A Note From Fatty: I am as surprised as you that The Hammer has decided to tell her version of the PCP2P.
“Your helmet’s all jacked up!” said the girl next to me, as I parked my bike at the very back of the pack at the start line to the PCP2P race.
“Great,” I thought. “Elden leaves me in his mad rush to get to the starting line and doesn’t even tell me that my helmet is on all skeewhompish! What a great way to start the PCP2P.”
I mumbled a thanks to the girl and said “Hi” to Heather. She was also at the very back of the pack.
Right then the first wave of riders went whipping around the hill and past us. I really couldn’t believe we were racing. An hour ago, I thought I had Elden convinced we should call it a day and have a nice big breakfast at Denny’s. Instead, the sun decided to come out and persuade us to hop on our bikes and go for a pleasant little 66 mile ride.
I wasn’t too disappointed that the race directors had decided to cut the first 13 miles out of the race, due to the muddy conditions. Sixty six miles was plenty, in my book.
The PCP2P has been looming its monstrous head over me for two years. Ever since Elden raced and I crewed for him in 2010, I knew I would have to try this race. In my sadistic world, seeing all those people completely whipped as they came across the finish line spoke to me! I had to give this race at least a try sometime in my life! And 2012 seemed like it would be the perfect year.
I would probably never be in better mountain biking shape. The week of racing in Colorado was a perfect lead up to the PCP2P. I knew I could do all the climbing that would be required of me; it was the descending that scared me to death. Would I kill myself? Break myself? Break my bike? Break someone else? Break someone else’s bike? UGH!
I guess I was willing to take all those chances, because I was here at the starting line and then we were off. I quickly moved up a few places in the pack. The competitive Lisa started to rear her head. I saw Brandon Banks and gave him a big cheer as I passed. “Ok, this isn’t so bad,” I said to myself. “Maybe I can position myself a little better in the pack….”
And then we all came to a halt. There were at least 15 people stopped and waiting to turn onto the first singletrack of the day. Great.
It is funny how aggressive men can get as they push their way to the front of the line. They certainly didn’t want a woman to start of ahead of them and hold them up on a climb.
I’m pretty sure there were only about 10 people behind me when I started up the singletrack. I took a deep breath and told myself that I didn’t matter. There was a lot bike riding ahead of me and plenty of time to pass people, if I had the strength.
Before my bike and I got covered in mud. Image courtesy of Zazoosh.
The Mud Train
The first 8 miles was a muddy mess. It was quite comical. I was in rather chatty mood, and started talking to the guy ahead of me. I commented on how dirty he was and how he had a mud pie clinging to his seat post bag. We both decided it wasn’t a good day to be wearing white shorts (we also concluded that there is no good day to ever wear white bike shorts)!
It didn’t take long to get covered in mud! Image courtesy of Zazoosh.
The climb was slow and steady. Not really the pace I would have set, but there wasn’t anything I could do. We were a slow-moving train, going up a very muddy track with no room to pass — and if you could pass, you would just be stuck behind someone else!
Several times, the singletrack would cross a paved road and everyone would make a mad sprint to pass 2-3 people. It was a little frustrating. I tried to make the most of it by talking, but no one really wanted to talk to me.
At mile 8, the train seemed to break apart. I could pass groups of 2-3 riders without much effort. Everyone was really good about moving over when it was possible. Because the pace was slow, I was able to look around and take in the scenery (unlike Elden, who never sees anything when he’s racing).
The colors were spectacular. Autumn is just arriving and the leaves are beginning to turn. We rode high above Jordanelle Reservoir, which looked beautiful with the low clouds over the water. The lighting was beautiful as the sun was peaking its head out between the rain clouds which were beginning to disappear. It truly was the beginning of a beautiful fall day.
I was really happy to be out enjoying it. I was glad I hadn’t decided to sleep in.
The PCP2P has it all — forested singletrack, alpine, singletrack, and even some high mountain meadow doubletrack. Image courtesy of Zazoosh.
Silver Lake Aid Station
As I descended into the first Aid station, I was very vigilant! I was on the lookout for a little green porta-potty! All the espresso and coffee I had partaken of earlier in the day was now ready to depart my body — but to my dismay, I saw no such potty.
