- I've always raced pretty well at Moose. (2nd AG ('09), 3rd AG ('11), 1st AG ('12) )
- It's the smallest IM race I know... and I like that. It is a big deal race with big deal pros, but it feels like just a local, season opener.
- Because it's local to me, I usually know many people racing and so there is support both in the crowd and on the course itself.
- The Tilton Diner is close by. I love the Tilton Diner.
- I really detest the new (as of 2010) bike course.
- The weather is extremely unpredictable. (2008, 95 degrees and sizzling; 2009, 70s and dry; 2010 POURED; 2011, cool and dry; 2012 low 50s and rain.)
It is tame.
Except for the 3+ mile ascent which culminates in a short stretch during which no matter what gearing you have, your are standing, grunting, weaving, and have a cadence of like 5 rpms. Either that or you're off your bike and walking. The backside of this "hill" is equally treacherous in its descent. There is one nasty turn in particular, that as you approach it, doesn't seem it will be too bad. Then you take the turn a touch too fast, and you fly off the road into gravel, guardrail and/or grave.
And this ascent /descent is done twice.
I believe there were only two crashes on that corner during the race this year. Two crashes and three hospitalizations.
The descent is so dangerous they have imposed a speed limit all three years since the bike course was implemented--a limit of 30 mph. It is nearly impossible to adhere to that speed unless you literally white-knuckle your brakes the entire way down. I actually appreciate the speed limit. No one really adheres to it, but at least, because it's there, some people, including me, sort of try to slow down.
But here's the thing--You should not have a speed limit in a race! IT IS A FREAKING RACE!!! Are you kidding me? Many of us are out there to win, and you want us to adhere to a speed limit?
If the descent is so dangerous that you need impose a speed limit, then CHANGE the damn course.
I am not out there to see if I can complete the distance. I am not out there to have fun. I am out there to GO FAST AND WIN and I do not want to be asked to slow down!
Okay. End of rant.
Here is the course elevation profile.
Even this chart doesn't really do it justice, I don't think. Sure it looks bad. But the thing is... it really, really IS BAD.
Some people like a challenge like the one the Mooseman bike course presents.
I am not one of those people. I like a hilly course.. I do! I'm little and because of that I race better on hills than flats. But this course isn't "hilly." It's HILL. singular.
BIG SUCKY HILL.
I think my dislike stems from the fact that it is difficult to ride Mooseman WELL--as in, intelligently. In an endurance event I aim to spin up the hills and mash down them. On this course your are forced to mash up the hills, and you're forced to coast and pray on your way down. I think what often separates the wheat from the chafe in endurance biking is the cyclist's ability to ride the given course intelligently. This course frustrates me in that no matter how "even" I try to be, my V.I. is not going to be swell -- at all. And I like to have a good V.I. Among the many important things Kurt has taught me--shooting for a good VI when racing long is at the top.
The variable weather is my other beef with this race. My athlete, Paul, from Ontario, asked me last week what to plan for in terms of weather in prep for the race. What to say? It could be super hot. It could be in the 40s. It could be sunny. It could be pouring. Sorry... anything is really possible.
This year, up until about Friday, it looked like we might enjoy good racing weather--cool and dry. But by Friday afternoon that had changed to a forecast of freezing cold and monsoon like conditions.
I do not like cold when I race. I especially do not like cold and pouring rain. And I ESPECIALLY did not like the idea of cold and pouring rain while attempting to descend that bad-ass, 3+ mile mountain--TWICE!
Okay, I suppose I should write the damn race report now, huh?
I had an okay race. There you go!
I placed well--1st in my AG, 7th amateur woman, and 17th woman including the pros. This was a smallish race, but still, this is pretty good placing for moi. I did not let my coach down, I did not really let myself down, and I have a big bottle of maple syrup as proof of that. Also, I PR'd the swim by 16 whole seconds. So that's good!
But it also wasn't the race I had planned for -- or hoped for-- based on how my training has been going so far this season.
The day before the race I had a grand old time, except for the fact that I was bundled up like an Eskimo, already cold, and except for being worried about the conditions I would race in the following day, in which Eskimo attire would not work well if I also wanted to go FAST, which was, of course, my big goal.
A bunch of our TriMoxie athletes were racing, in addition to many of my PBM friends. The day before the race I had breakfast and dinner with a bunch of these people--most specifically Paul and Katelyn, both of whom I have been coaching for awhile, but had not yet met in person. So that was fun! They are as awesome in person as I figured they would be...
My family was also with me, and I loved that too, except when the kids would not stop hounding me to take them to the hotel pool--and I just wanted to snuggle under covers and read. But mostly I loved having them there, especially when I got Jordan to rub my feet. Right, Jord?
