Friday, August 29, 2014

Four Horsemen

So are small field took off at 4 am in the dark, with our que cards for the first sector stowed in our jersey pockets the feel of a Rapha video came to mind almost immediately . The climbing started 6 or 7 miles into to it soon Jammie and I had started to put a gap on our compatriots we continued to push on with the sun coming up over the Ancient Bristol cone pine forest. The climb was toughened up a bit due to a slight head wind but nothing to dramatic when we hit the dirt section at 10,000 feet Jammie wasn’t happy and he fell off the pace, It was the most Brutal section. Sharp diamond shaped rocks some the size of grapefruit littered the wash board lined road road the climbing was still steep and the lose dirt meant standing was not an option. When the 3 miles of climbing in the dirt was finished we had to turn around and descend. I did not descend much faster than I climbed worried about destroying my wheelset but my margin gained on Jammie, I almost collided with another rider coming up while searching for a “clean” line. I was so relieved when the dirt section was finished, Jammie caught back on, on the descent, and passed me, the man descended like a stone. I was a bit tentative descending at first getting used to my new fork. We rolled back in to the hotel. Section one, 58miles and about 7000’ of climbing were completed.

    After a quick change of bibs and shoes (I wanted to rotate the hot spots on my feet) Jammie and I set off on sector two. We worked well together across the flats rotating frequently the heat and wind started to pick up on our way into Bishop. We started to climb the road to South Lake the heat was stifling sweat was running off my face like I was on the trainer, I was suffering like a dog but Jammie looked a bit worse so about 2 miles away from South lake Lodge I put in a bit of a dig, I don’t know why I just put my foot on the gas. The gap opened and I decided to push on. The thought to take it easy and wait entered my mind but something Lisa told me once came to mind “if you have the knife in you might as well twist it” . So I grabbed a gear and just went for it. At the top of South Lake I had built a 5+ minute margin. I descended with more confidence knowing I had to protect my lead. I put my I-pod in and pushed hard on the climb to Sabrina Lake trying to increase my margin. I would dance up to threshold but did not dare cross it. At the summit of Sabrina Lake I was 100+ miles into the race and had a 10+ min gap. I have to admit I took more than a few chances on the 20 mile descent.

    I pushed hard into the head crosswind fueled by a good playlist  I started to really believe in myself and my ability to pull off the coup d’├ętat. When I reached the fire station on the Lower Rock Creek Rd climb the race director told me I had a gap of just over 30min. Near the summit of the climb I was a bit bonky and very emotional this song came on  and I almost cried. After a Coke and a bit of food at the summit I started to get my shit back together and fought a stiff head wind for the next 15 or so miles. I thought a lot about all the people who have helped me but, Mark, Rob, Lisa and my wife where the people who stayed at the forefront of my mind. Rob’s text of “crush some shit” and Marks words “to repay me, go win it!” kept repeating in my brain. I made a right turn and had I tail/crosswind and I knew that the chasing groups advantage of numbers would be slightly neutralized so I raised my pace, HR was starting to seem like not much of a good matrix anymore. The race director told me that he would be my sole support car now because the gap was big enough that the other vehicles couldn’t leap frog the course anymore. I ticked off two more moderate climbs at a 141 and 176 miles respectively I was feeling good but I had no pop in the legs, fear of being chased down and insecurity fueled my head. I just kept eating and drinking with the knowledge this race would be done with my stomach. 

    At 14hrs 36min, 205miles and 20,532’ of climbing the battery in my Garmin died. The sun was starting to fall over the Sierra Nevada’s. I was still super motivated even though my body was starting to hurt everywhere. My feet had hot spots, the palms of my hands felt as if they where bruised and every joint in my body ached. 15 or so miles outside of Big Pine  the race director asked what my longest ride was I responded LOTOJA at 210 miles, he smile and said “not anymore you’re at 240 miles!”

    At the start of the final section I was filled with self doubt and wasn’t sure if I could complete the race, I was fried! I was a complete emotional wreck but I set out into the darkness alone with only the voices in my head . On the way up Death Valley Rd I was cracking mentally I couldn't hold a line and I road off the road more than twice. I was having problems distinguishing the grey road from the grey gravel next to the road, my focus returned monetarily after a Jack rabbit jumped into the middle of the road and I almost hit it. I was in a deep hole mentally and physically, images of last year’s Tour de Park City kept entering my mind ( where I saw a rabbit take out half a pelaton and sent a few guys to the hospital with open fractures), I  was feeling doomed! When the race director finally pulled up next to me I was so happy not to be alone in the desert anymore, he asked how I was doing, I told him I was cracking. He said he had had the right to change the course at anytime and had decided to make it a summit finish and neutralize the final descent. I still doubted if I had it in the tank but put my head down and just peddled I felt like I couldn’t hold a consistent pace, I forced some gel down even though my stomach was doing flips. I’m not sure how long the final climb took but it felt like donkey years, more suicidal rabbits and a big fucking snake added to my overall stress level. My feet screamed when I would stand and I felt like I couldn’t generate any power sitting but I just kept telling myself “This is what I signed up for”. A little motivation came from this when my i-pod tried to give me some salvation.  When I crossed the line I could barely unclip, I thought I was going to fall over. The race director told me to get into van I was done.

In hindsight I love how this race was ran, unsanctioned and on the Fight Club paradigm everyone can apply but not everyone is welcome. It was cool not to know the course or have any idea what was coming next, just ride and try to have the courage to be bold.