It’s been 3 days since the race and I barely have enough energy to stay in front of the computer for more than a few minutes at a time. An epic 5.5 hour race in the mud, 24 hour travel day, and stomach virus take a pretty big toll on the body.
In a lot of ways my trip to France to race the Marathon World Championships was years in the making. But I was ready to take advantage of the opportunity. I was in great shape, had a relaxing week leading up to the race, and had my mind in the right place. And then it rained.
In reality, I think there had been a few rainy weeks leading up to the race. And it was just a drizzly Saturday night that put things over the top on race day. From the gun I was covered in mud spray as 100 riders in front of me flew down the dirt road, splashing from puddle to puddle. There was pretty much no visibility, and no slowing down. Luckily we hit the first climb of the day about 10 minutes into the race and things settled in a little bit at that point. I found my rhythm and started passing some guys. Then at the top of the climb we hit the first REALLY muddy trails and the day was simply crazy from then on.
It didn’t take long to get to some un-rideable trails. There were sections that were too slick. There were sections where the mud was too sticky and brought wheels to a complete stop. There were sections I rode pretty much blind because of all the spray blasting up into my face. And of course there were mud bogs through cow pastures where there was no trail. About 2 hours into the day I was going really fast on a downhill muddy grass field and the next thing I knew I was on my back sliding head first for a good 50 feet. That wasn’t the only time I fell.
I know the top endurance racers have world class fitness and I know how fast they can climb, but their skill and overall pace in the really tough mud sections is simply amazing. (They also have some impresive support with pressure washers, new sunglasses, etc in every tech zone). As the day went on more and more of the tough mud sections started getting the better of me. Once momentum is lost, moving forward at a good speed gets exponentially harder. Instead of clearing a 2-3 minute section of trail, there were times I had a small mistake, then had to push my bike, then my tires clogged with mud, then I had to stop to pull some of the mud free, and I would lose 2-3 extra minutes in that short section of trail.
At the end of the day I gave everything I had out there. I’m proud of my performance and finishing 73rd out of 146 starters. But it wasn’t a day where my effort translated into my fastest riding. There were times the conditions got the best of me, times trouble with my bike held me back, and my pacing was a little off causing me to simply fade in the last hour and lose at least a dozen positions. Coming away from the highest level race I’ve ever done without my best performance leaves a little something to be desired. But just making it to a World Championship while balancing a normal everyday life is something I am super happy about and thankful for. I truly believe that letting the Lord guide my riding and my life the last couple years has led me to live out the purposes I was meant for. Whether His plan for me involves another Worlds or not, I am a happy man!