"Jeez, I'm focked," I think as I watch the alarm clock roll over to 3:30 on Saturday morning. Went to bed at 8 Friday night to be well-rested for my first Counting Coup -- actually, my first race of any kind, ever -- but excitement and anxiousness have denied me all but two-and-a-half hours of sleep. Ugh! I briefly flirt with the idea of bailing on the whole thing and rolling back under the covers, but I can't bear the thought of a big shameful "DNS" next to my name when the Warrior's Society posts the race results on their Web site. "Suck it up," I tell myself. "Maybe you'll get lucky and have an early mechanical."
Three hours later I'm at the start line, and it's an amazing sight -- a sea of riders, many of whom are looking nearly as bleary-eyed as I do. Chris Vargas gives the word, and we're off. The route starts with a mild descent down Blackstar, and I'm grateful for the bracing cold that slices through my layers of clothing cuz it's starting to wake me up a bit. Soon I'm shivering, however, and I begin to look forward to the first climb so I can warm up a bit. Just before the grade picks up, I stop for a restroom break (too much pre-race Diedrich Kenya, I guess) and to shed my jacket. Scores and scores of riders go by, followed by the disturbing sight of the motorcyle suppport crew. Could it be that I (along with two other riders stopped at the same spot) am at THE VERY BACK OF THE PACK?! Unacceptable. I climb back on and start working. Almost immediately I'm passing riders. I look up the switchbacks and target riders I wanna draw in, feeling more energized and confident with each place I move up. Soon I'm at Beek's Place, and I'm only a minute off my best training time for the nearly 8-mile ascent. Maybe I'll be able to finish this thing after all.
It's off with the arm and leg warmers and time to begin the hardest work of the day: The up-and-down torture fest of Main Divide from Beek's to Silverado. I nearly blow up at the end of the first extended climb, and decide that I need to reel myself in a bit if I'm gonna make it over the long haul. Nothin' wrong with spinning, I tell myself. The next few miles go well, then I happen upon a group of support personnel gathered around a fallen rider on the side of the road. I stop and ask if I can help. "Only if you're a doctor," they say. "Otherwise, just go on." I later learn that the rider sustained one or more broken ribs.
At the Motorway, I climb up the initial firebreak section, then stop to lower my seat slightly for the 3-mile descent. For the first time of the day, I'm grateful that I'm on a 6-inch-travel bike with a meaty, slow-rolling 2.3-inch tire up front. I pass more than a half-dozen riders before arriving at the aid station. I'm feeling pretty tired, but nowhere near defeated. Still, I know I need to rest, so I dawdle at the aid station for about 15 minutes refilling, refueling and stretching. Ladydirt is there, and she suggests we climb up Maple Springs together. Just my lucky break: someone to shoot the sheeyot with and help keep my mind off the pain that lies ahead. El Dee is the perfect climbing partner. We trade off taking the lead, setting the pace for each other and maintaining a steady tempo. Before I know it, we're at Four Corners. Only two more ascents and we're home free.
The climb up around Modjeska Peak is no problem, and as I descend into the saddle between Modjeska and Santiago, I start to feel downright euphoric. I'm really gonna do this!!! I pedal in the big ring and launch little mini-jumps off every rise and rock in the road, playing around like I'm just on an everyday trail ride. Feeling saddlesore, I alternately walk and spin the remaining two miles through ice patches and slimy snowmelt up to Santiago Peak. El Dee and I reach the summit, but she needs a quick stop before the descent to Holy Jim, so we part ways.
I flail through the snowbound section of Main Divide, tripoding the entire way as I try in vain to keep my front tire moving smoothly down the narrow rut etched in the 8-inch-deep snow. The snow soon gives way, however, and I'm flying down the rocky fireroad. About a mile and a half later, I go into a loose right-hand turn too fast, and as I try to get my inside foot down, I feel my front tire wash out. I spritz off the knee wound with my CamelBak and walk off the pain for a minute, then I'm back on board.
Soon I'm at Holy Jim, where the SoCalMTB cheering section is hanging out, and I realize that a sub-6.5-hour time for the day is in reach. I ride fast but responsibly down Holy Jim, looking ahead for hikers and uphill riders and ringing my trail bell whenever possible. Slower descenders let me by. At a tricky landslide section, a stopped rider yells out "You got it!" as I roll by. I run through the stream crossings at the bottom of the trail, not willing to risk a crash so close to the end. As the trail widens into a fireroad, I start to hammer toward the finish. I roll into the Holy Jim lot -- just under 6.5 hours, according to my computer. Mission accomplished.
What a fantastic day. I know the Counting Coup is little more than a typical weekend ride for a lot of folks, but it's a major milestone for this slug of a rider -- and it's an experience I won't soon forget. Big thanks to the Warrior's Society for putting on an awesome event, to Caff Man for talking me into doing it, and to Ladydirt for helping get me through the suffering.
Posted by ODB riding a Joker from Orange on 03/10/03