The day dawned COLD. I mean gnarly cold, even by CO standards. I was up in plenty of time, but it was hard to get going. The heater in my camper did not want to run. The water in my 6 gallon jug was almost too frozen to get anything out. What came out was pretty much slush. Of course, it's standard operating procedure for me to assume that things will be pretty warm when I'm lower and farther south than home. Luckily I had basic warm clothes, minus the winter weight gloves, shoe covers, and head beanie.
I trotted over to the riders' meeting just in time, it was thankfully short. I jumped up and down shivering. But nobody looked comfortable, so it wasn't just me. Went back to tPOD II for final prep, then wound up rolling on my VooDoo singlespeed at about 6:58 toward the starting line about half a mile from camp. I rolled up to the back of the pack just as the horn blew. I didn't even put a foot down.
The first lap rolled on a dirt road north. My hands were painfully numb. My feet were getting there. The sun had just cleared the horizon, but we were on the west side of the mesas where the course would run, so we were in shade. After a brief easy climb we were on flat or slight downhill. I rode much of it hands-off with my hands shoved into my armpits.
Then we hit singletrack, and it was time to race.
As soon as I was on singletrack I felt warm. And by then we were in the slanting morning sun. The sagebrush slalom began.
My singlespeed's gear was 33:20. It was just perfect for this course, at least for me. A stronger pedaler could have gone a little higher, but I rarely felt really undergeared when railing through the twisty singletrack. It was good.
Lap 1 must have been a little short, because I turned it a few seconds shy of 59 minutes. At the end of the lap I considered hitting camp to shed some clothing and stock up on food, but after I passed through start/finish I decided it still wasn't really warm and I had enough of everything. I ran this whole race using just two bottle cages and jersey pockets, so I needed to be sure I still had food in my food bottle and clear water in my water bottle. There was enough, so off I went, to tackle the initial series of climbs that led us into the regular course.
My strategy for Dawn 'til Dusk was a little different than what I've brought to these races in the past. Normally I start out assuming that I have no chance to be on the podium, so I ride to please myself. I set a goal and ride for that goal. But my results have surprised me in the last year or so. Saturday I decided that I would ride to win. I rode every lap with what I had available.
Lap 2: I still had it. I rode it like the devil was after me. My first intro to the full course was positive. I probably got off the bike to push less than 5 times. I attacked the climbs, I rocked the singletrack to the limits of my ability. It was really fun.
At the end of the lap I hurried to my pit. New food, upper layers peeled off and chucked into the camper---replaced with short sleeve jersey, Hammergel flask into pocket, gone.
With the pit stop, lap 2 was hour and 20.
Lap 3: For the most part, I still had it. Hit it hard, unfortunately needed to visit pit again to peel off leg warmers, etc. Chad was there to lube my chain, switched my food into higher capacity bottle and put the film can of Sportlegs into my jersey pocket since the lactic burn was beginning to be distracting. Lap was 1:27:23 with pit.
Lap 4: Still running fast, but it was hurting me. Felt good to be riding in just shorts and short sleeves. I ate probably not enough--trying to stay on the throttle and not stop for anything. No pit stop, 1:19:45.
Lap 5: Uhg. My limits were rising into my throat. I pushed far more of the climbs. I felt pretty crappy and definitely like I had burned up much of my day's energy. I ate more, sometimes actually just coasting for a while to eat without breathing too hard or risking that I would drop my bottle. For the first time the singlespeed seemed to be a maybe mistake. I considered that I may actually have to stop early. Hit the pit at the end of the lap.
In this pit I swallowed maybe 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt, ate most of a Hammer Bar, drank about a pint of water at once out of my gallon jug, and slugged about half a flask of Hammer Gel. I mixed a new quart of food from the pre-mixed powder I had handy. Then I decided that it was time to tap into a can of ambition. Red Bull, baby. I drank about a third of it, pouring the rest into my food bottle. Back to start/finish, lap with pit stop was 1:36:46.
Lap 6: Phoenix from the Ashes. It took a while for my motor to start hitting on all sixes, but by the end of the first 15-20 minutes, which was where much of the course's climbing happened, I was good again. Good lap. Happy lap. 1:26:03. No pit.
Lap 7: Started good, but near the middle I felt again the grim reaper's existence. Oh yes, there is a limit. I also flatted on this lap. Often during a race, flatting will really stress and bum me out. This time I just calmly flipped the bike over, pulled out my Jethro Tool, and got down to the task of getting back on the trail. I was tired, which was a calming influence, but my mind also felt clear and clean. I just dealt with it, and got back on the horse. Headed for pit at the end.
Quick pit stop, just topping off food and water in my bottles. Probably took a big hit of Gel also, but I do not recall. Lap with pit was 1:49:54.
Lap 8: I knew this was my last--there was no way I would have time for a ninth. And I did not want one. I started out with resignation. I marched up the steep pitches on the initial climb with the purposeful trudge of someone who really wants to sit and a chair and eat bratwurst.
On one of the marches, which brought us through some slabs of slanting sandstone, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Sitting cross-legged at about eye level was a Native American boy maybe 3 years old. He was just sitting there silently watching racers heads go by. I looked at him and smiled and his face became a disco ball of friendly good humor. He was a really cute kid, and just seemed peaceful and happy. I didn't say anything, just smiled at him until I was past. It was a real shot in the arm.
Once I mounted back up, I found some of that weird, hard to explain energy that comes late in an endurance effort. I rode up some pitches that I'd been walking for much of the late day, and really trucked it in the fast parts. I talked with other racers who I would eventually pass, but just felt friendly, happy, and patient.
All through the last couple laps I'd been entertaining a fantasy that I might actually place. I'd seen lots of male singlespeeders (and quite a few really strong ladies), but they all seemed to be young bucks. "What if?" I thought.
I finished that last lap in 1:24:54, my 3rd best lap all day (though it was only 1 of 5 with no pit stop). When I got in there were only results through about 6 PM, so I asked the timing official if there was any chance that I'd placed. It took a while, but eventually he told me I was fourth in my category.
At the start/finish was most of the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse team, cheering their finishers. I hung out with them for a while, then saw Jim Gibson, a good friend from Flagstaff who had raced duo with Jake Rubelt. Jake finished while I was standing there, and we visited for a while.
I was so hungry, and just wanted to sit for a while and then hit the rack early. So I decided to shine on the awards ceremony. I grilled up some bratwurst and thick slices of potato with cheese on them. I ate half a sweet potato that I had pre-cooked. Then I ate the bratwurst on bread with mayo. Then I made an important phone call, and soon I was sleeping.
Good day. I'm pleased with fourth, but of course I'm still gunning for an actual shot at the podium. We'll see with the 12 at Mesa Verde next month.