After this was established, everything was cool
The tour was over, and she went back to school
I'm not really sure what motivated me to jump onto my teammate Janelle's "Tour of Pain" idea. I guess it was because I was already doing two of the four events already. I hadn't done a endurance MTB race since 2010, but I was already kicking around the idea of the Tri-State 6 Hour Series. I guess when she signed up for the Big Frog 65, I figured it was time to give it another shot. Barry-Roubaix was just to complete the quartet.
Of course, I had no idea when I signed up for "the tour" that it would correspond with such a period of upheaval in my life, so over the last two weeks I spent a lot of time flip-flopping about whether I would go to Big Frog or not. Even after I saw that I would be fully moved and have my house in order in time to go, I still wondered if I had the emotional strength to make the trip and race the race. My main motivation for going was that I didn't want to let my friend Chrysa down, because she, her husband, and another friend were depending on me to split a cabin with them.
Things started to come together in the final days before the race, and I finally started to feel at peace, if a little sleep deprived. My fitness/preparedness to race was a non-issue, as I had been lacking in weekly ass-kickings for a while, but I also knew that I'd finished harder races in worse shape before. Right after the Death March, which seems roughly a million years ago, I looked at the results, thought that I ridden legitimately well, and dreamed of a possible sub-7 hour finish at Big Frog. I got in my car Friday morning with no intentions other than to get myself and my bike to Tennessee, make it to the starting line, and start pedaling.
So in the pouring rain at 7:30 on Saturday morning, that is what I did. And strangely, once I started pedaling, I felt good. I slowly moved up through the pack on the gentle paved climb to the singletrack, and once I hit the trail, I was flying along through the mud, passing dudes left and right. I kept that up for quite a while until I finally had to stop for a gel, lost a lot of places, and then had to work to get them back.
Once the singletrack was over, things spread out a bit, although I still felt like I was still doing more passing than being passed. Unfortunately, a flat tire not very long into the gravel section derailed my awesome groove. My fingers had already been numb for a while, and when I tried to fix the flat, I found myself completely confused and my hands to be useless stumps when I tried to get the old tube out. I fumbled for quite some time as person after person passed, and eventually I had to accept help from a passerby. I was fully chattering, shaking, and hypothermic at that point.
The rest of the race was just whatever. I pedaled hard, got myself back up to a non-shivering temperature and ground through the rest of the gravel. It did lift my spirits a bit at the next-to-last aid station when I caught a girl who'd passed me during the flat tire delay, and she said, "Good God you're fast!" or something like that. I've definitely never heard that in an endurance race before.
Anyway, I finished in 7:56, which wasn't the sub-7:00 for which I'd vaguely hoped, but I really considered getting myself to the starting line pretty miraculous, so I can't complain too much. It appears that 39 women registered, 20 finished, and I came in 13th. So really, it blows away any previous endurance race performance where strategy and male assistance didn't come into play. Maybe this is the "new normal" I hoped to find after Barry-Roubaix; regular dates with podiums and prize beer may still elude me for a while, but maybe DFL's are a thing of the past, too.
And the "new normal" is exactly what I've been craving for the past week. Now that The Tour of Pain has ended, in all senses, I'm ready to just settle into normal life again. Go to work, get back to training, induce some weekend ass-kickings etc. I think that for the rest of the year my adventures will be limited to regional-series MTB and CX races, with the possible exception of an appearance at the Gravel Metric on Memorial Day weekend. Luckily, it's free and you don't have to register, so I'm done with commitments for a while. Maybe I can talk Janelle into an epilogue for the tour, though...