Scott Rusinko stopped by at 10:32PM to express his dismay that we were not drinking beer. Apparently, he had been.
Starting into the beers at 10:33PM sounded like a terrible idea, especially as I was already prone.
Wake up, watch the hundred milers go off, and see Justin Mace cruising around. Great. Both he and Brad Cobb have both stood on the boxes higher than me at this very same race twice before. Both of them are here, as well as 20 other single speeders (known and unknown). I'm gonna have to work for it if I want to win or something close to it.
I line up at the very front, because... why not? The race goes off in typical NUE "neutral" fashion, meaning I'm almost maxed out trying to keep in touch with the back of the fast guys. The lead vehicle pulls away, and things start to heat up. Racers are taking the inside line on blind corners, and my comfort level is exceeded. I don't want next year's race to be the Fool's Gold Memorial Event.
I keep in contact for as long as I can, but when we get on flat pavement, I'm toast. I see Justin and Brad still up in the mix and pulling away. Another single speeder gets by me (Jason Betz), and then as I see the lead pack round a corner and go entirely out of sight, I look over my shoulder. Nobody. I'm in no man's land, between the haves and have nots. Meh.
We finally get into the meat of the first climb. Holy shit. A lumpy fuckfest of an old road. I start making my way back up, and I can see Justin and Brad in the distance, Jason just out of reach but right ahead.
Mash, mash, mash and get by riders all looking for the cleanest line. The top three SSers are making better at it, and get away from me. I continue to selectively make my way around the slower climbers. I ding my bell and come around one.
"You got the whole road, buddy."
I don't hear him at first. I mean, the words went in my ear, but it took a couple seconds to sink in. I holler back, "I was just trying to be polite. Sorry, buddy."
On up the climb picking my way. Top out and the road back down is equally chundery. It's a shit show, sometimes three wide in the corners, as riders of varying abilities are all up in the mix. It's much excite. I come around Jeff Bartlett (according to him later) on a full suspension bike and give him the sads. I wish I would have realized it at the time and rubbed it in just a little.
On the next section of chunky but flatter gravel, I go back to getting dropped. A camo cargo shorted single speeder on a plusser glides by me, seemingly unaffected by the loose garbage we're riding over. Then, a fat bike single speed does the same... except even smoother.
I consider the irony of the moments so close together to each other. Meh. The podium was five deep last year, and I just got passed by the ghosts of Christmas past and future.
We get into the more single tracky bits, the second most important reason I came back to this race (the first being free camping next to the free beer afterwards). I close the gap down on the fat bike, make my pass, and spend the next hour or two trying to finish him, only to see him close it up on me several times.
Why did I start with a knee warmer that I would want off a half hour into the race?
Why do I need to pee... twice?
photo cred: Kelly DasherI really need to stop screwing around if I want a top five. I decide that it's all going to come down to the heinous final climb back up the harrowing descent from earlier in the day (the lollipop stick). I keep it pinned as best as I could on the oh-so-fast single track hoping to get to the climb before the fat bike.
Seriously. I've never ridden that much high speed single track in a race like this. Fatigue be damned, you had to really be on your toes, lest ye find one of the many trees or other immovable objects.
Get to Aid Station #4 and see a bandaged and taped up Gordon Wadsworth. I assume he wrecked out of the hundred miler or had a Revenant situation to contend with. He yells at me to open my mouth as I get my bottle filled. I acquiesce his request and am rewarded with a handful of Peanut M&M's.
That guy (insert winky face emoticon).
Anyways, pound out the final bits of trail, get back to the chundery semi-flat where the fat bike passed me the first time, and then start that long climb back over towards the finish I'd been thinking about for hours. Pass at least six or seven guys on the way up. Pull up next to a rider who says to me, "I stumbled across your blog recently."
"I'm sorry," I reply.
He pulls away from me and keeps that distance the rest of the way up.
Down the chundery bit we climbed up earlier and then some merciless pavement before getting back to the campgrounds. One last bit of mowed field (what seems to be a Fool's Gold tradition since leaving the Boy Scout venue from back in the day), and I squeak in at 5:03... because breaking five hours just would have been too rewarding. Fifth place on the day, just behind camo cargo shorts and somewhere ahead of the fat bike.
Time for the podiums, and they didn't go five deep this year. Oh well. I've stood lower than Brad and Justin before... this time they got bested by that other guy Jason tho. Good job, guys.
Later, they were doing the overall NUE podiums for the series, and Kip Biese couldn't be present to take his spot.
So naturally, I did.
Bill Nye and I stayed at the finish line until the very last of racers in the hundred miler came across the line. We were two of the few people who stuck around (probably the only non-volunteer/workers), and were thusly rewarded with more than our fair share of beer and tacos (to go). As a matter of fact, we both came home with way more beer than we had brought with us.
Which is as much of a win as I deserved.
Still, the party died with us. Somehow, we were still in bed before 10:30PM, although Bill Nye was still trying to drink "just one more" before calling it a night.