Things had changed. For one thing — as I mentioned at the end of my last post — my position in the race had changed. By one. For the worse.
But that’s not what I’m talking about. What had really changed was the Frog Hollow course. Specifically, the most difficult section of the course — a rocky, blocky technical trail segment full of short steep climbs, quick descents and sharp turns — had been replaced by a slightly longer, much less technical section of singletrack that had lots of hairpin turns and right-angle turns and swoopy turns.
And by the time I got there, it was already pretty chewed up from people braking hard into the corners, and then stomping hard as they came out of the corners.
Powdery, loose desert dirt everywhere, the consistency somewhere between talcum powder, sand, and chocolate milk mix.
I hated it. Right from the start. “They took out the most interesting part of the loop and replaced it with this?” I thought.”
Maybe if I were better at racing that kind of trail, I wouldn’t be so down on it.
End of the First Lap, Start of the Second
The end of the Frog Hollow loop is a short gravel road, climbing up to the timing tent. I rode as fast and hard as I could, straining to look through the dust to where — hopefully — a guy on a Spot singlespeed would be just ahead of me.
I didn’t see him.
I came through the tent, realizing that if I hadn’t caught him yet, maybe I wouldn’t catch him at all.
But, I told myself, I am a better climber…and the next five miles is all about climbing.
And — good news — I had finished the first lap in under an hour, even including the run to my bike, which probably cost two minutes. I was on track to a six-lap race.
As solo racers, The Hammer and I had a crew spot set up right on the course, so we could grab stuff and go without having to divert off the course.
The Swimmer was the lucky winner of the “Who’s going to crew for Fatty and The Hammer” sweepstakes; here she and The Hammer are, posing under our pop-up tent after the race:
The Swimmer was ready for me — all set to hand me whatever I wanted. Which, in this case, was a rice cake, a full bottle of Carborocket 333 (Grape flavor: best energy drink I have ever used) and a small bottle of Coke to slug down.
In less than a minute, I was off again, wondering both how far ahead of me the guy on the Spot singlespeed was, and how far behind me The Hammer was.
A Pattern Emerges
I started the five mile climb again, going as hard as I could, knowing that if I were going to move ahead during this race, it would not be during the descent.
And about three miles into that five-mile climb, I saw him: the guy on the Spot. My chosen adversary.
Suddenly, I had wings. I bridged ’til I was right behind him, getting ready for the attack-pass.
But then I did something else, instead.
“Hey there,” I said, riding up beside him, then holding out a hand to shake his. “I get the feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other today. My name’s Elden. What’s yours?”
“I’m Mike.” Mike had a friendly voice.
“Where you from, Mike?”
“I’m from Alpine, it’s about 40 minutes south of Salt Lake City. What’s your gearing?”
“32 by 18. Yours?”
“34 x 19.”
That got a groan from him.
“Well, I’m sure I’ll see you on the descent in a few minutes,” I said.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” he said.
“I do,” I said. “If I’m going to beat you, I’ve got to do it in the climbs.”
And figuring that was as good a place to end our introductions as any, I stood and attacked.
Which is where we’ll pick up next week, in the next installment of this story.