I finished. Goal accomplished.
I was worried when I woke because even though I took the time change into account and set my alarm clock and phone, neither went off but with all the anticipation I was up and only 15 minutes later than I planned. Got everything packed and headed out for the race. Got there and it was 33 degrees I tried to stay warm as I registered and got everything ready. As dawn was breaking we lined up for the B race and I noticed my right hip flexor was cramping a little, suck.
We finally roll out as the sun comes up around 8:45 and the pack quickly engulfs both lanes and the shoulder of the 4-lane highway with everyone cruising along. We took the first turn easily onto the first 2-lane stretch and I soon realized that the yellow line rule was a joke for this race as dozens of people were moving to the front even with cars up-the worst part of is that I was stuck by the white line moving up very slowly. I knew I needed to be closer to the front before the first gravel section.
30 miles into it and no attacks and very few surges, but when we turned onto the gravel I realized I wasn't at the back of the front group but at the front of the middle as I saw the pack pull away as I worked to pass the gravel newbs. Near the end of the first gravel section I tried to join up with a chase group of 10 or so but they took off at the feed zone and I couldn't catch them. 4 guys picked me up and we worked for another 25 miles until it was just two of us and I started cramping and decided to stop to pee.
I reached the second gravel section and the 1st big climb alone but I was ready with my improvised climbing cassette of 32-12 It's nice working at a bike shop! Unfortunately, at the top of the climb I was toasted due to my cramps and lack of anything to relieve them. In retrospect, I shouldn't have hooked up with the really strong woman right afterward as she was pushing me way too hard for 30 miles left.
I ended up riding alone except when a pack of 2 or 3 would pass and I'd try to hold a wheel for 5 min. I was toasted at the beginning of the 2nd gravel climb and had to walk it like everyone else, Blast! I was even worse through this gravel section being extra cautious on the sharp descents because I was so cramped and sore-I knew I couldn't control the bike as well as I needed and didn't want to end up in the woods.
For the final 15 miles I probably averaged about 14 mph and got passed by a dozen riders but I just couldn't push any harder.
I finished in 5:42 by my computer, achieving my goal of sub 6hrs and besting my personal training time on the course by 1 hr. over this ~100 mile race of attrition
After hearing about the pack's exploits I'm glad I got dropped-too much carnage for me.
Not bad for my 3rd mass start as a cat 5!