Round five of my unbroken streak of attending the Stinger. I’m still a bit surprised that I’ve managed to attend every year this race has been going. Between moving across the atlantic a few times and plenty of other life changes, it’s rather funny that the Stinger has become such an unmoving fixture.
I don’t normally include the geeky details in blog posts, but I will for a change: I ate 1160 calories (five packets of Honey Stinger chews, two gels and one waffle), drank 220 calories (two tall bottles of Kiwi/Lime flavoured Carborocket), and also drank six bottles of water, for a total of about three litres of fluid. TrainingPeaks estimated I spent 3300 calories during the race, so I finished with roughly a 2000 calorie deficit. No cramping this time, even though it was really hot out there.
I came third this year, like last year, and the year before. But I’m in no way disappointed with that. In fact, I’m really happy with my race. The field every year is “national standard” strong. This year, Kerry and Jamey from the Raleigh Clement team lined up for the first time, and Russell Finsterwald came back to see if he could add to his two previous wins. We got to the line in time to talk to the other 115 men in the Open field. It’s a big race, with 600 starters total. The start is one of the most brutal in all of marathon racing; straight up the ski slope at Howelsen Hill. I was gapped from the gun, with Russell setting a fierce pace. I settled into about fourth, and ground my way towards Emerald Mountain.
From town, Emerald Mountain is the north facing hill with the radio towers on top. It looks small compared to the main ski area. But it’s not. Its concave face ramps up steadily, and “the stairway to heaven” trail takes you on the most direct route to the ridge road on the summit. Cleaning this section is more a point of pride than race tactics. It hurts, and you’re on the front of your saddle hoping for traction. From there, there pleasure of the Ridge Trail comes into view. The aid station buzzes by in a blur, and you’re descending for a solid 20 minutes. It’s bliss. I got caught by Kelly Magelky, Kerry Werner and Jakub Valigura on the short dirt road section before the second climb, and I happily sat with them all the way to the top. Kelly set a great pace and I was content to just sit on.
We split apart a little on the descent – Kerry lead the way and I followed closely, but decided to stop to take a tactical bathroom break on the way down. I chose the spot where I’d loose the least momentum, but it did cost me the chance to follow Kerry on lap two. Coming through the start/finish is tough, knowing you’ve got to go do it again. At this point I was still in fourth, with 5th – 8th close behind. It’s daunting knowing that everyone is chasing you. With riders so close behind me, I set a pretty hard pace, aiming to stop any freeloaders getting onto my wheel without working for it. By the time I hit stairway to heaven for the second time, I was alone and feeling pretty good. I cruised down the ridge trail for a second time, and then began climbing the Bell trail. It’s a long winding climb. Even after five times racing (so 10 times up this trail), I forget the in’s and out’s of the climb. By the time I got to the unofficial aid station near the top, I suddenly started seeing glimpses of a blue helmet ahead of me. A Raleigh Clement helmet. I thought it was Kerry, but it was actually Jamey Driscoll. I came over the top of the climb with him in my sights, and soon reeled him in. I didn’t quite know how blown he was, so I rode the last descent as hard as I could. I crossed the line in 4:15, pretty much the same as every other time I’ve raced. I was 10 minutes down on Russell, which wasn’t too bad, and four minutes back on Kerry.
I was really happy to make the podium after a rough first lap. It took quite a lot of suffering to pull it together on the second lap. Since racing in Wisconsin at the end of July I’ve had some down time; not riding much and trying to let my body catch up with the endless fatigue. Without any long rides of any kind, I didn’t know how I’d do, but I think the time I’ve spent off my bike has actually been really valuable. I’m motivated again to be racing, and I’m planning a late season campaign of Colorado’s best races.