“We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin’ rain… and big ol’ fat rain.” Forest Gump
Sunday was an epic day. Any American Zofingen day is epic, almost by default, but yesterday pushed epic to a new level.
On Saturday, I got everything cleaned, lubed, and packed in my car. Although I had leaned towards running the Stinger 9s, both front and rear, I decided to only use the rear and used my Easton tubular up front. The forecast was for a calm day, but the descents at Zofingen are very fast and being comfortable and confident is key. I just didn’t have enough time on those wheels to feel comfortable at 40-50 mph. I also knew I wasn’t going to set any PRs, with my training being well behind that of 2010.
Sunday, I was up at 1:45 AM, on the road at 2:06, and in New Paltz by 6:00 AM. It rained hard almost the whole way down, but let up just south of Albany. The hour and a half before the start went quickly and in no time it seemed like we were lining up for the start. Of course, the rain started to pick up some.
The forecast was for rain, rain, and more rain with temps in the low 60s. I wore an old tri top under my tri suit and arm warmers, but at the last minute, as it started to rain again, I decided I didn’t want my shoulders exposed so I added another layer, a tight fitting synthetic top. It was the right choice: I was a little warm on the first run lap and on all the climbs on the bike, but was a little cold while descending.
For those who are not familiar with this brilliantly evil and diabolical course, the 5 mile run loop (one lap before the bike and three after) has three very significant climbs and numerous shorter ones. Most of the downhill stretches are on carriage roads, but there are a few technical, single-track descents.
The bike route has two significant climbs, the first right out of transition and the second halfway around. The first climb is definitely the harder (but also shorter) of the two. The descent from the first has a few tricky turns, but the descent from the second climb (Minnewaska) is one you can completely open up on, assuming you have clear road in front of you.
The first run started out uneventful: things were wet, but not sloppy. It was fairly easy to pick a good track. I kept the pace comfortable, given my conditioning, and noticed that there seemed to be a lot more people in front of me than in the past. Towards the last bit of descending single track near the end, my right quad started to cramp up. Yikes! Was this a sign? I kept going and it loosened up, but I was concerned about what might happen on later laps.
As usual, I pushed the climbs a bit harder than I should of and that started with the first climb out of T1. It was raining, but not hard. Flying down that first climb, the rain made it hard to see and stung any exposed skin like little needles. Once at the bottom, the “little bitty stingin’ rain” ended and the “big ol’ fat rain” started. It really dumped on us.
I took the flats and rollers easy, but then picked up the effort again while climbing Minnewaska. Coming down Minnewaska the first time wasn’t bad. The roads were not yet crowded and there was somebody else just at the limit of what I could see in the fog. Still, I held back some and rode the brakes here and there.
The second time around was also uneventful. My nutrition was on plan and I was feeling OK, pushing the hills a little but mostly taking it easy. On this second time down Minnewaska I decided that it would be safer if I really opened it up. The fog was super thick and I was more concerned about getting hit from behind by some car than I was about overshooting some turn.
On the third lap, I came across small groups of ITT or F1 riders as I approached both summits. Not wanting to get caught behind anybody, especially a small pack, I pushed both climbs pretty hard so I could descend in the clear. That plan worked in that I did get to descend in the clear, but I paid for it later: on one little rise after the Minnewaska descent, I got out of the saddle to hop over it. As soon as I sat back down my legs cramped up in a variety of places. I tried coasting, but that only made it worse. So I tried picking up my turnover, shifting down and pedaling easy but quickly. That seemed to work. I also took some more Endurolytes and a gel.
Heading into transition, the road that was once dirt, was now mud. A cross bike would have been good here, but the tri bike had to do.
I remembered from 2010, that I had a real hard time getting my feet into my shoes in T2. My feet and calves kept cramping up. This year, I brought two pair of shoes. Even without the rain, my plan was to wear my old pair of NB 790s (veteran of 2 AmZof LC events) for the opening lap. They have elastic laces and would be easy to get off. I would then wear my new NB MT 101s for the last three laps. I’d leave them unlaced and wide open so I could get my feet in easily. That worked pretty well.
I took this first lap out of T2 very easy, running all the hills but never really pushing them. I know running these hills isn’t a whole lot faster (if any) than walking, but it is important for my head to keep up the running rhythm, so I take little baby steps and call it running.
Towards the end of the first lap, I was feeling good again and there were no signs of cramps. I smelled the burgers grilling as I ran along the single track above the gazebo and cursed all the SC and F1 racers. Then I hit the single track that takes you to the field and couldn’t help but laugh at the bobsled run the trail had become.
Laps 2 and 3 were more of the same. I wish I knew my splits because they felt pretty consistent. (Having said that I’m sure I’ll find my last lap was pretty much a crawl.)
Towards the end of the last lap, on that steep uphill stretch just before the bobsled run, I approached what I assumed was a hurting F1 racer or somebody on an earlier LC lap. He was walking up it and not looking good. As I approached him, he heard me coming and took off like a scared rabbit. Man, he was flying and before I even got around the corner he was out of sight. I kept looking on the side of the trail, not believing anybody at this point could move so fast, and could have only crashed and burned in some ditch or been swallowed up by some bear, but it was not so. When I got down to the field I saw him about 2 minutes ahead of me. I had no answer to that.
I finished in 8:32 and change at 13th place, about 10 minutes and 4 places slower than last year. Given the weather, I’m not disappointed. I came in first in my AG and earned my third large mug.
I hung around for a while waiting for results and had a good talk with Peter and his wife from ME. (Peter, it looks like you earned yourself a 3rd place mug, did you get it?)
Then it was a very late start for the long ride home. I pulled in just before midnight, and by the time I got unpacked, put a load of laundry in, showered, and checked in on the kids, it was almost 23 hours after I had gotten out of bed on Sunday morning.
As soon as I got in bed, my feet started cramping up. I think that was the worst part of the whole day. As soon as I’d work out one cramp, I’d feel my toes start to involuntarily curl up and then whamo, my whole foot would seize up.
None of that will keep me from doing it all over again next year, though.