A Note from Fatty: I know, I said last week that this week I was going to start my series on the Breck Epic. I have to be honest, though: it’s hard to write the story of a six-day-long race, and I have a lot more work to do on it to do it justice. So today, I’m going to write about something that’s a little easier to wrap my brain around: the one-day, 50-mile race I did last Saturday. Thank you in advance for your understanding.
A word of caution before you begin today’s story. It ends with a visit to the doctor. And with blood. And with the removal of a foreign object from my right leg.
And there will be photographs.
The Calculus of Racing
There are a number of factors that impact whether you’re going to do a given endurance race. How far do you have to travel to get to the race? How interesting or challenging is the course? How much recon do you have to do to figure out the course? How much work will it be to set up crewing for the race? How much specific training will you have to do for the race?
In the case of the Draper Fall Classic — a 50-mile (two 25-mile loops) mountain bike race in Corner Canyon — the calculus was easy. I know the trails inside-out, I could get from home to the starting line in about fifteen minutes, and setting up my race food would consist of putting six Honey Stinger gels in my jersey, two bottles of sports drink in my bottle cages, with two more bottles placed on the side of the trail to pick up at the beginning of the second lap.
I figured my fitness is pretty much where it’s going to be, since I’ve been racing practically every weekend for the whole summer. And this would be a good final hard ride before the Leadman Tri next weekend. Although, obviously, on a bike that’s exactly as opposite as can be and still be called a bike.
For The Hammer, it would be even simpler: she was going to do the one-lap version of the race, because she needed to do a 20-mile run the following morning, since she’s now got to focus on the St. George Marathon in a few weeks (not to mention the Leadman Tri this Saturday!).
What bike would I ride? Easy. I’d be riding the same bike I almost always ride when I’m at Corner Canyon: My Stumpjumper singlespeed with the Niner carbon fork. With the same gearing I always rie when I’m at Corner Canyon: 34 x 19.
It’s nice to know a place so well that you don’t even have to think about what the right bike setup is for racing it.
Best of all, though, thanks to the days getting light a little later, the race wouldn’t start until 8:00am. Which meant we got to sleep in ’til 6:00. On a race day! That’s luxurious.
Before the Race
With the quick, easy drive to the race start and the low-key, low-stakes nature of the race (which means that I only needed to nervous-poop twice instead of four times before leaving the house), The Hammer and I got to the starting line about an hour before the race began, and had enough time to get our bikes set up at a leisurely pace.
Even then, we had 45 minutes to kill before the race began. Nice!
So we took the time to get a photo of us modeling the brand-new 2013 Team Fatty gear that had arrived in the mail the day before:
I like it. I like it a lot. (By the way, those of you who pre-ordered the kit: yours will be shipping out by the beginning of next week.)
Then, as we were standing around, Grizzly Adam approached, and immediately asserted that I had cut today’s course.
“The race hasn’t even begun!” I protested.
“Yeah, whatever. Cheater,” he said, dismissively.
Over the next fifteen minutes, this theme would repeat. Different people asked me things like
“Planning on taking any shortcuts today?”
“Have you been up here scouting for places to cut the course?”
And, from the race director, Bob Saffell, “Don’t think we’re not watching you, buddy.”
And with that, I moved from my plan A (a nice little set of shortcuts that would have comfortably set me up for the win) to plan B (go ahead and do the race on the actual specified course).
Starting Lap 1
The race started in waves, with the 40+ experts and the singlespeeders starting right behind the pro men and women waves. I situated myself in the back of the wave, figuring that since the first couple miles were on flat trail, I’d be spun out on my SS and would just get in the fast guys’ way. Even so, I managed to hang on to the tail end of the first group for the first 1.5 miles, and then we turned uphill, which is where the SS riders have a chance to either do better, or much much worse.
I found myself caught up in a good group — a SS racer right in front of me, another right behind. We were all working very hard. Riding really fast. Probably set up in fifth-seventh place for SS.
The thought occurred to me, “I think we’re going too fast for a 50-mile race that’s nothing but hard climbs and quick descents.”
I didn’t listen to me. Everyone else was going fast; I certainly didn’t want to ge left behind. I settled in and followed the next racer’s wheel. Just hanging in there, trying not to get sorted to the back.
A quick descent led us to a sandy hike-a-bike climb; I dismounted and prepared to trudge.
To my horror, the rider — the same SS guy (I didn’t know his name, so called him “Red Shirt, Blue Camelbak” in my mind) I had been following from the get-go immediately began running up the hike-a-bike.
Dutifully — but knowing full well that I would pay for this level of effort later in the race — I began running, too.
Somehow, I managed to stay behind Red Shirt Blue Camelbak.
The trail firmed up, and I climbed back on my bike; it was time to ride again. Oddly, though, Red Shirt Blue Camelbak was still running and pushing his bike.
“Hey, mind if I come on by?” I asked.
“Go for it,” he replied, and thus typified one of the things I love about local races: everyone is racing hard, but nevertheless manage to stay courteous.
This led to a dirt road climb and a chance to pass a few people, after which there was a quick easy singletrack descent to the Gasline and then my favorite climb in Corner Canyon: Canyon Hollow.
Canyon Hollow is a singlespeeder’s dream. Just steep enough that a standing climber (me) can really stomp on the pedals, but rarely with pitches that are so steep that you lose your momentum. The switchbacks are nice and wide, letting you keep your pedaling rhythm and just go.
I passed another singlespeeder. Possibly two. Then I had open trail — the people who were ahead of me now were out of sight and getting further ahead by the moment.
Forty five minutes into the race, I figured I had reached my likely best-possible placement: the place where, barring a crash or a bonk, I would finish.
If, that is, I could keep all those other SS riders behind me on the descents.
You Kids Keep That Noise Down
I knew that my position in the race was tenuous. I might be a stronger climber than a lot of the guys I had just passed, but I also knew that I’m an extremely poor descender. If I didn’t build a good-sized lead by the time I got to the biggest technical descent of the day — Rush (yes, named after the band) — I’d wind up behind all of them at the finish line.
While I was wrapped up in these thoughts, suddenly, a voice called out behind me, “Hey, it’s 17-pound bike guy.”
Huh. Sounded like a kid.
“You want by?” I called out?