I pulled up to the aid station — where the volunteers couldn’t locate my drop bags [Note from Fatty: They couldn't find The Hammer's bags because they were looking for bags numbered 206 -- The Hammer's race number. But we had put both of our gear in the same bags, and the bags had been placed by my number (278) instead of The Hammer's. Since I didn't stop at this aid station, I didn't tell the volunteers to move the bags so they'd be ordered for The Hammer's race number].
Oh well, I guess I really don’t need to use the bathroom and I really don’t need my drop bags . . . though it would have been nice to ditch my knee warmers. In my morning rush to get to the starting line, I had forgotten to take them off; I figured I would put them in my drop bag at the first aid station. Oh well, I guess I’ll keep them on.
I moved over to the food table and ate a delicious PBJ sandwich and drank an orange soda. Why orange soda? Where was the Coke I was promised? I started really missing my drop bag, when a nice lady offered to clean my glasses for me. What a nice surprise! This kind gesture made me reevaluate the bad things I was thinking about this aid station.
The Middle 28 Miles (the hardest of the race!)
As I contemplate the PCP2P with a week’s worth of time to reflect on it I would conclude that the middle 28ish miles is the hardest. As I was leaving the Silver Lake aid station I again started talking to whoever would listen to me. This, I have to admit is strange to me. Normally when I race, I say nothing — conserving every bit of energy to propel myself forward.
I think the Breck Epic has forever changed me, though. The Breck Epic was a complete unknown; Elden and I would get up in the morning, glance at the elevation profile, and then ride. We never knew where we were, how much we had climbed, or how much we had descended! We only knew that it would all come to an end around 40 miles after we left.
I did the same with this race. I have only ridden in Park City 2-3 times. I don’t know the trail system. I figured I would start pedaling when the gun went off and stop approximately 80 miles later, when I crossed the finish line. I didn’t know when the climbs were, how long they were or how steep they were.
I think that is why I had energy to talk.
I really wasn’t riding at race pace, like I do at Leadville, where I know the course like the back of my hand. I didn’t want to push myself early and have nothing in the tank to finish. So I started up a conversation with the rider ahead of me. He said he was from Park City, but had not raced PCP2P before, but he was very familiar with these trails He said this was the part of the race he dreaded the most! The next 28 miles were horrible, and he only hoped he would survive.
Ugh. Now I knew what was in store for me, would I survive?
Honestly, the next 11 miles are a blur. I talked to whoever would listen, and I pedaled. I enjoyed the fall colors. I ate a gel every hour. I kept trying to pull up my knee warmers — they were drooping and I felt like my garters were slipping (how embarrassing). The climbs weren’t horrible, the descents manageable.
We’re not in Kansas anymore…the attack of the trees
After climbing for what seemed like forever, I wondered if we were ever going to have a significant downhill section. So far, the downhill sections had been short and not too terribly technical. I’d show how courteous I could be by quickly removing myself from the trail if I heard someone approaching.
And then it began.
The trail turned downhill and the trees, roots, stumps and rocks all seemed to congregate together in the middle of the trail. I was really thankful that there was no one around me as I descended what seemed like miles of this mess. I actually felt like a pinball in a pinball machine as I bounced off one aspen tree with my right shoulder to collide with another aspen with my left hip — and that was only if I was lucky enough not to hit my handlebars on the trees that were spaced just a few feet apart.
The guy who designed this trail must have been laughing the whole time.
As I was ricocheting off one of the trees, I remembered what Jilene (my friend who rode this last year) had said about the race: “I have blocked out most of that awful race, but I do remember crashing into a lot of trees!” Now I knew what she was referring to! She didn’t crash into those trees; those trees were grabbing her! I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz; I’m sure if those trees had apples they would have been throwing them at me, too.
All good things (and all horrible things) eventually come to an end; the trees lessened their grip on me and I rode out of the forest with only a few bruises for souvenirs. I came to the water aid station and filled my camelbak.
The weather was still fantastic. Not terribly hot and not cold. I didn’t feel dehydrated . . . and I still had to pee. We started climbing again and I caught up with a bunch of guys. I casually asked about what the future had in store — I asked when the descent into Park City Resort aid station started. The guy chortled. “We aren’t descending for a while! We still have to climb up to The Lake.”
