RACE DAY!!! On October 30th we work up around 4:30AM for the 6AM start. It was cold out – around freezing – and not expected to warm up for a while. I opted to dress fairly warm knowing that the first aid station would come about 40miles in at ~8:45AM and I could ditch layers there.
After some oatmeal, cold brew, and some Skratch hydration mix we were off to the start with Julia and Eric there to see us off (because they are the best of friends)!
We milled about at the start line (bathroom, snack, stay warm) and then, suddenly, it was 6AM and we were rolling! The first few miles were meant to be a neutral roll out, and we were relatively near the front spinning our legs to warm up. As we rolled out of town it actually starting getting colder which was rather unpleasant. I’d left my shoe covers on, but Paul had opted to take his off and his feet were very chilly! About 4 or so miles in there was a turn off and the front car surged a bit. We missed the surge and suddenly realized we had broken apart from the front group that was getting a nice draft from the car. We put down some serious power to try to catch up, but soon realized there was no way we were going to get to the front group. We eased back into it, with almost 200 miles to go, and settled in for the day.
For reasons unknown my Garmin bike computer didn’t want navigate this route. Although there was signage there was occasionally confusion about which was to go if you weren’t running navigation (which, to be fair, the organizers told everyone to do). I had RideWithGPS up, but not running, and Paul and I nearly missed a turn in the dark. Thankfully another rider helped us (and a couple others) get on the right path.
Eventually it started to get lighter which was incredible helpful for seeing those big ruts we’d been warned about. We’d successfully rolled over a few but both Paul and I hit one hard enough that we felt our rims hit (bad).
They were tricky because they were typically at the bottom of a downhill so you couldn’t always go full speed without making sure you weren’t going to bottom out. With a very up and down course (short, sharp climbs) this would eventually become very tiring.
But WOW! When the sun came up it was absolutely spectacular! And with it I found Karoline, a fellow BaseCamper who was also racing, and one of women from Boulder’s Ride or Die Collective I’d recently met who was doing the relay. It was fun to see some familiar faces!
And, after a lot of gravel, we even got a beautiful stretch of downhill pavement where we could really appreciate the sunrise!
Before too long both Paul and I were rolling into Aid Station 1 at mile 41. Layers were ditched, a bathroom stop was had (my only one the whole race), and then we were off again! I was feeling pretty darn good!
The next few miles were filled with excellent views and good gravel. There were ruts (LOTS of ruts) but we were slowly getting used to them. Some you could roll over, some you could bunny hop, and some you had to get off your bike and walk. The trick was knowing when to do which.
Mid-morning we actually biked through a group of para gliders, which was pretty wild. At times they were close enough to touch!
Shortly after this I found myself biking away from Paul. We weren’t planning to stay together, but for the first few hours we just happened to be keeping roughly the same speed. But suddenly I found him getting further behind me. I hoped he was okay, but knew we had our support crew if anything was wrong.
I hit aid station 2 at mile 75 and spent just a couple minutes grabbing some new water bottles and additional snacks. Feeling good, I didn’t stop to linger knowing a lot of time can be lost at aid stations. But about a minute after I left there was an unmarked turn, and myself and another rider both stopped to open up RideWithGPS to confirm the route (a good idea, but a couple minutes lost faffing about with tech).
After that I found myself cruising with a small group of 3 making some great time – trading leading (though not actually drafting because of the terrain) and bunny hopping rut after rut. Suddenly I found myself at the front of the group and staring down an extra muddy and wide rut. I didn’t want to lose the group and I thought maybe we could ride it. I went first and found the mud to be thick and wheel grabbing. I immediately lost my line and my speed and, in what felt like slow motion, tipped over into a giant pile of mud at the bottom of the rut. I assured the other three I was fine, picked my very muddy self up, ran up the hill, and got back on my bike.
Once cruising I felt both slightly sore and slightly stupid. I was covered in sticky wet mud on my left side and my power meter must have taken a small hit because it suddenly was reporting rather low looking numbers. No matter, keep on pedaling.
For the next several dozen miles I found myself on pretty flat gravel, mostly alone but occasionally passing folks (or being passed) here or there. On a particularly long stretch I was thrilled to a small sign proclaiming “100 miles – halfway!”. Not much later I rolled into aid station three at 114miles in.
I took a few extra minutes here, as planned, to get a bunch of extra food, refill water, and shake out a bit. I learned that Paul was having a very rough time and would likely be stopping his race when he arrived at this aid station. He was having shifting troubles, stomach troubles, and pain from his saddle. As I rolled out of the aid station I saw him coming in, and waved. I was very sad he was having to end his race early as he was doing so well.
From here we turned back towards the hills. This was to be the crux of the race with a couple short climbs and one particularly long and challenging one.
Happily, Paul and I had pre-rode a bunch of this on our June road trip so I had some familiar views and knew what was coming. Mentally that made a HUGE difference at some ~130 miles in.
