Tranquility Marathon

It's Monday night, and though my recovery road ride tonight felt pretty good, my back and shoulders are still pretty beat up from Saturday's Tranquility marathon. Worth it? Oh, heck yeah!

So the weather. Let's talk about perfection. At least for Laps 1-3.5, the temps were spot on and the wind was minimal. It would, of course, have to pick up at the end. But the thing I love about singletrack riding is that even when it's windy, you're twisting and turning so much that you don't have the same sort of sustained headwinds. And considering the last time I rode at Tranquility was at last year's over-100∘ degree race day, I was fine with a little wind. And definitely fine with the upper 60s/low 70s. Particularly after the season opener at Swanson in the 90s...thank you, weather. 

Because of the morning time trial (which Marathoners were exempted from for stage race scoring purposes), all classes of racers started in waves at the same time. Marathon was sent off between two heats of Cat 2 Men, and this was excellent placing for me. I got to spend much of the first lap paced by these fast fellas, mostly quite experienced and polite passers. To many of you in this group who know my name and say it when passing me, I'm sorry if I don't always say yours back. There are so many of you!! I digress...

Photo credit: Michael McColgan
I had fun in packs of riders, fun leading out little groups or hanging on the back of them, fun riding with friends like CVO and Whitney, chatting away, and fun trying to catch people (or as Whitney puts it, chasing boys) as the laps wore on. The course is so spread out that there were lots of friends I usually see that I only caught glimpses of, including some who suffered some gnarly crashes. To the likes of Janna, heal up, and I hope to see you out there again soon. (Also, wear your helmets, people. Hers is apparently in 4 pieces after a crash.)

At the start of my 4th lap, I was feeling pretty good. I'd paced myself nicely, finishing each lap in about 50 minutes with a little refuel break after each one. This, however, messed with my lap plan reckoning. I figured if I was taking about an hour per lap, 4 laps would be just about perfect for the 4 hour marathon. Shave off 5-7 minutes each time, and I came through the start/finish 25 minutes before the time cut-off.

My decision-making moment captured. Photo credit: Michael McColgan
And I had a decision to make. If placing in the women's race was all that mattered to me, I could've stopped right there. Casey is riding like a rock star, (taking on marathon in her first season racing!), but with a course this long, she was far enough behind that she wouldn't make it before the cutoff, assuring me a 1st place in that division. However, with longer endurance events on my horizon, things like saddle time and pushing myself to go on even when I don't really know if I want to are things I need to be doing. And I had a little herd of people encouraging me to give it a go. 

I hemmed and hawed for 5 minutes before having Emily refill my water and grabbing some more food. I had the goaders-on's assurance that they'd still be there when I finished and race official Darrell's comment that I'd "already be sore, why not add a lap?" so I started turning the cranks for a relatively solitary Lap 5. I spent a chunk of time chasing Brian from EVCC, but after a sloppy move on the camel humps that had me rolling down the side of the hill, he was out of sight, and I finished alone, to the very enthusiastic cheers of the small crowd of remaining bystanders and finished racers.

4 hours, 40 minutes, 13 seconds, 46.5 miles.

Big thanks this time to teammate Emily, who, after racing and ending up on the podium (yeah, girl!) ran to the grocery store to get ice for my cooler, the one thing I managed to forget to pack. Not only that, but she stuck around long after, cheering me on and helping in the feed zone each time.


Swanson Marathon kicks off Racing2012

The idea of being "ready" for the first number pinning of the season was funny to me this time around. I suppose that taking a bunch of the nerves out of it and remembering behavior patterns associated with racing meant that I've reached the true mark of "no longer a beginner." I was mostly just excited to see my racing buddies from Omaha and elsewhere that I hadn't been around much since the end of CX season. Got most of my packing done Saturday night, enjoyed time with family, and headed up for Sunday's newly 4 hour marathon class racing.
Lining up with my chicas, Jen Deep, Chop, Mrs. Mod & me in the foreground, Emily & Carly behind us in Cat 3. Photo credit: Someone with Jen Deep's camera. CVO?

Let me say right off how absolutely excited I was Friday night to see that 21 women had pre-registered for the Swanson races. And with Jen not in the pre-regs, that made 22 or maybe even more. I think the first Psycowpath races I did 2 years ago had at best 5 or 6 women across the classes.  Unbelievable strides, and I'm so happy to be a part of it -- it makes the racing so much more fun and meaningful. There was a discussion on the Psycowpath Facebook page about the age breakouts and divisions in the men's races, and a comment was made about how you'd feel telling your family you'd gotten 4th out of 5 (versus a much larger field), and I had to laugh at the awkward podiums I had as a Cat 3 where I was 1 of....ONE. Sorry guys, not a lot of empathy. I'd much rather be 22nd of 40 (where I ended up in the mixed Marathon field --SPOILER ALERT) than 1 of 1.

Leading out the ladies of Marathon on Lap 1. Photo credit: Kyle Hansen
 With temperatures in the upper 80s and into the 90s-- crazy for April 1st & unfortunately not an April Fool's Joke -- I tried to set a mellow pace. Let the fast marathoners go ahead, get around the not-so-experienced ones, and get into a groove. Anne and I planned to have fun, after all. After some messy bottlenecks, she ended up in front, and it was up to me to decide to match her pace or stick to my own.  I knew I was faster than last year, as only a small group of Cat 3s caught me on their lap. Let them go, settle in, and then enjoy the blissful hour and a half where it's just Marathon traffic on course.

Climbing, mid-race. Photo credit: Kyle Hansen
Had a nice half-lap chatting with Matt Gersib on his warm up, and just kept going around and around, the way Swanson always makes me feel. The fun part about this course is that it's really pretty easy to see your competition a turn or two ahead, which kept me motivated to keep Anne in my sights. I also love the alphabet signage there -- as you progress through the trail, markers along the side rattle off the letters of the alphabet. One thing it made me very aware of, though, is that I was bringing my cyclocross nutrition habits to this first race. By the letter O or P, I was getting hungry. I'd try to eat enough in the feed zone, but with the heat, I wasn't feeling like eating as much as I needed to. Anita Gammel was awesome at getting my bottles refilled for me, checking in on how I was doing as she was also supporting her fella, Aaron.

Finishing Lap 5. Photo credit: Emily Hoesly

Lap for lap, I was always a bit behind Anne, increasingly so on the descents and less so on flat sections. As we entered laps 5 and 6, though, her gaps increased, and when I'd catch her, she'd be taking a break, trying to cool down. As I pulled in at the end of 6 laps, 3 hours and 19 minutes into the race, she told me it was my call whether we'd go out for another. I wanted shade, food, water, and then a decision. Unless Jen came through before 4 hours wanting another lap, we'd secured our places, and this early in the season with temperatures as hot as they were, one more lap just seemed like something that would be tedious for us and annoying to the Cat 1s still on course. We waited it out, watched Casey come through and go for one more lap to get to the 6 we were at -- you go girl!! -- and were glad Jen called it good at 3:56. Not a bad start to the season, and I'm looking forward to more!