It was a fast, hard race. Over 13,000 feet of climbing at altitude, by which I mean 9,500-12,500 feet. Yeah. Up there. The course opened with an unending climb up through the ski area to Wheeler pass, over 3,000 feet of uninterrupted up right off the bat. I just tried to ride within myself and not blow up, particularly when climbing up through the small, loose scree near the top that can really zap the legs. We turned off the jeep road onto a barely noticeable single track, then hit some hike-a-bike, then headed DOWN.
It was a really rad descent, technical, rock gardens, high speed. A lot of people got flats, I heard Schalk got two actually. I was cruising, and managed to pass like ten people by the bottom. Then it was some bike path cranking and then a gradual up through some rolling single track back to the start finish to close out the first 30 miles. I was able to rage the single track and keep the body and bike together and get myself into the top 20 by then end of the first loop. Things were looking good.
The second 30 mile loop was the hardest. I knew the first climb would be long and hard. Pace yourself. Pace yourself. I thought I did. I was eating. I was passing people. Then I hit the descent, a fast single track to open forest road deal. Then I hit climb number two. Okay, feeling alright. Looks like the top is close. Nope. Not at all. I kept trying to read the topography, thinking I was just one corner away from the top of this single track on the Colorado Trail. That was two or three miles from the top. But I managed to suffer it out and only get passed by one guy, and then it was time to rail some single track at 30 plus mph all the way down. Scary fast, especially on a hardtail (29er) with skinny race tires. Fun though. A few more little but painful climbs and it was time for loop three.
Ouch. Over the continental divide twice in the last 30 miles, totally over 4,000 feet of climbing. Dang. I was going backwards - that's for sure. I'd been eating and pacing well, but after seven hours of racing I was getting tired. Then the top of the climb wasn't so steep, and I was able to hit the big ring and crank. Okay, I was feeling good. Then the Gold Run descent felt really good. I was going for it, riding back into the race. I was passing people. Cool. Only 15 miles to go and one climb and I might have a top 15, I thought. Turns out I was close to the top 10 actually, but it didn't matter because aforementioned skinny race tires failed and I got a flat .5 miles from the end of the single track. Bummer. I fixed it fast and was riding into the top 20 though, and onto the age group podium, when I got to the last climb. The only problem was that there was no aid station. I needed that one. So there I was, no food, no water, and I guy I needed to drop if I was going to make the podium. So I went for it. Up that last climb I was going pretty well until about two miles to the top. Then I cracked. I mean shattered. Race over. Game over.
So there I was, sitting on my bike thinking, okay, count to 10. Okay good. Now get on your bike and pedal as steadily as you can to the aid station at the top because that is the only way home. Ouch. I can't really even describe it. That's never happened before. I made it to the aid station and sat and drank water and ate bananas. It was amazing. Back on the bike my butt was too sore to sit, I could barely pedal, and it hurt to hold onto the bars. So I coasted the last downhill sections and came through in 22nd. Not bad all things considered. And really I'm just glad to be able to say I did it.
Next time, extra food. I think I could have had it, but man, once the body goes like that at altitude it takes days to recover. So, I got some new tires, and they'll be some GU in the Camelback next time - oh yes, that would be ORAMM this weekend, followed by the Wilderness 101 at the end of the month. Until next time.......