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Eppie's Great Race Report

Old 07-19-08, 09:17 PM
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Eppie's Great Race Report

It's funny how things work out. Just a few weeks ago, my wife mentioned that the Eppie's race was coming up, and I should compete in it. I replied with a response like "Yeah, that would be great! Maybe next year!" but with no intention of actually doing it.

Then, on Thursday the 17th (yeah, two days ago), a coworker of mine comes up. She starts by asking if I have any plans for Saturday (It's always trouble when someone asks what your plans are on a Saturday without telling you why they care). She tells me her boyfriend just lost his Eppie's team mate, who was to be his runner and his cyclist, and that he was looking for someone to ride and someone to run. Did I want to compete? Did I know someone who could run? I thought about it for a few, and I did want to compete. And I knew a pretty good runner too.

By Thursday evening, my friend was all set to run, I was set to ride and we were set to register. We did have a few issues. The most basic issue is that we had never met my coworkers boyfriend, who was to be our kayaker. Past that, our runner had just finished recovering from a stress fracture and hadn't run in eight weeks, I hadn't been riding much due to the smoke and I also haven't ever raced road. No problem! We named our team "Last Second", met for about 10 minutes in a parking lot Friday night and figured we'd just go from there. In preparation, I borrowed a nice light wheelset (Ksyrium SL with Michelin tires - much better wheelset than my Tarmac stock wheels) from my neighbor and good riding buddy who was recently injured, and my friend (the runner) and I had a pasta dinner. Nothing like good planning.

This morning, we were both up at 4:30, groggy, but with a strong brew of coffee in the pot, and a breakfast of eggs and oatmeal. We left a little later than planned (6:30), but it didn't end up being a big deal. We got right in at River Pond Park, got a spot, unloaded the car (and a final bladder unload) and parted ways. The main issue I had today is that the race starts at William Pond Park with the runners, then heads six miles to Guy West Bridge. I then ride 12.5 miles to Sunrise and the Kayak takes off. From Sunrise, there is no shuttle back, and I had no ride but my bike. The course was closed, so I had to find my own way, which ended up being its own experience.

At about 7:15, I headed down the bike trail to Guy West Bridge and got set up on the grid for the start. Immediately, I noticed the extremely wide range of cyclists and bike types. Everyone and pretty much every bike type was represented, from mountain bikes with baskets on them to singlespeed bianchis (ridden by a kid with 80s print leotard type pants) and the elite guys with full aero bikes and kit. Because I got the bike start at about 7:30, and the race started with the runners at 8, I had a bunch of time to kill. I spent some time talking to people on the grid: I spoke with a Kaiser PT about the benefits of IT in healthcare, I talked with a Ride For A Reason team mountain biker about her recent race, and I helped a newer cyclist with info about clipless shoes and pedals. For some reason, her cycling friends were trying to talk her in to $300 shoes or something so she was happy to hear that she could get quality shoes and pedals for much less. It was a nice morning down there.

Finally at 8, the race started and we didn't have much time left to wait. Amazingly, the first runner in took about 28 minutes (guy ran 5.8 miles in 28 minutes, incredible). I was expecting my runner to take about 40-42, so I patiently waited. My guy did the run in 39 minutes and change. He ran up (I was easy to find in my bright orange Wheaties jersey), gave me the wrist band and I was off. Starting the race, I had no idea what to expect. I have some racing experience, but it's limited to mountain bike races at Prairie City. I did have two goals: beat the Great Race Team Pace Time of 34:47 in the cycling leg, and to not be the weak link on my team . Because the ride was only 12.5 miles, I decided I would start at full effort and taper back as needed, and I would use my Garmin to manage my cadence and average speed.

Starting out, I stood up and quickly sprinted up to speed. Once up to about 22mph, I got down in the drops and hammered. Before long, I was catching other racers on the course. Drafting is legal in Eppie's, so I would usually spend about 15 seconds behind someone, then jump out and hammer (those wheels sure are snappy) to overtake them and continue along my way. The first part of the course is very flat, with maybe two small roller type hills. Additionally, before William Pond Park, the course is pretty straight, with only a few light curves and two sharp curves just prior to the park. This made it a pretty easy going, flat out speed section.

After about two miles I realized something. I was having fun. I've raced at Prairie City for the first 4-6 races for the last two years and have never had fun like this. Last year, I was still a bit heavy, having only been riding for about a year. I'd made big improvements, but still had a ways to go. This year, I was .. still a bit heavy, but also still recovering in muscle and fitness from severely breaking my leg last year (which was also part of my persisting heaviness). As a result, even though I've always had fun at Prairie City, because the people there are all awesome and you're basically out mountain biking with a bunch of awesome people on a Wednesday night, I've suffered. The hills kill me, the flats kill me, the downhills kill me. When I see the photographers on the course, I try to look determined, fast, cool, but it's usually pretty apparent that I'm just sucking wind. Today, however, I was having a blast. I was riding where I wanted to be, feeling great, and truly enjoying myself on the bike. As a result, I got to have some fun with the photogs - I threw up some horns, smiled, sprinted, etc. All in good fun . It also helped that I was wearing the Wheaties jersey, that, regardless of where I'm riding is always met with "GO WHEATIES!!!!!!!!!!"

