5 a.m. seems earlier every time I see it. Laying in the darkness I shake off the dream that woke me up before my alarm. My anxieties that accompany race day come out in my sleep, I dream of things going horribly awry. Months of training, money, and time all shot down in a single folly. Drifting in and out of sleep I finally give up and head down stairs to pound some pancakes into my hungry stomach.
Preparation. It consumed most of my thoughts for the past week, pushing homework and my usual routines aside. Race day preparation is different. A nervous/excited feeling hangs in the air and I try to not think of what lay ahead. Eric and I pull up to the starting line and look around at what we are up against. When we finally get underway I shiver in the cold and follow our escort out of town praying nothing goes wrong. No flat tires, no crashes, no getting sick, no bonking, and no quitting.
As a team joined up at the front of the pack the drove the pace hard all the way into Preston, ID where I ditched my arm warmers and grabbed more food. The pack stayed together over all the major climbs and we seemed to swallow up all who had gone out ahead of us. We hit the king of the Mountain where I lagged a little trying to keep my heart rate down. I hit the summit realizing my folly so I had to push myself hard on the decent taking some risks and then pedaling myself back into the group took some serious effort but as soon as I caught them I was able to recover. It was a scary few minutes of all out in an aero position hoping no one would drive the pace up while I tried to catch up.
The race seemed to blow by and I continued to check my newly purchased Casio making sure I was taking in food and water every 15 minutes. Star Valley is usually the hell of the Lotoja for me, but this year it blew by and we were in Alpine, WY before I knew it. The climb into Jackson seemed easier than I had anticipated, but it was at this point (30 miles to go) I really was needing a pee break. To no avail when we got to the last 10-15 miles my group broke away from the peloton driving the speed up to around 26 mph. We formed up a nice pace line, all taking turns at the front. My silent plight was not helped by bumps in the road, but my desire for the finish grew with every kilometer.
Eric and I had discussed him leading me out if it came down to a sprint. We hit the 2K sign and the pace was going really strong. When we hit 1k a guy tried to go for it but Eric locked onto his wheel. He pulled passed him with a little less than 500 meters and then when we got closer I stood on my pedals and sprinted for the line. My legs were a little wobbly by this point but I was able to push through to the line where I barley beat the guy behind me. It was a close sprint but it put me on the podium. Two riders from our category had about 4 minutes on our group and they had a strong ride deserving the top two spots on the podium.
This was my first time on an actual podium so it was a cool experience. I hope it happens again... sooner rather than later. It wouldn't have been possible without my parents there helping me and Eric pulling me into that sprint. It was a great race and I am really happy with my time.
206 miles in 9 hours 26 minutes with and average speed of 21.8 mph. The winning time was 9:02 and I came 19th place overall.
Earning third place.
Early in the morning.