As Fred W and I stood waiting for the start of Old Pueblo this year he was telling me about a different epic ride a month later in Moab. It was hard to think of doing the RimRide 2 minutes before starting a 24 hour effort...all I could think was the timing was bad, I really needed to be in a good training groove at this time. That is pretty much what I had been thinking all along, until about 4 days before the event. But, I knew I'd cave in...how much sense does it make to pass up an epic event for the sake of training anyway? Yea, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed sometimes, but eventually I come to my senses. And holy muther, what an event it turned out to be.
Springtime came early this year. March up to a few days ago has been unusually warm and dry. Well, that changed in a hurry. The weather gods knew there was a race to be held in Moab so sent the clouds and storms to Moab - desert and drought notwithstanding.
But hey, what's a little rain in the desert? It just makes the sand more rideable, right? Yea, that's what we thought at Moab 24 last year too :)
Food: let's see...in my platypus bladder (100 oz) I had 7 scoops of drip and 2 packs of eFuel plus a few enduralytes. In pockets, plenty of eGel, mini-snickers (my new favorite), 3 bananas, and 4 organic Ostrich sticks stuffed in the elastic of my shorts. In total I had about 4500 calories with me. I expected a 10 hour ride but planned for 12 just to be safe.
I shared a hotel for the weekend with Adam and the Holleys. Adam had done his scouting and after some time wrestling inner demons was excited to get going.
Chris wasn't stressed at all as he and KC weren't really planning to ride the whole thing. They were doing Porc rim and Flat pass the next day so were going to save some legs for those.
Meet Tex. Tex loves people, and really likes to burrow under your covers at 3am ;)
KC and Chris were rippin last year at the E100 12 hour, almost winning the overall.
Back to the race start. Checking in with Jenna. Henry Horrocks there in the blue/orange kit. He was super strong on his single, but one of the hypothermia victims of the day.
Fred W the man, Adam's bike, and my GPS.
So, race details. Off we went up the paved bikepath with a neutral start until Fred said "go." Nobody was willing to go any faster than our conversational pace...so I just had to go. It was a fool's folly as I knew I'd get lost. Anyway, the sight of the lights behind me quickly faded, but there was an almost imperceptible hum of tire on pavement behind me. I look back and ask who's on my wheel. Yep, it was Sly as he had promised. No lights and traveling light, he was taking advantage of my light. "What's your fueling plan?" "I'm gonna eat when you eat." So we're cruising along, and my GPS wasn't set up quite right and I couldn't get it done riding, so I stopped. Hey, we're at the front, I have the only light, what's he gonna do? Leave me in the dark? Naaaa..."there's 4 guys coming up on us." At minute 15 of 600 it didn't seem relevant. I continued to fiddle, purposefully wasting time...changing clothes, taking a leak...shenanigans to be sure.
Rolling again. The other riders had caught us but we slipped away again. As we were cruising down a dirt road, we heard Fred yelling at us that we missed a turn. Doh! Backtracking through sandy washes in the early dawn, I decided to stick on Fred's wheel until 191. There were a lot of turns on the Sovereign trail and I just didn't trust my GPS or mapreading skills. Sly did a lot of yo-yoing off the front, but there were 5 of us that more or less stayed together to a bit past 191: myself, Fred, Henry Horrocks, Chris Peters, and Sly. The clay-mud hike-a-bikes were the great neutralizers and kept us all together.
Once we had passed 191, I was more comfortable with the upcoming navigation. It also was very obvious Sly was just cruising along. The pace wasn't enough to soften him up. If he was fresh at the end, I'd be in trouble...so the Seven mile canyon climb is where I upped the pace a bit. Well, after the really crappy muddy hike, that is. What would have been normally rideable was a hike with a 80 lb bike on my back. Yuk. I even said a bad word or two directed at my heavy ride, to which Henry told be to be nice unless I wanted to walk back. Good point!
From there on Sly and I rode at a good clip for a loooong time together. We chatted a little, but not much. He wasn't much for words so I put on the MP3, which dropped PE and upped the pace some more. All the better. Riding between Monitor/Merrimac was dreamy, and the subsequent slickrock was pretty cool too. We got a bit lost, cliffed out and had to backtrack. At one point I stopped to put lube on to stop the chainsuck, and to my surprise Sly stopped and waited for me.
Pretty soon we're at 313, cruising up that pavement into a headwind and steady rain. The weather was looking sooo ominous. Pretty soon we were descending Gemini bridges road in a very cold rain. It was hard to see as the glasses were a no-go most of the day and mud was in the eyes. There was an adventure race going on in the area which provided many slow moving targets...folks running and riding, all looking beat. We must have been at the back of the race.
After 20 minutes of this, I had myself a situation. My forearms were cold, hands numb and barely functional. I made the call to stop and put on drier, thicker gloves and a jacket. Thanks goodness I had them with me, otherwise it'd been ugly out there. It also meant I was now in chase mode. Sly wasn't showing any signs of slowing down...I had my work cut out for me. This was turning out to be quite the epic race. I wasn't too concerned as the end of these things is where I can really turn it on - and I was feeling great once I warmed up.
But, alas, between some bad luck and dumb mistakes, I never saw Sly again - before the finish that is. It didn't really matter though, cause the experience up on Gold Bar was priceless.
Shortly after the glove stop my right cleat got a bit loose. It'll stay put, right? wrong. The cleat fell out of the shoe. Finding those screws in the sand is some fun, let me tell ya. That was the first time that happened. It happened again before getting to Gold Bar, and they loosened up again on Poison Spider but held on for the finish.
Then on Gold Bar my chain broke. A day of chainsuck, mud and the like had taken it's toll. Just ask Henry how many times he got stalled out while I botched shifts ;) But still, I was feeling GREAT, no pain and riding strong. There was a lot of time left. If Sly was weakening at all, I'd catch him mechanicals or no. But then I really goofed. In my head, the route had us doing all of the blue dot trail, a techy, granny gear, routefinding challenge along the top. Very tricky, very slow, very scenic. Then I realized there were no tracks - I was breaking new ground since the last rain. At first dissapointed cause I figured Sly was lost or bonked somewhere, I got over it. Coming to the top of the Rim on the blue dot trail for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the scene spreading out below. Billowing mists were swirling up the canyon rim, obscuring the view below, and looked soft as if you could step out there into the softness. First I yelled. Then I busted out the camera, thinking of you.
The effort, the chase, the fatigue, the epic scene - they all combined into a poignant moment up there on Gold Bar Rim. It was one of those moments that happen once or twice a year with luck...and for the record, the type of moment that has never happened in a XC event. It's the kind of moment that validates the addiction.
OK, so maybe you can't see those pics through my eyes...but I hope you can. It was damn cool up there.
As it turns out, we were only supposed to do a small portion of the blue dot trail. I lost way too much time...but I didn't really care. The above scene wasn't part of the course, and if I'd have been on course I would have missed it. I rolled into the finish at 10 hours, right on schedule.
When all is said and done, the Rim Ride is an epic route. Mad props to anyone that towed the line, and moreso to those that finished. And Fred - my friend you've just created an instant classic. It inspires me to do something similar in Durango...