“Nah, we’re good. Just having a great day riding Corner Canyon today. Can you believe what great shape these trails are in?”
Actually, I thought to myself, what I can’t believe is that you have the lungs to have a casual conversation while I am at my absolute outer limit.
“So,” he continued, “does your bike really weigh just seventeen pounds even with those heavy Chris King hubs?”
“The weight’s worth it for such good hubs,” I gasped back. “I really think you should come on by.”
“OK, there’s two of us,” he called back, cheerfully. And the two of them — both of them looking very youthful and energetic indeed — just rocketed by me.
Suddenly, I felt old.
Still, nobody else passed me as I climbed Canyon Hollow. I got to the dirt road that goes to the hub of Corner Canyon — Peak View Trailhead — and began my first attack on Anne’s Trail.
Anne’s is a dangerous trail, precisely because it doesn’t seem at all dangerous. It looks wide open — fast, moderate turns, great visibility, good consistent trail.
It lures you into going as fast as you possibly can.
And then you hit a sharp left hander with exposure on the right. And you hope hope hope that you’ll somehow get your wheels to hook back up with the trail before you go shooting off into outer space.
And so, fully occupied with staying alive and not riding my bike into the atmosphere, I am surprised to hear someone say, “Whenever you can let me by, I’d appreciate it.”
“Come by on my left,” I reply, giving him some space.
The racer expertly slides by, but then the trail turns uphill and I’m with him again. “You want to come by?” he asks.
“Nope, we’ll be going downhill again in a moment,” I reply. “I can’t hold you.”
“Hey, weren’t you at Bountiful Bikes last week getting a bike fitting?” he asks.
“Yup, Taylor was fitting my Shiv for me,” I said, noting for the first time that this rider was wearing a Bountiful Bikes kit.
“Cool. Hey, the next singlespeeder’s about one minute back,” he says. “Wearing a red shirt and a blue Camelbak.”
“Yeah, I think I know who you’re talking about.”
And then he was gone.
One minute. That’s all I had on Red Shirt Blue Camelbak. Something told me that if I didn’t pick it up, I’d be losing that advantage when I came down Rush.
A Very Minor Crash
I got to the bottom of Anne’s with no singlespeeders passing me, which was a big relief. But as I raced across the rolling singletrack to the hardest climb of the day — Clark’s — I was panicking. I needed to add to my advantage, or I’d wind up behind the four or so SS riders I knew were no more than a couple minutes behind me.
Now, I had promised The Hammer that I would take no risks during this race. After all, we have a much bigger race coming up next week; I don’t need to be injured for that.
But when you’re in the middle of a race and you know that about half of your competition is withing two or three minutes of catching you, the “play it safe” mentality stops sounding smart. You’re at a race, dammit. You’re not here to be safe, you’re here to see if you can be fast.
And so I went hard. Took some risks. Maybe even had a few close calls.
But everything was OK. My risks paid off.
And then, in the middle of a completely straight and non-technical piece of trail, I hit a soft patch of sand, my front tire washed out, and I fell on my right side into a sagebrush-like bush (I put the “-like” there because I know absolutely nothing about botany and the bush may have been something completely non-sagebrushy).
Apart from scratches from the bush’s twigs and branches, I registered no pain at all. On the crash awesomeness scale of 1 – 10, I’d put this crash at a 1.5. And I’m only giving myself that extra 0.5 because I suspect I looked comical trying to clip out of my pedals while laying on my right side and thrashing around in a bush.
I got back on my bike and got to racing again, figuring I would never even mention this wreck to anyone.
And yet, here I am, mentioning it, at some length. There must be a reason why.
I got to the bottom of Clark’s, which I knew would be the toughest climb of the day. But I also knew that it wouldn’t be the toughest climb yet. On the first lap, Clark’s is a rough climb. On the second, when you’re tired, it can get in your head and just brutalize you.
I’d deal with that problem when I had to, I figured, and rode up with everything I had. I just did not want those other SS-ers catching me.
Nobody passed me, and I’m pretty sure I passed nobody. I knew the trail, though, and that kept it from getting too deeply into my head.
Partway up Clark’s, it occurred to me: my right leg stings. I looked down, and noticed it was bleeding, just a little bit, from the crash.
I never thought about it again for the rest of the race.
I got to the top of Clark’s, where Sly handed me a couple dollars (“Get PAID, Fatty!” he called out), and I started the descent down Rush.
Rush is a technical descent. Fast and flowy, it’s designed for a completely different kind of rider than me.
That said, I still enjoy it every single time. And I stayed upright. And I don’t think — I could be wrong here, but I’m pretty sure — nobody passed me.
I was almost to the end of the first lap, but first there was a short hike-a-bike (for singlespeeders, that is — it was climbable on geared bikes) and the runout to the end of lap / finish line.
I dismounted and started pushing. While I was pushing, I chanced a glance over my shoulder.
Right there, twenty feet behind me, was Red Shirt Blue Camelbak.
I stepped it up, but never really got ahead of him. Politely, he stayed behind me and didn’t ask to get around, ’til I got to a bridge and fumbled it, accidentally pulling out of my pedal.
He and another singlespeeder went on by.
“That’s plus two,” I thought.
We got to the last bit of flat singletrack before the lap counter, with the two riders gapping me. And then another went by. And another.
As we crossed the line to start the second lap, I had completely lost the advantage I had worked so hard for.
I wasn’t ready to give up quite yet. Where most of the racers stopped and grabbed something to eat, getting help from their crews at the beginning of the second lap, I just pulled up to where my two bottles were. Luckily, a woman was standing right there, so I didn’t even have to get off my bike — I just put one foot down.
“Could you grab those two bottles for me?” I asked. She did, and five seconds later I was off.
And in the process, I had re-passed two of the SS racers.
As we got to the sandy hike-a-bike section, though, that advantage evaporated. They were right behind me and — like last time — they were running it.
I stepped aside and let them by. I had no intention of running this time.
But as I got to the top of this climb I could see that Red Shirt Blue Camelbak had pulled off to the side for a pee break.
“That’s what you get for being well-hydrated,” I thought, re-passing him, and noting that I had passed him on the first lap in very nearly the same place.
As I climbed Canyon Hollow, the first lap scenario repeated itself. I passed the same riders, in essentially the same places. The oddness of it struck me.
