Hey, third time's the charm, right? Sort of.
The main difficulty this year (before the race, anyway) was finding a crew. Well, that's because I just wasn't training enough for that to be a difficulty. I did a round-the-block two weeks before with Allan and Peter, and was hurting a lot the last 30 miles. Not good, if there's another 100 miles to go. But now I will explain about he crew thing. Peter, my most excellent crew from last year, was intending to ride this year, and looking for a crew of his own. My first year's crew, Robin and Mike, were just getting back from Chicago and going drag racing, respectively. Sarah Shier was even coming up from Farmington to the race, and luckily bringing her own support. Dad wanted to go to a friend's Navy Reserve retirement. Of course I have no girlfriend to hand me food while I'm drooling along. Super Dave says it's better this way - he got our friend Jim roped in fairly early. I even got my hotel reservation in early enough to get a room in Logan proper (okay, I did that last year too) but I did not nail down a support person until noon Thursday, two days before the race. Dave Weatherston, who had disappointed me three weeks earlier with his announcement that he didn't feel good enough to race, said he knew how important a crew was, and I didn't even have to talk him into it. Then Peter - who had also been looking for a crew - bailed, suddenly realizing he had do work some more. Sarah was staying with her dad's Rice roomie, who just happens to live in Logan. Look, no more worries!
Dave and I leisurely cruise down to the Super 8 Friday night. Jim and Super Dave have not arrived when we get there at 10. Nobody answers at Sarah's supposed accomodation. Super Dave said he had to eat some more, and Sarah was out at dinner as well. Fine. I'll just watch some HBO and go to bed around eleven.
At one the fire alarm goes off. It wasn't really that intrusive - okay, it woke me up, but it didn't make me want to get the hell out of there. I'm not sure Dave woke up. So I waited for it to either shut off or the room to go up in flames. It shut off. The rest of the night was not especially restful either, as I kept getting up to check my unlighted watch at the window - what time is it now? am I oversleeping? those trucks going by on the highway sure are noisy. By 5:45 I couldn't take it any more and was actually up before the 6:00 wakeup. In time for a visit from Super Dave, who conveyed the surprising information that it was pretty warm outside. Woo hoo, no butt-freezing this year!
Sure enough, as we stepped outside, it was between 45 and 50. I would get to use my new kneewarmers, and not my legwarmers. Got to the start, picked up my packet, started looking around for Sarah, found her, was trying to coordinate all the crews together and had very little time to put biking clothes on and wait at the start line. 1-2s went off at 6:45, supposedly neutral until they got out of town away from stoplights. Everyone else was warned not to run any of the lights. Then 3s at 6:50 - the masters (Super Dave included) were supposed to ride with them, but for some unknown reason got switched to the 4-5-W start of 6:55. Sarah was here in this group too, having gotten a short-term license after all. I didn't see the 1-2s or 3s start, but I think there were no more than 10-15 in each group.
There we are, 4s, 5s, masters, women - it's a pretty large group. Quite early a group of about seven runs a red light and begins chasing the 3s. I am at the back, rejoicing with Super Dave in the relative warmth and telling Sarah that it doesn't usually start out this fast - we're cruising at 25-26, chasing the bad people who ran the light.
By the time of the first little climb, I figure I don't want to be at the back, and move up. Everyone gets strung out a bit, and I happen to end up in a group of around 15-20. At the front. No Dave, no Sarah. I do see Craig and Manx from Pocatello, who have been putting in 150-mile training rides. There are several of the fast masters here, who were pissed about having to start with the 4-5s (why didn't they race 3s then?) and also pissed at the people who ran the light. We hammer for a while, I'm barely hanging on up the hills, then it's a little flat at 30 miles. A couple masters really take off, and we follow them, and a couple miles later we have caught the 3s and 4-5-W who ran the light. This group is now about 35-40, and zipping along quite well. At 35 miles, my left contact migrates into the inside corner of my eye, where it will remain for the duration. Bye-bye, depth perception.
