If there has been any one moment in the past year that confirms my love for Nicole, it was at 4:00 am Friday morning when my alarm went off. I reached for the iPhone, trying to silence the heinous chime coming out of that black rectangle of death when I felt her hand over mine. At first, I thought she was going for a sentimental good morning hand squeeze, smile and kiss on the cheek. It didn’t take long for me to realize that she was still asleep and, in her slumber, searching for my phone, probably trying to hurl into the next zip code. We’re perfect for each other.
4 a.m. turned into 4:30 turned into 4:55 before I got up and chugged a cup of coffee. It was 3:30 pm before we knew it, setting up camp in the woods just outside of Cobb proper. Camping is difficult. Nicole and I did some seriously amateur shit trying to put up our tent, but Clod was there to save the day and get the thing upright.
El Presidente was there with his lovely girlfriend, Kathleen, and everyone seemed to be happy happy. It was, for the most part, only Danimal and I who knew what the following day would bring. It would be a miniature blood bath, but amazingly fun, nonetheless.
Danimal and I did the Belgian Waffle Ride the week before. I thought it was a dumb idea. Danimal thought it was brilliant. Seeing as how the guy has a full-time day job, doesn’t race, doesn’t own a racing license, and made it up and over Highland Valley a bunch of Cat 1 and Cat 2 fools (and finished 32nd), I figured I’d believe him.
He was right. It was the perfect opener.
Learning from our mistakes last year, we got up around 6 am on Saturday, had some breakfast and set up our pit. We scouted the spot on Friday evening, leaving us with nothing else to do but place the water, food, tools, chairs and beer. It was going to be a great day.
I thought it would be a fantastic day until I lined up way in the back of the field. Again. I’ll learn from this, maybe. After blowing a kiss to Nicole, I began weaving through the field. In 2013, I was scared to push it on the first climb, worried I’d burn through all of my matches. 2014 Matt Smith said, “who gives a shit, you need to have a clear first lap!” I encountered only modest traffic on the first single track. Lap #1 was a success. Also, I popped a huge wheelie.
Lap #1: 50:07 (A personal best)
I don’t remember the second lap because I was too busy trading wheels with a couple dudes that, at first thought, seemed infinitely stronger than I. I hung onto their wheels through the first flowing, forest single track section, all the way down the fire road before eventually losing them both on the short inclines littered all the way to the switchback decent. I lost them, sure, but was descending quickly while. I saved a ton of energy on the descents, doing my damn best to resist the urge to sprint out of every corner. I traded the downhill pedaling for (sometimes) dangerously late braking. It was nice to see that my downhill times were still fast for being so leisurely.
Lap #2: 52:13
The third lap was the same damn thing. I caught my buddies in the transition, lost them on the first climb, caught them on the descent, and lost them in the rollers.
Lap #3: 52:15
On lap four, I caught my buddies the same way and dropped them hard on the switchback descent. It was free sailing. I’m pretty sure that this was the lap I caught Nicole. She looked like she was having one of those moments when you realize, “Holy shit, this is for real.”
Lap #4: 53:37
As I recall, the Danimal caught me here. As I did in Mammoth, I cursed him under my breath while remaining cordial out loud. He’s a beast, and he charged off on the final fire road ascent. This would be the same spot he would drop his competitor, riding to a 30 second victory after 8 hours of pedaling.
Lap #5: 56:58
The sixth lap was my worst. I was doing all sorts of math equations in my head, trying to decide if I had nine laps in my system. It was seemingly coming together and unraveling simultaneously. I wanted to push hard, but I felt flat, I hurt, and I was worried I wouldn’t have enough for 7, 8, and 9.
Lap #6: 57:26
In the transition, I believe I had 2 endurolyte tablets, 6 fig newtons, 1 soy-egg-bacon rice cake, 1 banana, a swig of coconut water and a chicken drumstick from Thursday night. It was a heavy climb up to the top of the hill, and the rest of the lap faded into memory.
Lap #7: 57:17
All that food settled! I was like a fucking nutritional expert. 1 more banana, 6 more fig newtons, one more portable, another bottle of skratch labs raspberry, 2 red vines, and I was off. Those dudes I dropped? Lapped ‘em! They looked like two miserable piles of angry, frustrated, and defeated epidermis. I gave them a positive shout as I rode by, remember that, in 2013, I just barley made 8 laps. And now, in 2014, I flew by feeling chipper and on my way to 9.
Lap #8: 54:37
I was doing my damn best to ride like a man possessed. I thought I saw a 200-number roller through, meaning that someone was in my category and, obviously, was there for me to decimate. After fixing my right cleat that had come unscrewed from the shoe, I took off in hot pursuit of rider 244. He was in the distance, the far distance, for most of this lap and even though I was always closing the gap, I lost interest when I came in sight of my other race-goal: the whiskey station.
Yes, the whiskey station.
For 7 fucking hours and 45 fucking minutes, or 8 laps, I passed by a group of lovely, wonderful, amazing people who wanted nothing more than to deliver shots of whiskey and freshly cooked bacon to struggling riders. I passed by every lap, ever the professional, but made a secret deal to myself: You will take a shot before the race is over.
It was now or never. Though they were out of bacon, I had what was clearly a double shot of Maker’s Mark before heading out on the trail. That stuff is instant speed. I immediately passed back the 5 riders who went by during my pit stop, surged over the last roller and descended down to the fire road climb. It was a thing of beauty. The guy I was chasing ended up beating me by a little under a minute….and 1 lap. He was a lap ahead of me the whole time and ended up winning my category. Cheers, mates.
Lap #9: 55:35
Danimal won the expert category, smashing 11 of the 8.whatever mile laps in 8 hours and 35 minutes. His lady, Sara, took 7 laps and rode to a solid fourth in the open women’s division. Nicky finished her first race 8-hour race, netting 6 laps and battling through some serious adversity, female troubles, and an overall lack of fitness due to our recent adventures in Peru.
Clod scored himself 7 laps after not really training at all and drinking some beer the night before. He laid down some scorching times on laps 2 and 3, proving that if he actually applied himself a little bit, he’d be flying. El President came into the race with even less mountain bike practice and even more beer and whiskey in his system, scored himself 6 laps and, in a feat that sent shockwaves around the camp, managed to pack his tent up on the same night and road trip to Santa Cruz (a feat that is nothing short of mind blowing).
J-King and his lovely lady, Ali, took on the coed division and, from all observations, seemed to have a good time. Plus, Jason is super duper handsome and brought me a Pliny. Ali is a lucky lady.
All things considered, this event was another “net positive” for the Aztec Alumni Crew. Boggs, you were lovely. We’ll be ready to raise the pines again come 2015.
|Nicole and I, before and after|
|Yours truly, immediately after|