I felt prepared and ready to go when the start of the race went down. T'aint sufficiently lubed? Check. Nipples covered with New-Skin to prevent chaffing? Check. Bike working well? FUCK NO, but we'll talk about that later. The group went out faster than hell as usual, but it was no matter. The first 4 or so miles take off on a paved road/gravel road climb, so it gives the peloton (of approximately 550 people this year) a chance to thin out a bit before hitting the first stretch of singletrack. I was feeling pretty good when we hit Tinton Trail, even though it was grid lock once we got onto the trail itself. Funneling that many people onto a 12" wide dirt ribbon didn't work too well at first.
Anyhow, once on that singletrack, the group spread out enough that the bottlenecks quit after a mile or so. We rolled along nicely to the first aid station at Big Hill (not the first-aid station, but the first of many aid stations). At Big Hill, I took a Clif Shot Block from my AWESOME support crew of my wife and son, and rolled off. A quick, short down hill section, then a fairly tough, but short climb up through a beautiful aspen grove were next on the menu which is where things went all wonky for me. The climb was really tough. My heartrate went through the roof, my legs felt heavy, the pedals were hard to push and I couldn't figure out why. I felt good up 'til that point. I kept pushing on. Down the next descent things were good, but then there was a big ol' climb, called Cardiac Climb I and II. Same shit for me on those climbs. I thought there was something drastically wrong with me. It was really an emotional time. It's kinda funny how your mind works when shit has gone all completely wrong in a brutal race (or any tough situation like this). I personally alternate between thinking I can make it to wondering where my life went wrong. Maybe it was when I was a little kid...maybe I did something wrong and this is retribution. Shit, I just need to make it to the next aid station and I can assess what the hell is wrong.
The 13 or so miles from station 1 to station 2 felt REALLY long to me, but I finally made it. When I got there I told my wife that there was something very, VERY wrong with me, which at this point I just thought I was being a fucking wimp, not realizing that there were strange things afoot at the Circle K. Again, I took on some food and took off. I forced myself up the trail about 200 yards or so and decided that I couldn't continue on like this so I turned around to go back to my wife and quit.
In hindsight, thankfully, my wife was being the ultra-efficient-being that she is, when I got there, she had already left, going to the last aid station. "Son-of-a-bitch" I said out loud. "What's wrong?" says a lady, sitting in her convertible with the top down that I didn't see. "Nothing..." I say as I get back on my bike. I realize that I'll need to ride to the area called Ballpark if I'm going to get back to town. So once again I leave this second aid station.
Part way around Old Baldy I discover that there is something wrong with my freehub. I cannot pedal backwards, or at least when I do, the chain goes all kiddy-whomp-assed. Well, THAT must be my problem. I was in WAY better shape than last year, way more prepared for the day and I at least felt better that it wasn't necessarily me. Keep forging on and I can make a decision of where I'm at once I get to the last aid station.
I get there and show my wife what is going on. She asks if I want to quit. Yes. No. I don't fucking know. Yes, I want to quit because this has been unbelievably hard. No, because (wait a minute, let me wrap myself in the American flag and stand on the podium) I am not a quitter. I don't quit stuff. It isn't in my character. I am already sore and tired. I don't want to add being a quitter to this list. Sore, tired, quitter. Pick two...and I already had sore and tired under my belt. One last (maybe the worst) shitty climb left, a sweet stretch of singletrack, a gradual fire road climb and the screaming downhill left to go to town (all about 15 miles). Fuck it. I'm gonna finish this damn race if it kills me, and it surely could today.
I make it up through the climb, past Hobo Camp (where they were serving bacon sandwiches and PBR on tap) which isn't really an aid station as much as it is a party station. Down the DakoTA Ridge trail, up Johnson Fire Road, and finally to Tinton Road. I passed a couple of people that passed me on the last little climb, and let 'er rip. I get on Tinton Trail and am absolutely flying! I pass two guys like they had broken freehubs (I couldn't resist) and am completely railing the trail. This is the best I've felt the whole race. On one of the little climbs on this descent, I hear a voice behind me say, "Holy SHIT. You're killing this trail. Are you from here?" "No" I respond. "I used to live here when this trail was kind of a secret trail, but I haven't ridden it since last year." He then follows up with "When you passed us, I saw the roost you were throwing up and I thought I needed to grab your wheel. This is unreal."
Well, needless to say, I made it through the finish line. Way slower than I wanted, but finished none the less. I got my bike put away, I got cleaned up, ate some food, drank some beer and then had fun socializing with my friends and family (and about 1000 others crammed into the park). There was a kid's race that went down and we watched kids from our families tear it up. When I was watching the kids go round and round, I was looking around and knowing no matter how slow or fast a person that raced completed their ride today, we all suffered out there. Some maybe a bit more than others, but it was tough for everyone. Perry and crew put on a stellar event and I'm looking forward to next year's race.
No work on Monday because of the holiday meant clean-up day from the race. Got the truck all cleaned out and the gear all washed and put away. I was avoiding my bike 'cause I didn't really want to know what was wrong. I pulled the rear wheel off to discover that the lock ring that holds the cassette on had backed itself out a little bit. Enough to drag on the two bolts that hold the replaceable derailleur hanger on. Enough drag to wear a goddamn groove into the lock ring! (You can see the groove arcing around the top of the lock ring in the picture.) I wore a groove into a piece of hardened steel. It was like riding with a brake on for about 38 or so miles. Wow. Now I vacillate between being happy with how I finished with that dragging and being pissed at myself for not having my bike dialed in.
Right now as I type, I am thinking I am happy that I finished and it was good training for our next event. 31 days to go until Teamfubar takes on THE 24 HOURS OF MOAB! I can't wait. I don't know how I'll do but I will guarantee my lock ring will be tight.