The first feed zone, at 66 miles, is successful in that I don't crash (like one guy I saw) but I have to chase back on a bit. After Soda Springs, which features a nice 3-inch-deep gravel pit in one lane of the under-construction road, it's a battle to hang on. I get gapped several times, but manage to grab back on, usually pulling several others along. At around 100, I get dropped pretty good, work with two others for a while, get back at 110 just in time to get dropped for good from that group. Craig had been napping on my wheel, and tries to pull me back up there, but I am toast. And look, here's Tin Cup coming up. I ride through the pre-Tin Cup feed zone just in front of a guy from Durango and we ease up the climb together. Near the top we are caught by two guys, who want to work together on the descent. My legs feel like they will cramp hard at any moment, especially if I try to push on the descent. But I provide a windbreak on the steeper part, and drift backward on the less steep parts. I have a couple pop-tarts, and feel better after a bit.
At the bottom of the descent I am caught by a group of 10, including Mr. Durango. We work pretty well in a rotating paceline until the next feed zone at 141 miles, where I begin to drift off the back again. At least the wind is a cross rather than headwind in this section, as it was the past two years. But the group is going 28-30, and I was toast 40 miles ago. At the turn up the Snake River canyon in Alpine I decide to let them go, and am joined in this decision by Paul from SLC. He rides for EDC, a Utah team I might join next year (also Allan's team). We cruise slowly up the canyon, and are joined from behind by some guy who had flatted, and then catch Mr. Durango. Then we sort of work together until the Astoria Hot Springs feed at 177, where Mr. Durango takes off as I wait for Paul to stop and remove his leg warmers. The three of us grind into Jackson.
Only ten miles to go. We take the turn towards Teton Pass, and now I'm really hurting. Ow. I drop off at the turn to Teton Village, five miles to go. Slowly by myself now, except for a tandem that zooms by towing a wheelsucker. I cross the finish line, and look at the clock there in disbelief. It says 9:04', which subtracting 10 minutes for my start after the 1-2s and 3s, means I still finished in under 9 hours. A full hour faster than both my previous times.
I get a lucite finisher's award. I see Allan - he says he sucked wheel on a tandem for 150 miles. Also, the record of 8:02' was broken by more than 30 minutes. Yow. Craig says he got third (in 4-5s) despite being dropped before Tin Cup, and Manx got 5th. The winning 4-5 stayed with the 3s, with a time of 8:20', winning 3s time was 8:25'. One master attacked the 3s (I saw him go when I was still there) and finished in 8:12'. Three 1-2s finished together, the winner of the sprint clocking a 7:26'. Most of these times I find out at the awards ceremony on Sunday. My official time was 8:55'55", by the way, in 17th place among the 4-5s field of 35. Super Dave hung out with a shrinking group that ditched him in the final sprint, but still finished in 9:24'. As for Sarah, she made the mistake of getting off her bike after 150 miles, and then her back locked up and she had to bum a ride to the next feed zone.
We grab some cookies at the finish line, then nap while out support crews drive us home. After a dip in the fairly-warm-tub at Peter's and a filling, if bland, Mexican-restaurant meal, it's time for a well-deserved rest. Sarah and Jenny, her crew, crash on the spare beds at my house, then take off for Farmington in the morning as I head over to Teton Village with Super Dave.
The overall winner got $400 plus $1000 in ones for breaking the record, but as you might expect, I didn't get any actual cash or prizes for 17th place. I did leap for and then out-paper-scissors-rocked the guy next to me to get a purple Trek T-shirt featuring a yellow Y-bike (it says "Yes" on the back, you see). Then I let him jump solo for the keychains like I got last year. Oh well.
Thus endeth another season of racing, for there is no Banzai this year. Sarah says there are still plenty of races around New Mexico, but that's a far drive and besides, this is my time to take a break from riding.