Roll up to the start line at 6:20AM. See Dahn Pahrs lined up at the front. He tells me something is wrong with his wheel or tire or something. I can't really say I understood.
"Bike bad concrete culvert rub tire..."
Something like that. I've got my own problems.
Line up in the back of the eight hour corral. It's never been explained to me if that means sub-eight or eight and change. I see people ahead of me that shouldn't be there and Gary Chambers right beside me. A very large single speeder right in front of me. Good enough.
The race starts and it's the normal panic getting out of camp safely in the almost dark with 500 of your closest friends. Across the iron bridge and on the road. I see Dahn Pahrs standing in the ditch.
"Get back in this!" I yell at him still having no idea what's wrong but assuming he can still have a happy fun time riding a hundred miles if he gets his shit straight.
As always (or at least since people started taking NUE races seriously), the pace is way more than I can handle. People are blowing by me left and right. Whatever.
We get into the first climby bits, and I start making my way back up through the riders that just passed me. I see Trish Stevenson and she calls me a hippy. I assume that it's because I smell.
Into the first single track and it's not the messy parade of last year. I flow through with a group of happy people.
photo cred: Elizabeth AnnieOn the first gravel road, and Gary Chambers joins me. I can't remember exactly where... we lose touch, regain, lose each other again. Then he's ahead of me on a hike-a-bike. I scream his name.
He waits for me and we walk and talk and then I have to pee and he leaves me. I catch back up, and we hit the descent. Me in the front but barely.
At Aid #2, I screw things up with getting out quick-like. I have to close the gap to Gary back down in order to have a buddy.
We get to the climb that we do twice (??) and then I see another single speeder (Dennis Baldwin). I pick up the pace, hoping to crush his dreams. Gary comes with and then leads the charge...
Only to have that same single speeder destroy us both on the next descent into Aid #3.
I blow through Aid #3, only slowing down to scoop a stack of Pringles. I come out the other side and there's no Gary. No single speeder that just passed us either. I'm in the no man's land on the paved road. Nobody to work with... at all.
I go into the heinous climb up Bridge Hollow to Braley's (yeth, I looked at a map just now), and I'm still alone. Mebbe I put that other single speeder behind me forever.. or mebbe not. I hang it out on the loose over hard until I touch the floor hard, like a hippo jumping out of a lake. Get back up in a hurry, feel the pain in my elbow and knee, decide to not look at it unless I eventually feel the trickle of blood. I don't, but I decide to take it back a notch, being that a non-finish would mean I would have to come back next year.
Then the single speeder that's been crushing me going down comes around me at the bottom before Aid #4. Meh. We come in and go out together.
And me, still without my (old) Gary.
Out of Aid #4 with my New (less bearded) Gary, the big single speeder who was lined up in front of me at the start comes around and pulls away from us. Meh. New Gary rides with me all the way until the gravel before the Death Climb and then he drifts away behind me. Now I have no Old Gary or New Gary.
I find the big single speeder at the side of the road finishing up with a repair of some sort. He gets back on, passes me, and when the climb kicks up a little I come around. He sticks to my wheel like a very large adhesive product.
We make the right turn onto the Death Climb together. How I Could Just Kill a Man (live RATM version) comes on my shuffle. I decide now is the time to do just that, being that my only strength is my weakness, being tiny and all. I give 'er and leave him behind as I chase carrots up the mountain. At Aid #5, I will not deny myself pizza. Ever. Chug the Coke and slow-roll out trying to breathe between bites and chew sessions. Onward to the Killing Fields.
My bike is creaking something awful. Turn up the tunes. Keep mashing. Someone comes around me like lightning.
Dahn Pahrs. He's back in it now. Sweet. Also slipped back one place on the potential podium tho... even with a 25 minute head start. Meh. He tells me to go down Chestnut ahead of him since his wheel only has 23 of the original 24 spokes.
No. No thanks.
As much as I want to keep the single speeders I just passed behind me, I also need to finish this race. Goals and such. It only took one good spill to remind me how quickly things can go south... not to mention this is the descent that I was going down years ago when I ended up following Mike Simonson on a backboard being ATV'ed out. Safety first.
Speaking of safety, I see two people waving me down ahead. I wonder if Chestnut has claimed another victim. No. Rattlesnake. Sitting (do snakes sit?) in the middle of the trail.
Yeth, I will go around. Carefully. Very carefully. I hate snakes.
Towards the bottom, I smell the French fries. I'm in the barn. Down a Coke and get a cup of fries to go.
Up the climb we do twice (??) again. I look at the time and see that I'd really have to hang it out to break nine hours... which would go against the biggest goal here. A conservative effort up putting a few more riders behind me and play it careful on the descent. Roll across the line in 9:05 and change, 9th place. Two outta three ain't bad, right?