November 6th, 2011
It rained just once this week. Yep, during race day of course. Oh, and it rained hard.
I couldn’t sleep that night due to nerves and finally got out of bed at 4 a.m. I arrived at my friends’ house at 5 and we drove to the race together talking strategy and pace.
It was early, cold and wet and I was concerned about being able to ride the 120 km race (74.56 miles) in those conditions. Because I work 7 days a week I haven’t had the time to ride over 100 KM all year. Most of my rides are around 50 or 60 km (31 ~ 37 miles). I knew I could do it but I wasn’t sure how sluggish I’d be.
This race was a little different from regular races and it doesn’t attract many pro riders. In fact, out of the 128 riders there were only 2 at this event. They were mostly using it for training I believe. I think because we shared the roads with traffic and even had to stop at 1 or 2 traffic lights makes it less attractive. However, when the awards were being handed out at the end, both pro riders agreed that it was one of the toughest courses they’ve ridden. There is hardly a flat section to the race and if you’re not going down one side of a mountain, you are climbing the other.
So, my plan was to start off with a comfortable pace and ride my own ride. Let people pass me. Don’t get competitive. Save energy. Finish!
The ride started with a 10 km (6.2 m) downhill and then 26 km (16.15 m) up and up and up. There was an aid station at the top where I fueled up before going down the backside. It was cold, wet and slippery with leafs and switch back corners but only one accident that I witnessed. He went over a bank and into the river the poor guy! I think only his pride was hurt though.
The last 20 km (12.4 m) was by far the toughest. At the 100 km (62 m) mark the climb up Semene mountain pass to Katashina became really steep. To my surprise those riders I let go ahead at the beginning were starting to appear in my sight. Again, I just wanted to get up and over the hill but while doing so I passed a lot of riders. I must confess when I finally reached the top and saw the tunnel I’d been praying for, I was bagged. Then there was a nice 9 km downhill coast to get the legs back (somewhat) before having to do another grueling last 9 km climb to the finish. How evil of them!
On the final 9 km I saw another 3 riders who I overtook. The bike race brochure reads “120 km Giro De Hotaka”. During the last stretch my bike computer was reading 118 as I climbed the tough grade. I was thinking to myself, “No, not another 2 km of this! I don’t think I can do it.” Then as I rounded the corner I saw the finish line in front of me at the 119 km mark. That was a welcomed surprise (finishing 1 km earlier than I expected).
I crossed over the line exhausted as they yelled out, “7th”. I said to them, “No, my race number is 98”. And they said again, “No, you are in 7th place”.
Wow, that completely surprised me. I figure I owe a big thanks to all my Dailymile friends for keeping me motivated and inspired.
Of course the 2 pro riders got first and second place respectfully and I should make it clear that they finished a good 30 minutes before I did! Ha-ha.
But heck, I’ll take lucky 7.
Click here for an earlier post I wrote about Giro de Hotaka.