I departed the house around 5 am heading west on Highway 44 towards Steeleville, MO, via Cuba, MO, to arrive at Bass River Resort for the 2014 BT Epic. Ida, my Jeep, was running rough on stale gas, and the 70 mph speed limit over hilly roads taxed her completely, so I started getting concerned on my arrival time. I had stopped for some new gas before leaving St. Louis and consumed chocolate milk and some Hostess cupcakes. I figured I would burn that off quick. In Cuba, I stopped for a pre-race dump since I didn’t want to reinvent the 2013 BT Epic Cortivo poop boycott. I was relieved again when I made it in plenty of time for registration, breakfast, setting up Samantha (my 29er), and preparing a re-fuel bag. I was also relieved that the parking was only $8 this year, but I still think that it should be included in the race registration price. At registration, I get a beer glass, which comes in handy later, and I thought, “what’s up with another cotton shirt; haven’t they heard of synthetic?” The pancake breakfast was quiet without my team members, so I ate quickly and went outside to stretch and pray some, and then I rode around a little to make sure Samantha was ready. I picked a good spot on the starting line and stayed put since other racers started jockeying for position. The shortest ever pre-race meeting occurred and the countdown begun, and at count one, and before the gun sounded, the front pack took off. I heard the mis-fire of the gun and took off close behind the leaders. I had a few pedal strokes in and the gun sounded. The race was on.
Heading out on the gravel road there were so many riders abreast, jockeying for position, our handlebars were hitting each other. My narrow WTB Nine Lines kept digging into the gravel and sending my front wheel sideways. I started losing position quickly and cursed those tires. I pulled as far to the right as possible to let faster traffic pass and some idiot tried to pass on the right and crashed in a water hole. Climbing the gravel hill, I was still having trouble with that front wheel and noticed my computer wasn’t working at all. My back was already hurting from the bouncing weight of my adventure pack, and my legs were already burning. I cursed the Nine Lines some more, cursed the computer, my extra gear in my pack, and my lack of training. I debated on stopping to fix the computer and bump air, but could only convince myself to fix the computer. It started working but was incredibly slow.
I entered the trail and felt a big relief, since I am much more comfortable on trails and I knew that the front tire would track better. I was bouncing around like a pogo stick so I stopped and bumped. With the bike tracking better, I started picking up speed and started to pass some racers, but I was still getting passed too. I would get anxious when I heard someone coming up from behind and would just let them pass, and I had trouble with one guy who wouldn’t let me pass until he crashed in front of me. I reminded myself that my goal was to come in under six hours and maintain a controlled pace. My watch was working so I knew my time on course, but after asking fellow racers for mileage it was clear that my computer was no longer functioning correctly. It was minus 4 miles, then 8 miles, then 10, it was useless. I passed the first rest stop and saw water, pickles, and orange slices out of the corner of my eye, but a lot of racers were sitting there so I decided to take advantage of the easy pass. I passed many broken down riders, offering help to all, but none took it thankfully. I finally got into a good area by myself and just enjoyed the ride. I started thinking about writing the blog, how I could do better next year, how my 650B Hermione might have been a better choice, etc. I remembered last year mile 26 was a wall for me and since I didn’t know how far I was I decided not to worry about it. I got to the second rest stop, grabbed my refuel bag, and headed out as quickly as I could.
Back on the trail I felt leg cramps coming on so I knew I had been at the very least pushing myself hard. I still didn’t know how many miles I had left so I started using Zipp Fizz. It didn’t kick in fast enough so I started walking up hills. Other racers were complaining about the same thing. I told them about how I hallucinated and saw an 8 foot tall Doberman Pincher last year, that it is 20 degrees hotter than normal, and tried to convince them to eat, drink, and keep moving. “Just keep moving,” I told myself. A couple racers asked me for any extra water, but I had none to give. I told them the last stop was about 10 miles from the finish last year. One guy sounded like he was going to quit. I pressed on.
Some of the single track looked familiar to me so I got back into a good grove. I concentrated on eating, drinking, riding hard, but not hard enough to induce cramping. I like to pray often, so I struck up a conversation with the Big Guy JC. He decided to ride on my handle bars, so I told him not to get his robe stuck in the wheel, and he laughed and said he was wearing cargo shorts. I asked him if he was wearing a chamois and he said those are for the weak. I said I am thankful for mine and he responded, “you’re welcome.” He taunted me to ride faster and try harder as he pointed out squirrels and rocks he created. We had a good discussion for a while, laughed a lot, and then he took off to help someone else. You may be thinking I was hallucinating, but I wasn’t.
I got out of the woods and saw the resort ahead, so I started passing some riders that I had been dancing with for the last hour or so, and then realized the course shot up a road hill and back into the woods. I had to granny gear all the way up that crazy road hill. I was so thankful I didn’t have a single speed and that I kept the 1X9 26er Sabrina at home. I slowly passed some walkers, but other riders were pulling ahead of me. I realized it was the riders I had just past on the flats. I traveled down this gravel road slowly making sure I didn’t miss my trail turn and got aggravated at how long it was and how slow I was going. I re-entered the single track and it was technical at first. I was hot, tired, cramping, and out of water. I was hungry, but decided not to eat to avoid further dehydration. The riders with me complained about the same ailments. I had to walk almost every hill to avoid cramping, but it got so bad I had to do some yoga. Downward Facing Dog didn’t hurt, but Child’s Pose was unbearable. I worked until I got it and headed off. I felt much better, but I took it more slowly. Down-hills I even took slowly to prevent crashing. I felt my spirit starting to crumble, my anger rising as I knew I was not sub-6 anymore and started to worry about not beating last years’ time. I only got passed by one rider though during an extremely long climbing series. I slowly descended and noticed the resort ahead and the finish so I gave it all I had to finish strong. My time was 6:43:12, which beat my 7:47:47 2013 finish.
I stayed for a massive dinner,
If I do it again next year, sub 6, and to the sub 5 racers and sub 4 winner…wow congrats! My only regret was…not winning that fat bike!