I did about 1/2 the pulls and Steph did about 1/4 with everyone else working in as they were able.

At mile 37, I decided to go it on my own. We had hit a couple of hills and I got out in front of the group, so I decided that now was the time to go. We had a couple of more hills and I was completely away from group. The first stop was around mile 50 when Katy and Rach had me all set and I was in and out of the stop in less than 2 minutes.

I continued to cruise along until mile 80, where a pot hole met my rear wheel. I just had a feeling that I would be flat in the next mile and, as predicted, I was on the side of the road changing my tire in 1/2 a mile. Since nobody caught up to me during the tube change, I decided that I really had a chance to win the race. I got on the bike and kept pushing hard, keeping a 20+ MPH average.

At about mile 90 we hit a road detour and had to take a gravel road. That would have been just fine, but a farmer had just oiled the part of the road that went past his house so we had a 300 foot stretch of road full of fresh oil. Time to suck it up and ride thru it and keep going. The 2nd stop was at about mile 105 and the girls were ready again. This stop was going to take a little longer though because I needed to pump up my rear tire, get a new tube and inflator, and completely reload my camel back and food stash for the return trip.

Just as I was leaving the 2nd station, a group of 5 riders pulled in including Paul C and Steph M. As they were pulling in, Steph said this is probably the only time we'll see you and she was right. I was thru the first 105 miles in just over 5 hours but the return trip was going to be much harder.

The return trip was much harder due to two factors - wind and heat. When we left in the morning the wind was from the north east, but had switched around to the east during the ride up and now was from the south east for the return trip. It also went from 5 to 15 mph. The day had started out mild and was supposed to stay in the low 80's but had reach 90 in the early afternoon. Both of these factors made the return trip much harder and take longer.

At around mile 107 we hit the steepest climbs of the day, which hit around 15%. The biggest problem was that after the climb the downhill section that followed was kind of sketchy. This meant you couldn't get aero and fly down the hill. You had to stand and maneuver around the pot holes. As I was standing and weaving - I took a direct hit from a bee/wasp (some stingy son of a b. about 2" from dead center). This made the downhill so much more interesting.

We had a couple more testy climbs in the next 10 miles, then the course leveled out to rollers again so I was just fighting the wind, the heat and a new enemy - the black birds. Somewhere between mile 125 and 130 I had the not-so-pleasant experience of having a bird hit my helmet. The first time it happened I really wasn't sure what hit me. The second time, the bird tried to lift the helmet off my head. So if you need a reason to wear a helmet - it's for protection from crazed starlings.

The race proceeded from here as more of a test of survival than a race. My average speed kept dropping as the wind speed and temperature kept increasing. Stop 3 at mile 150 was another good stop by the sisters - who had done a great job in keeping me going. At about mile 170 Joe passed me on the way in and asked if there was anying I needed. I justed wanted to know if anyone was close. He said everyone was quite aways back. This made me feel pretty good and I kept pushing on and looking back every 5 miles or so. Don't know what I would have done if I had seen someone, because I don't think I had any more to give.

I finished in 11:06, about 1 hour more than I thought it should have taken, but 40 minutes ahead of the next finishers.

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