“Expectations … and perspective. Have no expectations. Don’t expect a groomed surface, or to ride, that it is all downhill from here, or even that you are almost there. F all of that. Just be content that you are alone and you don’t need didly-squat. You can be right where you are and sleep, eat a warm meal, be warm, or fix any situation that comes your way. You have everything you need. You don’t need to be anywhere but the place you are right at any given moment. And enjoy that space. That space is rare … soak it up.” ~post race thoughts
I just helped Rebecca Rush power on her bike light when the countdown started. 3 – 2 – 1 and everyone exploded out into the frosty morning. And just like that there was a huge bottleneck. I saw T-Race go up and over the snow bank first. the racers in front of me decided to hike it. I kept my balance and powered over. Oh yea, I got skills.
The speed at which the big group rode together amazed me. I was expecting a slow roll out where everyone just settled into their own pace. I powered past Rebecca and she returned the favor. Wow, this was like a cross country race. My mind raced back to the 2009 world solo champs where Reba and I duked it out much the same way.
Soon the pace became reasonable and I took my turn plowing through the new layer of snow. The surface went from wind swept hard pack to rutted fresh powder and the pitch turned upward as we began the Chick Creek Climb. Everyone was stopping to let the air out of their tires and the field finally spread out … way out.
I held on as much as I could with the denial that I had the best tire pressure. That is until I spun out and started walking. As soon as I reached down to turn the presta-valve on my back tire Andrew Kulmatiski rode off up the hill as if he found magic tires with plenty of traction. I vowed to get the widest rim/tire combination for next year.
I succumb to the reality that I needed to walk the climb. By the time I got back on and stabilized two feet later I would spin out and jump back off. So I walked, mostly. I decided to try to let more air out. That is when Mike Barklow passed me. As he rode off I jumped back on and got a little farther before dismounting to walk.
Once on the Fish Creek trail it leveled out and I was able to get going again. Damn it was nice to be riding. And at a pretty good lick as well. Soon I caught up to Mike and passed him. Then the pitch turned downhill and I ripped down it with reckless abandon. Wouldn’t it be wild to crash out before the race even started? As I neared the first Checkpoint I started shivering. I made the decision that I was almost there and would throw something on there. But one should never assume that they are “almost there”. Right?
I knew I was close when JayP came by on a snowmobile and shouted some encouragement. I picked up the pace. Soon I passed some pink flamingos. I should of taken the flamingo sighting as a sign of disillusionment.
I Rolled into the trail side tent station at about mile 30 and looked down to my GPS. 4:20 elapsed time … funny. I felt relaxed and reveled in the thought that my first “break” was at 4:20. As I put my bike down and surveyed the station Jay told me that he needed me to boil water. Sounded simple enough.
As I pulled my coat out of my seat-bag Andrew rolled out. I started the break out by making a tactical error. On my hands were my smart wool liners. Inside my pogies they seemed nice and toasty but outside they chilled my hands instantly. I didn’t notice it until I tried to put my jet boil together. My thumbs seemed like frozen franks and I tried to turn the knob. Rebecca puled in and was ecstatic about how things were going. My stove lit and I put the pot on to boil.
Usually you can hear a jet boil but this one was silent. I pulled the pot away to discover the wind had blown out my weak flame. It was so cold my canister wasn’t pressurized to sustain a strong flame. Now my fingers were really cold and I started to shiver.
“Put on your puffy Bill”, Jay walked by. Wax on …. wax off I thought. I nodded.
I searched around for my lighter. It had fallen into the snow. I put it into my coat as well. Now I was shivering so badly that when I pulled the canister off to warm it the burner fell into the snow. Shit … I stood up and announced, “I’m out”.
And as quickly as my fleeting thought to bail I grabbed my puffy and ran up the hill out of view of everyone. I needed to calm down. Rebecca had boiled and now was out of there. I just needed to calm down … and to warm up. Somehow.
As soon as I pulled on my puffy and started to walk back down the hill my body started to warm up. Upon arriving at the aid station it seemed that everyone in the race was there scrambling to boil water. One guy had a jetboil with a ignition switch … why didn’t I think of that?
I tried to light mine with matches and failed again. The ignition strip on the side of the match box had finally succumb to old age. I put the entire stove into my jacket and ran up the hill again to warm things up.
I returned to the aid station and moved my little cobbled operation into a snowbank, out of the wind. I made a little snow cave and turned on the gas. Almost a hour after arriving … BOOF! The stove lit and I put water on to boil. And just like that I was back in the race.