RACE REPORT: Loran At Snake Alley

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Kristin, Mark, and I loaded up the Expedition on Friday and headed east for what was for each of us our first attempt at the Memorial Day race weekend. Fun and laughter filled the truck as we cruised towards Mediapolis for the Friday Night road race. We arrived in plenty of time to register, pick up numbers, and enjoy the entertainment from the locals (a singing Elvis did make an appearance).

The course was 24 miles point-to-point with a few hills, a nasty headwind for the first 8 miles, 10 miles of crosswinds, and 6 miles of rollers with a tailwind. Mark was the first to start with the Cat 4s, followed by the Cat 4 women, and lastly the Cat 5 men. DQ gave me sound coaching, "stay out of the wind, do little work for the first 18 miles, but hit the gas on the rollers with the tailwind." So, off we went riding into a 20 mile headwind, the great thing about Cat 5s is that there is little strategy, with that being said, one individual pulled hard for the first 10 miles without letting go of the lead. Naturally I did as I was coached and sit pleasantly in 3rd-5th position. We made the turn heading South and the paced picked up until four of us were off the front. Unfortunately, we didn't work as well as we could have and we let 2 individuals bridge back on to the lead group. We made the turn East with the tailwind with a group of 6. I hit the gas on the first roller but shook no one- First thought was "now what?" Stay the course, rotate through, but stay in the top 2-3. Well that didn't quite work as somehow 2 people got off the front. We played around back-and-forth knowing it was going to be a 4 person sprint for 3rd place, we approached the 1k sign so I made the decision to at least make this hurt a bit. The tempo kept rising until I saw the 200 meter sign and "boom" it was time to sprint (well as much as a Cat 5 former triathlete can sprint). What I find out is that I have 150 meter sprinting ability and not 200 meter sprinting ability. After the finish the two guys I lead-out did thank me, that's the beauty of Cat 5. Overall, the race was fun, I had a blast, met some new friends, and learned some new lessons on racing. With that being said I knew the "Snake" awaited me the next day. Both Kristin and Mark had great races (I will let them recant their own stories) and finished in the money for Cat 4s.

Jane Riessen had invited us to her folks place in Burlington for a Bar-B-Q. Thank you John and Roxy Riessen for an awesome meal!

Morning came and it was time to head to downtown Burlington to get our first glimpse of Snake Alley. The "Snake" is "A one block long climb is on the historic brick street named Snake Alley, dubbed "the crookedest street in the world." The 276 foot long Snake Alley has 5 switchbacks in a sixty foot climb. The average grade is 12.5 percent in that one block. Bring a suitable gear cluster for that kind of climbing. This is one of the most physically challenging races in the Midwest". Ouch! 60 minutes prior to my race I started my warm-up as I new I needed to be warm for the start. Cat 5s did 8 laps of the .8 mile course. We lined up for the start based on when you registered. I was lined-up 35th out of some 40+ racers, back row of 4 rows, inside position for the first turn, bad spot. "Bam" the gun goes off, 100 yards take a right turn, 50 yards later you enter the "Snake", I am sitting in 2nd to last and I am close to anaerobic already. We climb the "Snake" and the fun begins. If you love to be anaerobic, like to "let the clutch out" on descents, and have no fear of tight corners, then this is the race for you! On top of all that, the fans are awesome, there are hundreds of people lining the snake either yelling your name or your team name, what a rush! Back to the race, I immediately entered Zone 5 after the first ascent of the "Snake" and decided I would be playing catch-up.

DQ and the PRC ladies were at the top of the "Snake" yelling encouragements, thanks! DQ said, "go as hard as you physically can up the "Snake", get over the top and get in your big ring and bomb the descent". Wow, that worked magnificently! Each lap I was passing people on the "Snake", passing people on the three 90-degree right turns on the descent (seeing hay bales wrapped around posts is always an encouraging sign), while taking a slight recovery for 150 yards before the next lap. DQ gave me race position updates each lap and I was moving up. With 3 laps to go I was in 7th place 30 seconds down to the leaders, 2 laps to go I was in 5th place 20 seconds down to the leaders, 1 lap to go I was in 3rd place 15 seconds down to the leaders. I totally bombed the last descent hoping to catch the leaders but having lapped other riders I did not know who the leaders were. Sprinting towards the line (go back to earlier statement of Cat 5 former triathlete sprinting)I was fortunate enough to finish in 3rd place with a new "true" love for bike racing! Standing on the podium with the Rassy's kit was awesome, collecting some swag even better, but being done with the "Snake", priceless!

Top honors for the weekend go to Cam Kirkpatrick, who did 2 races on the "Snake" totalling 24 laps and finished 1st in the Masters 40+ and 2nd in the Masters 30+. Great job Cam!

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