Saturday's Park City Point 2 Point race was well organized, epic, brutal. To say it is one of the toughest (if not THE toughest) 1 day cycling races in existence would not be overstating. Many people, like me, signed up, trained and prepared for this event many months in advance. Hoping that all the physical and mental preparation would allow them to conquer a technical and long course through the resorts and an amazing network of trails in Park City, UT. 14,000 feet of climbing and over 78 miles of winding, rooty, rocky singletrack is enough to beat even the most advanced cyclists into submission. And it lived up to this expectation for me and for many others who came out early on Saturday morning.
Pesonally I felt I could certainly ride the distance, albeit slowly, what I didn't account for was my slothful consumption of fluid, a poor habit that typically yields body shut-down, delirium and apathy for the ride in which I'm participating.
I rode the first leg pretty well. Starting in the 8-9 hr group I was at the front for much of Round Valley riding the wheel of my friend Adam. We kept a decent pace which was actually enjoyable in the early morning coolness. Before heading to skid row I dropped my arm warmers and picked up a bottle for the long ride to Deer Valley. I made it through the aid station and then up again to do the BowHunter/Flagstaff loop and was back at 3hrs 49 min.
After picking up a bottle and heading out things started to go badly. Not drinking early and often has it's consequences. First the general pain of riding for so long sets in, then the aching of my ribs as I tried to breath. I kept riding. By the time I completed the lower part of John's 99 I knew it was serious. I started climbing back up to the Steps trail and I had to stop, the pain was too great. Another rider came by and encouraged me, telling me not to stop. I got back on soon after and started riding again. Up Steps I stopped at least 5 times and each time remounted and continued. The cramping had started and my steady granny gear pace was intersperced with moments of excruciating pain as my thighs, quads or calfs all began to spasm and cramp in turn. I would stop, strech, breath and remount. Miles caught me on Apex and following him helped me to get around Shadown lake. I started telling myself I just had to get down to the aid station and I could be done. I told myself I had no choice I had to make it.
The downhill was ok, if I positioned my legs properly so as to not cramp. However there's a brief road climb on the way to Crecent Mine Grade trail that really got me. Luckily Steve came by and gave me some electroyltes and Alleve to help stave off the cramps and pain. I remounted again and made it down to PCMR aid station. I was attended to by an amazing staff of teammates who provided, food, drink, encouragement, bike maintenance and cold water over the head. I felt revived. I don't know how long I was there, but it was at least 10 minutes, perhaps more. I was somewhat delirious. I knew I had to try to continue, I knew it was silly to come this far and not go for the finish.
So I was off again, with Adam in tow, who had also gone to that dark place of doubt, self-misery and irrational thought. Soon his pace was more than my dehydrated legs could handle and he was gone up Spiro. I struggled, dismounted on occasion, then remounted again. Each time in my mind I told myself I CAN!, I WILL! Determined, despite the pain, despite the frustation to continue riding until I collapsed or gave in to the pity and doubt and turned back. First I wanted to make it to mid-mountain trail, then to the re-route (which was horrible), then to the aid station on the Mid-Mountain. Dismounting there, while verbalizing my appreciation for their existance, I cramped again, luckily two volunteers were at my side and caught me in mid air as my right hamstring siezed and I began to fall. I would have ended up flat on my back had they not grabed me and my bike at the same time. I cannot express how amazing the volunteers were at this event. A couple of cups of coke, a swiss roll and fresh bottles and I was off again. Knowing I just needed to get past Red Pine lodge, up the last bigl climb and I would hit the LONG downhill back to the final, miserable short ascent before the final drop into The Canyons. I must have cramped and stop 20 more times between Red Pine and the finish line. But every time I thought I Can!, I Will! It was brutal, probably wouldn't have been as bad as it was had I been a more diligent about my water consumption. Live and learn right? It's taken 24 hrs to gain some persepective, to realize that yes, this race was very hard, but survivable. I know my time, my preparation, my speed can be improved. I know I will be back to prove to myself and those mountains that I can do better. I will ride it again! I Can! I Will!