I can’t help but use the overexposed cliche’….. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
We showed up Friday night at the Canyons for the racers meeting. Pretty un-eventful other than I have never been in a room with a skinnier bunch of mofo’s in my entire life. Costavich thought he was the heaviest dude in the room of 150 people and he was probably right.
Saturday we arrived in Round Valley around 6:30 to perfect temps and partly cloudy skies. I waited in line for 20 mins to use the one crapper on site (my only complaint about the logistics of the entire race) threw on my gear and lined up at the back. The start was faster than I thought it would be but I had no intention of going out too hot early like I did at Laramie so I took it easy through Round Valley. About halfway through Round Valley I started feeling a familiar bubbling down low and knew I needed to make an early pit stop as we exited Round Valley. I dropped some extra weight at the Round Valley toilet. I’ve never had to do that at a race but didn’t think that much of it. Leaving Round Valley I pointed my bike toward one of the coolest rainbows I have ever seen framing the climb to Prospector. Where there’s a rainbow there is of course rain and it started pouring as I summited Skid Row and started around Prospector. Even with the rain making thinks sloppy this was the highlight of my race. The course wasn’t closed but between the rain and the 100+ racers ahead of me I was pretty sure it would be safe to blaze through Prospector as fast as I wanted. I passed about 5 people on Prospector, another 5 or so on the Snowtop climb and a few more on the Deer Crest climb up to Silver Lake. This section of the race was all firmly in “the best of time”. I was on a high. My pace was sustainable, the trails were great and I was having the most fun in a race I’ve ever had. The only thing that would portend to the misery ahead was a slight but noticeable queasiness in my stomach. I was still feeding well so I chose to ignore it. I rolled into Silver Lake and passed right by the aid station since I didn’t need anything. I started up the steep service road to Bald Mountain. There were a couple guys walking their bikes and it was very steep but I was barely able to stay riding so I did. The course turned off the service road and started uphill on one of the downhill only MTB trails which was turned into an uphill trail for this race. It was ridiculously steep. I rode some and walked some but when I was riding I was redlined and my stomach which is perfectly content filled with Gu and energy drink at a HR of 150-155 was not happy at all with HR’s near my max at 172. By the time I hit the top my stomach was doing somersaults and I knew I was in trouble. I’ve never had this problem in a long event and I wasn’t even halfway done. I limped down to the aid station and grabbed a coke hoping it would do the trick. I sat in the shade sipping my coke and a little bit later I felt solid enough to continue on. The coke had kinda settled my stomach but I still didn’t feel great. By the time I left the aid station it was a little after noon and I had my doubts about making the Park City aid station by the time cut off of 3:30. The climb up Tour de Suds went well. I was able to sip a little energy drink and as I started down TG2 I started feeling a bit better about my race. TG2 is kind of an annoying trail and not my favorite. It’s OK as a recreation trail but it’s annoying when you’re tired from racing all morning. It’s steep in spots and there’s too much to think about with lots of roots, rocks and off camber stuff plus it’s handbuilt and narrow so there’s only one line and if you get off it you end up in the woods (luckily I only blew one corner and didn’t hit the tree I ran into too hard). Exiting TG2 onto Mid Mountain I was feeling kinda OK. I wasn’t able to feed well but I knew most of the annoying trails were history. All I had to do was take Johns 99 to the service road and then start up the smooth climb to Shadow Lake. As I exited Johns 99 by the Town Lift I saw Jen Hanks directing traffic on to Johns trail (a very different trail from Johns 99). I asked her “we need to do Johns trail?”. She responded with an affirmative and I wanted to die. Johns trail is the most annoying trail in Park City. A lot of people love it and I like it OK when I’m feeling good but by this time my coke had worn off, I couldn’t get a gel down and I could barely sip my energy drink. I was blown and now I had to ride the most technical XC trail in Park City with no energy and slow reflexes. I started down. Slow doesn’t work on Johns because even on a 29er you need momentum to clear all the roots. I was doing OK but about halfway down I washed out the front end on a corner and rammed into a tree hip first. It wasn’t too bad so I continued on. I popped out of Johns on the service road and started heading back up the mountain. My hip hurt and so I didn’t have a lot of power in my left leg and my energy level was on empty. At this point it was 2:00 and I knew there was no way in hell I was going to make the time cut off. I started forming exit strategies. At first I was just going to suffer up Steps trail, cut the course by taking Thayne’s road over to Crescent Mine Grade and from there ride down and pull the plug. Once I got to the top of Steps I decided I might as well finish this leg and have Shannon pull the plug for me when I got to the aid station too late. I got to the top of Shadow lake at 3:00 knowing the was no way I was going to be able to descend halfway down the mountain, climb Thayne’s road and then descend the rest of the way in 30 minutes. For some reason I can’t explain I shot a gel at this time. I was going to roll off the mountain and be done plus I came inches from vomiting as soon as I did it so why I bothered I still don’t know. I blazed down the service road and Powerline trail at speeds that make me cringe as I type this. I just wanted to be done. I got to Thayne’s road in 7 minutes and started up. I made it halfway before I had to stop and rest and walked the rest of the way up. I started down Crescent Mine Grade at 3:25. Another unholy descent involving three scary passes and I was at the aid station right at 3:30. I was done….right? Shannon asked me and the three others that came in right behind me if we wanted to finish the race. I grabbed a Coke, sat down and desperately wanted to pull the plug. If I was alone I probably would have but Rhonda, TC, Lucy, Shannon and Ryan were all there looking expectantly at me and I couldn’t do it. I had to finiah. I finished my Coke and headed out as the Lantern Rouge…..last man to make the time cut off. The Coke got me to the top of Spiro and I tried to drink some energy drink but my stomach knotted up and I had to sit at the junction to mid-mountain to calm my guts. Limped up the climb to the overlook, sat down on the bench in the sun and took 15 minutes to choke down a GU. Somehow I survived the journey across mid mountain and stopped at the final aid station at the Colony for another coke. I knew there was no way I could get anything else down so I hoped the coke would get me home. It didn’t. The energy from the Coke carried me for about an hour and I blew up on the final climb up Ambush near the end of the race in the Canyons. My HR was 126 yet I was panting and I had nothing left. I rode some, walked some and prayed for the end. Somehow I finshed the climb and started down. As I crested the small ridge above the Canyons I could see the end and and almost broke down into tears. I rolled to the finish with the crowd cheering me on and was done. 11:10 of riding time and over 12 hours on the trail. Finishing that race in my condition is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. Ideally on a 12 hour ride I would consume at least 3000 calories and drink at least 250 oz’s of fluid. I consumed less than 700 and had maybe 70oz of fluid. It was the ride I’ll never forget and hope never to repeat.
It was an excellently run race and I’ll definatly do it again but absolutly not solo. Well…. probably not solo:)