So here we go, rising at 5am in the dark, crawling from our damp tent into the cool New Hampshire air for the preparations to our race..Dennis and I have camped with a few of our fellow East Enders (Long Island EE) in the Greenfield State Park for the princely sum of $25 a night, slept fitfully on lumpy ground, tossing and turning as the local owls tried their best to freak us out, and then dragged our arses out of the tent to begin stuffing our faces with whatever we could get down before the 6:45am start.. One banana sandwich, one vanilla smoothie, one egg and one bottle of HEED later, we roll to the start in the field across the road. Southern NH is a long way from anywhere, and it feels like a long way from the 70.3 Ironman triathlon world that I inhabited this time a year ago..200 racers in the pre-dawn, 1 minute apart in waves of 20 or so, and starting "gun" goes.. actually really old school.. "ready, steady, go!"
Dennis is on a new Gary Fisher superfly, and dumbo here, down to one mountain bike, is on her Gary Fisher Rig, single speed: 32 x 19..(Insert "girls" for "men" :) )
Recovered from my failed attempt to score in Pennsylvania the previous month (bailing with severe GI issues at mile 62 of 100 miles), I am determined to do better this time. Cooler weather, more single track, suits me fine.. last minute course alterations mean the course is 66 miles not 62 (100k), but on the start line, we are fresh and foolish enough to think this doesn't matter much! Little did we know how we would feel 8 hours later..
Off we go.. I am in a wave with a couple of guys and a couple of girls: the single speeders all in front of me for some reason, and Dennis with the Montaukers (Marty Ross and Danny Farnham) a few waves back. Within minutes, we are off the dirt road, onto rickety rail tracks along the shores of a lily-covered lake, and covered in mud. I settle into a single speed pace, being limited by gear lack, I cannot jump onto the trains of bikers that blew by me in their big rings.. so I spin happily, passsing the other girls (on geared bikes..) by mile 10, and settle into my own rhythm. The Montauk monsters power on by, arse slapping as they pass, and cheering me on.. I never see Dennis until the finish line, despite him being a couple of minutes off my wheel the whole way. The course has aid stations every 10+ miles, though it feels like much farther between stops: I have a full Camelbak and 2 bottles with me, so I only stop 2 times, mainly to pee in the trees, but also to refill with Gatorade or some cold bevvie from a jug on the side of the mountain. The NH weather has been unkind this past 4 days, with consistent rain and thunderstorms, although race day was 78-81 degrees and clear blue skies: however the puddles had turned into troughs, and the small stream crossings got successively deeper and longer as we ground through the course. The trails were pretty technical after the intial flat-ish start, and soon we were heaving and gasping as we hit the ski slopes and powerlines that climbed towards the heavens. I took solace in the fact that as I was doing my hike-a-bike sections, I was still passing guys on their geared bikes, on foot also! In this length of race, their comes a point when you are no longer racing to beat people, as you constantly swap places with them on sections, passing, then giving way, but in the back of my mind, I was still keeping my eye out for the other lasses on the course..6 hours into the race, I was slugging through a 100 foot long "puddle", up to my mid-thighs, and carrying my trusty steed overhead when I spotted Jennifer, the second lady, behind me. It was at this point that I had quit the PA race, bloated and exhausted, but I was in a different state here, cool in the trees, fed and watered appropriately, and I was AHEAD! I got a surge of energy, and was able to pick up the speed, through the newly cut 10% gradient scrabbley inclines, over the granite slabs and drop-offs on the top of some mountain or other, through the remaining rivers and mud gulches that swallowed men's derailleurs and ground V brakes to a halt. I even stopped to fix one guys chain with my CONEX links and took a moment to feel like a bit of an Amazon-warrior-racing-repair-woman..8 hours and 20 minutes later, with a surge of energy, I pulled into the field for a lap before the finish line, spotted the Montaukers already home and dry, albeit muddy and sandy, and finished proud, first female in expert division, first (and only) female single speeder, proud owner of NH EFTA (eastern fat tire association) windchimes and a cool medal, proud owner of at least 2 spoons of sand in my chamois for 6+ hours (eeek!) and proud owner of a sore backside.. Well worth it. Dennis roared across in 8.40 and had had a terriffic ride, no trouble with his new bike, more importantly, no cramps, no injuries, no (major) crashes..As we pack our muddy bikes away in the van, and I squirmed, raw, in the passenger seat anticipating 6 hours drive home, I resolved to call our sponsor Louis Shih at Champion-System clothing to see if he has a waterproof version of our bike shorts. Maybe it doesn't rain like this in China..
We will definitely be back to do this one next year.. except with 32 x 20. and faster!
Next stop, Vermont 50, then bring on the cyclocross season!