Ok, so this is maybe the highlight of the trip so far. Literally minutes before this, Will was telling me about how the grizzly bear is his favorite animal. We're driving along the road in Yellowstone, and we see a group of cars pulled over. I pulled over also, and we looked off to the side. Sure enough, a GRIZZLY BEAR is meandering out of the woods. It walked literally 10 feet behind our car. I've seen bears in the zoo before, but this was something else. Seeing it so close and in its natural habit was amazing.
We headed out of the parking lot up the first mini climb before bombing down a fast singletrack section into the woods. My heart rate was pretty pinned, just trying to stay with Will and the lead group. The whole course was pretty singlespeed friendly early on, so I was able to stick with the group. Eventually someone broke away I think, and Will maybe followed. I tried, but ended up backing off. We finished the first lap and Will was maybe 20 seconds ahead of me. Average heart for me on Lap 1: probably like 170ish. Ouch, only 23 hours to go.
Lap 2 started off pretty hot again as I tried and somewhat succeeded to catch back up to Will. I think about halfway through this lap I asked myself, "what the hell am I doing?"
I promptly cooled off the pace and didn't worry that there were like 5 or 6 people ahead of me. I was first place singlespeed. I think I was partly in the lead singlespeed because I was geared 34x20 like for a short race, and other people were like 30x21 or something super easy for the long haul. I could go fast in the short term, and they were betting they would be less fatigued and could go faster in the long term.
At about 1pm, the temperatures started to get uncomfortably hot. It was straight sun, and easily in the mid 90s. Thankfully, Will's coach has the idea to put extra jerseys in a cooler with ice to switch off every lap in the heat. I was reluctant at first, but after about 7 laps/80 miles, I was pretty much dead from the heat.
I rolled into the pit station in a pretty bad place mentally and physically, and asked my brother to get me my cold jersey from the cooler. My mom handed me some cups of cold water to dump on myself, I took off my jersey and put on the cold jersey, ate some food, then rolled off. Instantly, I felt so much better. The ice cold jersey and cold water dumped on me was a life saver.
I started to feel pretty good again and got into a rhythm. The laps seemed to be ticking off pretty easily. but the time remaining was still intimidating. I remember rolling into the pit station about 8 hours/90 miles in, and jokingly I said to my brother, "well, 8 hours down, only 16 to go".
I kept a pretty consistent pace throughout the day, hearing from my mom and brother how Will was slowly gaining time on me. But I was still 1st place singlespeed on the course, so that was good.
As night approached, I put the lights on my bike and prepared for 7+ hours of pitch black riding. To my amazement, the night made everything seem so much better. I felt so much fresher, and my legs suddenly felt good again. The temps dropped, and that felt good, too. Until it didn't.
By midnight or so, the temps were now in the high 30s. Yep, that's right. High 90s in the day, high 30s at night. Will and I were both getting super cold, I put warmer gloves on, a vest, and other gear. But even though we had some cold gear, we were woefully unprepared. Eventually, I had to put my moms sweater on to keep from freezing, especially on the fast dirt road section. If you don't know this, high 30s at night going 25mph in dry air feels pretty dang cold. Especially when you've been racing for 16+ hours and have ridden almost 200 miles of singletrack.
The night was pretty fun all things considered, though, and I was having a blast ripping the downhills with my headlight. I knew I was in 1st place singlespeed, and I knew Will was in 1st place overall. I thought there were a few people in between us, though.
Around 5am, after hours of thinking every headlight coming up behind me was Will, I finally saw Will at the top of a descent. I ripped the descent all out just for fun, and at the flat spot on the bottom, Will caught up to me.
I think we were both pretty glad to see each other, and he told me I was the last person he had lapped. That meant I was actually 1st SS/2nd overall as of then. Pretty cool. We decided just to ride together the last 4 hours, which would make it way more fun.
We rolled though the pit station, quickly ate and drank some stuff, then headed out for another lap. Then we rolled through the pit station again, and headed out for what we thought (correctly) would be our last lap before the time was up. It was a pretty brutal lap, I'll be honest. We were both totally smoked, and every little hill was a struggle. My whole body was hurting. After what seemed like hours, we made it to the last downhill, rode though the sandy field, past the pit stations, and rolled across the finish next to each other. Will was 1st overall, and I was 1st singlespeed and 2nd overall.
I seriously could not have imagined a better possible ending to this race. Getting 1st place SS was my goal, and getting 2nd overall behind Will was more than I could have imagined. Also, getting to ride the last 4 hours with my friend who I just drove 3500 miles with across the country was pretty special, definitely another thing I will never forget.
After the race, we hobbled back to the pit station, drank some liquids, and waited for the awards. Will pretty much passed out on a blanket I set down in the dirt, and I think I fell asleep sitting in the back seat of my car waiting for awards. Will woke me up just before awards and we walked over to get the pictures.
It was pretty funny, because all of the people on the podium were sort of like zombies, having been awake for 24+ hours and racing their bikes the whole time.