I sat down to write my Park City Point 2 Point race report about 6 times last over the weekend, but couldn't get myself to write anything down. I guess it's because I've been in conflict about the race ever since it ended, and I'm still having trouble figuring it all out. The race was awesome, but when it comes to racing, I can get a bit greedy. Or delusional is probably a better word. I had a good time. I had a good finish. Overall, I thought I actually felt better this year than last. But I had a goal finish time in mind (8:30, in case you were wondering), and I didn't make it, so I've been trying to justify why that is. Certainly it can't possibly be due to the fact that I'm just not fast enough, right?
I lined up with the 8-9 hour racers after briefly contemplating lining up at the back of the sub 8's. I'm not sure why I entertained the idea of a racing with those guys, since one of my main focuses was to start out slower this year in hopes of having something left at the end. We started around Round Valley, which is filled with fun, flowy, fast trails. I tried slowing down, but the pressure of staying with the group was strong. I'd let the group gap me on the climbs (and let everyone behind me know that they were free to pass me whenever) and catch them on the descents, so I figure I saved a bit of energy there.
Skid row and Lost Prospector were awesome. If only the entire course could have been on Round Valley, Skid Row, and Lost Prospector. It reminded me of a casual lunch ride. Adam, Keith, Jesse, and I rode it in a paceline. I even got to see Bagley dusting himself off after a crash, just like during lunch rides (sorry Bags, I couldn't help myself). All we needed is Sunderlage pushing the pace at the front.
We made it to Deer Crest and Adam formed a gap. I considered going with him, but thought better of it. Jesse and I rode the little micro-loop before Silver Lake 1 aid station, and he says to me "hey Aaron, does this look familiar?" Hahahaha... that one will never get old (turns out I skipped it last year).
I felt pretty good going up the steep climb out of Silver Lake 1 with Lynda...
... good all the way up till I heard the dreaded hissssss of a flat tire. Somehow, while traveling at a max speed of 3 mph up that climb, I slashed my tread. Fortunately, a few days beforehand Keith had added about a half-gallon of Stans to my tire. The weight weenie in me thought "dang, that's going to add 1.56 seconds to my climb out of Silver Lake." Turns out it saved me more like 10 minutes, because I was able to get the tire to seal after a minute or so. As I did so, I dreaded watching my energy go to waste as people I recently passed rode by me. As if it really matters in an 80 mile race.
I caught up to the group on the Flagstaff Loop and made a quick sprint to make sure I was leading the DH. Over the past 2 years, I've ridden it 17 times (mostly during the Perfect 10 race a couple years back), so I was confident I could rip it. And not to toot my own horn, but I did (rip it). Toot toot.
I flew through Silver Lake 2 aid station, thanks to the Mad Doggers being there to help me out (they didn't shun me for wearing a Racer's jersey) and soon found myself completely alone. The nice part about being alone was that I was able to ride T&G and John's completely at my own pace. Oh, the other good part is that nobody heard me cussing about how bad I hate John's trail, and that nobody saw me while I stood on the side of the trail for a pee break.
Speaking of John's trail, I don't think I've ever been on a descent that I wanted to end more badly than John's. And calling John's a "descent" might be a stretch, since I'm still not convinced it actually loses any elevation.
Anyway, I actually felt pretty good all the way up Steps. Good enough that I thought I had a chance to get back on track to come close to an 8:30 finish. And then, just as I started on the Shadow Lake Loop, the cramps came on. I popped a few Endurolytes and drank the rest of my water bottles (queue ominous music now) and resorted to soft pedalling the loop, which I'm pretty sure gets 1/4 mile longer every time I ride it.
The descent was fast, fun and thirsty. Or maybe it was me that was thirsty. Either way, by the time I rode into the PCMR aid station, I was parched, and looked as if I was about to fall off of my bike:
I was so dehydrated, in fact, that I wasn't even able to fight off getting dry-humped by the gilly.
