And....welcome to the 2013 race season!
There was a TON of worry and talk about course conditions in the week leading up to the race. We got blasted with (hopefully the last) of another snow storm...setting any progress of melting snow/ice in time for the race, backwards.
The famed Sager and Shaw roads two-track sections were re-routed because of this. As we rode past those sections during the race...good idea. Completely iced and snowed over. It would have been a disaster.
Also, the race start/finish was moved to downtown Hastings. Again, more worry about parking, facilities, traffic jams, etc. All were for naught...things were greatly planned out and seemed to run smooth. Great job Rick Plite (race organizer)! It shows you work hard at what you do.
I had not done the amount of riding I was hoping to before this race. Again, leading me to file in for the start, not really excited and ready, more like anxious to get it over with.
Temps were in the mid 20's (last year was mid-50's). Actually the temp was not bad - no breeze at all, which was nice. My fingers had their chance to be frozen and thawed out prior to the start, so there was nothing more to do, I was ready to go. Wave 3 was the first wave of ALL 36 miler participants...so I knew that 60% of the field behind me would likely have their chance to pass me. (another non-motivator) I tend to be more of a pessimist about racing I have found out than an optimist.
The course was pleasantly still frozen - no mud to be seen really. Lots of ice still though. I saw only one accident happen about 20 yards in front of me about 10 miles in. Then I almost fell in the same spot. It was an invisible rut. Just when you were being careful watching others around you, it would be enough time for something to sneak up on you like that and demand your attention back to your own line. I heard plenty of stories about bad accidents out there. Some with injuries, some with minor bumps, bruises.
As I was expecting...lots of people passed me. I could tell when each wave was coming through (like freight trains). I am happy to report that it was mile 16 until anyone else from the Rapid Wheelmen passed me (Scott D), then about mile 20 when more of the group caught up.
I finished pretty strong. I battled cramps in my calves before the 10 mile mark, intestinal distress and upset stomach for the next 7 or so miles, then my body seemed to wake up and finish stronger than I started. In the end, I finished before the 62 milers this year - my one main goal.
Place: 95 out of 109 in my age group
(It's an 8 minute improvement from last year - although it was a different course and, I think, faster road conditions. It's about the same spot, place-wise, as last year so I'm not going to brag about anything...we'll call it a draw.)
No matter my results there was one major event I will always remember this race for. I think it was around mile 26 or so (I've since forgotten) that we came upon a long grinder of a hill. There was a guy at the top of the hill off his bike directing people to stay to the right. I figured there was a car or something that needed to come through. As I approached the crest of the hill I could see a rider down with several people around him feverishly helping...with something. As I got closer I saw 3 men rotating in on chest compressions, breathing and rest. The rider's jersey and jacket torn open. I could not see the riders face, but his upper arms were already blue. The guys working on him clearly knew what they were doing. It was the single most scariest thing I've seen in a long while - the scariest while racing for sure. Those 10 seconds passing within sight of the situation will never leave my mind. It's there forever. I said a quick prayer with watery eyes and kept pedaling, trying to push that moment out of my mind.
Up until that point, I was down on myself for not being able to ride faster, push harder....why couldn't I direct more of my free time to be a better rider and train more? After that moment in time I realized this should all be for fun, my mission was to enjoy the fact that I will again have the chance to turn the pedals and see my family again. Ease back a little bit. Smile more. My family was stationed less than a mile away from that situation. I was very glad to see them. They had no idea what was taking place down that dirt road, but I managed to smile at them and wave as I passed.
Today was Palm Sunday. As I get older, I'm understanding the stories of the Bible more clearly (as my attention span expands) and I had a hard time today at church trying to concentrate on the stories being told, wondering if the downed rider was alive or passed. What was his family doing at this moment? What happened after I passed by the scene? Was there anything I should have done? All strange questions to ask about a man I never knew, or would probably never meet again whether alive or dead.
Today, I found out via chatter online and via other club members who that man was. He is alive and in the ICU. (the three men who stopped and helped where immediately around him to begin CPR...firefighters and a doctor. Amazing, they were there at that moment.) He has suffered no major heart damage. After some recovery and (I imagine) many tests, he will get another day to ride his bike and he'll still get the chance to be a dad, son, husband...and maybe someday a grandfather. I also found out that it sounds as if he was a rather healthy guy...37 years old.
I'll be 37 in eleven days.