But something even more odd happened. I started passing riders who were riding the opposite direction–regular rec riders out on their Saturday rides. At one point, I was even barreling down a descent when I spotted two riders coming the opposite direction. To say the least, I was a little confused by it. I made a mental note to watch the trail and not follow anybody off the course.
As I rounded the final climb and descended back into the start area, though, that’s precisely what happened–I found myself off the course on some other trail with a couple of riders ahead of me. Obviously I’d followed their lead on one of the switchbacks instead of following the flags. I regained my orientation and raced to the finish to find Botched, where I told him about my misguided mayhem.
He zipped off on another lap and I went to relax under the tent. It was then that I started noticing just how tense my back was getting. I grabbed a bag of ice and shoved it behind my back, not necessarily hoping it would heal anything, but hoping it would numb my back and allow me to keep riding.
Between every lap, I found myself downing about a water bottle’s worth of Hammer Heed. I reluctantly forced down the PB&J’s before treating myself to my last ham & cheese. I’d already dipped into my emergency food supply before lap three, downing a Red Bull and a packet of lime Sport Beans to get some variety in my liquid diet. Before lap four, I sucked down my now-cold tomato soup, which was probably my favorite meal during the race. For whatever reason, solid food just was not appealing to me, and in retrospect, I should’ve brought more soup.
I don’t think Botched ate too many of his sandwiches either, since there were still a couple in the cooler when we got done. He had his own maltodextrin mix drink, and it seemed to be working pretty well for him. I thought he was crazy for suggesting a liquid diet during our prerace discussions, but by my third rest hour that was sounding pretty good.
I could barely move off my ice pack to meet Botched at the start zone for lap four, but it didn’t take long for my back to get warmed up again. Again, I spent the lap almost completely alone, though I did get into chase mode a little when I passed the guy in yellow (ahead of me in yesterday’s photo) and when he later passed me during the rocky part. I tried to stay in contact with him, but I ended up losing him on the final descent. Go figure. But by the time I reached the start zone again, I was pumped and happy. Heck, I might’ve volunteered to do another lap if I didn’t have an unbearable urge to visit the outhouse.
By the time Botched came back from his fourth lap, though, I was toast. My back hurt much worse than it had before, so Botched, very mercifully, volunteered to take another lap while I continued to ice up. I sucked down a gel and another Red Bull while he was gone, hoping my hyperness could carry me through. And, sure enough, when he got back, I was up and ready to ride.
I took lap five pretty easy, thinking, "Just finish, no big deal." This time there were more people out on the course, so I got to chat it up a little more. I met a former Olympic cross-country skier named Wendy Wagner who was on her tenth solo lap and suffering from some serious side stitches. I gave her some side-stitch advice (you know me, full of advice), and she said she felt better. Despite knowing I could pass her, I rode the final climb up behind her, chatting the whole way. When I told her I’d done more road biking, she asked if I’d been a pro ride biker … did you just spit out your food laughing too? I told her ‘no,’ but that I appreciated that she’d even wonder that.
When I got back to the finish, Botched informed me that he had to pull off a 55-minute lap to make the cut for the final lap, and if he made it in time, he’d just keep riding. I was fine with that as our wives had arrived. When I got to the tent, my wife approved of my request to get a professional massage from the tent next door. So while Botched was out toiling his best up and down those razor-sharp rocks, I was under the shade getting my back loosened by the same woman who usually works with Sue Haywood (of Trek/VW fame). Heckya.
In the end, Botched missed the time cut by only a few minutes (it would’ve had to have been his fastest lap if he’d made it), and we started kicking ourselves for anything we’d done that had even lost 30 seconds along the way. If we’d made the cut, we’ve have been in 11th place at least, but since we missed, we ended up 12th out of 20–mostly thanks to Botched’s super speedy efforts.
Then we crawled into the passenger seats of our respective vehicles and headed back for a relaxing evening of pizza and light-hearted conversation. Oh, and Lil’ Botched let me braid her hair.