I had a moment of sadness as I looked at my bike computer and realized that by now, having completed her 25 miles, The Hammer was almost certainly sitting in a lawn chair and enjoying the first of the cold beverages we had brought along in a cooler.
Then, coming out of the Canyon Hollow climb, I saw a rider I hadn’t seen since the starting line. A single speeder, wearing a kit that read “Panther” on the back. I managed to catch up with him just before we began Anne’s Trail.
“Do you know how we’re doing against other single speeders?” I asked.
“I think we’re in second and third; Corey Larabee’s in first,” he replied.
That gave me a little jolt of energy.
“Are you a fast descender?” I asked.
“Pretty fast,” he replied.
“You go on and take Anne’s first, then,” I replied. “I suck at descents.”
He took off and I pursued as closely as I could, energized by the possibility that I still had a shot at getting on the podium. To my surprise, I managed to keep him in sight for almost the entirety of the first part of Anne’s, after which the trail goes through a tunnel.
The Panther kit guy pulled over and stopped in the tunnel. This is where drop bags were stored, and I guess he needed something from his.
So my two remaining gels and one remaining bottle — which I figured were plenty for the rest of the race — moved up a place.
Clark’s 2: The Mental Game
I didn’t think I’d stay ahead of Panther Kit guy for the entirety of the Anne’s descent. I really didn’t.
And yet, somehow, I did. And no other SS racers passed me, either.
So I made it to Clark’s, feeling fast, feeling strong.
At which point I discovered I was neither.
At the base of the climb, a racer passed me. I tried to hang with him, but he rapidly disappeared off the front.
And then I cracked.
Suddenly, instead of being able to turn the pedals over — tick, tick, tick — I was having to stand up and sloooowwwwly rooooow each pedal stroke.
Each stroke hurting. Each push down taking multiple seconds.
“Everyone’s going to catch me and pass me any moment,” I thought to myself.
And then I looked forward. The guy who had passed me a few minutes ago was back in sight. He was hardly moving, either.
And that’s when it occurred to me: everyone had to be hurting on this climb. Nobody would be flying up Clark’s.
So I slowed down a little more, on purpose this time. I gave myself two minutes to regroup. Sucked down my last gel. And then I tried riding hard again.
This time, it — more or less — worked. I battled to the top of Clark’s, and nobody caught me (though I also never caught the guy who was just ahead of me, either).
If I could just stay ahead during the Rush descent, I could do it. I had a shot at the podium.
So I hit Rush hard. Or at least, as hard as a guy on a rigid hardtail who’s terrible at descending could hit Rush hard.
I got to the bottom. Nobody passed me.
I got to the hike-a-bike and looked over my shoulder. I couldn’t see anyone.
I got excited. Like, really, really excited.
I got to the final stretch of flattish singletrack, and looked back when there was a switchback. Nobody in sight.
I had done it. I had held them off.
I crossed the finish line in 4:22:
The Hammer — who had finished her race two-plus hours ago — ran up to me. “You did it!” she shouted. “You took third!”
And it was true. Check it out (full race results here):
Sure, first and second place had more-or-less crushed me, but still: third. That put me on the podium. Or at least on the curb, where the podium would be if there were a podium:
Jeff on the left, Corey in the center, me on the right. Descending order of height purely coincidental.
Just a point of interest: If, instead of registering in the singlespeed category, I had instead registered in my age category, I would have taken second place (and been much closer to first place), instead of third. Which kind of (sort of) validates my theory that the singlespeed was a great choice for this course. And which (anecdotally) supports the “singlespeed should be regarded as an equipment choice, not a racing category” hypothesis.
Another point of interest: places 4 – 7 in the SS category were all within four minutes (in a 50-mile race!) of me. In other words, the race for third place was an extremely hard-fought contest. I owe the group of SSers I raced with a big thanks for pushing me to go at my absolute limit.
Oh, and how did The Hammer do? Well, she won her division:
Not a bad day. Not a bad day at all.
Oh The Horror
I got home and got into the shower for my post-race cleanup. As I attended to my very minor cut, I noticed something:
It hurt like crazy.
Gingerly, I poked and prodded. Under my skin, adjacent to a very small hole, was a hard little bump.
I was pretty sure there was a rock or something in there.
I tried to prod it out. No luck. I tried to squeeze it out. Ow. I tried to tweeze it out.
I passed out.
“I think I need to go to an ER, Lisa,” I said. “There’s something under this cut on my leg, and I definitely need to get it out before the race next weekend; I can’t afford to have an infection right now.”
“Let’s just go to my brother’s house,” she replied. “He’s a doctor.”
So we did. And instead of a waiting room and an uncomfortable cot, I got to sit on a comfy couch and put my feet up.
Scott (The Hammer’s brother) numbed me up with Lidocaine, I averted my eyes, and The Hammer (remember, she’s a nurse) helped dig out the foreign matter.
Here, the red dot on the left is from the lidocaine shot. The one on the right is where the foreign object went in:
Then, after a little cutting . . .
And a little tweezing, they had found the offender:
One piece of Steri-tape, and I was good to go:
What was it? A twig from that bush I had crashed in, about 1/2″ long:
Which I declare to be the most awesome race souvenir ever.
A Note from Fatty: You might remember that back in April, I announced that this year’s 100 Miles of Nowhere would, with the help of LiveStrong, help fund the creation of Camp Kesem Southern Utah.
Well, we raised $34,000 with our little 100-mile event, and that money helped not only get Camp Kessem in Southern Utah get on its feet, we helped it stay on its feet for next year, too. And we helped other Camp Kesems across the US send kids who have parents with (or who have had) cancer to a fun-filled, silly, happy week.
Two of the kids who went to Camp Kesem Southern Utah were my own twins, pictured here during “Western Day” at Camp Kesem:
At Camp Kesem, everyone goes by a camp nickname. “Car” is pictured here on the left, and “Couch” is on the right. And no, I have no difficulty whatsoever telling them apart.
They had so much fun. One of the first things they said to me when they got back home was, “Can we please go back next year?”
And you know what? I think that can probably be arranged.
So, before I turn the blog over to the twins for their story of their week, I wanted to thank some folks.
