I cant think of a way to even start this. Today was horrible. As I sit here, feet bandaged and trying not to leave bloody footprints all over the registration lodge (the only place to get internet)I keep going over the race today in my head.
It started out great. I was in the front group with Jeremiah Bishop and the other leaders, putting in a brutal effort up the first 1500 feet or so of climbing. Near the top, I realized who I was riding with (what the hell was I doing?) and pulled back a bit - 40 miles is a long race, and the 90% humidity was already taking its toll. I settled in with the Weir group, a more manageable situation. At the top of the climb, we had already put huge chunks of time in on the stragglers.
The first descent was nuts: Weir described it later as "some NASCAR shit" - there were riders bouncing off rocks, trees and each other at blinding speed down a trail that would be completely expected at lynn woods. I was trying to hang on to Weir, but there was a rider between us - a rider somewhat less adept than he at finding magical hidden lines. I should have backed off him, but my mental state at this point was FASTFASTFAST not "If you do something stupid here, it may come back and bite you in the ass later".
Sure enough, the ass-biting happened when I took a line that sent my erstwhile guide into the bushes. It happened so fast it was all I could do not to dump my bike and body into him. I heard a very sad-sounding "clunk" from the back of my Epic and proceeded to ride the rest of the descent a breakneck speed on one flat tire. Balls. I pulled off a quick tire change and proceeded to tear out the valve stem with my CO2 inflator.
I wait for almost the whole field to go through. I was offered many, many 29" tires. Finally, a guy tossed me a tube (and for that I am eternally grateful) and Chris Eatough provided some auxiliary CO2. Back on the job. Chase, boy, chase.
I turned myself inside out chasing. I was literally drooling on my handlebar. I passed back most of the folks that came through while I was standing on the side of the trail for 13 minutes. I came up on Selene Yeager, but as she is the current leader of the Elite Womens field, did not pass immediately - I felt that it would be inappropriate to make her hug the bushes to let someone out of contention pass. She let me by after a bit. At this point I was hurting, but felt like I could catch back on.
I got to the first checkpoint/ feed station a few minutes behind what was supposedly a rapidly disintegrating chase group. I filled up my bottles and tore out after them. These trails were tough - very technical, very rocky. There was no rest. At all. This was good for me, I thought. Then I flatted again at mile 20. I was now completely out of luck. Looking at my rim, it was folded almost in on itself. How I didnt notice this earlier I have no idea. I also had 2 broken spokes and my wheel was no longer round.
So I ran.
My shoes were eating into my heels, and the blood was acting like lubricant, causing my shoes to slide more and more. So I took them off. Running in just socks, I tried to limit my losses, but it was no use: I was 8 miles from the next checkpoint. Run, boy. Mile after mile, over rocks and through streams I ran. My feet bled. I was in trouble.
Salvation came in the form of Mike Cushionbury (bicycling magazine). He tossed me a tube and a pump. Holy crap. I was back in business. Wait. This tube is huge. Its as if the good lord wants me to get a 29er or something. Bang head on rock. Whatever, at this point, I would have stuffed my tire with rocks. I folded the tube over itself at the point my rim was folded in - it couldnt make it any worse.
When I got going again, I rode very conservatively. No longer concerned with catching back on, I contented myself with trying to enjoy the remainder of the incredible trails they included in this race. I tried to block out the pain in my feet by taking more fun lines than I generally would at a race, bombing corners wide, hopping around switchbacks - that sort of thing. The blood was starting to squish up through the vents in my shoes, though. That reminded me.
The end was rough - another 1000 or so feet of climbing, mostly in the sun. I pulled onto the road, took a drink from my... oh wait, my camelbak is not dispensing water. Its 87 degrees with 90 percent humidity and I cant get the 2 liters of water strapped to my back into my face. Not wanting to lose more time, I took a risk on a gradual descent: I took it off while riding and tried to figure it out. The tube was tangled. At 25 miles an hour on a fireroad, with no hands, Im trying to unravel a crimped feeder tube. Could this get any better?
Thankfully, the rest of my day was incident-free (if not pain-free). I finished up the last 10 or so miles of access road thankful for the first time in my life of non-technical race sections. I came through in 4:40, about an hour after I wanted to. I limped my bike down to the Freeze/ Thaw cycles tent (they were amazingly helpful) and await their verdict on my wheel. I sat in the water for almost an hour, then showered. Im still trying to take in what happened today, and trying to figure out a way to salvage my race.
In all I ran about 5 miles. I have wrecked both my feet (the right somewhat more than the left) and (likely) my rear wheel. I need to make up time tomorrow, but Im nervous about pushing too hard. Get to bed early, tomorrow will be a long day.