This is going to come as a shocker to some people, but occasionally I do things that I quickly regret. Which is the only explanation I have for why I would have consumed a largish Mountain Dew and two Cokes at the final aid station.
I was thirsty. It was cold and delicious. I drank it.
Hey, you’ll notice that when I claim I am a “beloved, multi-award-winning, superstar cycle blogging sensation,” I never toss “smart” into that porridge of adjectives, right?
Anyway, I drank a lot of soda. Then I started riding.
Within a couple of minutes, the inevitable happened: the carbonated stew in my stomach (for in addition to the soda, I had also consumed a can of Chicken and Stars soup. And a Fruition bar. And a Salted Nut Roll.) sloshed around. My stomach expanded. To the point of distress.
And then past the point of distress. And then past the point that comes after the point that is past the point of distress.
And in short, I looked like Veruca Salt had been stuffed into a CarboRocket jersey.
And in even shorter, I felt terrible.
I slowed to a crawl (not literally), the discomfort seemingly robbing me of my climbing legs.
I kept swapping between wanting to barf, burp, or fart. Or all three. And in the darkest moments, I considered the probability that I was more likely to wind up with horrible, explosive diarreah, like the last time I had had too much caffeinated soda to drink during a stop in the middle of the long ride.
Then, as icing on the cake, I got a leg cramp that went all the way from the top of the inside of my left leg down to my calf. I pedaled through it, knowing that my only other alternative was to get off my bike and thrash around for a while ’til it went away.
Might as well go forward — at least a little bit — while I’m in agony.
A Runner (But Not The Runner)
There were many indications that I was not going fast. Most were predictable: My speedometer stopped registering movement. Cyclists passed me frequently. (JJ, a friend and one of the Suncrest gang, remarked as he passed, “Looks like you’re fighting some demons; good luck.”). Shadows of trees lengthened perceptibly between when I saw them and went by them.
But there was one unexpected sign that I had slowed: a runner. More specifically, a woman trail runner, going uphill. She just cruised right by me.
Looking for some way to further deprecate myself, I shouted out, “Oh, you’re just showing off.”
She did not reply. Just kept going.
Doing Some Math
As if I weren’t feeling bad enough and going slow enough, I had a new bugaboo in my mind: the reported amount of climbing for this race versus the amount of climbing my GPS said I had done.
See, there’s supposed to be 14,000 feet of climbing in the Park City Point 2 Point (PCP2P). But 65 miles into the race, my GPS said I had done around 10,500 feet of climbing. By my math, that meant I had 3500 feet of climbing in the final 13 miles.
And frankly, I just didn’t feel up to it.
So I asked a guy, as he rode by, if he had done the race before. He had. “Do we really have more than 3000 feet of climbing left?” I asked.
“No,” he replied, clearly horrified at even the suggestion of the thought. “There’s only about one more really big climb. Maybe a thousand feet.”
I have never before so dearly hoped that a complete stranger was right (he was; my final GPS reading says I did around 11,500 feet of climbing; I don’t know whether my GPS is inaccurate or the official altitude count is wrong.)
As I got to about mile 67 — eleven miles to go — a wonderful thing happened.
I began to fart. A lot.
My jersey loosened. My spirits lifted. My mind lightened. My climbing legs came back, as did the song in my heart (I almost always have a song in my heart).
So good did each fart feel, that I often remarked on them aloud: “Oh, that was helpful.” Or “Mercy, I feel better.”
As far as I know, nobody heard me commentating on my pleasure at having gas. And I really, really hope to never find out otherwise.
I continued to pass people on the climbs, and then get passed by the same folks on the descents, as I daintily picked my way among the rocks, too sore to roll over anything I didn’t absolutely have to.
And as I did, I kept reminding myself of one thing: you weren’t finished when you saw the finish line. People had told me not to be fooled: when you came by the finish area, you’d be redirected uphill for one last big climb before descending to the bottom.
And so when I saw the finish area, I knew I’d shortly be passing it, then heading back uphill. I knew that my day wasn’t done.
Except it was.
I was so cooked that I am the only person in the whole world who didn’t see the finish area the first time. So as I got closer and closer, instead of the elation of knowing I had finished my race, I felt nothing but dread. And pain. And exhaustion.
One more climb? Really? I have to do more climbing? I just didn’t feel up to it. I started to feel like I was going to cry.
OK, I did in fact start to cry.
And then I was routed into the finishing chute, I crossed the line, and it was over.
Weird. I hadn’t had time to transition from grim and exhausted and miserable to relieved, happy and exhausted.
And to be honest, I thought I was going to start crying again.
Get Me Out of Here
The Runner came up to me at the finish line and gave me a hug. “Please, get me out of here,” I whispered to her.
I just hadn’t absorbed that I had finished one of the toughest races — 78 miles of climby, technical singletrack at high altitude — I could ever imagine, in a very difficult way: on a rigid singlespeed.
But I didn’t feel exultant or triumphant or anything good at that moment.
All I wanted was to get out of there.
The Runner, able to tell that I wasn’t feeling celebratory at all, guided me to the truck. We were stopped several times by friends and friendly blog readers, all of them congratulating me, some wanting to get a photo.
Normally I love this.
But after this race I had one thing on my mind: get away from this place, as fast as possible.
Because I could tell I was going to start crying again.
As we quickly loaded the truck, The Runner did get one picture of me, trying my darnedest to smile:
Not much of a smile, but it was the best I had to offer.
It was two days before my pee would return to normal color. My body feels fine now, and I’m astounded at the variety, distance, and enormity of the PCP2P.
I might even race it again someday.
But not on a rigid singlespeed. Not that way, ever again.