We set our alarms for 5AM to get up and get ready to head to the start line. I did not sleep well Saturday night. When I woke up I did not feel great or refreshed. I showered and went to get some breakfast in the kitchen. As I sat down to eat, I couldn’t really get much down. I was only able to finish about half of my oatmeal. I downed a drinkable yogurt and a Red Bull and hoped I wasn’t going to have stomach issues all day.
After breakfast we all got our gear ready and headed up to the Base of Jay where the Start/Finish area is. We were all ready for the 7:00AM start. Then the race director hopped up on a picnic table and said the race start was going to be delayed by 30 minutes. About 45 minuted later the race got underway. As we headed out of the gate it was pretty cool. Spirits were good and I think we were all looking forward to a good day of riding.
As we started the initial approach to climb Jay Peak, I started dropping through my gears. Once I was on my smallest ring up front I worked closer and closer to my granny gear in the back. The trail started to pitch up and some folks were already off their bikes pushing them. I dropped to my granny gear and as my chain went over the cog it kept going, right into the spokes of the wheel. After some swearing I got off and pulled the chain out and trier to get it on the granny gear. After putting it on I remounted my bike and as I put power to my pedals it went over the top again. I got off once more and looked at the deraileur and deraileur hanger. It didn’t look right. My hanger was bent. I realized at that moment, a mere 5 minutes into the race that I did not have my granny gear. So between my stomach and my gear I was losing ground on my TWAF teammates. I pushed my bike with some nice folks as we made our way to the top of Jay. I couldn’t see anyone I knew anymore as they had put some distance on me. The climb to the top took about an hour and 10 minutes. It was tough but I felt OK as I got to the top and the unloading station for the tram. I took about 45 secs to grab a gatorade and a cup of water. I had heard the trip down was very hairy. I figured it was my only chance to catch my TWAF crew was to go down as fast as possible. About a third of the way down I caught NK who was riding some stuff that was just nuts. I continued on and soon met up with A1. We continued in to Aid Station#2 where we found DEA and PJ had arrived a few seconds before. DEA’s wife Karen met us there and we reloaded on supplies and were off.
We rode as a group to Aid Station #3, some of it on an access road at Jay and then on to some pavement. We made a 3 minute pit stop at AS#3 and reloaded. Upon leaving we found some nice singletrack riding and continued climbing. About 3-4 miles later we were at the next Aid Station. A1 had some issues staying on his bike as he went over the bars 3 times. The trail was wet in places and slick here and there, but overall it was rideable. AS#4, another pit stop and we were then onto AS#5.
Not much between AS#4 & 5 but after there it was a long 17 mile stretch to AS#6. A lot of this was on dirt roads and some pavement. It was a relatively fast section of the race and I think we were all still feeling pretty descent, except PJ. His back was starting to seize up on him and when we met Karen at AS#6 we didn’t see PJ before we left again. He decided upon arriving that he had enough and had Karen taxi him back to the condo, day over for PJ.
We made out way up the road a bit and into a field where we found another AS and then were told there was a small climb and some sweet singletrack and a great descent. We started the climb and it went on for a while. About half the way up NK was in front of me and as he was crossing a ditch I heard the sound of e bolt snapping in half. NK’s seat was no longer attached. Metal pieces were on the ground. I knew from experience that his day was over. NK still held out some hope and said he would break out his tools at the top of the climb and fix it. I knew otherwise. This was the last we saw of NK on the trail. The singletrack was very good. Something I would like to ride again. The descent was a blast with some pretty cool features as well. We came out of the woods and were at AS#7. We had about 36 miles in 5 ½ hours and it was 1:18 in the afternoon. We refueled and then began the ride towards AS# 8. I think we all felt pretty good at this point. Sun was out, but it was not hot, no humidity. I was still not eating well, except for the Accel Gels. I was downing one of those every 45 minutes along with lots of fluids.
The ride to AS#8 was almost our undoing. Sadly enough most of it was on paved roads. We went about 8 miles in just under 2 hours. It was terrible. Not the steepest road, but it was demoralizing. We got off our bikes on pavement and started walking. We made it to the AS at just a few minutes after 3PM, The awards ceremony was happening now. We were only 44 miles in. We thought we still had about 21 miles to go. We took about 6 ½ minutes to drink and reload supplies and rolled down a short hill and back onto Jay property. We rode up the access road we descended earlier and once we hit the top of that bunny slope we cruised down through the Base area where we were cheered on by NK and Gerry Hunt, the PR director for the event. A great guy. It was cool blowing through thinking you were closing in on AS #9 down in the Town of Jay. The lack of the granny gear was now taking its toll on me as I was having trouble hanging with A1 and DEA. There was a lot of climbing in this section that just didn’t have a gear for, so I walked and walked. Finally it started down and there was some nice riding to be had. I finally made it to AS#9 and saw that DEA was there but getting ready to head out. I took me an hour and 32 minutes to go 10 miles. He asked if I wanted him to wait and I thought about it as it would be nice to have someone to ride with again. I didn’t think it was fair to have him wait on me as I was getting pretty spent. It was ___PM, I made the cutoff, no automatic DNF. It took 10 minutes to get back on the road. We were told it was 13 miles to the finish. I could do that. I was all up hill I figured, but I could do it.