First, A huge thanks to LiveStrong. They introduced me to Camp Kesem. They’re helping fund Camp Kesem. They continue — long after cancer has stopped being an ugly, daily force in my life — to help my family in practical, meaningful ways. Thanks Doug. Thanks Lance. Thanks everyone at the foundation.
Second, A huge thanks to Camp Kesem: Your idea is simple and beautiful: give a wonderful week to kids who have gotten a raw deal because their parents are fighting cancer. And do it at no cost to the kids. And your execution of that idea — using energetic, friendly college kids to give those kids lots of attention — is pure genius. You’ve got my support, permanently.
Third, A huge thanks to my readers: You have an astonishing ability to support me, my family, and each other. Thank you for pitching in, over and over, through the years. You have big, kind hearts, and I’m lucky so many of you have chosen to stop by here from time to time.
And with that, here’s “Couch and Car’s Camp Kesem Story.” You can click on any of the pictures to see a larger version of that image.
Couch & Car’s Camp Kesem Story
The first day of Camp Kesem, the first thing we did was play games to get to know each other, then we played tag and talked. Then we went on a small hike.
We saw: one rabbit, some lizards, and two snakes. We also made paper lanterns and put our flashlights under them so they would glow. At night, we had a party in our cabin and chatted.
On Western day, we did cowboy things like “lasso the bull” and “ride that pony.” Then we played capture the hat. Then, finally, we had a squirt gun shoot-off.
On Mexican day we had a paper airplane race and had taco soup and we also played capture the bandana.
Then it was island day. We ate Hawaian Haystacks and played water balloon volleyball and slip’n’slide baseball. Then everyone just sat on the ground and talked. Some friends and us sat with a leader and talked about what would win: a T-rex or 10 tanks.
And just when we decided we couldn’t decide what would win, and asked someone else, we heard, “Like a banana!” and water balloons came raining down! And so it was a huge fight and it went on until the water balloons ran out.
Then on Chinese day we made chinese dragons, watched a slide show, ate some treated, and went to our Grandma’s home in the rain.
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.
A What’s-Next-for-Fatty Note from Fatty: A week from Saturday, I’ll be racing in the singlespeed division in the Draper Fall Classic 50, a two-loop, all-singletrack fifty-mile mountain bike race in my favorite backyard trail network, Corner Canyon. You should come race it too. And if 50 miles doesn’t sound like your kind of distance, there’s a 25-mile, 1-loop option.
$5 of every entry goes to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, and all proceeds from the post-race raffle will go to the foundation as well. So this is a race with both its heart and its wallet in the right place. If you’re even reasonably local, you ought to come race it with me.
A Note from Fatty About Today’s Post: This is part 3 in my telling of this year’s Park City Point 2 Point race, a (normally) 78-mile, 14K-of-climbing MTB race, almost entirely on singletrack. Click here to read part 1. And click here for part 2.
Before we get rolling with today’s story, I’d like to point out something that I’ve just noticed about myself that really bothers me:
When racing, I apparently never close my mouth. Not even for a second. Observe the following four photos, all taken by the good folks at Zazoosh:
You must believe that I am not cherry-picking here. And you must also believe that I find it a little bit disturbing that I am apparantly perpetually slack-jawed when I race.
I mean, just think about how much mud — and how many bugs — I must’ve swallowed during that race.
Thank you for your indulgence. Now on with the story of what happened after I crossed the finish line at the Park City Point 2 Point.
As soon as I finished the Park City Point 2 Point, I parked my bike in a convenient place, and then parked myself in a different convenient place: specifically, under the Vitamin Water canopy. Since it was raining at the moment, this solved one problem.
I then proceeded to make myself at home, drinking all their product and sitting in one of their chairs.
It didn’t even occur to me to ask if this was OK by them. I was thirsty, I needed a place to sit; here was a chair and stuff to drink.
And then it started to rain harder. And by “harder,” I mean “really really hard.”
Now, normally, this kind of intense rain, shortly after I finished the race, would have made me chortle with malicious glee, for there’s nothing I like more than other people’s suffering. It’s the main reason I race, really.
But in this case, in addition to all the people I was happy to have soaking and freezing and possibly electrocuted, The Hammer was out there.
I confess: I began to fret.
“My wife’s out there in that rain,” I said to one of the twenty-something-girls whose job it was to give out Vitamin Water to racers after they finish. I said this worriedly, but also to let her know that I’m taken, and that if she was looking to get her hands on a stinky, muddy, middle-aged, balding, paunchy cyclist, she should look elsewhere.
“Well what are you doing here?” She replied. “Go out and save her!”
Chastened, I left the tent. Not to save The Hammer — because there was no way I was getting back on my bike and heading up that mountain — but to go change into some dry clothes I had cleverly put in a drop bag and were thus now waiting for me at the finish line.
By the time I returned, the rain had stopped and it was sunny.
I Enjoy A Moment In the Sun
As a beloved and award-winning cycling celebrity, it’s pretty rare that I have nothing to do but stand around and do nothing. So the fact that I got to just lean against the fence at the finishers’ chute for a while, watching racers come in, was a real pleasure for me.
I paid attention to finishers’ faces, and the wide variety of expressions they showed as they approached and crossed the line. Exhaustion. Intensity. Relief. Happiness.
Hanging out at finish lines is awesome.
And then it got even awesomer, because one of the nicest people in the whole world — Kanyon Kris –showed up. “Were you racing or crewing for someone?” I asked.
“Nope, just here to watch the race, Kris said. And then he opened up his ice chest and gave me a cold Coke.
Have I ever mentioned that Kanyon Kris is one of the nicest people in the whole world?
So Kris and I stood there and talked, while watching racers finish. Meanwhile, Joaquim — the owner of Zazoosh — took photos of finishers. I asked him to capture me in a heroic pose. He obliged:
As you can see, I am looking fearlessly into the future. And enjoying a Coke.
Then, just when things couldn’t get any better, I saw someone carrying around what looked to be finishers’ stats. Curious as to what my actual finishing time was (remember, I had forgotten to start my GPS at the beginning of the race), I sashayed on over.
Yes, I sashayed; I’ve been developing this walking technique for quite some time. Next time you see me, ask to see it; it’s something to behold.
I asked to see the “midlife crisis” category, and there I was: third.
I had taken third.
I suppressed a whoop, but believe that I may have let a yip escape. This was not the right kind of behavior for someone who has recently sashayed, but I was giddy from excitement and quickly forgave myself.