I was excited to be at this point and still feeling generally pretty good all things considered. I knew I was probably not drinking quite enough, but I was managing to get most of my calories in. At mile 142 I hit the massive climb. As expected, I needed to walk. To give you a sense of the climb, here’s a clip from when Paul and I pre-rode it on an extremely hot day in June:
I had found this climb challenging back then, and we were maybe 25miles into our ride that day. I’d been pretty worried about how it would feel during the race. I biked up the first part, hit the steep section, and jumped off my bike. I knew it would be silly to try and pedal up because it would burn way too many matches for very slow gain. The first part of the walk felt okay as I headed into the shade. But the hill was longer than I remembered, and suddenly my very lightweight bike felt INCREDIBLY heavy. My steps started to get heavier and heavier. Where was the top!? How was I not there yet!? Was gravity increasing?!
Eventually I did reach the top, and having pre-ridden the course I knew I still had a couple ups and downs to go but it would eventually turn mostly downhill on gravel before hitting pavement just before the 4th aid station. Feeling a bit beaten, I happily hopped back on my bike and got ready to go again.
Except… it didn’t get better. The short uphills were ridable but felt more challenging than they looked. I was eager for every downhill but found ruts at the bottom of every one. With the course looking a lot like a bunch of Vs (think up and down, up and down, and up and down: VVVV) having to slow speed at the bottom for every rut and then muscle up every uphill was physically challenging and mentally exhausting. This was the hardest part of the day thus far. BUT, at mile 148 I saw the turn off for the viewpoint that I’d vowed to take. Looking for any excuse to change terrain I took the left and headed out. After a mile of rocky trail I found the end and the book I needed to tear a page out of:
THAT made me laugh. I stopped long enough to shoot some photos of the view.
Because it really was SPECTACULAR and such a welcome sight!
After this I finally hit the true downhill moving from gravel to rough pavement and eventually the fourth aid station at 154mi! I was SO happy to see my friends. As I pulled in Julia asked if Paul could have the Spring Energy Awesome Sauce I had set aside. “He says it’s the only thing keeping him going”. “Wait” I said, “I thought Paul was out?!”. No, apparently not! He had taken a long break at the 3rd aid station and decided to continue. I was THRILLED! After getting over my confusion I happily gave up the gel and continued on my way.
The sun was starting to set, but I knew there would be one final aid station where I could prep for the dark. And I was now officially past 155 miles which was the longest bike ride I’d ever done to date. I took off along the pavement feeling a bit better. I realized I was probably getting under fueled, and tried to work on finding something to eat. As I hit the gravel again I thought I saw Paul behind me. I even yelled and waved at him! We hit a short climb and then a long flat section. Certain that he’d soon catch me on the flat section after I waited to see him again. He got closer and closer and I turned around excited to talk to him about how he was doing. Just as he came up beside me I…. realized it was not Paul 🤦♀️ I wished the rider well and kept on pedaling to the final aid station at mile 172.
There I did, in fact, find Paul. Unfortunately, it was a Paul in quite a bit of pain. He had in fact continued on but had a VERY rough time between aid station 3 and 4. His sitz bones were SO painful he couldn’t even sit on his saddle and everything that had gone wrong prior to this point in the race had finally caught up. Nonetheless, he gamely helped me get my helmet light set up on my head as I grabbed an extra layer and prepared to head into the darkness.
I don’t have much to say about miles 172 to the end, except that it was very dark. In my brain I broke it up 4 sections of 5 miles. I turned on RideWithGPS and turned up the sound so I could hear the chimes from my pocket so I wouldn’t miss a turn. And then it was just me and the dark. I could see one light ahead of me, very tiny. I knew it was a rider but they never seemed to get further or closer. Other than that I didn’t see anyone except for some small glowing eyes off in the dark. The stars came out, and while it was cold I was warm enough.
I was definitely behind on food at this point, but I just kept pushing. Each set of five miles felt longer than the last, but I kept turning over the pedals. Keep going, keep going, keep going.
Finally, FINALLY, I saw my GPS hit 200 miles! I knew I was almost there. Suddenly there were cars, and I could hear noise! And then it was THERE – the finish line! I rolled through with so much relief and happiness. Over 200 miles complete – the longest ride I’d ever done! And just like that I was getting my finisher mug, and my friends and Paul were alongside me grabbing my bike, giving me a hand, warming me up. I was a bit shaky and definitely needed some food!
They brought me over to some picnic tables and sat me down to get me food and warm clothes.
I saw down and got to celebrate with a plate of food. And I learned that I had unofficially come in SECOND for the women. I was SO stoked! In a nearby tent they had a finisher’s sign set up and I got to take some photos (including some goofy ones with Paul).
At this point it was 9:45 PM and I was SPENT. Paul, Julia, and Eric were also pretty darn exhausted and we still had a 40min drive to our Airbnb. So we packed up and headed out. Julia drove Paul’s car with me in it (Paul and Eric went in his car) and I took full advantage of the heated seats and Julia’s extra layer she didn’t need. I was SO chilly! But after about 30minutes I finally warmed up and felt a bit more human.
We arrived at the Airbnb and it was lovely. Warm, bright, and with a big comfy bed. I took a much needed shower and with that, bed time!