By Jason Tullous [You can see Jason's blog at http://jasontullous.wordpress.com/]
I made it and yes today was harder than Leadville. The problem is I have 3 more stages.
The start was actually very controlled with everyone aware of the day that lay ahead of them and the initial climb started 5km into the race. As the climb started, the “race” quickly became an adventure for me. I fell off the leaders pace and settled into my own pace. Twenty five minutes into the adventure and I was alone.
My first equipment failure came quickly as my glasses fell off my helmet and I smashed them into the earth with my 29er tires. The next hour was uneventful as I made my way to the Jungle.
I’ve heard stories of this section of the race and I can’t begin to describe it. Even if I could I would not do it justice. It’s something that must be experienced. I did have another equipment failure breaking my chain from all the water and mud. Five minutes and I was back on the bike only to have a sink hole swallow it up to the bottom bracket sending me flying over the bars. No injuries just some interesting body mechanics to retrieve the bike. As I exited the Jungle, my legs were done.
Watermelon and Pavement
Getting to Check point 3 was a huge goal. CTS had set up some support for us and I was fresh out of supplies. Plus that’s where the pavement section started. I grabbed some watermelon and drinks then started on my way to our longest climb of the day. It’s long but paved and that felt good. I started off feeling really good like a second wind. Then 45 minutes into the climb, my legs just ached for the top. After 1.5hrs, I crested the top.
This was the steepest descent I have encountered. Overall, it’s only an 8% grade but there were sections of 25-30%. I did hit 45mph somewhere on this mix of pavement and dirt. I had fun while it lasted but knew the bottom would come too quickly. Actually, I began to despise the short downhills to the river crossings because that only meant a sharp steep uphill would follow. Today was a lot of 50kph or 7kph.
The Hard part
The last long climb took forever like the time clock at work. I kept looking down at my odometer and the kilometers just didn’t want to disappear. Of course, my pace of 7kph was not helping. At one point , a local rider started to ride with me. He never spoke a word. He just rode beside me. I couldn’t speak. I cried a few times but no talking.
The punch in the face
As I came off the last climb, the course began to roll gently downhill. This was good and fired me up for the finish. I put in some good efforts and entered town. They routed us to some side streets and I could feel the finish coming soon. After a couple of right and left turns, I took another right turn to face the road changing to dirt. Ok, this is a MTB race. Then I looked up. It was a wall. I quickly shifted to the granny and ground out the hill pedal stroke by pedal stroke. My Garmin has me slowing to 1mph and I did see a 30% gradient on my Garmin. After looking at the file, it was a 26% for just over a minute. This was like a final punch to the face. The climb ended and then I was on the final downhill with some maneuvering through traffic and to the finish.
7 hrs 15 minutes 116km and 11688 feet of climbing