The Start and Round Valley Loop
I was warming up 10 minutes before the start of the race when I suddenly realized I didn't have my timing chip on my ankle. Doh! I couldn't believe it. After all of my meticulous planning, I'd left one of the most important items in my truck that was at the parking lot two miles from the start. I worked my way back through the mass of racers who were nervously awaiting the start and pleaded with the first two people I saw, a young guy and girl who happened to be standing right next to their truck, to take me back to the lot to grab my chip. They graciously agreed to help and before long I had my chip on my ankle and was back at the starting line. By this time though, all of the waves of racers had already started and the start officials were about to disconnect the electronic timer equipment. Someone yelled, "don't pull the plug yet, we have one more coming through."
Within a minute or two I started catching the tail end of the last wave and proceeded to pass as many as possible, knowing that once we hit the single track, I'd have very few opportunities to move up until after Round Valley. I hit the single track and for the most part, the Round Valley loop was pretty frustrating due to the bottlenecks on the climbs as a result of people not self sorting. I complain, but it was probably a good thing because it forced me to start the race at a reasonable pace (especially since I really didn't warm up), yet on the other hand, it was almost slower than granny gear slow and I think I wasted energy later in the race trying to make up lost time.
Either way, I was enjoying myself just riding in the early hours of the morning on my bike. The weather was perfect.....not a cloud in the sky, the sun was coming up and it was a crisp 55 degrees out. After all of the pre-race jitters and an entire week of nervously worrying about this event, it sure felt good to ride.
To Silver Lake and Bald Mountain Climb
Once I hit the wider gravel trail at the end of Round Valley and then the paved section of bike trail, I stood up and pedaled hard to pass another dozen or so riders before the single track climb. This portion of the race was fun for me. I was still fresh, the trail was fast and I was just having a good time. I felt good climbing up Pipeline and Deer Crest and was holding back again due to a bunch up of riders in front of me. I was able to keep up on my hydration and fuel and by the time I arrived at Silver Lake I had drank 3 20 oz. bottles and one flask of EFS gel.
As I started up the steep jeep road from Silver Lake I had two goals in mind. First, I wanted to keep pedaling and second I wanted to maintain a pace that would keep my heart rate from spiking, which for me is right around 160-163 bpm. I'd done this climb a few times and knew it was painful and could easily due damage to my race if I wasn't careful. In looking back at my Garmin file, I can see that I did well for about 5 minutes in keeping my hear rate under control on the jeep road. Then, as I hit the steep single track and switchbacks, I lost focus on my level of effort and I can see with hindsight that I was anaerobic for a good 7 minutes, certainly enough to push me over the edge and I cramped up and had to stop. I think what distracted me was that I was so determined to clean that entire portion of the climb, at least I planned in my head to do so up to where we entered the trees (and then take a short break), that I didn't realize I was red lining it.
I should note that just prior to cramping up, I ran into Fatty (famous local cyclist/blogger who's good friends with several of the guys I ride with) and passed him as I could tell he was hating life with his single speed on such a steep grade. For a second, I felt pretty special passing him, but that lasted all of about 30 seconds. I recovered and passed him again as he was walking the bike up the trail but then I cramped up again at the top of the climb and he pedaled on and that was the last I saw of him.
For the rest of the route until dropping back down to the Silver Lake aid station, I wasn't feeling too good. The maxing myself out and cramping just destroyed me and I was struggling to recover. I also was starting to feel pain in my side and my hands were hurting badly.
At the DV aid station, I hurried and swapped out my bottles and then pounded about 8 orange wedges. I don't know why, but I crave orange slices whenever I do a long race or ride.
The Pain and Suffering Part
I knew it was going to be a long day when not 5 minutes into riding the mid mountain trail, I started to cramp again and not even while climbing. I had to really back off and keep my cadence high to avoid locking up. Luckily, though I made it up to the top of the Moosebones climb without further cramping.
By the time I made it to the bottom of the rooty, twisty John's trail I was starting to feel pretty hammered and knew I'd be running out of water before the top of the climb to Shadow Lake. I carried two 24 oz. Polar bottles, but that wasn't going to be enough. Like what I've heard from others, this was the toughest part of the race for me. By now it was getting hot, I was rationing water, there was no shade and the climb was long and steep. I had to stop a few times to cool down in the shade near the top of Shadow Lake. I came so close to dumping my bike off the side of the trail and finding the source of that little spring that dribbled onto the trail. Thinking of my wife and boys that would be waiting for me at PCMR was what kept me pushing forward.
After reaching the high point at 9,300 ft. about Shadow Lake, I was excited and felt a sense of relief for a few seconds. You'd think descending to PCMR would be enjoyable, but not this time. I was dehydrated, my hands felt like blisters were forming and I kept wondering why it seemed like I was getting the crap beaten out of me by my bike. Suddenly it dawned on me that I had turned off my front shock while climbing a section of road near the beginning of the race. Can you believe it? I unknowingly rode rigid for a good portion of the race and it was terrible and miserable. Enough to make me never want to get a rigid fork. Once I turned on my shock, the ride quality was like the difference between butter and rocks. It made me seriously think that maybe a full suspension bike wouldn't be too bad of a bike to have around (yes, Brandon you've got me thinking).
PCMR Aid Station
I was so elated to make it to this aid station. My bottles and mouth were bone dry and I was beat. I think I was sort of in a daze for a while. I remember first seeing my 3 older boys yell "Dad" off to my right and then Rick S. quickly came up and handed me a wonderful cold Coke and started filling up my water bottles and asking how I was doing. It was sure good to see my wife and 2 month old son as well. I downed probably 10 cups of water and CarboRocket and probably 10 orange wedges. I chatted with my wife and kids and some of the other racers and then realized that I had been there for a long time. There was never any doubt that I would get back on the bike and finish, it just felt so good to be resting and drinking cold fluids that I sort of lost track of how long I'd been there.
Spiro and Mid Mountain Climb
Back on the bike, I actually felt pretty good and got into a good rhythm, although I still had to be careful as my legs would start to seize up occasionally. The climb up the re-route started to wear on me and I had to stop a couple of times to gather up more energy. I passed Dug back and forth a few times up until the aid station. He actually was good motivation for me as I kept telling myself that if a guy could do this ride on a rigid single speed, than I certainly could do it on a geared Superfly.
I don't remember much about the last part of the race except that it was marginally fun as most of it was fast and I started to feel a proud sense of accomplishment that seemed to give me some extra motivation and energy to finish off the race strong. I ended up finishing in 11:25.
Although I certainly didn't make my goal time, I think I've convinced myself that I should be pretty happy with getting the finish. It was no small feat and something to build on, especially with this being my first MTB endurance event.
Also, I echo the compliments that others have made to the race organizers and volunteers for putting on such an awesome event. Well done.