Monday, July 12, 2004

Brian Head Epic 100 -- Finished!

Well the day finally came. We stayed in the campground at Cedar Breaks the night. I guess we woke up a little late because we got to the starting line seconds before the start.

The race started by heading out to and up the road through Brian Head towards the peak. No sooner did we hit the road then Layne noticed that his camel back wasn't working right and had to stop and fix it. I continued on slowly to allow him to catch up. Layne ended up being dead last for a while. About the time that we turned off of the pavement onto the dirt road towards the peak Layne caught back up with me. We road side by side and then I took the first turn at pulling while Layne drafted. After a short bit a drafting and passing other riders we turned off the road and started the single track towards Lowder Ponds Trail. At this point I was trying to stay with Layne but was having a hard time staying on the track at those speeds. We then started the decent down Lowder Ponds Trail. This ended up being a lot more fun and technical than I had expected. It wasn't long before I was passing people who were changing flats.

Continuing down the trail I had a couple of places where I hit my pedals on rocks and knocked myself off enough to force me to stop, step to the side, and wait for an opening in the pack so I could start again. This downhill section proved to be my greatest weakness. I found myself often riding as far to the side of the trail as I could so that others could get past. I was trying to be courteous to the other riders letting them past but was disappointed when the would not do the same for me going up hills. At times I was forced off my bike when someone walking up the hill would not let me through. It seems to me that if you are hiking a bike up a hill it would be common courtesy to step aside and let someone that is riding through.

At points the trail was so dusty from riders that I had a hard time seeing where the rocks were, and realized I had left my sunglasses in the van. At times I would not be able to see any riders ahead of me, but I knew they were not far ahead because of the dust.

After leap-frogging back and forth with a few rides going down some nice single track, coming across some 3 to 4 foot diameter logs across the trail, crossing a couple of streams, the trail turned into a dirt road. Here I was able to finally leave behind the people I was playing leap-frog with and close in on the next pack of riders ahead of me.

As I approached the first check point I took a quick assessment of my water/gateraide. My camel back was leaking real bad, dripping down my leg. Through out the whole race I would have people asking if I was alright because it almost looked like my leg was a bloody mess. "It's just gateraide." Anyway I figured I still had enough in my pack and I had my water bottle so I decided I would just cruise through the first check point. I looked around as I did a drive through grab of a couple cliff bars, and could not see Layne so I continued on.

The next section had a bunch of dips with little "jumps" which I guess were for flood control. These bumps were such that I didn't feel safe going over at high speeds because they would bump the back tire into the air, so I started to have jump them. It was kind of fun, but on the way back I would learn to hate them as I often didn't have the energy to spend jumping. Then my camel back ran dry. "OK, now I'll grab my water bottle." I reached down, felt around, looked down, it's gone! I had seen a few water bottles along the way that others had lost, and I would see a lot more before the day was through, but I would never see mine again. No glasses, no water, energy bars that were so dry you couldn't eat them without a drink and still 5 to 10 miles to the next check point. Then I come up to this nasty little lava flow. "I think I can ride this" I say to myself as I start up it avoiding the people hiking their bikes. Trying to get around this lady she says, "Oh just get off, you won't make it anyway." "Well I would have if you weren't in the way!". Picking up my bike, wondering why everyone was pushing instead of carrying, I continued on past the lava flow.

I pulled into check point 2, and noticed I was still ahead of schedule! My kids had were there to greet me. I had been worried about it being cold at the start so I had a long sleeve shirt over my short sleeve. Cool, with the kids here I can get rid of the extra shirt. And then I realized I could get my sunglasses from the van. I have never been so happy in my life! While I'm getting refills on water etc. Layne comes rolling in. "How did you get behind me?" I was going to ride with Layne again for awhile but he had to take a pit stop. So I told my kids to tell him I left, and continued on. Bad choice. It wasn't long before I found myself struggling along a dirt road fighting a nasty head wind. I sure could have used a drafting buddy. After a few miles of this I had someone pass me. I latched on and drafted for a few. He was nice and worked with me for a few miles, and then I took my turn pulling for him. I guess Layne had almost caught me before this but with the drafting we left him behind. A little later my drafting buddy pulled back into the lead, and I told him to go on, I couldn't hang in any longer.