Race morning. It was cold. But not raining! YEAH!
I did the things you do on race morning. I ate. I peed. I drank coffee. I pooped. (Thank God... always a big downer to start a long race not have taken an adequate dump, huh?) I ate more. I peed more. I hovered in the transition area checking and rechecking things.
The transition area was a gigantic muddy swamp. It was so bad that some people had to rack their bikes in a separate, newly created section because their transition spot was submerged in ankle deep water/mud. I had a nice spot--wet, but not a puddle, so I was mostly pleased. The only bummer was that there was ankle deep mud puddles surrounding my nice, UN-submerged spot. To my great distress, there was not a way to get to the bike start without running through this ankle deep mud. This necessitated that I carry my shoes to the start line (even if they were clicked into my Speedplays the shoes would have dragged through the muddy water, Kurt--just saying), and put them on there. This was not good. Upon arrival at the bike mount, I stopped short and tried to get in my shoes while holding my bike. But I am not that coordinated... and I let my bike clang to the ground. This not only made me look supremely stupid, it also got my poor bike totally dirty, and also my rear brake cable got loosened. Really loosened. Like no more rear brake for Mary loosened.
But I am getting ahead of myself...
After puttering in transition, I headed to the swim start with Tammy and Marisa (two friends/TM athletes). I warmed up a bit in the water. I then found my wave, moved to the front of my wave, and had a big pang of I miss Ange. Then the race started.
For me, the best part of my race was the swim. Of course, had you mentioned to me as I swam that this would end up being the best part of my race I would've have been very, very worried, because, in truth, my swim wasn't that great. The best part of it was that I found my friend Anne, who is a great swimmer, early on and I drafted off her and another woman (I later learned her name was Elizabeth) for the whole stinking 1.2 miles. Thanks Anne. You are exactly the most person perfect for me to draft--just enough faster than me so that it pays off to draft off you, but not so fast that I can't stay on your feet. So...... I think maybe you should come with me to every race so I can use you to draft???? Huh? What do you think?
I exited the water in 29:44, just behind Anne (29:37) and Elizabeth (29:42). Once again I say... Thank you, compadres! Did you know we were the first women (not in relays) out of our wave?
I then got stripped by a stripper (she was AWESOME--totally ripped my suit right off.)
Then I got to my bike and stared.
I had too many options! Arm warmers? Gloves? Jacket?
OMG! My little brain was overwhelmed--still addled, perhaps, from the swimming.
The sky was dark, but it wasn't raining. I felt pretty warm.
So I just put on the helmet, snapped that belt, grabbed my shoes and bike and headed straight into the mud puddles that lay between me and the mounting line.
Once on the bike, I took a deeeeeep breath. Then I looked at my Garmin 500 mounted between my bars. No GPS signal! Awesome. (It did come on eventually.)
Then I felt a slight chill...
Then I started shivering. And then SHAKING. Then the drizzle started. And then my Raynaud's made a violent, quick arrival. My fingers turned corpse white, then my hands, then my wrists. I had no feeling in either upper limb.
This was going to be very, very ugly ride, indeed.
Ugly--corpse white ugly and deep prune purple ugly--and fucking COLD.
But I chugged along... working, perhaps, a bit harder than I should have been in an effort to give myself a fighting chance at quelling my violentl shaking, which was really NOT helping my balance on the bike.
At one point I had to hit the brake a bit.
Or... I pushed the brake. I pushed the brake all the way back to the handlebars... I pushed some more.. and AWESOME, dude! I had no rear brake! None at all! NO FUCKING REAR BRAKE!
I tried to stay CALMMMMMMM.
(not a strong suit.)
I had no rear brake. And I was gonna descend that mother fucker of a hill? PANIC!!!
Soon I arrived at and started pushing up the big-ass three mile mountain. I got warmer. Relief!
As I weaved my way up I thought ... hmmm... I think MAYBE I need a compact? Is 5 rpms a little too slow on the turnover? OH MY my quads are feeling that BURN! And look! I am just barely 25 minutes into the race! Yikes.
Finally I finished grinding up the hill, and then I started to descend. My hands were not working, my brake was not working, and my hands kept sliding forward on the slippery, wet grips when I held myself up on the bars. PANIC!!!!! I was going to DIE! HELP! HELP! HELP!
Stay calmmmmmm. Ohmmmmmm. calmmmmmm.....FUCKING OHMMMMMM... please God do not let me die!!!OHMMMMMM!!
Luckily I didn't die. You'd be surprised... If you just lean gently on your front brake for the whole time and you do not let up, you really can reduce your speed enough to not fly over your handlebars...
