Stage 3.5: When it rains, it pours
Today’s stage was a cliché – it was indeed, Epic. I knew we were doomed when, waiting on the start line for the police to give us a neutral escort out of town, race director Mike McCormack proudly proclaimed “We will be fine, we have only had 15 minutes of bad weather in three years at this race!” I never believe in the ominous nature of a specific event or thing without logic or reason, unless it is Mike talking about the weather.
The rain began just as we started, and never stopped all day. On the start line, open men’s race leader, Ben Melt Swanepoel asked me if a vest or a jacket was the advisable wardrobe choice; I told him that if the weather comes, the warmest option always wins when you are above 10,000 feet. After the stage, he agreed it was the right choice.
Considering the last 48 hours of my racing life, my legs felt great today. On the first major climb, I was following the leaders without great difficulty, and it was probably the best I have ever felt on Heinous Hill.
But a flat tire on the first big descent quickly put me out of contention. My wheel was so covered with mud that it was impossible to locate the source of my pneumatic difficulties. I took my time and rinsed my rim and tire in the nearby creek to cleanse them of debris and sealant (hopefully my wheel rinsing will not have any negative environmental ramifications.) After installing a tube, I was off again and picking my way through the field.
The trip down the huge descent on the Colorado Trail was just as fun as always, however by the time I reached the bottom I was pretty cold. Being warm blooded by nature, I tend to be ahead of the bell curve on cold racing days. When I was a young senior rider, I contested a road race in Moab, UT where it began to snow. Using the powers of my internal furnace, I was one of the few to make it to the line that day with semi-functional usage of my limbs. It was a dreadful race.
Thus, when I get cold, I know other riders are really in the hurt locker. Mike made the decision to stop everyone racing at the last aid station who had not reached it by a specific time deadline. This meant some riders did the full distance and others did not (but received a pro-rated, adjusted time).
It was a smart decision given the conditions; no one’s health is worth putting at risk for a race. There was definitely a risk of hypothermia today.
There was so much water on the course that most of the singletrack had a small stream running down the center of the trail. The rain only became heavier as the day went on. My bicycle began to protest forward motion with grumpy shifts and chain suck. At the end of the week, every bearing will need to be replaced or overhauled.
With about 15 miles to go, I stopped to help writer Jason Sumner in an attempt to re-attach his rear derailleur cable, which had come loose, relegating him to only one gear. We struggled trailside for 10 minutes, wrestling cables with frozen fingers and biting cable ends off with my teeth.
Eventually help arrived, and I rode off at a very quick pace, not because I was concerned with my stage time (I lost 52 minutes today all said and done) but in an attempt to generate body heat, which was at best semi-successful.
Upon race completion, I rode straight through the finish line and kept the exact same pace all the way to the condo door, marched directly into the shower wearing my entire kit, helmet and shoes, and began to thaw. I slowly disrobed one piece at a time, washing as I went. I’m not sure how long the shower took, but it was a lengthy affair. Upon removal of my shorts, I found mud inside my chamois (exogenous) much to my surprise. It was that wet out there.
Tomorrow is Mt. Guyot, and Mike has assured us that there is definitely, most likely, probably not snow on the pass after today’s monsoon. The pass tops out at close to 12,300 feet, so tomorrow will tell.
Thank for reading.