Up to this point I was ahead of schedule, but then I started to notice that my back tire was running low. I jumped off and started to pump up the tire; dumb idea. Layne catches up and takes a pit stop into the woods. I look to see if I put the advil in my pack, but no. When I get done looking Layne is gone. I finally get back close to Layne just as we get to the Virgin River Rim Trail, a nice single track. The problem is I again find myself getting stuck behind people pushing bikes right were I need to be climbing. I make it through a few of these and then my tire was low again. Even dumber idea, I pumped it up again. Maybe I can make it to the next check point before it goes flat again and I can save time by changing the tire while someone fills my camel back. A couple miles later it was flat again. At this point I realized how stupid I was being and changed the tire.

I continue to be nice and hop off the trail to let someone through going down a hill. Then I come up on him going up the next hill, and of course he pushes his bike right were I need to be riding. Finally I quit silently taking it, and started asking for room to get through. It was nice that people would get out of the way when asked, but it seems like you should know to move to the side an let someone ride through.

I pull into the third check point, look at the time, and realize I was behind the slowest time for finishing in under 11:00. I had gone from being a head of schedule for finishing in 10 hours to being behind schedule for finishing in 11. I still had a bit of hope that I might finish in time but not much.

On the way back from the Virgin River to Duck Creek I saw a few signs saying Duck Creek is the opposite direction we were going. We traveled down some roads and back to the road with the head wind. Of course this time it was a tail wind and I cruised along at a good speed.

Back at Duck Creek, I know I have missed 11 hours and the climb is ahead of me. I decide to take go a good pace but make sure I can just keep moving. Back at the lava flow, and I don't even bother trying to ride through but just pick up the bike and jog through. Then it is back to the little jumps. Occasionally I could get around them but usually I would have to get up the energy to jump them.

Next came a grasshopper field. I have never seen so many grasshoppers. A couple miles of 2 to 3 grasshoppers per square inch. Max time for getting to check point 5 was 8:45:42. At nine hours I noted that all of the cup winners were now across the finish line and I was still a couple of minutes from check point 5. The nice thing was that when I got to check point 5 I found Layne again. We refueled and continued on. Now the hardest part of the course, or so I thought. Looking at about 15 miles of climbing I determined to keep a pace to where I could keep on the bike as much as I could. I was pleasantly surprised we didn't have to go back up the single track we came down. We continued up a nice wide dirt road for some miles and then turned back onto a single track, Dark Hollow, I think.

This was a nice climb that ended up in the mountain tops near Brian Head Peak. The peak however was still a couple of miles away. At this point the climb wasn't that steep but the altitude was high. I was pleased to find that the altitude didn't seem to be affecting me. Finally the trail dumped out onto the dirt road that goes to the peak. Half way up this I see Layne bombing down, "You're almost there!" I continue to the top and on the way down tell those coming up the same thing. I'm feeling good, I made it, and if I can average 30 mph I might make 11 hours! OK, 30 mph sounds fast but this was a steep road and I could do it on this dirt road and more on the pavement. Then the worst thing that could happen... they turned us off the road and back onto single track. I usually hate riding my mountain bike on the road, but now I was upset they weren't letting me ride it on the road. Not only that but it was a tricky section with more climbs! After awhile I look at my watch, 11 hours 11 minutes. I didn't make it under 11. Earlier I had been looking forward to this point thinking, "then I can relax and just finish," but now I was depressed. I really wanted to finish in under 11. However, I also wanted to finish without killing myself so I slowed down and did the best I could at enjoying the last few miles. With out a doubt this was the hardest part of the race. Not because the trail was hard, it did have some small climbs and was a bit tricky, but I was tired, I was ready to ride in on the road, and I had missed the 11 hour mark. I came around a corner and could see the finish. I shouted, not sure if it was in triumph, frustration, or just to let the kids know I was about there. Crossing the finish line I look up, 11:44.

After finishing I was thinking that this was my first and last real race. I had finished, I did it, no need to do it again. But you know.... If I did try again I bet I could make it in under 11.

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