Oh Good, a MEETING!
Before long, Kenny came down the chute. He hadn’t had a great day: three flats and a bonk. I expressed sympathy, while silently rejoicing over my very intelligent decision to not ride a singlespeed. I tell you, racing the PCP2P with gears is barely half as hard as doing it on a single.
Hence, I would like to reaffirm my commitment to never race the PCP2P on a singlespeed ever again.
Kris — who I would like to go on record as stating is one of the nicest people in the world — volunteered to drive Kenny to go get his van, which was parked ten miles or so away.
I resumed my vigil at the finish line, getting more and more excited and anxious for The Hammer to cross the finish line. There had been word that there was bad weather — rain, hail, and lightning — up on the course, and they were pulling people off the course at the last aid station.
Did The Hammer get through the aid station? Was she out there in the hail and rain right now? Was she OK?
Then, over the PA, the race director said there was a racers’ meeting for the men who are desperately trying to hold on to their youth (i.e., 40-49).
Tired of sashaying, I simply walked over.
There, a person I had never met and who did not introduce himself — but looked like he was probably another one of the midlife crisis racers — told me that there was no way I was faster than him and that I therefore must have cut the course, and that he would like to validate his assertion by inspecting my GPS.
As you might expect, this did not immediately put me on the defensive at all.
I told him that my GPS wouldn’t be a great indicator of how far I went, since I had forgotten to turn it on ’til after the race had begun.
“Well, how far had you gone before you turned it on?” he asked, in what I would describe as a very friendly and non-lawyerly way. If it were opposite day, I mean.
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t have been guessing at how far I had to go to the next aid station the whole day,” I replied, in a way that I would describe as very non-petulant (still opposite day).
Another racer — Eric, his name was (and continues to be) — who finished first said that he was pretty sure he had in fact accidentally cut a section of the course. A few pros and other fast guys had accidentally cut this same section, too, after which someone had gone and bolstered the markings for the crucial turn (read more about that here).
I craned my neck, trying to get a look at the finish line. Shouldn’t The Hammer be getting in soon?
“I never felt like I was off course, even for a second, during the race,” I said.
My inquisitor went on to describe where he thought I might have cut the course, but my mind wandered. If this guy had known the extent of my lack of knowledge about the trail system here, he probably would have given up.
The conversation went around and around. I just wanted to get back to the finish line so I could be there when (if?)The Hammer crossed.
“Guys, I didn’t feel like I missed any markings or turns, but if it seems to you like I must have cut a section, go ahead and give me that penalty,” I finally said. “Now I want to go back to the finish line and watch for my wife to finish.”
And I did.
Wherein I Distractedly Mount the Podium
I stood at the finish line, looking up the mountain, hoping The Hammer was OK. Hoping I’d see her coming down that mountain. Hoping hoping hoping.
And then they started doing the awards ceremony. First the pros, then someone else — I can’t say I was paying attention — and then my age group.
I walked over, turning toward the finish line every couple of seconds.
“So what was the decision?” I asked Eric.
“The results stand,” Eric said. “I’m the only one who knows whether I cut the course or not, so we’re just leaving things the way they stand.”
“OK,” I said. And I got up on the podium and took my third-place customized PCP2P bottle opener, my jar of pickles, and my hydration pack.
The whole time I was up there, though, I was watching the finishers’ chute, hoping The Hammer would drop in. Although I didn’t consider what I would do if she did happen to finish while they were still giving out prizes and stuff. Probably go anyway, I think.
I climbed off the podium and started walking toward the finish line to wait for The Hammer again, when the guy who had originally declared I and others must have cut the course if we had beat him, came up to me and shook my hand.
“Congratulations,” he said. “You did a good race. If I hadn’t been up here pre-riding the course with a GPX I think I probably would have missed that section, too.”
I decided to ignore the backhanded nature of the congratulations.
“Are you sure you’re OK with the standings?” I asked. “Because if you’re certain I somehow leapfrogged you, I don’t want a bogus award.”
He assured me he was fine, which was a huge relief to me, and I told him so.
And I probably would have gotten all profuse about how cool he was being, but right then I saw The Hammer coming down the hill and crossing the finish line.
“My wife just finished, gotta go,” I said, and took off running toward The Hammer.
Sometimes You’re The Hammer, Sometimes You’re The Nail . . . Even When You’re The Hammer
By the time I got to her, The Hammer was off her bike, and looking around for me — not expecting me to come up from behind.
“You did it!” I shouted, grabbing her. Excited. Relieved. So happy that she was back and OK.
“Yeah. I did it,” The Hammer replied, faintly.
I have never heard her sound so exhausted.
I got her bike from her, got her camelbak off her. Got her something to drink. Sat her down in a dry place I found.
She sat there for a long time, not saying anything. In fact, she wouldn’t say much of anything the rest of the day. She was that cooked. She just sat there, with a blank look. Later, The Hammer told me that she put her sunglasses back on so she could cry without being seen.
Obviously, she had been through something big, and needed time to process it.
Wherein I Get My Answer
While we were sitting there — her in shock, me looking at my raffle ticket, willing the announcer (Jay Burke, the race director) to say my ticket number — I saw the racer-meeting-calling guy walking toward some people, who were coincidentally standing near where we were sitting.
“How’d you do?” one of those guys shouted out.
“I got f—cked!” racer-meeting-calling guy shouted back.
“Wow,” I thought. “So I guess he wasn’t totally good with the standings after all.”
I was caught between not wanting to eavesdrop and very much wanting to eavesdrop to find out what this guy’s totally unfiltered opinion was.
But then fate intervened: my raffle number was called.
You Sure About This?
I walked up to Jay and collected the helmet I had just won. Check it out:
I hope Scott doesn’t get too mad that I have his helmet.
Anyway, I took the opportunity to be talking with Jay to say, “Are you sure you want to go with these results? That one guy who wanted to have the racer meeting seems pretty angry.”
“No, he just told me he was good with it,” Jay said.
“Oh, well I just heard him tell some people he feels like he got f—ed,” I replied.
“He doesn’t know who — if anyone — cut the course, and we don’t either,” Jay said. “Don’t lose sleep over it.”
Right then, I both admired anyone who would ever take on the task of promoting a race, and promised myself that I would never take on that responsibility myself.
