Metamora and Mora and Mora and Mora

On August 11th, 2012, I raced the Metamora 4X50. I won and set a
new course record of 22.45mph average speed. Below is my race report.

The clock on my bike computer was three minutes slow, so I made it to
the start line just as the race began. Kurt Searvogel yelled back,
“Let’s go Collin!” and off we went in a pack of about ten, chasing the
course record of 22.2mph in the refreshingly brisk Illinois morning.

Up first was “The Hill” as Dave Parker listed on the course website.
After a perilous right-hand turn at the bottom of a steep descent, we
hit the hill for the first of four times. As with Balltown, my natural
urge was to go full gas. Climbing hills has been bred into my cycling
love from an early age, and there is nothing I love to do more. After a
ramp of 10-11%, the hill flattened back out, we regrouped and forged
into the confusing maze of corn and soybeans that made up the rest of
the course.

We quickly became acquainted with the gravel that littered nearly every
corner of the race. Fortunately, nobody crashed that I know. The trick
became determining when the road had gravel or was merely discolored.

The first lap passed quickly as the wind had yet to kick into gear.
After the first feed section, it took a couple miles for everyone to get
back together, but there were still a number of us in the lead pack. The
second time up the hill might have dropped a rider or two, but we kept
moving fast and working well in the group, completing the first 100
miles at around 23.5mph.

On the third time up the hill, I had a 15-20 second gap by the top, so I
just kept a steady pace to let others catch up. Joe Mann suffered some
cramps and dropped off. I was riding behind Paul Carpenter shortly
thereafter and noticed a gap forming. He told me to go around, that he
probably couldn’t close the gap. At this point, we were down to four in
the lead group, myself, Kurt Searvogel, Jay Yost, and Martin Gruebble.

The wind started really blowing on this third lap. The temperature
finally crept above 70 degrees, and each pull was a matter of putting
your head down, crouching in the aerobars, and hammering at the pedals.

Jay and Martin stopped to grab a Coke at the intermediate checkpoint. At
this point, I had a nice conversation with Kurt about the etiquette of
ultraracing, when it’s okay to attack, when should you wait, etc. As I
am still new to racing, I need to learn the unwritten rules and culture,
much like the deep traditions in European cycling.

After Jay and Martin caught up, we shot off with a strong tailwind
pushing us along the road. While riding the second half of the lap, I
started looking for hills or short inclines where I might be able to
escape the group at the end of the race. On the flats, I could never get
away, but on the hills, my slightly smaller size certainly comes in
handy. There was one rise of about 5% around 6 or 7 miles out of
Metamora, and another gradual 3% grade coming into Metamora itself. On
every lap, small gaps had opened up between all the riders, so one of
these two hills was where I was going to try and blow up the race.

The four of us stayed together for the remainder of the third lap. On
the last time up the hill, I had a gap at the top, and again rode
steady. I knew I wasn’t going to escape from three really strong riders
for another 45 miles, especially with the wind raging as it was.
However, I wasn’t going to make it easy for them to catch me!

Right before the halfway point on this lap, Jay pulled away from the
group and waved us on, so we were down to three. Kurt stopped to get
bottles at the checkpoint. Being the last lap, I shot off. Having taken
an extra bottle with me on the previous two laps, I didn’t need to stop.
Again, I knew I would be caught by Kurt and Martin, but I thought I
might put the hurt in them a bit before the final stretch.

As we made the turn back west toward Metamora, Kurt said we had 40
minutes to go 14 miles in order to break the record. I went to the front
and pushed it hard, though the wind had shifted and was blowing right in
my face.

Coming up the first hill on the way back to Metamora, I was on the front
going hard when Martin shot past. I jumped onto his wheel and then there
were two. We made a left turn where I could look back, and I saw a gap
of a hundred meters to Kurt. I told Martin that now was the time to
really push it. I kicked on the afterburners and away we went.

Martin and I trade a few pulls in these last miles before Metamora. On
the final incline, I pushed hard and snuck away. Because the usual
ultracycling rule is that tie goes to the older person, I knew I had to
be in the lead to take first in the race.

I crossed about 5-10 seconds ahead of Martin, and Kurt rolled through a
couple minutes later. All three of us broke the previous record time,
with Martin and I averaging 22.45mph over 196.1 miles.

Peace and pedals,

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