Podium pic: 3rd-yours truly, 1st-Jenna Zander-Rinehart (Specialized), 2nd-Kyia Anderson (Cannondale)
Since Ore to Shore is a 48 Mile point to point race, the race started in downtown Negaunee. Scott and I arrived at 8 a.m. and already people were lining up their bikes for the 9:45 a.m. start.
We ended up really lucky with the weather. It rained during the night, but by the start of the race it was just a mist. Temps were probably only in the high 60's-which I personally like.
While waiting for the start I tried to prepare myself mentally for how painful the start was going to be. Apparently I did not prepare myself enough, as it was completely brutal!!! Not only was the start on the road, but it was a mass start-which meant 800 some racers hammering down the road as fast as they could.
Scott came along the side of me and told me to latch on to his wheel, but that DID NOT go well at all. It was really nice of him to try, but every time I would gain contact he would accelerate and drop me and I would have to bridge back up. After a few minutes of trying I backed off because I was borderline ready to blow up in the first 2 miles. It was slightly frustrating as I watched about 5-8 women hammer past me while I felt like I was going backwards.
After a few miles the road turned into doubletrack and I started catching most of the women who had passed me. A few of them latched onto my wheel, but I was pretty confident about the pace that I was going and decided that I would pick it up a bit. We had to climb up a toboggan hill and our group broke up more. At this point a guy with a Ski Hut jersey and cool twin six socks (yes, I'm totally biased!) came and told me to bridge up with him. He set a really great pace and my legs started feeling better and better.
Eventually I settled in with a pretty fast group of guys. Besides one hike-a-bike, the rest of the race was fast, fast, fast. There are no monumental climbs on the course, but that means that there are no monumental downhills either. We basically had to hammer non-stop the entire race. Especially through the sandpits!!!!
In the middle of the race there is a road stretch that is about 5 miles long. There were a few roadies in the group that I was riding with, and the pace started to surge anytime we hit a hill. It hurt like crazy, but I knew that riding alone on the road would be a lot worse.
The rest of the race flew by. The pace was hard but at the same time I never felt like I was going to blow up. Before I knew it I was bike-surfing down the infamous sand hill. It's always such a good feeling to make it to the bottom without coming to a complete stop. After that I pretty much put my head down to my handlebars and rode alone to the finish. The last 2 miles were pretty rough. Bumpy doubletrack with wood chips AND a headwind. I allowed myself one look back, but other then that stared straight ahead until I crossed the finish line in 3rd place.
So let's recap...I did not get lost! I did not get sick! I did not have any mechanicals! I did not crash! And I finished with a pretty good time of 2:59:something. Can I get a woo-freaking-hoo? I think I had a perma-grin on my face for the rest of the day :-)
After I crossed the finish line Scott and I had to ride our bikes back to the start area to get our car. Not only was the ride back almost 1000 ft of climbing, but we also had a headwind. I could tell that I raced pretty hard because I had nothing left. We stopped at a bagel shop and I filled my water bottle up with coke and ate a cinnamon-raison bagel on the ride home. I'm so glad we stopped because those extra calories saved me from having to take a nap on the road! Every once in a while I would get cocky and try to break away from him, but he was able to shut me down within seconds :-)
I definitely plan on going back and racing Ore to Shore again. I have no clue what my schedule will look like next year, but this is a race that I would love to win someday. It's definitely a different type of race. It's a mountain bike race that you have to treat like a road race, and it's a distance that requires some pacing. For XC racers the race is about an hour longer then they are used to, and for me it was about 3-6 hours shorter! I do know this...the next time I do this race I'm going to do a lot more speed work beforehand in preparation for the start!