We've been looking forward to
We strategize for just about everything.
Lynda: Let's be chill. Go easy, ride together, just have fun.
Dave: Right. Sure. Whatever. I know you. I know me. There will come a point where crack will overtake us no matter what the plan. It's how we work.
The 2 major strategic issues for this epic are water and naviation. It's a complex route through arid terrain. Last year I got by on about 80oz water - but it was raining most of that time. This year the forecast was 70ish F with S winds gusting to 30+ mph - can you say dehydrating? 200oz fluids was our call - 200 each. That's a lotta weight to put on a little 105 lb gal, but it didn't seem to slow her down much.
On the mapping side we had some help. Fred sent Lynda a map with the route outline, and Brad K shared his GPS file from the weeks previous ride as a starting point. A few hours with Topofusion and I had a perfect GPS route in the Garmin. This was critical, even though I had done the event last year - everything looked different this year. It was sunny!! What a difference that makes. I didn't know there were so many views and rims in this ride last year.
Finally, what gear to choose for the SS? We decided to gear more for everything but Gold Bar. Gold bar is granny gear stuff on a geary, and to put on a gear that would allow riding all of it would mean going really slow everywhere else. 32.19 for me, 34.20 for Lynda. We were totally happy with the gear all day. Others were actually on bigger gears....but when it comes to going fast on a SS it's not about whether or not you can clean with a given gear but how fast you go. It's a race afterall ;)
6:20ish AM we all left as the new day began. About 40 riders took the start this year. Last year the darkness hung on forever...this year light was dawning at the start, and by the cliff option of BarM it was daytime. I was surprised by the 500 foot cliffs a few feet to our right...I didn't even see that cliff last year. Bad place to pass.
We stuck with our plan, going pretty chill early, and at the end of Rockin A stopped to take lights and jackets off. On Circle O Lynda had a bottle mount failure and some other futzing had us motionless for quite some time. It seemed like 30 riders went by, but it didn't really matter cause we were just chill today, right? Sure.... Through all of our futzing about
Onward. Sovereign was fun and we were still just cruising along. We were settling in to an easy pace and enjoying it all. We rode with Marko quite a bit, that was pretty cool. Heading under 191 and towards 7 mile rim suddenly we had a view of 2 riders ahead. I didn't think anything of it cause I thought there were 20 or so riders in front of us...but Aaron Potts, who was with us, was certain that the 2 in front were the *only* riders in front of us. I was in disbelief, that just couldn't be right. But sure enough, counting tracks there were only 2 sets...and they were SSers, Chris Plesko and Steve Cook running big gears.
Red flag to a bull. Lynda will swear to her grave she was keeping a lid on it but she fired off the canons on that 7 mile rim climb and we were with Chris and Steve in short order. The lead group was a mishmash of 4 SSers and 2 gearies. We cruised nice and easy through the sand to Monitor/Merrimac. I chatted with Steve a bit about GLR and was really impressed by how strong he was riding. On the slickrock bit before 313 there was a stiff headwind. LWs 7 mile rim assualt got the juices flowing, and now the race was on. It became tactical. This group of 6 needed to be thinned before the long headwind section of 313 pavement...and it could not have worked any better. Heading up the pavement I looked back - and then there were 3. Lynda, Jeff and I worked together up to the Gemini turnoff and eveyone else quickly dissappeared.
The view from Arth's Rim was fab. It was the warmest part of the day and we all used a good bit of water in the previous hour or two...
It was just a joyride from there on. What can I say? We were feeling good, loving the SS and riding this race together, Jeff was great company, the views were off the charts. We'd ride froggy in some spots, totally chill in others - it's the SS way. There were times when Jeff could have easily rode away from us when we were spun out, but he never did. Maybe the froggy parts kept him in check - or maybe it was Lynda's smile he couldn't leave behind?
Earlier in the day I lost 2 bottles - they bounced out of my cages. That put a bit of a hurt on my fluid supply, and we all stopped at Gold Bar to take stock of our collective fluids. Jeff was down to near nothing, I was down to 60ish oz, LW had 75+. Yikes. Tough call for Jeff! I think he had a coke in there too, maybe that kept him alive. A pivotal spot in the ride, we all continued onwards.
The views from the top of Gold Bar are silly. The geography is immense, complex, corrugated, rippled, canyoned, mountainous. There were mandatory camera stops. Somewhere up there I looked back and didn't see Jeff. It had been a long time since I looked back and didn't know when or where he lost contact...near the beginning of blue dot I think?
Jeff was strong as a truck all day. It was bittersweet to lose him. Must have been more sweet than bitter cause we didn't wait ;)
In any case, now there were 2. The notion of finishing together at the front of the race had never crossed my mind as being possible, especially on SSs...and I was filled with emotion. Goose bumps. We picked up the pace a bit, and hit Poison Spider pretty hard. I had my biggest power values (under 30 seconds) on this stretch. Oh yea, did I mention we both rode with power taps?
Potash road. Would a geared rider reel us in? We spun our legs off down that road maintaining about 17 mph with the tailwind assist. We looked back occasionally...and saw no riders. Finally, we relaxed and hit the finish line, elated by an enormous route, enormous effort, a day of flow, a day of riding together.
Here's Lynda racing hard.
Since we are 2 Epic, we went into town shortly after the finish to load up for the next days adventure, a SS White Rim lap as the weekend's dessert. We are both still giddy from the weekend. We both know we can do these sorts of things individually, but to do them together? It's beyond previously conceived possibilities.