2017 The Epic by Scott Shaw
I signed up for The Epic early and immediately regretted my decision because I knew I couldn’t take it easy on training. Last year the Epic or “Ogre” was the challenge of the year for me. I trained hard, finished, and dropped off most of my racing shortly after. This year I didn’t train half as much and was recovering from injuries that took me out of my running training. I knew going into this year’s event that my cardio was in bad shape, and I hadn’t had a chance to get in a long ride, so I would be in pain. I also hadn’t been weight training, but my legs felt strong to me, so I thought I would try my best and if all else failed, then just finish.
It pretty much rained solid a few days before the event, so the course was shortened to take out the highest water crossings. I was happy to hear that I no longer had to ride 150 miles soaking wet and only would have to ride 130. Tanya (my wife) and I drove down to the event in the rain, checked in, ate dinner, went to the pre-race meeting, and crashed at the hotel, all the while it was still raining. Tanya started telling me it would be nice to stay in the hotel for the weekend or go home early. I told her I had pre-paid the hotel and I had driven all the way, so no matter what I was starting in the morning. We met some out of town racers that asked me questions about my bike set up and what clothes I was going to wear. One of them didn’t think tights were necessary, but I told him I wouldn’t be riding fast enough the whole time to keep warm while soaking wet. He almost changed my mind to wear shorts, but I stuck with my plan. Wear a water “proof” jacket over my jersey and let my tights get soaked over my shorts. I planned to ditch the jacket and tights if I got hot. I chose to wear my summer mountain bike shoes because I knew my feet would be wet instantly and my boots don’t drain.
Larry Lazo told me we had to crush the start and stay ahead of most the pack, but I knew that meant me too. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hang with him for long. We started and instantly soul crushing realities started coming into my mind. My legs were already burning, I was overheating, I couldn’t see due to the rain and gravel crap, and I couldn’t hold Larry’s pace. I realized that to finish I had to slow down and recover and find a pace I could live with. I had an extremely hard time of recovering. I don’t think I ate enough that morning and I didn’t eat enough at check point one, even though Tanya was trying to get me to eat more. I felt like I was drinking enough, but since I was soaked through I couldn’t really tell if I was sweating (my jacket was not water proof). I found a pace I was comfortable with and I kept my clothing as it was because I feared getting hypothermia. I knew there was nothing I had to change into that would keep me dry, and wet and warm is better than wet and cold. The hail pinging off my helmet made me laugh until it hit me in the face and went through my helmet vents. It was short lived, but the wind, rain, and lightning were fierce. I decided it was safer to keep riding and keep my rubber tires on the ground instead of my metal shoe cleats. That meant there would be no hill walking.
Eric Reber caught me struggling before check point one and I told him that I was having trouble recovering. He was sore from well over 200 miles the previous week, so he said he would ride with me. It was nice to have someone to suffer with that didn’t mind the slow pace. We rode quite a bit with Jeff and Carrie Sona on their tandem and I got to witness their insane downhill speed and subsequent splashing and parting off the waters at the crossings. I’d follow them down and take Jeff’s lines and then pass them uphill and then repeat. It felt safer following them at speed through the water crossings than doing it on my own. I figured if they survived, then I would. I still was very concerned about the crossings after last year. Eric and I stayed together until CP1. At CP1, Tanya started talking to me about quitting again and I thought Eric left before me, so I took off in a hurry avoiding Tanya and looking for him, but as I got off to walk a water crossing I saw him coming up from behind, so I waited for him to catch up. We rode a pretty chill pace, but even at a slower pace we still had to walk crossings as they were getting much deeper.
We took the asphalt back to gravel. The asphalt had me thinking I was feeling better, but once back on the gravel I started feeling bad again. It continued to rain and the wind and lightning picked up. The miles were slowly ticking off. I pretty much had to walk every water crossing and one or two had almost swept me off my feet. My legs started cramping and I cursed myself for not buying water, Gatorade, and food at the gas station. I rode on without any fuel and water, thinking if I get desperate there is plenty of rain to drink. The gravel started getting eroded off the roads from the down pouring rushing streams that were now on both sides of the road. It was neat to see, very loud, but very hard to ride when the streams crossed the road and made tons of potholes. My legs started cramping really bad, which made me walk a hill, but the lightning convinced me to jump back on the bike quickly. I could feel my skin chafing on the seams of my shorts on the top of my thighs and I thought, that’s a first.” Around 3 miles to go the front tire flatted. I quickly changed it and didn’t feel anything sharp in the tire, so I chalked it up to a pinch flat from hitting all the potholes. About a mile later the rear flatted. I found a long skinny sharp rock that pierced and stuck into the tire. I was riding through standing water almost constantly, hitting potholes, and a million sticks, and a piece of gravel flatted me. As I was changing the flat, trying my best to keep gravel out of the tire, the wind and lightning became incredibly fierce, so much so that I started thinking about shelter. I looked around for twisters, didn’t see any, looked around for shelter, and decided the thick woods was my best bet, but stayed put, and continued the flat repair.
With the flat fixed I got back to riding and knew I was really close to the Start/Finish. I started to pass a truck and the guy kept waving to me. I thought he was directing me to turn, which matched my Garmin, so I started to turn and he jumped out of his truck and acted as if he was going to stop me. I then could hear him yelling that the power lines were on the road. I asked him what the other racers did and I told him I would step over them like they did. After crossing two down lines and a tree I was on my way again. I started to feel the back tire going flat again, but I could see the Start/Finish so I kept going. A lake stood in the way of the finish. I thought, “This will be cool and get some cheers” as I plowed into the water and rode through at about top tube depth, but no one noticed my efforts. I turned to finish and the finish line was destroyed, most people were already gone, some people were huddled under the shelter, and Tanya was standing there saying, “Thank God, you are crazy!” I think she meant that she was thankful I was back and not so thankful I am crazy. I checked in so the race officials knew I was alive and then Tanya told me all about the storm that knocked everything over and flooded the grounds. I managed 72 miles, so I didn’t even complete the 80 mile course. I hated cutting it short as I really wanted to see if I could recover and ride the rest, but by the look of things, the race director made the right call.
|Before it blew over.|
We had another night in the hotel pre-paid so we stayed and chilled out. In the morning I changed my tires back to heavy duty CX tires and found a half inch thorn in the rear gravel tire. We ate breakfast and did a little shopping, but it was still raining, and I thought we better get home before roads close. Tanya likes highway 70, so we took that. It was packed with traffic, but I may have done some off-roading to go from highway to service road to avoid it. When we got home we started to hear of all the flooding and road closures. Good thing we took 70. It was an Epic wet adventure. – Ahab.