On the long drive over to the park, Dr Jones says there's a very small chance of rain later in the day.
Once again, I think I know how the stage starts. Once again, I'm wrong (surprised?). I gas it up the first climb expecting to dive into some tight single track right away. We don't. Time to tuck my brain back in my earholes. I try to hold my own when we finally hit the trail. I jockey for position and give way when needed.
photo cred: Matt SpohnWe hit a long, paved section. Mostly and very slightly downhill. I get out-fatted and out-geared, losing many positions. Axel blows by me. Dan sits in with me for a skinny minute, but then he is gone as well.
And then we hit a two plus mile climb that goes on for close to 1,600 vertical feet. I think of the classic line from Gattaca.
A little melodramatic, but I decide now is the time to "never save anything for the swim back." I can see Axel and Dan in the distance. I close it down to nothing and then breathe. Then I go off as fast as I can for as long as I can. I don't want any hitchhikers. I take it all the way to the top.
I don't know when the rain started. It's just a drizzle at first. It feels nice. Then steady to constant to incessant. Not so nice anymore. I push my glasses down my nose, and now I can only see about four feet in front of me. Enough to go six miles an hour, but when the trail goes down, things get excite.
Stop at the aid station. Grab a banana for the road.
I catch up to a rider slogging through some deep mud and rocks. It's Matt Green. He's had a bazillion flats and is currently riding one out, thunking around on rock and root. We chat about our current predicaments, and then I leave him to his, knowing that I might get third now... unless someone offers him a tube, he takes it, and then proceeds to make great bike race. I only have one tube, to that guy won't be me.
Getting to the fourth Endurble section of the day, I spend more time off the trail than on it. I'm Sgt Schultz. I see nothing.
But I run into everything.
Once I get on the long road back to the happy place, I turn the pedals over with all I got.
Elk Creek Cafe in Millheim on the way back. Go to order a beer...
Try to order the Valley Nachos (house made chips, w/Poe Paddy Porter Beer cheese sauce, beef stew and jalapeños).
"Those are coming out for free as well. Also, free fries."
Well, sheeeeeeeeeee-it. We order salad, except for Dr Jones, who decides he doesn't want to rely on the plates of things coming our way for sustenance. The others give up too easily on the bonus food, but I power my way through the "pile" as it came to be known and destroy the fries. Mama didn't raise a quitter (when it comes to food).
Back at camp, recover from the "pile" session, head over for my (spoiler alert) only podium of the week.
Grand finale on Monday and then additional thoughts until my brain runs out of things.