The Morning After, Part 1: Bummed-Outedness Begins
The Hammer and I drove home and went right to bed, both of us so exhausted that we didn’t even unpack the truck.
The next morning, we got up, and — with some trepidation — I uploaded our race data from our Garmins to Strava.
We looked at The Hammer’s first. As usual, she had all kinds of QOMs and top-tens and stuff.
Then we looked at mine.
“Oh no,” I said.
It didn’t take long for me to see that I hadn’t taken long to turn my GPS on after the race began. And it also didn’t take long for me to see that my distance was short.
Too short. I had missed a section, which some judgmental soul labeled as “Where the real men of the P2P rode (aka, the real course, not the cheater course).” The section I (and at least six other people, all at different times) missed before the course got re-marked connected up to the rest of the trail like this:
That blue Christmas tree-looking section is what I missed. About 2.6 miles, with 400 feet of descending and a corresponding 400 feet of climbing.
So I sent Jay an email, telling him it looked like I had missed a turn and had wound up right back on the course . . . without ever knowing I had been off. I let him know that he should probably add time to my finish and give the third place to someone else.
A few minutes later, Jay emailed back: “Don’t worry about it yet.”
The Morning After, Part 2: Awesomeness Begins
One thing neither The Hammer nor I had looked into while still at the race was how she had done. She was so cooked at the finish she just didn’t care; she just wanted to get home.
So now would be the first time we’d see how The Hammer did at the race.
Second. The Hammer didn’t even know she had gotten on the podium, and she had taken second. And in fact had only missed first by a minute and change.
So just for fun, I looked at the 35 and under division. The Hammer had beaten all of them. So she hadn’t just placed second in her age group, she had placed second of all the age groupers.
Not half bad.
So I emailed Jay again, this time telling him, “Hey, if you want, I can just give the prizes I got yesterday to my wife, who did do the whole course and kind of kicked butt at it without even realizing it.”
The Morning After, Part 3: I Become a Dirty Rotten Scoundrel
Shortly after the results came out, the PCP2P Facebook page started getting some outraged comments:
I suspected this was the meeting-calling-guy who had shaken my hand and congratulated me, but wasn’t sure. So I did a Google search on his name (which I’m hiding because I feel like it right now).
I couldn’t tell for sure from the results, so switched over to image results.
And immediately regretted that choice. And by “regretted,” I of course mean, “wished I had stabbed my eyes out before seeing what can never now be unseen.”
You see, it turns out that the Facebook commenter shares a name with a gay porn star. And that gay porn star has some pretty explicit images that are the top results for an image search on that name.
Although if they’re the same person, that whole “I got f—ed!” comment I had heard the day before would take on a whole new meaning, and would cause me to be really impressed that he still got such a fast finishing time.
(By the way, don’t bother doing an image search on me. The only other Elden Nelson on the web is an Presbyterian minister.)
Anyway, before long, the meeting-calling guy found a sympathetic commenter:
(Unrelated question: why do angry people have such a hard time with spelling and punctuation?)
Encouraged, the meeting-caller said:
[Note to self: the next time a stranger approaches and says that he thinks I missed a section, with his belief that he is faster than me as his justification for that assertion, simply "man up" (i.e., roll over). Also, don't take congratulations from that person particularly literally.]
I decided not to get involved in the Facebook thread, because I figured that their fondest wish was about to get granted. This was confirmed when Shannon Boffell, one of the race organizers, emailed Eric and me:
After riding the section of climb that some people missed it was determined that the trail took about 20 minutes to ride. Therefore, we are going to assess a 20 minute time addition to your times. You will see this adjustment to your time in the final results.
And thus was I moved from third to where I actually belong:
Soon, I’ll be mailing the awesome bottle opener and hydration pack to David Stockham. It won’t be easy, mainly because I don’t know his mailing address.
But I’ll do it anyway, because while I’m clearly a scheming cheater who will resort to nefarious means in order to win (or take third) at all costs, I’m trying to be better. Trying real hard.
But I’m keeping the jar of pickles, David. You can’t take those away from me.
Mostly because I’ve already eaten more than half of them.
A Note from Fatty: This is part 2 in my telling of this year’s Park City Point 2 Point race, a (normally) 78-mile, 14K-of-climbing MTB race, almost entirely on singletrack. Click here to read part 1.
The question arises: Why does everyone who has done the Park City Point 2 Point speak of it with such reverence? And terror?
Well, that has to do with cheesecake. Singletrack is a lot like cheesecake.
I will explain.
When you eat your first slice of cheesecake, you’re thinking, “Wow, this is better than anything I have ever eaten. It is in fact the thing that I wish I could eat, exclusively, for the rest of my life.
And so the PCP2P says, “Well, that’s awesome because I’ve got another slice sitting right here, ready for you to eat.”
And so you dig in.
And while you’re eating you say, “Seriously, this cheesecake is really good. Just totally delicious.” But as you finish, you’re thinking that it was a little harder to get the last few bites of that second piece of cheesecake down than the first few bites.
At which point, the PCP2P says, “Well, I’m really gratified you enjoyed that, because I’ve got another piece of cheesecake right here for you.”
So you answer, as diplomatically as possible, “Hey, thanks. This is truly delicious cheesecake. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever had any better. But I’m pretty full now.”
And the PCP2P replies, sweetly, “Oh, don’t be silly. Have some cheesecake. Here, I’ll put some raspberry stuff on it.”
Then the PCP2P cuts you a nice, big piece of cheesecake and puts it down in front of you. And you know, it might just be in your mind, but it seems to you that maybe it put that cheesecake down with just a touch of menace.
But you eat it. Because hey, you came here to eat cheesecake, right? And eventually, you finish it. And you’re proud of yourself for finishing that third piece of cheesecake, but it stopped tasting good at all toward the end, and now you just want to go lie down.
“Have some more cheesecake,” the PCP2P says.
“No thanks,” you reply. “I’m stuffed.”
“Oh, come on,” says the PCP2P. “You love cheesecake.” And it puts down another slice of cheesecake in front of you.
So you eat it, barely. But you’ve stopped thinking about the smooth texture of the cheesecake and how it contrasts so nicely with the crunch of the crust. You aren’t thinking about the mild, sweet flavor and the raspberry topping.