“Oh?” I said. “Would that climb be a small climb — 500ft — or are we taking bigger, like 1000ft??”
“Oh, I think at least a thousand feet,” and then he commented that we still had ten miles to the aid station.
“What?” I gasped. I thought the aid station would be at mile 43ish (56mile aid station minus 13 miles (section we removed due to mud equals 43miles).
“No,” he replied. “The muddy section they removed was only 8 miles!”
That was very demoralizing. I had to reset my thought processes. Oh well, I was just going to have to concentrate on the climb at hand. I then passed that guy — I needed to show him that he didn’t scare me with his knowledge of the course!
The 1000ft climb was really 1600ft, which I found out later when I reviewed the elevation profile. Once we arrived at the pretty little lake and followed the circumference of it, the road turned downhill. Soon the guy that I had previously talked with came zooming by me — I quickly yelled out “Is this the descent?”
He happily yelled back, “Yes!”
The descent into Park City was amazing. It was super fun. The trail was nice and tacky, not dusty and dry. There were no rocks and trees grabbing me. I actually smiled all the way down to Park City. I arrived at Park City Mountain Resort and my Garmin read 43 miles. I was glad to note that the guy I had been talking with was wrong on the distance; I was right.
Park City Aid Station-Where the heck are the bathrooms?
As I pulled into the station, I immediately found my drop bags [Note from Fatty: After using the bags I made sure they got moved to where the volunteers would find them when they looked for 206]. Every zippered compartment on the bag was wide open. I was shocked that Elden had left them that way [Note from Fatty: I thought I was doing her a favor so she wouldn't have to open them herself! And also I am lazy.].
I proceeded to find my sandwich and coke. I started to eat them. I then pulled out my Gatorade bottle and filled my own bottles.
I was really shocked that not one person offered to help me. No one took my bike and asked if they could grease my chain, no one asked if they could fill my bottles or fill my camelbak. Sure, there were tons of people standing there — just watching me — but not one person offered to help.
Once I got done with my bottles, I started asking people where the bathroom was. I was about to explode; I couldn’t ignore the urge any longer. Finally someone said, “I think they are over there,” and pointed in the direction of a building. I thought I could see a portapotty, so I headed in that direction.
Mind you, I had to pass through the line of spectators. There was no BR immediately available! I was appalled! As I got closer to the portapotty, I could see that the potty was on the other side of a construction fence!
What the F…?
I had already walked at least 1/10 of a mile, then I saw another portapotty behind the building. I quickly did my business and exited the BR feeling much better (BTW, there was ample TP; I did not need to use a sandwich to wipe). I then walked back to my bike. I know for a fact I lost at least 5 minutes to the BR fiasco, and the fact that not one person offered to help me at an aid station.
Will My Chain Survive?
As I left the aid station, the trail went straight up the mountainside. I shifted into my granny gear and started climbing. As I was doing this, my chain started making a horrible sound. I had been dealing with weird creaks and groans from my bike. I figured that was normal, considering the amount of mud that I had been riding through.
But this was a different sound. This sound made me think that my chain was about to explode.
I decided there must be something seriously wrong, so I got off and spun my back wheel and tried to look like I knew what I was doing. But to be perfectly honest, I know absolutely nothing about bikes.
After spinning the wheel, I got back on my bike and started pedaling. And guess what? The chain still sounded horrible. What a surprise! It was grinding and popping and catching–just as if I had chain suck, or had crossed the chain. But I didn’t, I was shifted into my little ring in front and my chain was in the little ring! I didn’t get it.
So I just got back on and pedaled.
The climb up Spiro was awful. I hadn’t been passed by anyone on a climb, until now: I got passed by 2 guys. I tried shifting up into a different gear on the back ring, the sound didn’t really get any better, it just got harder to pedal.
The climb up Spiro out of Park City is the only trail I’m slightly familiar with. I have ridden it a couple of times. I know that it is a big climb until you hit the mid mountain trail, where it mellows out and becomes rollers. I couldn’t remember how long or how steep it was — I just knew it went up.
I really wondered if I my bike would make it. And what would I do if the chain broke? Go forward, or head back to Park City?
My anxiety level was rising.