Of course you also can reduce your speed enough to destroy your bike split and ruin your chances at a freaking PR.
But I was, between my shivers and corpse-white hands, staying positive. (Can't you tell? ha!) I ate gel after gel. Drinking wasn't happening b/c I did not have the dexterity with my numb hands to remove my water bottle from its cage or collect one at an aid station.
I saw VERY few women on the bike. No idea where they were. Probably they were simply smart enough not to race in the low 50s and drizzle? I passed a few young women from the swim wave ahead of mine. That's it. I kept wondering Where is Anne? Why isn't she here to push me?
Later I found out she was about 30 seconds behind me the whole damn bike. Our swim split--the same. Our bike split was the same too. The only thing different between us was the few seconds I got on her in T1 when I stupidly did not take the time to put on gloves and a jacket.
Anyway, I was lonely and cold and really needed someone to motivate me. I wish I had known she was right there. I was so puzzled by it I thought she may have dropped out!
Okay... I finally finished and got off the bike. I was still extremely cold, and honestly, quite fuzzy in the old noggin. My hands and my brain weren't working right, but I DID dismount quite well and only yelped a little when I landed on my Raynaud-affected feet. I splashed through the puddles, found my shoes, struggled to put them on with numb hands, and then left.
I had stumpy feet. You know when your feet are frozen and it feels like you are running on stumps?
I felt okay during the first miles except for the stumpy feet. I must have been dehydrated, as I had only had half of my aero-bottle for the whole ride. (The other half had spilled out when I dropped my bike in T1.) But I did feel okay... so I decided not to stress about it, and just take in drink when I could. It is not like a sweat a lot on that ride, after all...
The first thing I noticed when I got out on the run course was that it was almost empty. It was like a weird dream. Had I gotten off the bike too early? Where was everyone? There were some men... (there are always men) and then there were the pros swiftly finishing their first loop of the course. But there were no women other than the pros that I could see.
I was baffled.
Upon further thought (later on, when my small and frozen brain could think again) I guess it makes sense. My bike split was truly not fast--but it was a lot faster than most of the women I was racing against (which speaks to the caution riders used when riding, I think, rather than the competitiveness of the field itself), and I had been faster than all of the women from my wave. So I had gotten off the bike ahead of all my people (which I find really shocking) and I guess I must have passed quite a few of the young women on the swim and bike? Because there were very few ahead of me on the course. After first thinking I must have gotten off the bike too early--I began to wonder.. am I just really far ahead?
I know now I was not really far ahead. Just a little. Everyone was behind me, yes. But not far behind me. At the turn around I finally saw Anne. Finally! There she was! This made me both nervous and relieved. I have no idea why I was so focused on finding her ... but it relieved me to know she was there. But, naturally, I wanted to beat her, so I also worried that she had some gas and might get me.
But at the next turn around she was further behind, so I got kinda complacent again. You know I have to say that I think I am a chaser... by habit. I am NEVER at the front, and I simply did not know how to motivate from that position. The chase... well, I get the chase. I spend a lot of time in Chase land. Lead land? Not so much.
So I ran. and ran. And drank some Coke and TRIED like hell to focus on MOJO! and not the fact that my hands were still corpse-like and I still hadn't truly stopped shaking. Finally, by like mile NINE (no lie) I felt somewhat warm. And then it happened. At about mile 10 a woman with a 44 on her calf BLASTED past me at warp speed. Yikes!
I picked up my pace but she was gone! Later I learned that in that final 3 miles she had put 2:30 on me. Nice. Her run split was super fast--a 1:33. But later I also learned that she was 44...... but would turn 45 this calendar year. So not my AG. That was nice! Interestingly, she is one of Anne's good friends!
So- end of boring story, I finished. My friend Marc bumped me from behind as I crossed the line and we finished together. That was fun. And I smiled!
And then I frowned. 5:14. Seven minutes slower than last year.
In that moment, I vowed never to race in 50s and rain ever again. And I also pinched myself. Where was my MOJO???????? Why hadn't I made that run hurt more? Sure, it hurt. But it didn't HURT. You know?
About an hour later I learned I had won my AG by a few minutes, so that made me happy, and made up slightly for the fact that I had not raced with verve.
I hung out with my friends and family as I waited for the awards to start. I kept kept asking my friends--So are my face and lips still purple?
To which the answer was .... yep.
I have no pictures yet of my purple face. It was really really purple. Kinda creepy, really.
I will post when I do.
IMLP. I am going to crush that mofo of a race.
Then I am going to turn my back on Moose and IMLP and sign up for some races in the tropics, so I can bitch about being hot instead of cold. ;)