Just before William Pond Park, I was caught by a pace line. They were moving about 26 mph. I jumped in to the back of their group, but I have a hard time with pace lines. I'm not yet confident enough with riding that close to another rider (I'm afraid of making a mistake and hurting someone else), so I tend to ride too far off the back, which results in them dropping me. As usual, this happened today, but it was no big deal - you gotta keep on keepin' on, and I did. Following Richie Bridge, which connects William Pond Park to Goethe Park (or C.M River Park I think now), the course gets a little more hilly, with a couple of very short but sort of steep inclines, and an overall upward trend. In addition, it gets much more curvy. Adding to the fun, some guy had decided to latch on to me and let me pull him for a while. Even though I'm down to where I want to be, I'm still a bigger guy, so I am used to this. Quickly, I noticed how sticky these tires were, and how a few tips I've picked up from riding with better riders lately, were making my turns much faster. I also noticed that the guy I was pulling wasn't that experienced on the bike, because every time we'd hit a turn, I'd hear him click gears and hammer to get back in my massive draft.

I decided to have some fun with him.

At one point, a full aero guy ripped past us at about 28mph. I sprinted up to get in this guys draft, and it was awesome for all three of the seconds I was able to hang with him. The dude I was pulling was lost for a bit, but I hadn't gained much ground on him, and he was back in my draft after a 30 seconds or so. At this point, I just kept my pace, but I'd absolutely rail the corners ("railing" in this instance means very fast for my skill level). I was taking most turns between 20 and 25mph, and loving making him work for every second I'd pull him. At this point, I was closing in on the end of the cycling section. I was glad to have the end near as I was tired from the effort, but I was a bit sad because I was having a blast. I kept pushing, even though I could feel my legs starting to get a bit tired. At about 3-miles from the finish, I got that familiar feeling of my stomach contents coming up. I decided to stop drinking, and to keep pedaling (harder if I could). Besides, I figured if I blew chunks, I'd just blow them to the left and in to this dude who was enjoying the fruits of my labor . Pretty soon though, the feeling was gone, and it didn't seem like my tagalong had the juice to pass me. After a particularly wicked S-turn, where I was able to make the entire section straight (the apexes lined up perfectly), I stood up, hammered off and he was gone.

I pushed on now and was riding alone for about a mile or so. With about a mile and a half to go, another pace line caught me. There were four riders in it, so I hopped on to the rear wheel of the last guy. They were doing about 24 mph and were pretty easy to run with. I got visions of Tour stages in my head, and planned my awesome sprint finish. With about a half mile to go, I pulled off the group and started my run for the end. Unfortunately, I timed it waaaaaayyyy wrong, and we were coming up on a very, very sharp turn, which was followed by a section that was speed controlled for a hundred feet or so to the finish. I only lost a half second or so by failing to pass these guys, but the cool factor dropped a bit.

As I got to the finish, a course volunteer took my bike (it's hard giving your bike over to someone you don't know) and I was to proceed along to the Sunrise footbridge and find my guy to hand off the wristband. I posted a thread about this run, because my leg still hasn't recovered fully to the point where I can run well, and I was in shoes with a carbon sole and SPD cleats. I took a few strides, and realized it would be easier and safer for me to use my leg stride to jog with huge forward hops. As I got on to the bridge, I saw a few hundred people and realized I didn't really know what my guy looked like. I had seen him once, but today he'd be wearing a helmet and life-vest. I decided to just keep running forward, knowing my jersey was impossible to miss, and hoping he'd call out my name and I could hand off. Thankfully, this is just what happened. He called out my name, I gave him the wrist band and I let out a huge sigh of relief that I'd done my part, and that I felt great about the work I'd done.

From here, I needed to ride back to the park. As I was riding back, another guy asked if I was heading to the park, and I could tell he was since he had numbers, so I followed him. Unfortunately, he's the kind of guy that runs stop lights and stop signs, which I am not, so I lost him, and found myself lost in an unfamiliar area. My phone (with GPS and maps on it) was in my car, so I started asking locals for help. Thankfully, I ran in to someone who finally had a basic idea of the area in which they lived (I asked three women how to get to arden or fair oaks and they acted like they'd never heard of it, which is absurd for where they live) and he directed me out and back to the park.

Once I got to my car and grabbed my phone, I had a call from our kayaker. I called him back and he said "Man, you guys did killer, we took second!!!!"

Second. Second.


My first road race, my first time at Eppie's, on a team that formed two days prior, with no training for the event, and we took second in our class.

The Great Race is an awesome event. The people there are friendly and the competition is awesome. I had a great time; I can't wait to race next year!!

Garmin data:
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Old 07-19-08, 09:41 PM
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Excellent report! Sounds like you had a great time. And I'm glad you tried out those wheels. And 2nd place? Wow! Great job.

I was planning to take my son down to watch, but got waylaid into helping pack a truck. Our neighbors are moving. Then I ran down to the Bike Kitchen to see if they had an old used Shimano brifter to get my wife's commuter back up (they did, it needed a little TLC, but it's working great). Then more errands. Didn't get to ride today.

Interested in another morning ride this coming week?

Some sort of pithy irrelevant one-liner should go here.
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