All you’re thinking about is chewing and swallowing. Getting this sucker down.
“I think I’m gonna hurl,” you say as you finish.
“Just one more slice,” says the PCP2P.
“Please, no more. No more cheesecake,” you plead.
“EAT THE DAMNED CHEESECAKE.”
And so you do. And you finish. Maybe. Or maybe you don’t. Regardless, you’re thinking, as you slowly chew, “From this point forward, I shall never eat anything but celery.”
So that’s kinda how the PCP2P is.
Small Omission, Big Consequences
There’s something to be said for going from “not gonna race” to actually being racing, all within half an hour. You don’t have time for your stomach to knot up and suddenly decide it needs to poop one more time.
You don’t have time to fret about whether your bike is set up properly.
You don’t have time for anything, really, except getting on your bike and going.
Unfortunately, in my case, it also meant that I didn’t remember to start my bike computer until I had been out for a while. Of course, as soon as I remembered this, I started it, but the damage had been done.
How long had I been out? How far had I gone? I wasn’t sure, and I knew it didn’t really matter. All that mattered was that I stick to my very well-considered race strategy: go as fast as I could until I crossed the finish line, at which point I would stop.
This, by the way, is a really great racing strategy, and it’s taken me years to develop it. I should keep it secret. But because I care about this sport and love to share, I hereby authorize you to use it yourself, as long as you give me proper attribution. Thanks.
I Commence to Get Very, Very Muddy
We did a quick lap around a bluff, circumventing the sticky mud in the Round Valley loop, latched on to a short section of road, and then got onto the first section of singletrack that would let us know what the next five or seven miles would be like.
Which, in short, was very slippery mud.
I wouldn’t stay this clean for long. Photo courtesy of Zazoosh.
Within a few minutes, my legs — front and back — were covered. From the number of splats I felt on my face, I figured it was just as muddy as my legs.
photo courtesy of Zazoosh
And a very small rock got into my left shoe.
I learned to hate that rock.
Sometimes that little rock would work its way back so it was under my arch and I’d forget about it altogether. But then it would come forward and get so it was right where I push down on the pedal, or right under my big toe. And then I’d wince and, often, say something aloud, like: “Stupid rock.”
Now you might think that since I was approximately thirty minutes into what was going to be — at a minimum — a seven-hour ride, I would have had the sense to take the twenty seconds necessary to stop, take off the shoe, empty the shoe, and put the shoe back on.
I am happy to report that I left that shoe on for the duration of the race.
One of the reasons I tried — but failed — to get as close to the front of the starting line as possible before the start of the race was that I knew that otherwise I’d be held up in lots of long lines during the first 25 miles or so of the race, before it spread out.
But since I didn’t get up front, I had a choice: be cool, or be a dork.
I tried to go with the “cool” route. Which means that when I could pass, I would. When I could not, I wouldn’t sigh and moan. Instead, I’d use the opportunity to rest a little bit and go out hard when I got an opening.
To my delight, the field seemed to be full of people who were going with a cheerful, friendly approach to both passing and letting people pass. “Want by?” and “Come on by on my right / left” were absolutely common things for me to hear people say, well before I even had a chance to ask to come by.
In fact, I got to the point where, if I caught up with someone and just wanted to hang there for a bit, I’d say, “I’m behind you but not looking to pass. Can I suck your wheel for a bit?”
Not everyone took the long view, of course. I remember in particular when one person at the head of a longish train slipped out on a wet rock, dismounted and worked his way up to a place where he could get back on his bike, the guy right behind him yelled, “Dude, move aside and let me pass!”
Which seems like an OK thing to say, except if the dude moved aside and let the other dude pass, the first dude would have had to first accept the fact that he would be rolling down a rocky mountainside for fifty feet or so.
Which seems like a little much to ask.
I Say Hi To Friends and Then Crash
When the chime on my GPS went off for the third time since the beginning of the race, I knew that I had been being a bad boy and that I needed to make amends. You see, I have my GPS set to chime every half hour, which, during endurance races, is my cue to have either a gel or a packet of chews.
So far in the race, I had eaten nothing, which meant I was digging myself a deep calorie hole, and digging it fast.
The problem was, on steep, climbing singletrack with people both in front of and behind me, there weren’t a lot of good opportunities to take a hand off the handlebars and grab for something.
So I promised myself: as soon as I got an opportunity, I’d eat something. And I’d do my best to catch up on some of those calories.
I rode up to Erica Tingey (read her story of the race here), the pro MTB’r whom The Hammer now idolizes. I was about to feel all impressed with myself for catching her when she said, “I’m not having a great day. Mechanicals and my leg’s not healed up.”
You know, just once I’d like to catch a fast person who didn’t explain why the only reason someone like me could possibly be riding near them is that they’re having a bad day.
Oh, wait a second. That actually happened about twenty minutes later, when I caught up with Kenny. “How’s it going, Elden?” he asked.
“I can’t believe how good I feel,” I replied.
“Awesome. I’ll let you by and see you later,” Kenny said.
And Kenny did see me later. About two minutes later, in fact, because we finally hit a dirt road, which was a great chance for me to sit up, slow down, get a drink, and eat a packet of Honey Stinger chews.
While I did this, Kenny passed me again. Which is really too bad for him, because if he would have stayed behind me for just another minute, he would have seen something really interesting.
First, I followed the road around a bend and discovered it started heading downhill, sharply, as I rode my bike with just my left hand on the bar.
Second, I saw that I was coming up on a gate, quickly. The way for bikes to get by was to go around the gate on the right side.
Third, I found that I was going too fast, was not steering well one-handed, and wasn’t going to clear the gate.
Fourth, I grabbed a handful of front brake and endoed, right into the right-side gatepost.
The way I could tell I wasn’t too badly hurt was that my humiliation was the first thing to register.
I got up, righted my bike, and then finished stuffing the chews into my mouth, no longer trusting myself to ride one-handed down this steep road.
I then got back on my bike and saw that a volunteer, about thirty feet down the road, had seen the whole episode.
“You OK?” he asked.
“Sure, I’m fine,” I replied.
“Good. Just a couple miles to the aid station,” he said.
So it’s a good thing I had gone through all that for no reason whatsoever.
