FYI - the photos here are cut off a bit. Sorting thru the issue but you can catch the same read at www.grippedracing.com
The lightning gave way to hail just past 8,000' with 20 miles left in
the race. At first it seemed novel, I'd never raced through hail
before. But it hurt. 20 minutes later when the hail turned to driving
rain and the course turned downhill, 'novel' gave way to 'intense'. The
2012 Bailey Hundo was delivering heavy on the "Epic" scale.
had no expectations for this race. I'd never raced at altitude before
and this would be the longest day in the saddle for me this season. To
prepare I got to Denver a week early and stayed with "24 Solo" star Nick
still doing well in the Tri-scene even amidst the tough, uber-fit crowd
from Boulder. Nick took me riding up Lookout Mountain in Golden, the
legs felt great but I could feel the lack of O2 in my lungs as expected.
Nick stayed on the road while I took a trail down the mountain and met
one of the locals.
As part of my acclimation process I spent a day riding above Colorado Springs with 2x Olympian and World Champion Alison Dunlap.
always good to see Al and now she's a Mom with little Emmit keeping her
busy. Her husband Greg, also a super-fit rider couldn't join as he was
busy managing things at SRM. A true cycling-family. We rode from her
house in Colorado Springs up into the hills close to what is now an
inferno. It had been years since I rode with Al and she's still fit,
still fast and her technical skills are amazing. I had a few 'hold my
breath' moments descending through some tight little rock chutes. Al
rips. Check out her riding camps - www.alisondunlap.com
sunset on the drive back to Denver was amazing - tho a bit of
foreshadowing. Considering this was taken as I drove past the Air Force
academy that is now threatened by flames, this could be a sunset, could
be a wildfire.
took a couple days off and then it was time to drive to Bailey &
set up camp. This event has huge potential as they have a great finish
area with camping next to a gorgeous trout stream. My tent was about 6'
away from the cool water and I wished I had a fly rod. Nearby is Bailey,
a tiny town along the side of route 285 at the mouth of the Pike
National Forest - better known as "South Park". In town they had Bailey
Day complete with a contest for best pony tail and mullet, so we heard.
day would start early - 4am to start breakfast. The race would begin at
6. The temps were in the 30's. I was freezing cold but felt lean and
State Senator Mark Scheffel got it started with a shotgun blast. Old school, wild west style.
the pain of last years' SM100 still in mind I played my cards very
conservatively this day. Started out slow amidst the 'Mens Pro' field
(I'm far from a Pro, not sure who put me there). I let a lot of folks
pass me on the first few climbs then settled in and began passing them
back. This was the first climb, shot by Nick who leapfrogged around the
course to cheer me on and take photos before volunteering at Aid 8.
knowledge is everything and had I known better I would have pushed more
to get ahead before the amazing single track began. There was almost no
room to pass and clearly there were some folks in front of me who don't
like to go downhill like I do, even through blinding dust and a
brilliant sunrise. I patiently waited to pass and sometimes guys would
just pull over and let me by. Have to say the people were great, super
polite and everyone seemed stoked. Nick caught me eating a little
was absolutely loving my new Flash 29'r hard tail. It was my first real
mtb ride on it and it was blazing. Huge thanks to Cannondale for the
think this was near Aid 3, I never even saw Nick but heard someone
cheering for me as I continued to make up ground. The course went
through a forest burned back in the 90's - and it never grew back. It
was a surreal landscape making one feel they were at 10,000' but luckily
for me it was only about 7k.
was ahead of schedule and Nick missed me at Aid 5. I was busy having an
absolutely amazing day out, feeling no pain and dancing on the pedals. I
got emotional. After so many races gone bad, this was going good.
Really good. The bike and I were one, flying over, around, back and
forth, faster and faster. No one was ahead of me. No one was even in
sight. I looked down the valley and it seemed to go on forever. I
smiled, a tear swept back across my cheek. I was so alive in that
moment. Then I washed out on a corner and hit the deck pretty hard. Ok
Mr. Emo, pull it together and stay focused. Little did I know the dance
would soon turn to a waltze, then a shuffle, they a crawl. After 20
minutes of the most amazing downhill I reached the switchbacks above,
literally above, aid 6. Not a place to make a mistake. I grabbed my drop
bag, refueled and set out on the refreshing road section complete with
tail wind, then the course went back onto dirt roads and shot straight
up. Here was where the race began or for a few, ended. Scroll back up -
this was the "HELLA STEEP" part. Yes it hurt but I just felt great and
made a point to keep passing the carrots ahead of me.
I spent less
than 2 minutes at aid 8 visiting with Nick, he was really excited and
got me rolling again quick but the sky ahead was dark and rumbling. "Do
you need anything else?" he asked as I left, "I need it to not rain on
me" I said. Soon after the hail began.
I had about 20 miles left. I
passed the mountain top aid station knowing if I stopped moving I'd
freeze. Although the thought of descending through the piles of hail
stones and puddles for 2,000' wasn't warming me up either. There was a
guy chasing me down - perfect motivation to keep pressing forward. When
the climb ended at 8,247' I smiled, "I got this" I thought and tucked
in. I was taking big risks on the loose fire road and figured maybe I
shouldn't apex the corners so much since the roads were not blocked off
to traffic. Seconds later I narrowly missed a massive 4x4 around a blind
right hander. The guy chasing behind me was totally out of sight and
while 'sight' was very limited I knew a crash at 47mph would wreck the
day and any chance at a good result. I was freezing but the end was
somewhere close. Had to be. The road leveled out and I saw the final aid
station. As I rolled past I asked "How far from here?" and a volunteer
yelled back, "About 5 miles"
I hammered out of the saddle into
what I thought was the final climb. About 2 miles into it I saw a big
sign, "5 Miles to Finish!" That hurt. My last match was burning up
quick. The guy chasing appeared again, he was also out of the saddle
hammering. I kept at it. I'd be damned if I was going to give up a spot
now. More downhill and godammit more climbing. More downhill and the
valley floor. This was it. A mix of rain, sweat and tears poured from my
eyes. I was getting emotional again. 100 miles of amazing mountain
biking will do that to you.
I crossed the finish line a minute
over 8 hours. There was my team mate and good friend Jessica. I was so
cold I could hardly talk. She got me a blanket and let me curl up in the
back of her car & after about 30 minutes I stopped shivering and
made my way to the beer tent. I talked to Jess and other finishers,
everyone was very stoked. Nick finally showed up and I got into warm
clothing. We left for Denver and a big pasta dinner near Nick's place.
There was a great band playing some funky hillbilly fusion and I was, in
every sense of the word, stoked.
predicted I didn't make the top 10 (came in 13th in Pro) but I did make
the Top 10 for Fundraisers (6th)! Top 20 are in the photo.
Thanks to the race promoters
and other racers for such a great event. Thanks to all those who
donated in my name. Thanks Alison and Nick. And a sincere thank you to
Lucas McCain who got this ball rolling. Sorry we didn't get to race
together my friend - but I hope you'll join me when I return to this
amazing event next year! Cheers,
Thanks for reading.