Monday, September 28, 2009

VT 50

Well, it seems that the theme this year is bad weather--the VT 50 did not disappoint!
We got up to Vermont the day before and the weather was absolutely beautiful--60's, not a cloud in the sky--just perfect.

I went to bed feeling a bit anxious because the forecast was for rain, lots and lots of rain.
I had both bikes ready to go--the 26er with mud tires and the 29er with Stan's Raven (wishful thinking). Everybody was saying that given the week of great weather prior to the race that the course was in "great" shape and a day of rain would be welcome, i.e the course will hold the water because it's been so dry. So I was thinking that maybe, just maybe I could get away with a faster tire and have a legit chance at the 6 hour mark.

The rain started at about 1 am and it seemed like it had no intentions of stopping. I got up at 4:45 and it was still raining. Cora made a heck of a good argument to get back in bed and spare myself the cold, wet sufferfest that was inevitably waiting for me. (Actually, I think she wanted to spare herself the cold, wet sufferfest of crewing for me!)  I got downstairs and had the traditional breakfast of oatmeal, banana and raisins which I washed down with a FRS.  I stepped out on the porch--still raining pretty hard but it was not as cold as I thought, it was in the high 40's. I did not want to make the same mistake as last year and over dress, so I was again a bit stressed about my clothing choice which was fleece bib knickers under a standard bib, craft base-layer, short sleeve jersey, arm warmers, neoprene gloves and shoes covers and the plastic rain jacket.  In the end, to my great surprise, I was comfortable all day.

I was running late as usual, so after getting outside and realizing that the weather was the real deal, I decided on the 26er with the heavier tires--great choice (it turns out that I could have used more tire).  I rode the 5 mins up to the pre-race meeting in the cold rain, trying to get myself psyched for what was sure to be a really wet day. At 6:30 am, the sport wave was off and the rain came down harder--the first 3 miles is pretty much downhill and therefore fast which made for a really cold start. So I spent the first 15-20 mins shivering and telling myself that I'd be warmer when the climbing started which I was. 

It quickly became very evident that the course was not dry and definitely was not holding the rain very well. Last year was muddy, really muddy, but the dirt roads for the most part were ok.  At this point in the race, the roads were soaked and the worst was soon to come. As we turned off and hit the first bit of singletrack which is a steep climb, heavy thick mud was everywhere, so the hike-a-bike began and seemed to never end. I thought last year's race was bad and this was hands down 10x worse. 

I realized that 6 hrs was not going to happen when I was 30 mins slower than last year to the first aid station.  So my goal was to finish, which I was starting to think was going to be tough--every time I saw Cora, she said people were dropping like flies. I actually did not feel all that bad on the bike, but mentally the cold rain and the crazy amount of mud was just plain making the day no fun. I finally finished in 7 hrs 36 mins. and it rained the whole time. In retrospect, I would still say it was zero fun but I do have the satisfaction of finishing, which I needed.   Nonetheless, I renewed last year's vow to never do this race again. That sounds fine until I get to thinking about how awesome these trails must be on a cool, crisp, clear and DRY fall Vermont day and I'm ready to take my chances again.  Now how can I convince Cora?

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