Before the race actually began, Sam and I were sitting atop the race area in the Colorado Mountain College parking lot. There was no parking right at the start of the race, so we had to climb a bit in the car to find space and get prepared. Sam seemed to be a bit distracted, but I suppose that is to be expected when one is about to embark on a race that s/he has never done, in a place s/he has never been.
As the race got started, I waited for information to know where I would be able to meet up with Sam. The maps we'd viewed didn't seem to indicate where I could drive with a vehicle, so I was anxiously awaiting direction. Soon after the racers departure, the announcer on the loud speaker let all of the spectators know where they could go to see riders along the way. I cursed myself for not bringing a paper and pen, but made mental notes and hoped I could find my way to the correct spots. I had already warned Sam not to be upset if I wasn't where he expected to find me, but I was going to do my best to be available. Of course, there are aid stations along the route, but it's always nice to know that someone is out there for you if it's needed during a race.
After the start hill that we all walked (or ran) up, we were able to ride on some flat land for about half a mile, at which point we came to a screeching halt. We were approaching an easy piece of single track, but most riders seemed to be unable to handle it. This caused about a 10 min delay until we all single filed through the area. After the “breakthrough”, we got about 1 mile into the flat area, and the trail was already littered with at least 5 riders with flats, along with the guy next to me at the start who broke a spoke on one of the easiest parts of the course.
One challenging aspect of trying to help support someone during mountain racing is not always having cell phone coverage. As I wound my way higher into the mountains, I found that a signal was non-existent. I hoped for the best and simply planned to get to as many spots as I could to make sure Sam was okay.
After the seemingly very early breakdowns, we had a 1-2 mile section that was somewhat downhill, It was also deceiving because the race description had stated there was an uphill climb from the start for 10 miles. They weren’t kidding. An uphill battle for 8-9 miles hit right after the little bit of downhill. We would climb - and climb some more.
Ninety percent of the geared riders were already in full 2 mph spin mode, while I was in 4 mph single speed climb and mash mode. So, I began to pass. My count during the 10 mile climb was somewhere around 100 riders passed. This passing came to a dead halt at the “Powerline” climb though, as it’s not only very steep, but it was soaking wet with water running through it like a river due to massive amounts of rain the day prior.
Incidentally, everyone in front of me was walking, and in turn we were ALL walking. We did the “hike-a-bike” for about 1 mile to the peak, where we encountered both mud, and snow (Yes, at 12,200 feet there’s snow even in July in Colorado).
From memory of the map, I knew that I had about 5 miles of downhill after this, with the first aid station right around the middle of that downhill. I was feeling pretty good, with the exception of my feet, which became very, very sore after hiking my bike uphill in shoes that are stiff on the bottom.
|Sam with other riders at about mile 15.|
Before too much time had passed, I spotted Sam coming up the path. He seemed to be doing pretty well, so after cheering him on, I decided to move on to the next location.
The first real downhill was on the way to the aid station. Downhill on a single speed is mostly restful, but slower than everyone. I basically coasted to the aid station, had them refill my liquids, and consumed a Gu shot. In total, it probably killed about 3 minutes. I moved on, knowing I had about 2-3 more miles before the climbing started again.
The climbing went as expected, with everyone passing me as we sped downhill. Then, as we began to climb again, I methodically passed them going back up to the next peak. This put us around the 20 mile mark.
At this point, we gradually went downhill to the 23-24ish mile point, which was the designated turn-around. At this point, I had tired a bit, so I took a longer break, had some of the food provided and refilled water. I would learn later, that I shouldn't waste so much time if I want to be competitive!
When I moved on to the next location to spot Sam, there were a great deal more spectators standing around and waiting for cyclists to pass this point. I knew I wasn't far from the half way or turn around spot for racers, but I wanted to make sure I was there in case Sam was in need of anything. About this time, I also realized I'd forgot to put sunscreen on and after being in the sun for several hours, I was well aware of my burning skin. I've been so good about sunscreen this summer, but of course this would be the one day I'd forget it.
During the return trip, we start uphill. It's the same story: pass, pass pass, until we hit the downhill section. This is where the ride got a bit of a startle. At around mile 26, a very fast individual passed me and some others as he headed down the hill. He was probably rolling at 25 mph when he lost control of his bike and ended up breaking his right leg badly. It seems like something that would be pretty graphic and gruesome, but it wasn’t. He was in horrible, horrible pain, however.
Another individual that had been riding with us had a cell phone that actually had coverage, so he made contact with the aid station for some help. We all moved on because it wasn't helping to have so many of us hanging around, and the guy who'd called for help agreed to stay until someone arrived. It was a good reminder for someone like me who’s terribly afraid of breaking his neck to be careful descending!
I was getting excited at this point because I knew Sam was more than half way through the race. It's amazing that even as an observer, there is a sense of renewed energy when the end is in sight. The next time I would see Sam would be several miles away at the end of the race, so I moved on to the finish line and prepared to cheer him on. At the time, I had no idea he was preparing to deal with mechanical failure.
Part 3 of this post can be found here.
Part 3 of this post can be found here.