Dawn til Dusk 12 hour has come and gone but it has left a mark. Quite a few actually ;)
My initial goals for the event were to dial in nutrition and get some good training in a competetive environment. I'm trying out some different race fuels, stuff that is light to carry (thinking forward to KTR and GLR) yet works well for the long haul. In the 4-5 days before the event, though, my legs were telling me it was going to be a bit better than a training event. By race time, the goal had shifted a bit - leave nothing out there, no kJ unused.
Apologies for the lack of pics - my camera went AWOL in the event and it is still unaccounted for...it didn't work too well anyway. Team Matt & Jeni took a lot of pics enroute to the SS solo win, you can see them
Weather was a concern. Driving down the day before it wasn't too bad until we got to Gallup. It was cold and rainy driving from Gallup to the course. Since there's a bit of clay out there (NM is all clay, right?) I was concerned about another mudfest. Moab '06 and the RimRide were both wet events...not another wet desert event? I put on some raingear and had a great pre-ride - the moisture had the course totally buffed out. Conditions couldn't have been better, and I'd say the same for the legs. I was feeling good for mid-April.
At the 7am race start it was cold and moist. The ground was covered with a very thick frost, almost like snow, that hung around for the first two laps. Throughout the day I swear I could see the grass getting greener by the lap! But sight wasn't something of mine to be trusted today as it turned out...
It didn't take too much effort to stay with the first 10 riders at the start. I was comfortable and relaxed. About 15 min into the lap that all changed took as my chain broke. Jeesh. Much to my surprise, Brian Lugers stopped to help fix the chain. He later told Anna he was really just planning to grab my chain and ride off, but I don't believe it! He's a great guy all the way...it seems I'm racing with gentlemen this year. After it seemed I had it mostly taken care of Brian rode off. After I got the chain put back together, I went to get it on the chainring, but DOH! It was wrapped around the BB shell. You gotta be kiddin me...so, 15 min later I'm heading off down the trail, about 5-10 min behind DFL. Sweet. Passing was really tough on this course as it's all singletrack. The trail was buff and fast, an inch to either side was deep sand, soft and slow. If riders didn't move over, passing took a huge effort...so that first lap I mostly hung out behind riders.
On lap 2 the herd had thinned and it was time to get to work. I was riding at a pace I knew wouldn't last all day...or would it? With a DFL start, there wasn't anything to lose, so I just kept the power to the pedals. The course was a blast, the music in my ears was great. I was taking in a lot of calories and all was working well. Updates were confusing and slow in coming - I never really knew my position. I knew Brian was going to be super tough, and Fred W was rocking his SS in the geared cat as usual, but I was basically chasing ghosts. There was one guy I caught up to maybe on lap 5 or 6, he was riding really well and it took quite some time to catch him once I saw him. I later learned this was Peter, a local master's rider who kicks some serious butt. Nice riding Peter!
On bike choice...both the Yeti and Fuel were ready to rock, but it was Yeti love all the way. The smooth rear end bearing pivots are so much smoother than the Fuel's ('05) bushing pivots, so I stuck with the Yeti until the final lap. The rear D cable kept coming out of the channel in the SRAM derailur, forcing me to loosen the pinch bolt to get it back then do a quick re-adjustment. Other than that, the Yeti flowed like butter all day.
At the end of lap 8 I asked Anna where Brian was, and right as the words came out of my mouth he rolled on up and said he was done. Turns out he hit something out there and was feeling the effects. So as far as we knew, heading out for lap 9 I was in the lead. Could it be true? I still don't know.
Now I was starting to fade. My left eye had been checking out on me, just like what happened in OP in '06. By lap 7 it was seriously foggy, by lap 9 it was gone. Then, while trying to eat a banana, my front wheel strayed off the buff course into soft sand and it was air time. The full impact of the crash was on the right shoulder (the good one) and I swear it should have broken that collarbone...but I came away with nothing more than cuts, a mouth full of sand, and the rear D cable jumping the channel once again. But with that crash I could feel my mojo draining into the dirt.
Last lap: position still unknown, I headed out for #10. I was tiiiiiiiiiired at this point, and the first steep "cougar hill" climb cracked me. 10 hours in chase mode had taken it's toll. I was overheated, legs dead. At the top I layed under a tree for 10-15 min, waiting for things to normalize. There was a local photog up there from a Gallup paper, he shot about 15 pics of me while interviewing me in that dazed and confused state. Funny. Finally, I get up and start rolling. Wobbly and not seeing well at all, things began to improve as the lap went on. By the end I was feeling OK again...but still uncertain of my place in the field. On the final descent, Jenna Woodbury was there (she wins the loudest cheering award!) and I asked if anyone was in front of me and she said yes, Brian Bennet was. Well shucks. Matt later said I lost by seconds, but I haven't seen the results yet so have no clue. I was a touch dissappointed, but man did I get the workout I was after.
It was a killer race. Lots of competition and plenty of drama in the solo field. There were several players with the lead a moving target. Team HealthFX was there in full force too. Zach Shriver and Greg Lewis laid waste to the course with a 12 lap tally - that's under an hour for average lap times!!! Miles and Andrew teamed up to keep Zach and Greg honest, coming in for 2nd in the duos. Our own cap'n Ken Armstrong rode a super strong race to take 2nd in the master solo field. Did I mention this was his first solo 12 hour bike race?
It ain't pretty but it is honest. I had some very human moments out there and the battle was largely within. The only other thing I could have asked for is a non-lap race, but that's another topic!