We have all had one of ‘those days’ on the bike. Today was
one of ‘those days’. The forecast called for a 40% chance of rain.
Typically in Colorado that means it will rain on your ride. But that also
typically means it will be just another Colorado thunderstorm that will blow
over within 30 minutes or less. So we packed accordingly, a pair of arm
warmers and a light vest. That wasn’t enough.
The race started simultaneously with the rain at 8:30am today,
and neither stopped for the next three and a half hours. We rode in the
lead group for about 30 minutes and then found ourselves in no-mans land.
We continued riding great trail, making jokes and holding a steady pace.
As we passed aid station one, the rain had started to increase in intensity but
we were still climbing so we were comfortable wearing just shorts and a
jersey. We grabbed fresh bottles, pushed our rain jackets aside, and
carried on up the Colorado Trail thinking to ourselves "it’s gotta stop soon
right?”…that’s when things started to get ugly.
Having been considerably wet for well over an hour we were
drenched to the bone. We passed by 10,500ft. and became even more exposed
to the elements. Fatigue was setting in and we now were beginning to get
pretty cold. We rolled over the top of the climb; I took my hands off the
handlebars and reached up to put my glasses on. My front wheel slipped on
a wet root and I abruptly folded over my handlebars and hit the ground, hard.
Blake later gave me a score of 9.5 for my longdart-like dismount. I checked
myself to make sure I was in one piece, and Blake checked my bike to make sure
it was in one piece. Everything was in decent shape so we hopped back on
the bikes to begin (sigh) the long downhill.
It was now a balmy 38 degrees out, we were soaking wet, and
shaking uncontrollably as we raced down fast singletrack for the next 30
minutes. About halfway down we were teetering on the brink of
hypothermia, and decided it was too unsafe to carry on with out putting on more
clothes. Unfortunately all we had was thin vests that were soaking wet
from being in our back pockets, but it was better than nothing. We rode
through the next 8 miles in a trance. Our hands were so numb we could barely
hold on to the handlebars, couldn’t modulate the brakes and shifting was almost
not an option. Mud filled our eyes to the point where we could hardly see
and it took every bit of effort we had to just focus on the trail.
Finally we hit aid two, relieved to get our rain jackets we
stopped and had aid station workers help dress us, yes we felt like
infants. We rolled out towards the finish in slightly better shape than
we entered, perhaps a two out of ten. We just had to survive the last 10
miles and that’s what we did. A few riders passed us but we had no energy
to put a fight. We just glanced over with blank looks on our faces.
Finally, 3 hours and 40 minutes after we started we crossed the finish
line. We didn’t even slow down and headed straight for home and a hot
shower. This was one of ‘those days’, it wasn’t about racing, it was
about surviving. We did cross the line in roughly 16th place
and opened up our lead in the ‘Duo’ category but it was one of the hardest days
either of us have had on the bike. Lesson of the day, don’t mess with Mother
Nature because she can throw a hell of a rainmaker.