Things Are Different
I went through the first aid station in 2:34, which meant . . . well, it didn’t mean anything to me at the moment. You see, I’m not one of those people who understands things like maps and stuff. I’m in fact exactly the opposite. When The Hammer had, earlier in the week, tried to explain where we’d be going and which trail led to which ski resort and what happened next, I eventually just said, “Well, I guess I’ll just have to hope that the course is well-marked.”
Even more to the point, when I see things like this course map, my brain seizes up and in fact doesn’t thaw out for a couple days:
I still have no idea what this map is supposed to be telling me.
Which leads to the next point I want to make: my recollection of what happened when is a little murky.
Specifically, I remembered from the first time I did this race that after the first aid station, the climbing became freakishly difficult and that I had needed to walk huge chunks of it.
This time, that was not the case. I never needed to walk anything. It was never even close. In fact, while many riders would pass me on the downhills, on the climbs I don’t believe I was ever passed. Not even once.
Yes, I am almost always slack-jawed when I’m riding hard. Photo courtesy of Zazoosh.
Part of that’s because this time I could shift into a lower gear, but that wasn’t all of it, because after the race I said to The Hammer, “I think they changed the order of some of the parts of the race since last time.”
She just rolled her eyes. “No kidding,” she replied.
And that’s really kind of a sad fact for me and racing. When I’m going hard, I don’t see anything but the course. When The Hammer asked me about whether I saw the low clouds over a lake we went around as part of the race, I said, “We went around a lake?”
When Nick Rico came flying right by me on the course about halfway through the race and said, “Did you see that moose?” I replied, “There was a moose?”
Racing, for me, is no way to see anything. Because when I’m racing, I see nothing but the trail, and only the next 20 – 50 feet of that.
So I continued riding along. Riding hard, feeling nothing but the intensity of the race. Over the past month or two, I’ve become pretty accustomed to that feeling, and I like it.
Sometimes it’s cold enough for me to pull my armwarmers up to my shoulders. Most of the time it’s not. I never have the need to pull out and put on my jacket. Not even when it starts to rain on me.
I’m feeling good, and almost to the second aid station, which will be roughly about two-thirds of the way through the race.
And it strikes me how amazingly different my race has been this year than the first time I did the PCP2P. The first time, I was hot. This time I always kept my armwarmers (and a jacket) at the ready. The first time, I was walking a bunch. This time, I rode all of it.
The first time, I was miserable. this time, I felt an intense calm. The first time, I was just surviving the PCP2P.
This time, I was racing it.
Special. So Special.
It’s not like I didn’t have time to notice things, though. For example, I noticed that for pretty much the entirety of the ride, I had Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” running through my head.
The problem (or at least the one I choose to focus on right now) is that I really don’t know that song, so I found myself improvising new lyrics around the existing lyrics:
Every rose has its thorn
Just like all farms in Kansas grow corn
Just like every teenage boy likes to watch porn
Just like that one famous tennis player had the first name “Bjorn”
And every 80’s hair band gets lots of scorn
Every rose has its thorn
Take this as a cautionary tale: Don’t listen to the the 80’s station when you’re about to do a big long bike race.
Luckily, there were many nice things to distract me from the horrible nonsense happening in my brain.
For example, the race course itself. It’s all singletrack. Really. Pretty much all of it. Like this:
Imagine, if you can, spending an entire day riding so much perfect trail that you are quite literally exhausted by it. Imagine riding, non-stop, through grassy fields, pine forests, and aspen groves. Riding so much good trail that you reach a point where you want to do the mountain biking equivalent of pushing back from the table on Thanksgiving and saying, “No more. This is all so good, but I just cannot eat one more bite.”
And now, consider that this is all happening just as the fall colors are just starting to come into play. So you’re riding along and the trees are green and the grass is green and there’s this overwhelming greenness all around you, and then you come around a bend and suddenly you’re in and under and over leaves that are so red and orange and bright they make you squint and suck in your breath.
That is the PCP2P.
Aid Station 2
I rolled into the second aid station, scouted out my drop bags, and started digging through everything. I needed to replenish my stock of drinks and food, but I wanted a Coke. Which I found, and started working on. Ignoring everything else.
At that point, three different people came up to help me.
“Want your chain lubed?” asked one. Why yes. Yes I did. I had been getting chainsuck every time I dropped into the small ring. I was dealing with it OK by backpedaling for a revolution after any downshift, but that’s not exactly a fun thing to do on a steep climb.
He took care of it.
“Want me to get your bottles filled up?” asked a second volunteer.
“Please,” I replied.
“Hey, need anything else?” asked a third person.
“Can you rummage through my bag for about four gels while I drink some soup?” I asked.
And she did.
Meanwhile I had finished my Coke and was now chugging down some Chicken and Stars soup, with no small amount of alacrity:
photo courtesy Alex Kim
So if you were curious how dirty my face and legs were, that’s how dirty.
I then saddled up and headed out, completely oblivious that a storm was heading in, and that in a few hours this would be the very place where people were pulled off the course because of terrifying amounts of rain, lightning, hail, and wind.
Hey, when I was there, it was arm warmers-down weather.
From the first time I did the PCP2P, I remembered the final section as a truly miserable race.
This time, it wasn’t.
I had plenty of energy left. In fact, I remember thinking as I finished the last climb and began descending toward the finish line, “Oh, I’m at the end?”
photo courtesy of Zazoosh
I think that may be what happens when you spend too much time racing. And, of course, when the race course has been shortened.
Still though, I felt good as I crossed the finish line. I hadn’t cramped the whole day. Hadn’t bonked. I had ridden hard, and ridden reasonably smart.
I was proud of my effort.
It had started raining, so I sat down under a vendor’s canopy tent, drinking, cooling down. Happy.
Then it started raining hard. And then, harder than that.
I was no longer happy. Now I was worried. My wife was out there. In the cold and the rain.
Oh well, there was nothing I could do about it but watch for her.
So I found one of the aid station bags that had been brought back to the finish line, which contained a clean dry jersey and some track pants; I changed into those.
Then I saw someone had posted results. I went and checked:
I had taken third in my age group.
I walked around, stunned, wishing there were someone around I knew who I could tell this amazing news.
I had taken third!
Oddly enough, though, that is not where the story ends. In fact, that’s where it becomes very, very dramatic.
And it’s where I’ll pick up tomorrow.
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