Saturday morning I awoke and it was a bit chilly. The previous night the bike was all prepped and ready to go. I threw on the kit, all my supplies and lined up at the starting line. The race was off. I worked my way up towards the front of the pack anticipating trying to find a good pack to stick. If I found a pack using a good pace I could use them to keep the tempo and help rest into the first major climb. The first climb was shorter than I remember and the fireroad thinned out the pack and the groups started to form. I was in probably the 3rd pack from the front where they were setting a good manageable pace. In the group was Michelle Stopper and Carey Lowery so I knew if I could stick with them it would be very beneficial for me. We held it together through the first aid station and into the first singletrack. There after there was a new section which got back to fireroad and the group was staying together but setting a much faster pace. I held on as long as I could but the road pitched up and I fell off the back and paced myself on my own. I kept a nice pace and found a few people to latch onto and I made my way into aid 2 pretty easily. That was the problem though – I spent way too much of my energy keeping up with this nice group and didn’t leave a lot in the reserves.
After aid station #2 the LONG climb started and I knew I was in for a long time. I forgot how long it really was and was afraid to put the hammer down since I was so spent before. I kept the pace low and just struggled through the climb as a lot of my competitors got by me. I saw Kris Webber, Allistair Seibert, and Chris Baks get by me so I knew I had some catching up to do. Along the way there was a sweet sighting of probably a 4.5’ rattlesnake on the right side of the climb. Beautiful!!! Finally the climb ended and there was a competitor right in front of me and from other races I know that there are some tentative descenders out there so I charged ahead to create a gap which worked. Then shortly into the descent I realized that I forgot to switch off the lockout on my fork. So I was already feeling bad but that didn’t help. Into the next climb I had my nutrition working and regained some energy and did a lot better on this climb(which turns and turns and turns some more till it tops out). Then descending off the top of that ridge we got into the new singletrack and that was enjoyable but I was starting to get in need of water since the climbs were pulling the energy out of me. People were all scattered here and there but I made it to aid three catching the wheel of a few riders.
Into aid #3 I saw Chris and Kris and as they headed out I went with him. Unfortunately my teammate was having stomach issues and bagged it but I followed Chris up the horrible climb out of aid #3. This climb is especially tricky and strength draining. I made the whole climb minus one section of really rocky bottlenecked trail. On this climb I was feeling better and got through a bunch of people. I was feeling much better here than I was last year. I kept on the nutrition and hydration and kept on motoring. On the downside of this mountain was the crazy fast section of single/doubletrack that had my arms and shoulders wishing for it to be over…but it was so much fun. A couple of smaller climbs came and then it was time for the sweet – tight – loose downhill section. This section I usually see guys in the trees but not this year. It’s so loose and fast it’s crazy. I think I burnt through the rear brake pads on this one. The nice short section of road into aid station #4.
After aid 4 there was once again another long climb – in 2 parts. The first is a nice long dirt road climb that turns into a grassy/rocky/gravelly climb towards the top. Once the top is gained it quickly descends and then goes up to a trail that is very techy and rocky. It’s so much fun but by then it’s so exhausting it’s very tough to get through. It then turns to a downhill run on a nice scree slope that is tricky to descend and very unstable at high speed. It then goes to a nice overgrown trail that seems to wind downhill slowly and surely. It seems to take forever to get out since you are going very fast on babyheaded rocks forever. The hardtail was so brutal that I just wanted it to end. It was destroying my body and my will to finish. Attempting this race next year will require a full suspension for sure.***In hindsight - I was a wuss and had some bad bike setup. Too much front tire pressure and too much air in the fork can make you very cranky on rocky downhills ;-) ***
Into aid 5 for a quick bottle fill and then into the last section. I saw Chris again as I was pulling out of aid 5 and we rode together for a while discussing how 9 hours is very possible. I kept on pushing feeling the power dwindling and just wanting to make it over the last climb to the finish. Chris and I worked together to make it to the climb, both of us not knowing what we had left. The railroad beds were nice to keep pace and catch a draft whenever possible. I got to the road that leads to the last climb and it started pitching up. I tried to moderate power when I could to conserve a little but I wasn’t feeling that well. I could sense that the hard left that starts the real climb was coming up. It came and I was standing and pushing while seated just to make it to the top. Chris and I both started the climb together and told each other to go if we had it. I knew if I pushed it out it would make the rest of the ride so much quicker and easier. So every time it pitched up, I got out of the seat and killed it and waited for the next one. I came to the end of the hill and powered down onto the fisherman’s trail a few minutes ahead of Chris and catching one more rider at the top. Through the boulders I went and then onto the rail bed again.
Once on the final stretch of rail bed I pushed and caught a few riders. One jumped on my wheel and I did a couple of jumps to get him off the back but he stuck there so I grinded it out. Through the bridge successfully and through the tunnel I knew I was almost home. I got to the road and then I kept pulling this mystery rider so I was curious as to how much he had in the tank. I pulled over and said I wouldn’t mind catching a draft for a while so he pulled me for a little bit. I realized that he started to hold back and I knew he might try and snag me at the end so I told him I was just going to go for it. He said cool and off I went pounding the pedals down. Then he went flying by me with ½ mile left to go. Sonofabitch! …he used me to get to the line… So after he got a little bit of a lead and looked back twice to see if I would chase I mustered up all I had left and charged straight at him. He hit the final turn and I did shortly after although I had a lot more speed. He let up and I closed the 200 foot gap in seconds and I passed him in the final grassy turn to finish 2 seconds ahead.
What a finish…. 9 hours and 51 minutes
91st place overall
59th place open mens