If you can get past the dry-humping, you'll also notice in the previous picture that I'm wearing a pretty warm base layer. I'm wearing this despite the fact that it was hot has hades out there. So why didn't I take it off? (I'm sure you're dying to know). Because it goes against my endurance racing mantra, which is "keep pedaling, dammit!" I may not do a lot of things well on a bike. I don't have bursts of speed up steep hills. I can't do wheelies or do cool tricks. All I got is the ability to continue pedaling when all logic and reason tells me to stop. This can be a good and a bad thing.
There must have been a 20 times on Saturday when I thought to myself: just stop. Just long enough to take off this blasted base layer. Just long enough to take another pee break. Just long enough to sit down for a bit. Just long enough to oil my squeaky chain. But I didn't stop. Because it goes against my mantra. Even if I'd be better off over the long haul stopping for a minute, I continue to pedal. And despite the downsides of pedalling when I'd often be better off stopping, my mantra did get me out of that PCMR aid station. I wanted to stop so bad, but I knew if I did, I might not ever start again. So I hopped on and kept going, albeit slow as snot.
I battled cramps and stomach issues on the Spiro climb. I'm not sure if my stomach issues were due to the water I drank at PCMR, the Electrolytes, or the unsatisfactory consistency of my poop that I reported on last week, but my stomach got bad. And then, my mantra kept me riding on a nearly flat tire for a while, because the slit it my rear tire started leaking again. Once I was riding on my rim, I finally got off and shot it with some air. Joel Z and I rode together for a while, and if a course is tough enough to bring a guy like Joel to his knees, well, you know it's pretty brutal.
I was struggling, but I knew that the mid-mountain trail was fortunately just around the bend, and last year, the mid-mountain trail gave me wings and I hoped for the same this year. But alas, the mid mountain trail isn't what it used to be, and the new rerouted section sucked every last bit of life out of me. The funny thing (or maybe not so funny thing) is that when I pre-rode this section last week, I thought to myself "what is everyone complaining about? This new section is fun!" Turns out, pre-riding != racing (some geeky computer programing notation for you). By the time I started climbing out of mid-mountain, I was toast. But I wasn't the only one. I saw a long line of nearly-dead, hollow riders from mid-mountain to the Canyons.
You probably know the rest. Awesome DH into the Canyons, one last annoying climb, and then I was done. Finally. It was cool to hear the cheers of the crowd as I rode through the finish line. Felt like a big shot for about 10 seconds. And then I came super close to passing out at the finish line at around 8:50. 43rd overall, 7th in category.
In addition to being an awesome course, the P2P is full of treachery, deceit and guile (which are all just synonyms for each other, but worth repeating 3 times). The first 20-25 miles are so relatively easy, and you feel so good that you think you can hammer, so most people do. But what you forget is that the race doesn't even start (for all practical purposes) until after you pass Silver Lake the 2nd time. Looking at the split times is interesting to me - the finishing times are much more closely correlated to the second split than the first.
I find the comparisons from this year to last year both fascinating and frustrating, so I'll bore you with some facts. I rolled into the PCMR aid station at almost the exact same time (6:11) both years. So I figure that I was riding a bit faster this year considering that a) I didn't skip a 3-4 minute section of the course like last year; and b) the climb up Big Bear takes 3-4 minutes longer than last year's route (up Tour de Suds). This year, I climbed Spiro 2 minutes faster than last year, even with the cramping, stomach issues and flat tire (yeah, I bonked hard on Spiro last year). But last year, I covered mid-mountain to the finish more than 10 minutes faster than this year. I figure I lost a couple minutes due to stopping at the aid station for water (which I skipped last year), but the rest came from the new reroute and simply from going slower.
I look at the times of the fastest finishers and am amazed at their ability to maintain speed for such long periods of time. I did all I could to keep something in the tank for the finishing stretch, but came up a bit empty. But still, I'm happy I raced, happy with my finish, and happy to mix it up with so many rad dudes. Yeah that's right, you're totally rad.
Alright, now that I've bored you with the details, a quick thanks again to Dave Dean, Kendra, and Mad Dog crew for taking their entire Saturday to help out at the aid stations, even if us racers are often too self absorbed and delirious to express gratitude during the actual race. Also thanks to the PCPP organizers for putting on a top notch race that other races should aspire to, and for comp'ing my entry fee by giving me a pair of Smith Sunglasses in the raffle.
Till next year? We'll see...