Hi, here's the executive summary of Stage 2 for the Mt Whitney Stage Race:
Something went funny in my left knee with about 3 steep miles of climbing to go. I kept going, one-legged, and finished and hung on to my stupendous 11th place (out of 14) on GC. One place out of the money. (Not that I had a chance to be in the money after Stage 1.)
The long version begins with me waking up Sunday morning in my huge motel suite (3 queen-size beds) feeling much better than I expected. Went through my usual pre-race routine and got to the start with plenty of time to loosen up. Race started pretty much the same as Stage 1. Racer Ex's NorCal friend took off with another fast guy or two and the rest of the field of women, kids, beginners, and old guys broke apart. (FYI, Racer Ex's friend is an old guy.)
I had the same strategy as in Stage 1, ride at a sustainable wattage. On the second lap of the loop the the Alabama Hills, I caught up to a few people after getting dropped by some of those people on the descent. Got to the neutral feed at the "bottom" of Whitney Portal Road and took some time to stop, refill my electrolyte bottle and take a fresh bottle of water. A group containing the two women that passed me near the end of Stage 1 caught up to me and since they just took a hand-up, we hit Whitney Portal Road together.
I was doing a yo-yo thing with them, even though I was trying to hold a steady wattage. However, as we continued on the long, straight and steep road, I started feeling something in my left knee. Something turned into acute pain. I stopped. I thought about quitting and I thought I had about 4 miles to go (turns out it was 3). I decided to try to using mostly my right leg and only use my left leg to get over the dead spots. I thought that I would be smart enough to quit if the pain got to the point where I thought I was doing some significant damage to my knee. A couple of people passed me while I was stopped but one of them stopped so I passed him back. He passed me again later.
I get into these mental states where I keep rationalizing that I'm doing the right thing -- not quitting -- during some of my cycling adventures. My power readings were pitiful; my knee was hurting, but not getting worse; and I was going so slow on the 12%+ grades that my computer's autopause function enabled twice. I finally got to the switchback where the grade was in the 5% range and as soon as I started spinning my right hamstring cramped. Another stop with more mental gymnastics on why I should ride to the top.
Got the cramp under control and kept riding. The moto ref was riding up and down the mountain (same as Stage 1) and when I was within a mile of the finish he asked how I was doing. I said, "I could be doing a lot better but I think I'll make it." I added, "Am I last?"
He said, "No, there's 5 more behind you."
Made it to the finish but only lost 7 minutes to the guy who I'd beaten the day before by 11 minutes. Hooray for small victories.
After composing myself in the finish area and confirming that I was really out of the money, I made another slow descent off the mountain. Whitney Portal Road was in worse shape than Horseshoe Meadows Road. Also, the views from Whitney Portal are not quite as grand as from Horseshoe Meadows.
Course stats: 29.8 miles, ~5,500 ft of climbing, summit at ~7, 900 ft above sea level.
Epilogue: Went to a scheduled appointment with my chiropractor on Monday and told him about my knee (which was only bothering me a little when I walked DOWN stairs). We talked about my recently changed saddle position and new shoes. Then he started checking my leg. He said my IT Band was really tight and that fatigue and/or overuse can cause that. He also said that the tightness can cause your leg to rotate and that the knee pain was consistent with that kind of rotation. He did some things to my leg -- which hurt like hell -- and prescribed some spinning and then some IT Band work with a foam roller followed by icing the knee. The knee feels normal today. Just in time for my Tuesday evening race.