Surprisingly our monster tailwind lasted for a good 10 miles and we were very excited to be well over half way done with the race. At this point we had seriously put a gap between us and the big "peloton" we broke away from nearly 30 miles back now.
After turning off the massive tailwind road, we hit that same windspeed, just as a crosswind. I was expecting to have to heavily lean into it, much like a motorcycle racer who leans 60 degs and touches his knee to the ground on sharp turns. Much to my chagrin I didnt have to! That QR CD.01 cuts through the wind like a knife through butter. It was unbelievable! Not only did I not have to majorly overcompensate my lean to stay upright, but I was also still putting out consistent power at the same speed! This bike is the bomb, I LOVE IT!
So within 5 miles of rotating in and out with the p5 man on the crosswind section, i go by him to take my turn at the front (all while the leach is still latched on to the back of us) and he tells me he isnt feeling too good...the cross winds were taking it out of his legs, and his stomach was not treating him well. Shortly after i took the reins, I looked up and slightly in the distance was the USA cycling cat 5 race that started 8 mins ahead of our race. I couldnt believe this, the true peloton was sitting right in front of me and we had put some serious time into them through 70 miles of this ride. I was really hoping to plow through the peloton and break off the front without effort, but unfortunately we turned and started to head straight back into the head wind, and they had a different route...UGH! This was not what I needed with the p5 hurting at the back of the group, and the leach just lassoing a rope to my seat and watching me do all the work, I was going to have to do this all by myself. The p5 still tried his best to give me some time at the front, but within 5 minutes on the headwind road i look back and I had put a decent gap between me (the leach was still right on my wheel) and the him. I felt bad for him, but knew that I couldn't sit around and wait for him all day, so i pressed on.
We finally got off the major head wind, and back onto a crosswind which was much appreciated, and i was able to get back to a respectable pace. Right at that point, we started to meet back up with the riders who were doing the 50 miler and 100k ride, and we were flying by them all like they were standing still. It was nice to finally get back together with the other riders and not be riding solo. It really helped the morale. The temps were starting to rise and the last thing i needed was low morale. At this point we were 75 miles into the ride, 25 to go!
We continued to fly through the field who was riding the shorter distance, and I was feeling great. I wasnt fresh by any means, but felt like 25 miles was absolutely reasonable and I couldnt wait to get to that finish line to see how well I was doing overall.
The race was set up very well and there were tons of aid stations which was greatly appreciated, and at mile 80 the leach and i decided to stop at an aid station and fill up one last time in prep for the last 20 miles. Again we were in and out very quickly and back on the bikes. We were still riding with the crosswind making great time but we knew we still had some serious headwinds to battle if we were going to make it home.
Mile 83 was the turning point from feeling great to death. At that point was where we turned onto a road that runs parallel to the highway straight into the wind. The winds had picked up since we had the tail wind back at mile 50 and my oh my could we feel the difference! The leach was still on my wheel, and at this point now we were 87 miles into the race, just crawling along at 12 mph. I was as aero as i could be, trying every tactic for free speed, free power, anything to get me through this rough stretch. Finally I yelled at the leach, and said "you know what dude i am absolutely gutted up here, i dont care how slow you are going, just give me a minute or two so i can recover!" I could tell he was deep in the red zone as well, but i didnt care...the p5 and i pulled him for 30 miles before he fell off, then i pulled him another near 20...and i think with the tone of voice i had given him, he got the message quick and pulled me shortly. The pace dropped below 10 mph, but i didnt care, it was the best feeling to get in his slipstream and just relax momentarily.
Within a minute i was back on the front and pulling again, and I realized that I was starting to gap him! I was stoked, finally he had what was coming to him! But this was short lived...not sure if he was eating a gel, or what, but he was back on my wheel. I asked him for another short break one more time at about mile 92, and again he conceded and came to the front. Shortly after that we were off that highway access road and back onto farm lands that (thankfully) were not into a head wind. There were 6 miles to go and I needed to find a way to get rid of this guy!
At mile 95 we passed an aid station and I was out of liquids...amazing how putting in a massive effort for 12 miles depletes your nutrition resources. I asked the leach for a bottle because he had 4 and he said they were all basically empty...right, like i believe that! The aid station, however, was way out of the way, and i didnt feel like burning the time with 5 miles to go was the right idea, so i pressed on and tried to finish the race on E, like a nascar avoiding a pit stop with 10 laps to go, hoping the fumes will carry it to victory lane!
at mile 97 we made a sharp right turn and my hammy locked up momentarily...$hit! This is exactly what i was fearing when i passed that aid station. Hang on! and i did, that was a short little scare but was over before I knew it thankfully.
But it was a precursor...I was in for a real painful treat. mile 98.5 it hit me! my other hamstring locked up and i couldnt even turn the pedals. I was screaming in pain it hurt so bad! I was asking the leach for water because i knew he had some left in there and he said he was empty...meanwhile this cramp was still flexing its muscles and i had to get off my bike to stretch it out...coasting wasnt the cure. The leach, however, pressed on and right then and there I knew i had lost the race :(
I found a guard rail on the side of the road and stretched my leg out, still screaming in pain. This nice little lady on a hybrid road/mtn bike rolled up, stopped and asked if everything was ok, naturally it wasnt. but she was so nice, she gave me a full bottle of gatorade and said its yours, you need it more than i do! and so after a quick stretch of the hammy, and nearly chugging 2/3 of the bottle i felt able to get back on the bike and finish the ride out.
I didnt have any issues the rest of the ride, luckily, but i didnt know how many more people in the 100 mile ride went by me when i was sidelined. I was only off my bike for about 45 - 60 seconds, but it felt like an eternity. I finished the race and threw myself in the shade, looking for any and all cold beverages i could guzzle down.
After i felt like i could stand up and walk again, i went back over to the finish line and found the lady who gave me her water bottle finishing. I thanked her so much, gave her watter bottle back and gave her a huge hug, telling her she was the reason i was able to finish the race! She was happy she could help.
I never did see the leach when i finished, and he couldnt have been that far ahead of me because of how short i was stopped for, but oh well...some people just dont get it! I looked and asked around for the results and nothing was posted or nobody knew anything. with so many people at the race it was a circus, and super hectic. So I went home and showered, figuring i couldnt have won the race because i didnt beat the leach man!
Well i was wrong!! Monday morning i checked the results and sure enough, the first name atop the leaderboard:
1) Matt Inch, 24, 4:23:16
2) Leach Man 39, 4:23:24
I had won!!! I was so pumped, and that folks is karma right there. The race played out as it should and I feel I absolutely deserved this result! I worked my A$$ off out there all day. The results have since been updated and there is another rider who they put ahead of me who they say went 3:49:00, but after some "athlinks" research, it was a 36 year old lady who averaged 16.6 mph in a 40 mile ride. So i think its still safe to say that I can claim the top spot as mine :)
Overall a huge race for me, the bike legs are really taking a turn for the better and I am very excited about these half IM's at the end of the season :)