What more could you want for a prerace dinner than some good calories in the form of a HUGE Mexican dinner. Nick, Geoff, and I hit up the El Rio restaurant in the middle of Copperhill and got probably the largest item on the menu. I think it had 8 or 9 separate parts and I couldn't finish it all. It was so good and just the ticket for the hard effort that was to come the next day. A great meal followed by an early night to bed was a good recipe for the misery that was to come.
The race went off well as I was at the front of the main group and as the 1.8 mile paved climb started I jumped into the lead group and settled in. The pace was good and towards the top a little attack was made to stretch it out going into the singletrack. I was sitting about 20th overall into the singletrack and was content sitting in and enjoying the 20 miles. It was tackier than the day before with all the rain overnight but slower as expected. The corners were a little sloppy but the bridges were deadly. Luckily the guys were sane and took their time over the slick surfaces.
As we crossed the stream, over the bridge and up the other climb it was all good. Everyone staying in line at a very manageable pace and climbing and descending and flowing all around was good. There were more climbing bits than I remembered in the first 20 miles but it wasn’t that painful. So the st gives way to the fire road and you can put in a good effort here to kill the hill and get to aid #1. Here is where I ditched my disposable bottle and kept on riding.
The descent after aid 1 was loose and sketchy as always. It undulated as there were a few short climbs in there but we then hit the fireroad where it would lead us into the big climb. At this point I hit that section hard with a group of 4 which later turned into 5. We pacelined and made the monotony a little nicer. With names like Applegate and Prosser along side of me it made for some pretty cool company as I’ve seen those names way far from mine in the results usually. We held it together for a while but as the hills turned up the group shattered. It left myself and Garth for a little while, but he started to feel better and took off as well. I knew I was in for a long day and put in a great effort so I was ok holding back a bit. So I climbed ok but not really strongly.
Into aid #2 I was feeling good but not that strong. The hills kept turning up and I kept on it trying to put down more power when I could. It worked for short periods but I really overall just felt flat and couldn’t muster up the power to really do some damage. Maybe it was the thought of surviving the remainder of the race or maybe I just went too hard too early. Either way I was getting it done. So up through the climbs I rolled into aid 3 for some water. My goal at aid 3 was to roll in at 4:00 and I hit it at 4:13. I was close but lost a little time. I knew the climbing wasn’t done as there were two more to come. These seemed especially hard but next time I need to go harder as there is PLENTY of recovery once the top is gained. It fools you since right out of aid 3 it goes down but then goes right back up – a lot. So I kept a good pace and finally topped the last one.
Into the descent it was not raining yet but it was on its way as I heard thunder in the distance. It was fast and sketchy as usual but oh so much fun. Once I hit the sprinter climbs I was having a blast as I love that section. I put down one hard effort after another to kill those hills and they flew past. Unfortunately this is when the rain hit HARD. I rolled out of those hills into aid 4 and that’s when the fun stopped.
Out of aid 4 it was the flat and false flat roads near the river. It was good since it wasn’t climbing but now it was slick muddy roads with lots of potholes and just plain cold. The rain was driving, the wind was blowing, and my muscles were just cold. I had to block it out and keep going. I pushed on and the road started to turn up towards the Syclo Campground into the next climb and once again the legs were flat. I just did all I could and got up it. Towards the top I hit the 65 miler aid for some coke and then just kept rolling. There were a few more hills to crest and then it went down into aid 5. This was a key point since there were two climbs to go and the time was growing short. Just around the 65 aid it was 75 miles and I hit that at 6:06 so I knew I was still right around the 8 hour mark. I would have to put in a heck of an effort to break 8. I was still giving it all I had though.
After aid 5 I hit the gravel hills hard as there are some steep windy ones but they aren’t really that long. Actually I crested them much easier and quicker than I thought I would which was amazing. So now I hit the downhill into aid 6 and hit that mark at 7:04. This was great since last year the remaining section took 50 minutes so I was elated that I would break 8 if nothing went wrong. Last year’s time was with lots of dehydration issues and cramping including one section which was walked. I just hoped the conditions on the next trail were good. They weren’t.
So the last climb was good and steady and then I hit the muddy singletrack. It was slick and slow. MUCH slower than I anticipated. I was steady and strong and put down what I could once again. The last few climbs were brutal as I was dying to get to the finish as the 8 hour mark was rapidly approaching. I still felt good at this point though. As I looked down at my Garmin though I knew I was going to be over 8 but I wanted to cut that down as much as possible. I hit the 1 mile of road to the finish and the wind slapped me right back in the face. I pushed through the wind and rain pushed as hard as I could to get to the finish. I made the final turn and as I crossed the bridge I saw a guy suffering and caught and passed him. Looking back it was one of my competitors so I gained one position in the last 100 yards. I finally crossed the finish line at 8:10 in 27th place.
It was a good race with really bad conditions. I was happy with how I did considering how slow the course was. In theory this should have been a 7:30 or 7:40 finish but the weather didn’t allow it. I guess I’ll just have to go back next year and prove that it would have gone down….
The weekend was capped off by driving past the Whitewater Center and realizing that they had done a dam release and the river was at it's high point. It was raging and the hydros and holes that were created were impressive. I can see why it was constructed for the olympics. So we stopped for a little sightseeing as some kayaks were about to get launched and some people were about to have a lot of fun. It was cool to see and after watching the play session we headed home on our 14 hour journey.