"Take your jacket," Susan said at the final aid station. "It looks like rain is coming."
"Weighs too much," I said, and rode away.
Soon it started raining. Hard. Then the lightning started. It was close, too; the flash and boom were essentially simultaneous, and the powerline above made an audible "zzzztttzzz" after each flash.
I weighed my options.
One: Take cover under a tree to at least try to avoid the downpour, as some riders were doing. Nah, that improves my chances of getting hit by lightning.
Two: Turn around and head back down Sugarloaf. Nah, I had already done the brutal hike-a-bike. I didn’t want to bail out anymore.
Three: Ride like crazy and try to get off the mountain as fast as I could. That sounded good. I must’ve got an adrenaline rush from the fear (oh yeah, I was big-time scared), because I started passing racers again. Some I passed as they were riding, but most I passed as they were donning their rain gear. Since I didn’t have rain gear to concern myself with, I continued on in my shorts and short-sleeved jersey.
Released from any prayer of finishing under nine hours, and having a fine excuse (thanks to mother nature), I started having a blast. I stopped worrying about time and started enjoying the ride. I rode through puddles intentionally. I sang "Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head" and "Here Comes the Rain Again" as I passed riders. I squinted and blinked as I downhilled, mud flying into my eyes.
I laughed out loud at the volunteers who shouted, "Looking good!" as I rode by. I had a pretty good idea how I must’ve looked and it was not good.
The singletrack section was a running river when I got to it. I aced it — except in one place where I slid out and gashed my left knee. The water, mud and blood combined for great dramatic effect and left the bottom of half of my leg looking grisly. I admired it greatly, and appreciated the fact that my leg was cold enough that I couldn’t feel the cut at all.
Feeling amazingly good, completely fresh, and probably hypothermic, I noticed my hands were now so cold that I couldn’t feel them at all. I kept checking to see if they were really on the handlebars. When I needed to push the shift lever for my front derailleur, I found my thumb didn’t have the control to push that hard; I had to reach under the handlebar and push with my palm. All this, I thought, was hilarious.
So. What if it rains the whole day this Saturday? I predict the following:
Massive DNFs: Most of the people who line up to start the race are prepared to suffer on a bike for 9-12 hours. Many are not prepared to suffer for that long while rain pounds them and they’re freezing cold.
Lots of people in the medical tents: You get really cold when you’re soaked for that long. Lots of riders will be pulled from the course with symptoms of hypothermia.
Lots of ruined wheels: The sandy, gritty Leadville course means that when the weather’s wet, you go through your brake pads unbelievably quickly. Many people will go through their brake pads, then gouge their rims.
I will be insufferable: One thing I know about myself. As things get increasingly nasty, I am capable of acting ridiculously cheerful. That is, in fact, my typical response to crisis. And since I’ll be shoving a digital voice recorder (got it yesterday) into people’s faces and asking them whether they’re enjoying themselves, I should probably plan on getting punched in the face at least once or twice.
Today’s weight: I didn’t check. Not going to check again until I get back from Leadville.
Bonus Excitement: Cyclingnews.com has published my second article, this time a fake news piece about a sport-class mountain biker who feels sorry for Jan Ullrich. I really, really hope everyone who reads it gets the irony.
Bonus Potential Offline-ness: Tomorrow early AM I head out towards Leadville. Once there, I really don’t know what kind of connectivity I’ll have. I hope to keep posting, but if I can’t, I’ll at least have my wife post my finishing time on Saturday afternoon.