Some pics and blather reposted from my blawg.
The big fire in Flagstaff 6 weeks ago wiped out the center of the Crazy 88 route. The Flag folks seem to have rebounded by enjoying many of their other miles of great trails. Nate dusted himself off and put together what promised to be another fun underground race. I wasn't going to miss it, for all the same reasons I've made the last 2 - great people, great event, and inspiration to get me through the dark days of summer.
Unfortunately, rain started before the pre-ride meeting, and didn't let up til an hour after the last rider bailed. T-roy cracked open the bottle of El Jimedor I brought before we rolled out. It kept me warm for about 27 seconds.
Kila sez "eff this noize, I'll be waiting right here", and indeed she was when i returned 7 hours later
The first 5 miles were beautiful flowy downhill through tight singletrack, but the lack of exertion and water running right down the trail had me shivering. The thought of 6 more hours of borderline hypothermia had me on the verge of bailing after only 40 minutes, but I couldn't stand the thought of such a piss-poor effort after I hauled all my gear up the rim and already would have to break the whole bike down and clean it. Maad was right behind me, and he's basically been living in Flag this summer...i cant deny his disapproving gaze and subtle telepathy of "don't be a ***** Chollaball!" affected my decision. A few people bailed down a fireroad, a few opted to follow the original course down a moto singletrack which would likely have even deeper muddier ruts, I slipped on my leg warmers and joined about 10 others for a shortcut that would get us at least 20 miles and close to 2 hours minimum.
Arriving at our next nut-up-or-shut-up point at mile ~13 (mile 21 on the original route), I started to warm up, but my Etrex Vista gps had crapped out. Now my decision got really hard - bail, or go on not knowing if I could map the route? Fate saved me - I missed the next turn, and ducked into a nice trailhead parking lot where I got out of the rain and sorted out my gear. As I was taking off my camelback, I yanked the strap of the Forerunner 201 off my wrist and the pin holding it to the unit shot away. ****ing great! now I was off course, and neither gps was working! I wanted to cry, I wanted another shot of tequila, I wanted a hit - and here I was dope-free for the past month since I'm on the job market . I took a deep breath, gave the Etrex new batteries, found the pin for the Forerunner, wiped my glasses with some dry TP from the warm and wind-free baffroom, and doubled back to find the turnoff I'd missed.
I've only used the Etrex a few times since i got it at Xmas, and never for tracking a route and waypoints. It worked so well I can't imagine not having one for an event like this ever again - I was spot-on course for the next 5 hrs and 30 miles. At one point I came upon 4 other dismal lost riders who were attempting the same variation on the route as I, but somehow going in the exact opposite direction! They too trusted in my gps and eventually finished (and toasted me en masse around the firepit!). But despite being on course, the next mile was a terrible stretch of death-mud that threatened to kill my new-found optimism. If it continued at the next turn, I was going to throw in the towel and backtrack home. It stopped, and thankfully wound up being the only such stretch of the race. The rest was just sinking, sucking, splashing, slogging, sloppy going that added who-knows-how-much effort to every pedal turn. There were times when my fingers got too numb and stiff to work the shifters, but mostly i was just chilly and chafing and heavy and uncomfortable for about 7 straight hours. Its hard to quantify how much it took out of me, its not like a 10-yard penalty, but realizing the lack of efficiency I decided early-on my goal was to simply complete the 50 mile course (42 with the bypass of the moto route) and not even consider the full 65. I was kinda disappointed that I'd lowered my expectations so early in the day, thinking that all the strongest riders from Flag who'd launched down the moto route would surely pass me at some point, comfortable with the weather and the altitude. But I knew I was a Desert lad who had not worn socks or underwear in 4 months, was pissing from every sip of gatorade with my body so well-tuned to conserving water, was shivering on every downhill, and was shredding every moving component of my bike. I always have something to prove, but my showing at the 12 Hours at Night allowed me to gracefully accept that today was an act of God and not an act of lack-of preparation. The 50 course it would be!
I fought my way to the rest stop at mile 33, where Nate's awesome friends rewarded us with shammy butter and bacon.
There were 2.5 miles of dh after the break, and I kinda hated it my body reacted so violently to the cold. Then there were 11 miles of jeep-road slogging til I got within sight of the finish 5 miles further on. A truck which looked vaguely familiar came bouncing down the road after about 7 miles, and lo-and-behold Nate waved from the window! All the Flagstafricans who'd launched down the moto route bailed out after slogging 4 hrs and only a few miles through deep mud. i wasn't happy to see my friends suffer, but learning that everyone else's day and expectations had also gone to **** made my situation suddenly seem pretty hardcore! I pressed on with another little lift in my spirits, and also psyched knowing that (1) I was in first place!, and (2) folks were back at camp seeing to Kila and tapping the keg.
The next 3 miles of jeep road were hardpacked, but super-sloppy with pooled water in every deep rut. It was the first jeep road off highway 180, and was thick with traffic. Getting splashed didn't bother me, it hardly registered i was so sloppy through-and-through, and i got my vengeance passing the vehicles along the roadside as they crept through the many 20-yard pools of muddy water. When I crossed 180 and got to the final 5 miles, I suddenly was overcome with weariness. It seemed so far way! I crawled into the Pain Cave and spun so slowly only the sound of the rain reminded me time was passing. Eventually i finished, my mind and body not-quite on the same wavelength as the rest of the world. Someone handed me a beer in a commemorative pint glass and told me I'd won.
First, and likely last time ever, on the podium
I hung around camp for the first time in my 3 times doing this (Nate's) races, without the family for a change. It was awesome chillin with some of the riders I've briefly greeted in years passed, and have gotten to know a little better this past year through James. I nursed a few beers, engaged in many shenanigans, and watched the El Jimedor become ex-Jimedor. The rain finally passed, and we briefly considered launching back out to fininsh the loop.
driving home I ran over a skunk near Schultz Pass Road, and smelled stank til I got on I-17 and outran the funk, but it was there waiting for me when I pulled into the driveway. The bike needed new brake pads front and back, probably a new headset and bottom bracket cups, and had a scar on the fork stanchion an inch long from something horrible that got caught in the death-mud. i spent 3 hours in the ManCave stripping it down and still have work to do, but am not too upset, as somehow it seems another Phoenix summer has passed me by.
Thanks Nate, Bev for the awesome cookies, and everyone else for the great company.
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