And then — as if God wanted to add insult to injury — the heavens opened up, and the rain began to fall. It started out as a sprinkle, then turned to pelting rain, and then to pelting hail. It hailed only briefly — thank heavens. I decided to pull over and put my jacket on. After all, I had carried it on my back, I may as well put it on before I got soaking wet.
After I got back on, the chain noise only seemed to be getting worse. I decided I would stop and try again to fix it.
During the Breck Epic, my chain had started making a similar noise and then seized up completely, almost catapulting me off my bike. Elden said I had “cross chained,” and did something with my shifter and spun my bike wheel. I thought I would try that. I shifted up into the middle ring and the chain moved up, I then shifted it back down and the chain didn’t move. So I manually took the chain off the middle ring and dropped it onto the small ring.
I then got back on my bike and started pedaling. I was surprised to find that it was much easier to pedal and the awful noise was gone.
I had fixed it. I wanted to sing a song!
I went flying up the trail, passing people right and left. Telling everyone that I had fixed my bike; it was no longer making that awful noise and it was much easier to pedal! Yeah for me!
My elation quickly disappeared, though, when I went around the next corner and out onto the side of the mountain. The wind was blowing so hard, I could hardly keep myself upright. The trees were being blown horizontal. The lightning was flashing overhead and the thunder was rumbling.
It’s times like these when I seriously consider my senility.
Am I sane — or insane — to be riding my bike in this kind of weather?
I thought about Ricky Maddox. He had decided not to ride today due to the weather and mud. I thought he had probably been regretting his decision, but if he had been there with me then he would have not regretted his decision a bit! In fact, now I was regretting mine!
But what was I to do, but keep pedaling?
As I went back into the protection of the trees, the wind lessened and the rain started to let up. My hands were wet and cold, but my body was dry and warm. I think I had made the right decision with putting my jacket on early. I was also grateful I had the knee warmers on.
The rain had completely subsided by the time I reached the last aid station on mile 56. These guys were helpful and gave me plenty of coke to drink. They offered to clean my glasses. I had them stuck up in my helmet and hadn’t been using them because they were so dirty. I declined; I had survived this far without glasses. (As an afterthought, after looking at my race pix, I probably should have had them clean them! I look awful! The glasses might have hidden how horrible I looked!)
The Descent into The Canyons
As the trail turned down, the sun was actually shining. The descent was gnarly and technical and I could tell I was slowing down. I had looked at my watch a while back and had decided I really wanted to arrive at the finish line before 9hrs. I wanted and 8 in my finish time.
As I was descending, I realized that was probably not going to happen.
I started to get discouraged. I also had stopped eating. I hadn’t realized it, but I don’t think I ate anything the last 2 hours of the race. (I had only eaten about 7 gels and 3″ of a subway sandwich all day.)
I didn’t realize it, but I was entering a huge bonk.
I knew the descent into The Canyons was not a true descent to the finish line. They like to divert you back up the mountain for one last climbing hurrah! I didn’t know how long or how steep it would be.
I caught up to a guy that I had played leapfrog with for hours. I stuck on his wheel and he pulled me up the mountain. When it finally turned down, he rode away, never to be seen again. I limped down to the finish line.
Image courtesy of Zazoosh.
Image courtesy of Zazoosh.
As I crossed the line, Elden ran up to me and congratulated me. He said he had won 3rd place in his division and he was ecdisstatic!
I wanted to cry.
Some drunk man offered me a bottle of Vitamin Water and I took it. I hate Vitamin Water! I wanted real water.
I still wanted to cry.
Elden rushed me over and I sat down. He took my bike and put it away. He returned skipping with excitement — they had just called his raffle number and he had won a helmet! He went to retrieve the helmet.
I pulled the sunglasses off my helmet, cleaned them and put them on so I could cry. Super nice Kanyon Kris came over and offered me a coke. I refused. He must think I am a total jerk. I’m sorry Kris, I was crying.
I really don’t know why I felt so horrible and sad. I really had a fun time. I think it might have been a combination of extreme fatigue, hunger, disappointment in my overall time
But most of all I think It was a culmination of a month of hard riding.
I am done with the mountain bike. Where are my running shoes?
PS from Fatty: The Hammer took 2nd in her age group, missing first by a scant 1:17.