Everest Challenge 2010
I think Saturday’s stage was the worst I’ve suffered, ever. I started out well- I made the split on the first climb and stuck with the lead group of 19 masters 45s until highway 395 (halfway up the first 6000′ climb). I didn’t put myself over the limit and I was comfortable at a good pace after that, going fast enough to catch some guys who got blown off the group. On the second climb I spotted my team-mate Bryan up the road and spent much of the climb reeling him in. Bryan’s a real fast descender so I tried to stick on his wheel on the descent, but he had to wait for me for a few seconds a couple times. We worked together on the flat 10 miles to the base of the last 6000′ climb. But Bryan’s a lot stronger on the flat so my pulls were slower than his and I was working hard to stay on his wheel.
As we made the turn onto the final climb I started feeling a bit off. Bryan got a gap and when he looked back I waved him on. As I climbed I started feeling bad…when I was seated my hamstrings kept getting these mini-cramps which I know means that I’m about to cramp up hard. When I stood my quads would do the same. Things got worse from there. By the steep part about halfway or so up the climb I was in my lowest gear going about 3.5 mph. I normally do this part in a higher gear and about twice as fast. I wanted to quit so much. To make matters worse, Laura hadn’t met me at the feed zone we’d agreed on. I was ok for water- since the weather was so hot the organizers were supplying extra water- but I was worried that the van had broken down. And I wanted a caffeinated gel.
Laura finally drove by me at the turnoff from 168. From there it’s about 3 miles to a small store which is the last legal spot for support vehicles. It’s not even very steep. But I was so slow there too. By this time guys from my race were passing me. I must have been a long ways ahead of the next rider when I started the climb because it took so long after I got slow for someone to catch me.
I finally got to the van, got off and told Laura I was done. I sat down in the van, loosened my shoes and asked for that caffeinated gel. But after a minute or so I realized that if I didn’t at least try to finish I’d be really pissed off. For an entire year. I’d have a failure rate over 50%. And I’d have to come back yet again. I really didn’t want to do that- at that point the race seemed like the stupidest thing in the world and I never ever wanted to do it again. So I got back on and wobbled up the road. More guys from my race passed me. I rode for a while with another guy who was suffering almost as much as me and then he left me too, like starving Antarctic explorers abandoning the weak. I was feeling a bit less bad after the caffeine hit and was able to get my heart rate up a little but it was still a long slow slog. By the time I got to the steep pitches at the end I was feeling good enough that if I kept going easy I could make it up. On the second one there was a guy giving pushes to riders. I didn’t want one- I had my rhythm, as slow as it was, and did not want to change anything. I tried to tell the guy no but that just made him push harder. The short speedup made my quads lock up. I screamed in pain and said some bad words. In fact I’d like to go back now and punch that guy in the nose. But I couldn’t stop, the road’s too steep and there’s no way to get going again. So I had to pedal through the cramps.
I finally made it to the finish with a terrible time- 7:54. I slumped over the bars for a while and finally found a place to put my bike. I got some food and spent a lot of time looking through the clothing brought to the summit for my teamate Barrett’s backpack which had my jacket in it. The heat wave meant that it was warm even at 10000′ and I didn’t need the jacket, I just wanted it and wasn’t thinking clearly. I finally gave up and went down after an hour (the backpack turned out to be in a car at the start).
Between the jacket, waiting for teamates and dealing with other teamates miscommunications about where to wait, it was a long time before we got back to the hotel and I could get out of my nasty clothes. Due to lots of other stuff going on in town the wait for food at the restaurant was over an hour, and my pasta was small and greasy. I didn’t have time to do any of my post-race recovery stuff- no stretching, massage with “the stick”, none of that. But I didn’t care too much as I was just going to ride to finish the next day.
But of course when I got to sign in for day two and saw that while I was 20th, the three guys ahead of me were within five minutes, I felt a little more competitive. The start was fast and I didn’t get any warmup so I was barely hanging in on the 20mph “neutral” start until we got to the climb. Then I rode easy until my legs started working and slowly ramped up the pace. Still not going hard and mostly intent on finishing, but I was racing. My legs didn’t hurt too bad but my butt did. My team shorts felt like they had a seam or something on the right side and it was quite uncomfortable. I caught some guys in my field near the top and tried to bomb the descent to get away but it didn’t work. I caught them all on the second climb though. Most of them came by on that descent too. I wasn’t descending fast because my back and arms hurt too much to stay in a tuck for long.
A the bottom I stopped at the car and got a fast bottle change, more food and Laura put a piece of tape on my bars which listed the race numbers of the three guys in front and behind me in the GC. Then she quietly said “number 254 is right across the road at his car… go”. 254 was 5 minutes up on me and knew I was close to him in the standings- he’d been kind of smug when passing me on the second climb, and I suspect he’d enjoyed catching me on the last climb of day one when I was suffering hard although I didn’t remember it. I certainly would have if I’d been catching someone who had cracked. He probably didn’t mean anything by it but I am not entirely immune to the competitive instinct and sometimes it does not take much to get me focused on beating someone.
On the last climb I caught and dropped all of the guys from the first climb except one guy who finished 5 min up on me. I caught some more guys from my field, and I didn’t fade. 254 didn’t catch me and finished well down for the day. Near the top I could see Bryan up ahead, and I caught him with about 400m to go. I didn’t want to pass Bryan but I tried to encourage him to go faster, and I wound up crossing the line 1 second ahead. Then the pain in my feet and my butt really hit me. The feet were ok once I stopped at the finish line aid station and sat down, but the butt was more of a problem, as in raw and bleeding. It’s still a problem as I am writing this on Tuesday.
5:35 isn’t that great for the second day for me, but given the circumstances it’s ok, and it was about as fast as I could go on that day. It was good enough for 11th out of 40 finishers and I ended up 17th overall. I don’t know how many started the second day but at sign in on Friday we had 72 in the masters 45s, which is about twice what there’s been in previous years. I’d like to crack the top 10 but I have to have a year without health issues and ride two days with perfect pacing and no mistakes like not eating enough or eating too much. The “ride my own pace” plan seems to work on day two for me, so I may try that on the first day next year rather than trying to make the split on the first climb. I probably should have eased up on the second climb when I was catching Bryan but I though that I’d catch him quicker and once I did that I’d be able to back off just a bit. And I’m pretty sure I did not eat enough in the latter parts of the first day. Next year perhaps I can make different mistakes. And use different shorts.