Friday, December 5, 2014

Idaho Revisited…The Victory Lap

Life has been quite intense since Mid August, so there has been little energy to blog…still, this demands a conclusion.

All the way to Idaho I was gauging my health and staying decently drugged up.  I had come down with a cold of some kind the week before the event and I was really struggling on whether or not to go. In the end, I figured if nothing else I could cheer on Navy Mike and drink hot teas in a coffee shop while he raced. I was really hoping not to infect Navy Mike along the way, but I figured that it would take longer than 1.5 days to have anything really affect him for the event day.  If he gets sick post-victory, so be it.  We can eat cheeseburgers and take Sudafed together.

Along the way, at gas stop somewhere, I was listening to a group of touristy looking folks with interesting accents while I waited in the world's longest Subway Sandwich line.  It turns out they were a bunch of New Zealanders out on holiday along the old Route 66, all of them in matching Ford Mustangs.  Sweet.

Friday night we rolled into the area and found our hotel…a very nice one, by the way…just downstream a bit from Ketchum.  We unloaded our bikes in a light rain.  Hmmmm.  93 miles of rain riding and a head cold too?  The Sun Valley area had been getting an unseasonable amount of summer rain and while that could make for nearly dust free and fast road conditions, it might be over the top on the day of.  We shall see as the weather was supposed to clear by then.

Saturday we arose and headed over to the town square for the pancake breakfast served to us by bright faced young girls and all of this for charity.  Awesome.  We set up our chairs on main street for the parade later on and did what any high level athlete does the day before the race.  We went shopping.  This is the weekend when the town shuts down summer and flips the winter switch so the deals at the local outdoors shops are really pretty good.  The parade was very cool…that is a really, really big steer.

I went for a walk with Navy Mike to see if we could get to the river we could hear below town.  A wall of fancy condos and driveways with No Trespassing signs kept us from our goal.  Sooo close and yet…  I was just about done-in by my 2 mile walk.  At this point I could not imagine riding tomorrow.  I was a bit concerned.  I waited in a line in the nicest Starbucks I had ever seen, hit the green tea and honey and waited to see what the next day would bring.  We ate at The Powerhouse, a combo bike shop/food place/micro brewery that served a great ahi burger.  I actually was feeling better as well but I was still nervous about the next day.

And then it was here.  Thanks to God and a good night's sleep, I woke up feeling nearly normal. The early morning ritual of up in the dark, figuring out breakfast, final mixing of bottles, then out in the dark to drive to the start in Ketchum had me feeling better and better about this endeavor. The crowds, the bikes, nervous laughter, colorful jerseys and lots of selfies; the starting line poured into the street and out of town to Trail Creek Road with a police escort.

Nissan is a new event sponsor.
Last year I had a lighter bike and a small Camelbak.  I pushed too hard too fast and did not have spinning gears for the first climb.  I never really recovered from that and that was a big factor in my cutting short the ride the first time.  This year I had a much heavier bike and no hydration pack, but I had gears!  Real MTB gears, light wheels, fast tires…mix that with the good pedaling platform that a Specialized Epic is and I was passing groups of people that last year were passing me.  This is a good plan.

The rain was beginning to fall and up ahead, the summit was draped in clouds.  All I could hope for was a clearing or something less than full on rain.  I had dressed a bit conservatively and did not have any real rain gear.  Monsoons would end this day for me.  I was wearing some Specialized bib shorts with knee warmers, a base tank, a race s/s jersey from Endura with a wind proof front, and arm warmers with a Buff head wrap.  Wool socks and a extra set of warmer gloves and a windbreaker was all I had to upgrade to if the weather came in.  Up we went into the mist.

I barely stopped at the SAG stop at the summit and pressed on with the goal of not missing the cut off.  This year would see record setting course times as the dirt was packed down and there was little washboard.  The weather had opened up so it looked like it would not rain anytime soon.  I flew on the Epic and ran right by the second SAG.  Hitting SAG 3, I was almost an hour up on last year's time and I felt pretty darn good too.  The head cold was not affecting me and my legs were still moving well.  I was going to make it.

I took my time at SAG 3, fueled up and headed out into Copper Basin, the best part of the ride.  I was doing the mental calculations on a finishing time.  I had set out to do 8 hrs start to finish.  Navy Mike had set a 6.5 hour goal.  I was thinking I might be under 7 hours myself.  Wow.  I pedaled with renewed focus and the miles and hours clicked by.  Back at SAG 3 and 4, I stocked up on food and water and hit the fast return to Trail Creek road.  I was thinking I would be close to 6.5 hours!  But I knew that last year, as soon as I turned onto Trail Creek Rd, the headwinds hit me full on.  That could be a kill joy for a record time.

Meanwhile, cranks were turned and gravel sped by under my tires.

Room to spread out.
Sure enough, as soon as I swung left onto Trail Creek Rd, I not only started a slight uphill grade, it was into a constant wind.  Later on, Navy Mike would call this section out as "riding in a very dark place".  I watched my speed drop from 20+ to 15 to 10 to 8 mph.  Meanwhile I was conserving some legs as I knew in about 10 miles that the grade would increase for a good mile or two.  The math was not working in my favor and 6.5 hours would be impossible.  Maybe 7 though, so I kept at it, stopping to stretch a bit and pee, but mostly making circles with my pedals over and over.  As I neared the summit, the wind abated and I knew that at 80 miles I had it made because then it was 12 miles or so downhill into town.  7 hrs had slipped away from my grasp in that purgatory of windy road, but not to be daunted, I set 7.5 hours as the new goal.  Down I flew on a section that just drops and drops and drops on a washboard dirt road with no guardrail.  Last year, on the Crux cross bike, I had to manage my speed and nearly ran out of hand strength to hang on, brake, and steer.  It was not that much fun.  This year, with 2.1 tires and 100mms of travel…shoot…it was a brake free 25mph plunge feeling totally relaxed.  But that darn wind.  I was still having to pedal hard to keep my speed up and that was going to make 7.5 hours very close.

The organizers had wisely set the timing line just outside of town so no one would be racing in urban traffic areas.  But it still meant that I had a few miles of paved road rollers to make the finish and I just pinned it, watching my Garmin click off the elapsed time.  I could see the finish line but it was going to be very close.

Over the line at 7 hrs and 32 minutes.  Close enough.

I sat up, breathed a deep, deep breath of satisfaction and put it in cruise mode.   Done and done.

Back in town the party was in full force.  I did not realize how spent I was till I got off the bike and walked around.  I think the cold had caught up to me and it took a Coke and a hand made pizza to get me right.  Navy Mike had finished in 6 and 20, so he was under his goal as well.  I was actually very happy to be only an hour and change off his pace over 90 miles as he is a strong rider.  The Scott Spark that he rode was very similar in set-up to my Epic and he had 'roadie' types drafting him over the rougher sections of the course where he could stay seated and pedal hard.  For shame…wheel suckers. :)

That night was a well deserved bacon burger back at The Powerhouse and then the long drive home the next day.  It was a good trip back to Idaho.  Next year?  We shall see.

The 'after glow' courtesy of Patron.

Recovery food for the soul.

For my official write up of RPI 2014, clicky here for the site

No comments: