Sand in My Chamois - the 4th annual Hell of the Marianas
What a day. Between the 90 degree sun, rain showers, international field, and slick descents, the HOM was bound to be interesting. The race started bright (well, dark, actually) and early at 6.15am and the attacks began almost immediately. Chris and I sat in and tried to save energy as we knew the first climb and the 1km gravel section afterwards would prove decisive. Indeed they did with the field exploding behind an acceleration from one of the Russians. A group of 9 got away, with myself just getting tailed off over the top of the climb (something that always seems to happen to me at the most inopportune time) into the gravel. The field behind had shattered with Chris and one of the South Koreans about one minute behind me and the rest in small groups after them.
I felt as if I stood a chance of catching the group ahead, and so I pressed on, up the climb of Kagman and then down to Kingfisher and back up again. By this time I was right in the middle - the break was 2 mins ahead and Chris, who was now on his own, was 2 mins behind. I lost a couple more minutes to the break on the flat, headwind section that followed. I thought about waiting for Chris, but I had been steadily picking off riders who had been dropped from the break.
By the time I hit the climb of Radar Tower, I was 6th place on the road and I had closed the gap to the break back down to 2 mins. So, I rode as fast as I could, getting a water hand-up from the car, towards Suicide Cliff. I was feeling good on the climb, but on a short descent from Bird Cove there was a problem - I could feel my rear tire losing air. I had just seen Stacey and Peter, so I knew the car and spare wheels were nearby, but I couldn't reach them. The tire went flat right at the intersection with the road to the Grotto, where a policeman happened to be standing. I asked him if he would drive up the climb and tell Peter that I was here with a puncture and, in the friendly way that is so much a part of Island life, he actually did! Peter was there 2 mins later and as Chris passed, soft-pedaling, handed me a wheel. It was 10 speed and didn't quite work with my 11 speed shifters, but it was better than sitting in the car.
Chris and I wasted no time catching the Korean who had by now passed us and was headed down the flat beach road to the finish. With about 6km to go, he began to cramp so we jumped him and cruised in for 6th and 7th places. Since we finished side-by-side, I'm not sure who got what, but I am sure the results will be posted soon.
This was one hard race. The heat and climbing conspire to make it tough. The icy-slick descents meant that there was little rest there, and being caught in no-man's land for 50km didn't help. I ended up burning nearly 3000 calories with a Normalized Power of 300W over more than 3 hours. I didn't reach my goal of a top 5 finish, but I wasn't far off. Of the guys who finished ahead, two are professionals and one is nearly there, so I think it was a good result.
I'll post some photos as soon as I have them.
Okay, now I have them. Here they are:
Waiting for the start in the open-air lobby
Getting a handup from my lovely wife!