First, a preview from the local paper! I love this style of local sports reporting: as you can tell, this is a very serious matter...
Because I am an idiot, I did not give my bike a test ride beforehand (it just looks so chaotic with everyone weaving all over small parking lot and road - but yes, I will not make the same mistake next time); then when I took my place at the very very back of the peloton (I knew I would be dropped immediately - even their 'neutral zone' speed is considerably too fast for me), I dropped my chain and found my wheel locked in place. Fortunately a few folks hastily helped me get recombobulated, and I was off...
It was a two-loop course, 42 miles total, and I knew I'd be much slower than everyone else. The first stretch of the loop is incredibly windy, to the point that I worried my back brakes might be on, but it's a nicer course than they had last year - less traffic, much more scenic all round. A spot where suddenly the air is full of butterflies sipping nectar from flowered hedges - and tiny crabs crossing the road - and birds flapping alongside one at about the same speed a bicycle goes - and, unfortunately, lots of dogs that chase after a bicycle barking!
I really was way at the back - I saw a few other cyclists I know out for their training rides, but not a squeak of the peloton. However I was prepared for this, and it did not affect my spirits!
I took a short break once I'd done the challenging windy stretch of the second loop, to have a couple puffs of ventolin and transfer Gatorade from cage bottles into Camelbak. Lo and behold, another race participant pedaled up behind me: she had stopped, I think perhaps was thinking of quitting, and said that as she saw me go by, she realized it was her best chance! This gave an amazing lift to the spirits - we took turns pulling, and rode the last hour together. Very pleasant indeed, and I didn't feel I ended up having to tap particularly deep, though it is certainly incredibly hot out there and I could have taken in more calories over the course of the ride.
A very pleasant morning, thanks to race organizers and volunteers (including Brent, who was a course marshal at the end of the loop - in a general sense it made me smile as I came up on the end of each loop to think I'd see him, but more particularly we were very grateful that after we rolled by - we were the two last finishers - he drove his SUV up to the finish and saved us from having to ride the 7K back to the start!)...
41.27mi (but really I think it was 42, Garmin's just slightly off)
2:47:41 (14.7mph average)
avg HR 150, max HR 169
zone 2: 35:48
zone 3: 47:34
zone 4: 58:17
zone 5 (windy bits!): 25:13