In my opinion, though, the weekend was a success.
For me and Shannon, just getting to Mesa Verde was a victory. This race is incredibly popular and registration sells out quickly in December. In 2010, Shannon and I had pre-registered, but we both succumbed to a vicious case of food poisoning the week before the race. We tried again for 2011, but my cancer treatment interfered with our racing plans. This year, once again, we added it to our race schedule way back in December and were both determined to not only get to the race, but to race well.
Here's how it went down from my perspective:
Friday we arrived to the venue for an easy pre-ride of the course. We rode really, really easy. So easy, in fact, that I tipped over on a ledgy section and have some fun, new bruises as proof. The course seemed less technical and bumpy than I remembered, but I would regret thinking that by my fourth race lap on the course. I had two busy and stressful days leading into the race, but race morning I woke up feeling rested, ready, and psyched to race.
We didn't know who our competition was, but I had seen on facebook (the source of all important information) that Jonathan Davis and Eszter Horyani were teaming up so we knew there would be some formidable competition. Additionally, there were over 400 teams and some 1700 racers all jammed onto a 16-mile singletrack course, so passing became an added element to the race.
Shannon raced the first lap and he turned in a respectable 1:17 although I counted 5 girls go out in front of me, Eszter included, so I knew I had some work to do.
Shannon's quads are still angry that he got to run the LeMans start
I went out hard and within a few minutes I could see two girls in front of me. I got around Eszter first and was following another girl when she blew a corner and came to a complete stop. It was easy to do, as the dry spring made the course especially loose and dusty. I was able to get around her and proceeded down the trail. A few moments later, she was on my wheel asking if she could get around. I thought about letting her, but the new, tougher racer in me reconsidered. I had just caught her and passed her. I was pretty sure I was riding faster, so I think I mumbled something, accelerated, and proceeded to drop her. Even though I had pre-ridden the course, a few turns and rocks caught me off guard. Additionally, I had to contend with a bunch of fast duo-male teams catching and passing this first lap. Slowing to allow guys to pass this first lap gave me extra sympathy for the solo riders who must have been passed a hundred times by team racers each lap. I finished my first lap passing four girls. The one girl I did not catch ended up being in a different team category.
Shannon chillin' with Dizzy between laps
My decent but not astoundingly impressive first lap put us in the lead and gave Shannon a little less than a 2-minute buffer on Jonathan and from here on out our race was pretty exciting. Shannon came in after his second lap right ahead of Jonathan so Eszter and I were jumping on our bikes and taking off for our second lap together. I knew I wanted to hit the singletrack first so I attacked right away and was able to gap Eszter pretty early in the lap. I ended up coming in with about the same gap as after my first lap and Shannon was off with Jonathan not far behind. This time, though, Jonathan would come in before Shannon. While everyone else was showing some fatigue and lap times were slowing, Jonathan kept putting down consistent 1:17 laps. Who does that???
Trying to pump Rib Cage
Photo courtesy: Wild Cat Studios
Smiling after one of my laps
So for lap 3 I was chasing once again. Just as I was starting to think that I wouldn't catch Eszter this time around, I saw her up ahead on the final climb of the lap. I attacked as hard as I could and passed her as we were cresting the climb. It was a pretty narrow spot and she could have easily stuck an elbow out or swerved in front of me to block me, but she did not. I rode the last downhill smooth, safe, and efficiently and then time trialed the final flat section to the timing tent. As I handed Shannon the baton (er, clothespin) I told him he only had seconds and to ride fast and smart. I know Shannon raced his very hardest, but that dang Jonathan put down another 1:17 and gave Eszter a 5-minute head-start going into what would be our final lap.
Sprinting to my bike for my 4th and final lap
I knew a five-minute gap would be difficult to close, but I enjoyed the chase and never gave up as I desperately passed what felt like a zillion solo racers who at this point had been riding in circles around Phil's World for eleven some hours and were probably pretty sick of being passed. Thank you everyone for appeasing my desperate pleas and allowing me to pass! In the end, I came up two minutes short.
The first time we saw each other all day (besides transitions)