But we didn’t miss it at all. On the contrary, we had a little time to spare when we got there. We’d decided I would do the uphill Le Mans start and the first lap, and we also decided to just trade off laps as we went. As it turns out, most of the racers took the same approach to the Le Mans start that I did–it was a joke. The tape fell and we jogged up to the bikes while some zealots elbowed their way through the crowd. The race bottlenecked at the entrance to the trail and then we got started.
At first, I couldn’t even see the trail through the dust of the other riders. I resolved just to follow the wheel of whoever was in front of me while I inhaled some serious dirt. Botched tells me that as he saw the first group coming through in that cloud of dirt, he momentarily felt bad for having me go first–momentarily. As we rose up the first climb of the day, I found passing people was easier than I thought and the clouds of dust were dispersing. And then we turned down the first semi-rocky descent …
… and I crashed hard! It was a pretty good spill, I think, though nobody clapped. I immediately jumped up, pulled my bike off the trail and got passed by five or six people. I got back on the trail and passed some of those who’d just passed me as we climbed just a little more. Then the trail started getting rocky, and I started regretting not preriding the course with Botched. It’s not just a question of rockiness, but also of unexpected turns. The course twisted and turned through a whole bunch of 180-degree switchbacks–not only on the climbs, but also on the descents. I hit my brakes far more times than I should’ve on that first lap, but I didn’t know what I was facing.
I came into the exchange zone and found Botched, and I pointed out my bloody knee.
"You crashed already?" he asked. "That’s not good. Let’s just take those sections slow and try not to get messed up."
So my goal of getting a lap under an hour changed to "how about I just try to avoid breaking my neck?" I’d done the first lap in 1:02, so I wasn’t far off from my speed goal anyway.
While Botched was out, it was just a question of relaxing and eating. Oddly, I didn’t really feel like eating solid food. I really just wanted to drink. But I stuffed a sandwich or two down my throat. The ham & cheese tasted great, but I could hardly stand the thought of the PB&J. Peanut butter was just too dry after breathing in all that dirt.
There was a DJ there playing music over some loudspeakers, and he announced he was taking requests. So of course I went back and asked if he had "No Rain" by Blind Melon, which he said he did. About five minutes later, he started playing "No Woman No Cry" by Bob Marley, and then he came over the speakers, "This one goes out to a special person out there, you know who you are. I told you I had a song, but I didn’t. I know Blind Melon isn’t the same as Bob Marley, but they both start with ‘B’ so I hope it works …" I was quite entertained.
On one side of our tent resting area, we had the only four-man singlespeed team, who’d decided by then that they were just going for the overall quad team win. When I told one of them I’d crashed, he informed me that someone had crashed just a few feet out of the starting area, so there was nothing to be ashamed of.
After I’d been there for ten minutes, some women came up to me and asked if they could set up the massage tent on the other side of our tent. Why not?
Once I was completely comfortable, I spotted Botched coming over the hill to the finish area, so I grabbed my bike and headed to meet him. As it turns out, he’d crashed too, taking a flying header after passing by some girl. Whoever she was, she got to watch the whole thing. So I started my next lap with this comforting feeling that I’m not a total dunce on the bike. And that must’ve stayed with me since my second lap ended up being my fastest lap all day at just under 59 minutes. Botched had pulled his off in more like 55-56. As I came into the finish again after my second lap, I was thinking, "Four more of these? No problem …" I was getting consistently better at the technical stuff on every lap, so that second one felt effortless …
I just realized how long this blog entry is becoming, so I’ll write more later. If you’ve read through the whole thing so far, you’re probably meant to be an endurance racer.