It doesn’t get much better than riding the Almanzo for the first time. For starters, I’m a glorified commuter, and even at my finest, I’m not that glorious. I don’t watch what I eat, as long as the ol’ ticker keeps on ticking, I don’t care about the rate at which that happens, and I don’t shave my legs. I don’t really race.
But I’m competitive.
So entering something like the Almanzo for the first time put me in an interesting mental place. I wanted to do well, knew I would be disappointed if I didn’t, but had no way of knowing what realistic expectations were. We rolled out, and I took note of everybody around me, all of whom seemed more fit than me. Our first descent took out several of them in the most horrific crash I’ve ever seen firsthand (I stopped to lend aid to a gent I was sure would need an ambulance - he waived me off). Then we got into the rhythm of the race and I noticed I was passing more than being passed. I didn’t have a computer, so I didn’t know how far we’d gone. The first time I asked, we were two miles short of the checkpoint, and I felt great. The next time I asked we were at mile 96, and I still felt great. It was at that point I realized we were going to climb the hill responsible for the unsustainable speed that resulted in the aforementioned horrific crash. I’d been trading pulls with a guy for the last several miles and told him, after we get the climb out of the way, let’s take it in together. He liked the idea. I took the lead, dropped a gear, and hit the gas.
When I looked back to check on him, he was a quarter mile behind. Maybe that was inconsiderate. Maybe if I’d done more racing, I would’ve been more in tune and would’ve noticed I’d dropped him. In either case, I had more gas in the tank when it counted, and I took tremendous satisfaction in ticking off a couple more places before crossing the finish line.
I don’t remember in what place I finished, but it was a long way from top ten. I think my time was about six and a half hours, and I know I loved every second of it. I’m not sure I’ll ever call myself a racer, but there are a lot more races on my schedule for 2011. See you there.