Marathon Nationals

Posted on 7:20 AM by Schottler

For the 3rd year in a row I went out to Breckenridge Colorado for the Firecracker 50, Marathon National Championship. It is 50 miles (actually 54 according to Mike's Garmin), around 11,000 feet of climbing, and elevation between 9,700 and 11,300 feet.

I was racing the Open Men 19-29 category, I finished last year in 10th place and the year before that in about 15th. Last year I managed to improve my time by 33 minutes and my goal was to crush that time again this year. I also changed my strategy, instead of setting my own pace at the start and see how it goes, I wanted to be with the lead group up the first 6 mile climb. The first part of the climb I was thinking "this isn't so bad, they aren't going that fast." But then I remembered I was in Colorado and I was climbing a mountain.

That wasn't a very good idea. I have always been told "you can't push yourself at your limit the whole time at altitude like you can in Missouri." I didn't listen to that advice, I pushed myself like I would with any climb in Missouri and after about 4 miles started to bog down... bad. I couldn't breath and my legs weren't getting rid of the lactic acid. The entire first lap I suffered horribly, my legs never opened up. I wasn't necessarily going slow, but I wasn't riding like myself. I was having trouble getting focused on the climbs, and I was bouncing off tree's in the single track and running everything over. I was coming to a conclusion that this race would just turn in to a bike ride.

At the end of the 1st lap, well over 2 hours later, I began to breath again and remembered how to ride single track and started to get in a rhythm. I came into lap 2 and my wonderful cheerleaders (Mike, Nate, and Jason) encouraged me, handed off a banana, handful of electrolyte pills, and told me I was running 5th place. I didn't think I was doing that well... awesome, huge motivation boost.

I hit the 6 mile climb again with a lot more power. Yuki Saito (Team Topeak/Ergon) caught me on the climb and I hopped on his wheel. We got in a group of about 5 guys and traded pulls up the climb. I took a pretty long and hard pull and was left with just Yuki and another guy. Yuki came around and said "you are riding very well," which was a nice comment and another motivation booster. I grabbed a couple bottles at the aid station and was set back about 15 seconds into the single track, and I tried to chase him back down again but got caught in traffic.

The rest of the lap I began riding like I should. I was powering up the climbs and ripping the single track. I was surprised how much time I was gaining in the single track, I guess that's a benefit of living and racing in the Midwest. I flew past 3 other guys in my age group through the single track and the climbs, thinking I was in 2nd place. I ended up finishing in 3rd somehow with a time of 4.22. I hit my goal of a top 5 finish, but I am super bummed about the time. That is only 7 minutes faster than last year... it should have been a lot faster. The first lap sort of killed me I think, but I shouldn't worry about the time and be happy with the result. 3rd place in a National Championship is good enough for me. Especially when not acclimated to altitude at all and having no training on epic 30 minute climbs. My time would have put me 25/43 in the Pro field, not too bad against dudes that live and train at altitude. My goal time would have had me in top 20 with the Pro's and a Stars and Stripes jersey in my group. I lost my age group by 8 minutes, pretty aggravating. I have the fitness and ability to get that time, it just wasn't the best day.

Next year this race will be in Bend Oregon... already planning on going.

Thank you to Mike, Beans, and Jason for driving my ass around, cooking food, and waiting around the whole race to help me out, it made the trip much better!


PooBah said...

Awesome ride and great post - congrats.

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