As I headed south I enjoyed a nice bit of cross-tailwind which was coming out of the NW at 17 according to the forecast. Soon enough I turn right into a cross-headwind though and started the battle. For some reason, I'd pretty much kept it in my head this time that I was going to stick to a certain game plan. I wasn't going to put in any monster efforts, I'd eat often, and just keep the pace respectable when it came to headwinds and hills. My first actual stop of the ride didn't come until the halfway turn onto Cedar Bridge road and that was so I could get a shot of some of the grades we hit on our rollers. Now granted I have slightly tilted the camera for the shot, but the road does actually pitch up that much after you round the corner.
Once I nailed down the northern stretches that gave me fits and were the scene of my first bonk during the actual race, I was off to the races. I was still feeling good, hydrated, and fueled. Oh and I had the tailwind with me now. I started cranking up the speed a bit as I worked back east on 105th. Most of the giant rollers were now behind me and it was just the 40-50' climbs left. I starting pushing the pace and actually standing to climb these with the wind at my back. Finally with about 3 miles to go both legs decided to cramp almost at the same time. A right quad cramp and a left outer thigh cramp had me gritting my teeth, but so close to home, I just kept on the bike and fought through them. Finally I hit the last little stretch of headwinds for the last couple of miles back to the tap and I was done.
A few postscript thoughts about what went right compared to March:
1) Weather- even 17 mph headwinds don't compare to 35 degrees with rain, sleet, snow, and mild winds. No question about it.
2) Equipment choice- I rode the Axis CX bike versus the 29'er this time. I felt a little slower on some of the really loose gravel sections, but the overall weight and speed of the bike more than made up for that little bit of loss.
3) Nutrition- I had all my nutrition tucked away under my rain gear in March. Add in heavy/wet gloves and I barely ate anything. I bonked twice in March. This time I ate pretty freely- 3 gels, 1 fruit twist, and 1 pack sport beans along with 40 oz of accelerade. I also had my nutrition in a Bento Box where I could grab on the fly and then used my jersey as a trash can for the wrappers (I'm not a fan of just tossing your excess on the road).
4) Pacing- I went out strong and steady, but never nailed it hard. My heart rate average was 157 for the ride, but I don't think I broke 180 BPM for more than a few minutes the entire ride. I don't think this was much different than March, but I definitely felt like I worked a lot harder on the hills in March. I also kept my head in the game by accepting the wind and waiting for my chance to use it to my advantage rather than thinking how much it was slowing me down.