Ah yes the annual leg opener. The race that really holds that mirror up to how well you have prepared for the season and how fit you really are. I love this damn race. Even though there are no hills and there is nothing really technical about it, its a great challenge. There are really no, and I mean NO recovery areas. It's all pedaling all the time. (There is actually one area where you can coast for maybe 100 yards: 2/3 of the way through coming out of the fire road left into a slight sandy down hill under the power lines. That is it though. And even there, if you are fit enough, you should not coast. Which I didn't...on the first lap and I pedaled about 1/2 on the second lap. The other two laps, well they were what they were!)
Got there later than I wanted (of course), and though it was cold, things warmed real quick in the woods during the pre ride. I actually had to go back before the start of the race and peal off a couple of layers. Glad I did too as I would have baked!
Like every year, this race brought out a lot of racers, and the field at line up was quite big. Tried to look for the familiar faces and found a couple but also noticed many of the past years usuals were missing. I knew the start was going to be a mess as the start was again sandy fire road into a sandy turn and then quickly into a single file singletrack w/ a slimy log crossing that needed to be taken slow. And it was indeed quite a mess almost having to com to a full stand still. After the log, the pace picked up nicely and stayed there. (I like that in cat 1 racers start at a pace they can usually sustain. I guess if you made it to that category, you have some fitness self awareness! In cat 2, there were a fair amount of guys that would sprint to the front at the start but then blow up 300 yards in, fumble, and hold every one else up. Always the same damn guys too...)
Though Farmington is far form a technical course, since the course was tacky and the roots were wet, it did require some attentiveness as some tight fast turns could get quite slippery and if you did not pay attention, you could end up w/ a mouth full of bark. I heard someone crash behind me close to the start but could not turn around to find out what happened. They had added some new singletrack sections this year which made for some nice minor changes. They did remove the off camber drop. Too bad as I liked that one, though I bet w/ the wet course that would have been a neck breaker! There were two large mud pits. The first was very watery and going straight through the center created quite a splash but did not really slow you down. The second one was towards the end and was the same one that was there last year (and is in the picture at the top of this blog from the 2010 race). This one was long, like peanut butter, and had no line through it. It sucked the energy right out of the legs.
I lost track right away of my placement in the pack. I didn't really care anyways. I was more competing against myself at this race and testing my overall fitness/endurance. Also, I needed to make sure I was warmed up before trying to hammer to make sure I protected my knee as much as possible (which I had triple wrapped). As we hit the first open sections of fire road and the passing began in earnest, I was able to keep up w/ whoever tried to pass me and stick to their wheel. A BikeReg.com guy on a 29er Giant passed and set a good pace so I stuck w/ him for a while. Eventually on the short steepish fire road climb I passed him and he stuck to my wheel for a while. On the start of lap two, some guy on a Cannondale passed us and I was again able to grab his wheel. Again on all the climbs I was able to make up space. Towards the end of lap two I had passed him again and was holding him off (barely). I was feeling pretty fast and my knee was showing no signs of any pain.
Yet going through the start/finish area into lap three, I suddenly started to worry I was not going to be able to finish the race. My legs were starting to really feel heavy and my tank felt like it was about to run out. I had no idea how I was going to be able to finish another two laps. (Endurance is such a weakness for me since I really only get to train for about 1.5 hours when I go out. I know I should be doing double or triple that, but just don't have time.) Gu shot to the rescue, which helped just a bit! Through lap three I was able to hold both Mr Giant and Cannondale off, though they felt very close, and I could spot them at the switchbacks.
The nice thing about finishing mid pack is that you barely have to wait for results to be posted. I finished 16th out of 29. Not great but honestly I am okay w/ that result. I was able to leave the race w/ out blowing up my knee (which is a little sore today but nothing too bad), and no blood was shed on the course!
Some random thoughts after the race: 1) I somehow really need to find time to do longer rides. 2) though the there were really no real climbs, I really did quite well, comparatively speaking, on the short climbs, being able to catch up or shed anyone on my wheel. I wonder how that will translate on a climbing course. 3) I need some precise warming up routine. The showing up late and getting a frantic 10 mins in is most likely not very conducive to a good start. 4) I also need to develop a decent cool down /post race routine. 5) Gu really seems to make a difference towards the end. 6) what the hell is up w/ my knee? 7) Damn I am far from first place time. I would need to improve by 10 mins to move into top 3...