2012 Everest Challenge day 2
At sign in Sunday morning the Saturday results were all messed up. The time they had for me was about three hours slow. Ken’s time and placing were wrong as well. Ken and I discussed the results with the organizer and got them more or less straightened out, although the results showed someone four seconds ahead of me while I don’t remember seeing anyone at all. But I had been feeling pretty bad so maybe I missed him.
Sunday’s race started out a little easier than Saturday but I still let a bunch of riders go up the road, following my plan again. But I kept my pace up, trying to catch some guys that weren’t too far up the road. I’d almost made contact with a small group at the turnaround. I went fast on the descent and soon had passed all of them. This descent is fast (I hit 52 mph) and has a big drop off on one side… what rock climbers call “exposure”. The first couple times I did this race, the descent down Glacier Lodge freaked me out, and I’m pretty comfortable on mountain roads. But this time I was so focused on catching Claudio that I didn’t even see the drop off.
My back and arms hurt after a few minutes of being tucked in but I told myself that I only had one more descent to do after this one and I could handle a little pain. I caught a few more guys from my field on the descent.
When we got to where the road leveled out some I could see some guys on my wheel. It turned out to be a group of six or so. I hadn’t dropped them like I’d hoped, or caught Claudio, but at least I’d done a fast descent. We worked together on the few flat miles back to the start and the start of the next climb. Ken told me that now he knew how I’d gotten away on the second descent on Saturday- I was a fast descender. In some past ECs I’ve been slow on descents so I was pleased to hear that.
I timed things so I’d be at the front when we went past the car so I could get bottles and food from Laura without getting dropped from the group. But when I got to the car, parked on the wrong side of the road, she wasn’t there. She was standing on the right side of the road but now the group was between us so I had to wait for them all to pass. Then it took a while to get my stuff and I dithered about what food I wanted so by the time I got going there was a 200 meter gap to the group.
I didn’t want to burn a match getting back to them so I tried to gradually close the gap. I got about halfway and caught a guy in a black jersey who’d also dropped off. He sat in, which was fine. But when I moved over and wiggled my elbow to ask him to come through and work, he sat there. I tried a couple times and he was determined to sit on my wheel. This was annoying but didn’t really hurt me since we were climbing a shallow grade and there wasn’t much wind.
But I still didn’t want to give this guy a free ride. I put in a little effort and he stuck with me, and when I slowed he decided to surge to bridge the gap to the group. I wised up and let him go so I could stay at tempo but I was pissed.
I could see that I was slowly catching the group, and after a while I found that they were slowing very slightly, so I could ease off and still catch them. It took a half hour or so but I finally made it back. Black jersey was struggling a bit at the back so instead of slowing down and sitting in I went to the front and did the same power I’d been doing to catch the group. I wanted to make sure black jersey was good and dropped to pay him back for fucking around with me.
It worked but I also found that I’d gapped the group. I kept going- it was a pace that wasn’t too hard. The turn around was farther up than it was supposed to be. I was still feeling good when I hit it and saw that two guys from the group were about half a minute behind me.
I did a fast descent again. Around one blind turn there was a private support car whose driver had stupidly decided to turn around in the middle of the road. Fortunately his car was small and there was just enough room to shoot by, but I said a couple bad words. This particular car, a small red Fiat, was a problem all weekend, repeatedly getting in the way. I wish they’d enforce the no private support car rules more strictly. We always follow the rules so we’re not in the way of the race.
The last 6000′ climb has a long section at the beginning that goes up a steep climb with endless 9-12% rollers. There’s never more than 30 meters without a grade change, making it difficult to get into a rhythm. This time it was also really hot. I started fading on this climb. By the 6000′ aid station I was hurting, literally- besides being low on power my right foot hurt. I stopped for a moment to fish some Endurolytes out of my jersey, as I didn’t think I could do it on the climb and not fall over.
Not long after Ken and another guy passed me. I knew I couldn’t match their pace but I thought I was still in the top 10. When I got to where Laura was parked I had to climb into the van to sit down while I took my right shoe off to rearrange my sock and get some blood back into my foot. I got some food and water and set of for the last push to the top.
I was still slow though. People were passing me rather than the other way around. A guy from the 45s with a camelback and a girl from UCSD. I stopped again after she dropped me. I felt totally dead and discouraged. I wanted to stop so bad. But I pressed on. Then a guy from my field caught me. He looked terrible- all over his bike, struggling to turn the pedals over, and when he sat down he just collapsed on to the saddle. I thought to myself that I must really be awful if someone who looks that cooked can drop me.
But something about seeing this guy struggling so hard fired me up. Or maybe something I ate kicked in. But I found I could make some power after all. I passed him and started feeling a little better.
By this time were were into the brutal final kms of the White Mountains climb which has a lot of pitches over 10%. I was wishing for a gear lower than 34×30 but now that I was feeling a little better I was able to turn the pedals at more than 50 rpm, which helped.
I rounded the “I’m going to make it” corner where the grade gets just a little easier, and thought that I could probably finish.
A couple km from the finish I caught my friend Leslie. I tried to say something to her but nothing came out. About 500m from the finish she caught me and said “let’s finish strong” and stepped up the pace. I tried but couldn’t stick with her.
At the finish I nearly fell off but I turned around so I could make sure the officials recorded me. I didn’t want all that effort to be wasted.
At the finish line aid station my teammate Kevin was sitting in a chair. I rolled up and he told me I looked terrible, then took my bike from me and helped me to a chair and got me some water.
My hamstrings were so beat that it really hurt to sit down.
After a while I felt a little less bad and was contemplating riding down but didn’t think I could make the small climbs on the way. I spotted Kim, who was doing photography for the race, and who had a rack on her car, and begged a ride. Ken, who’d broke a spoke at the finish, also got a ride.
On the way down Laura passed us driving up. She didn’t see me in the car so poor Kim had to drive back up to the finish to unload me. Then when we were driving down we saw Ken’s support van coming up, so she had to do the same thing for him.
In the end I finished 8th again for 8th over all. My goal was a top 10 so I’m pleased but I could have done better- I figure I lost at least 15 minutes each day. With the changes in the course (day 1 is run backwards now, skipping one trip across the valley) it’s hard to compare times, but I feel that I have done significantly better in the past.
So what went wrong?
I just didn’t eat enough. I had a food plan for day 1 and got behind in my eating, mostly because food became unpalatable after a while.
I’m going to have to figure out a better way to get calories for next year.