So I started riding to AS #10, this was now a point to point ride. Make it to the next Aid Station and reassess. It was up hill. First on pavement, then a dirt road, then the Catamount Ski trail. It was up and up, about 1,000 feet of climbing and I decided that it was getting somewhat difficult to continue. My stomach was not good, I was starting to play mind games with myself and I was doing an awful lot of walking. I was alone on the trail, no one was around. Was I the last one? Great I am DFL I thought!! My pace was slipping and the sun was getting lower in the sky. When I finally got to AS#10 I was happy to see a couple other racers. We chatted and one of them recognized my jersey and the blog. He actually enjoyed it. Hearing that helped me a lot. Sort of gave me some extra energy. We headed out at the same time together and basically rode together on most of this section. It was terrible. The volunteer at the AS said it was about 3 miles and didn’t really have any elevation gain. Silly me I thought that meant no climbing. 58.5 miles, figured I had 7 or so to go. Three to AS#11 and 4 to the line. I was thinking it was possible to finish at this point.
We started to AS#11 and all we did was climb, or should I say walk. It was steep, uneven, if there was a hill or ramp we went up it, if there was a ridge we went along it, if there was a peak we went over it. As we got to the top I was cursing the volunteer who told me it was 3 miles. No way I thought. At the top there was a pile of rocks and we went over that as well. I thought on the way down I could recover some and have something left for the finish. Wow was I wrong. It went down, but much of it was not rideable. I had to walk very carefully down quite a bit of it. I doubt it would be rideable even with fresh legs. Once I got off that mountain I was on a paved road and coasted into AS#11, the last aid station. 64 miles into the race that was billed to be 65 miles. I had already climbed 11,500 feet. I was no where near the finish. The volunteer at the Aid Station said I was past the DNF cutoff so all I had to do was make it to the line to finish and I would get my Finisher’s Medal. He said it was 3-5 miles. With about half climbing fire roads and half climbing in the woods. It was about 6:45 PM. The sun was starting to be hidden by the mountains. I started the climb and it wasn’t long before I was walking again. No granny gear. I was resigned to walking the last part of this. I was with the guy I had met at AS#10 and we climbed and walked. There was a downhill section that was sketchy and I decided I was tired of walking so I rode it, I made it but the guy I was with got off his bike as it was not a safe descent. We were going along and it was getting darker. I had put my sunglasses away a while before as they were too dark for the woods. We crossed the road the goes to Jay and the Sheriff said it was 2 miles tot he line. I had decided that meant 10 miles as no one had been accurate yet today.
We went across the road and I saw that I was about 100 yards from our condo. Hmm, I could coast down hill to my bed. Very tempting. We made it to the woods and it was muddy, wet and sloppy, 2 miles of this would take at least another hour or so. I dried up some but there was still very little riding and a lot of bike pushing. Finally we could see the golf course and thought we were close, but no the trail turned away from Jay. We followed the river bank and then crossed it next to a perfectly good bridge. After that crossing we hiked through some more woods until we got to the last dirt road that led to the Jay parking lot. You could hear the PA system and people and saw cars and live humans. I decided that I wanted to see if I had anything left in the tank at all and pushed as big a gear as I could and was able to finish a couple of seconds ahead of the guy I was riding with.
Not sure of the exact time as my GPS died at AS#11, but I was told it was 12 hours and 34 minutes. 72 miles or so. The last 3-5 miles was 8. A1 was first to arrive with DEA not far behind. I brought up the TWAF rear so to speak.
Gerry from Jay sent us an email this morning telling us that:
To put your performance in perspective, here are a couple of facts:
1) I believe the starting number was about 182 riders
2) As of the time you finished, there were about 30 DNF's (including 2 that were taken away in ambulances!)
3) As of the time I left (shortly after Dennis came in), there were still some 20+ bikers out on the course.
So it appears, no matter how you slice it, there were over 50 behind you....you guys finished in the top two thirds of all starters.
An accomplishment yes, fun, not sure.
Hopefully we'll have official results and some pics soon. Thanks to all for all the support. We needed it for sure.