The Finish Line
Since most people don’t wanna read a whole boring blog, here’s the nitty gritty first. I completed the Everest Challenge around 3pm last Sunday, becoming the first mountain biker and singlespeeder to do so. NOTE: I did not walk any of the course- that was another goal of mine, HOOT! This was also my first stage race. I will not be doing it again on an SS- Instead of being a tool, maybe I’ll try it on the tool that it’s intended for, i.e. a super-light road bike. It mentally drained my mojo and physically took every drop of juice I had. The final climb up to Schulman Grove and The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest was absolutely breathtaking- no pun. The last couple miles of 15% grade sapped me. I was toast. Light-headed, legs were jelly, heart rate soaring- I was somewhat euphoric, adrenaline and endorphins whizzing around… I felt like I was in Charlie’s Chocolate Factory with Pink Floyd. And then it was all over. Two orange cones and a jean-clad woman with a stop watch. “Great job, Single Speed! You did it Alan!”. I responded with a ding of my bell. A hundred yards of subtle decent later, there it was- like a mirage in the desert. A couple pop-up tents, and other riders. I could barely dismount my bike, or tell you my name for that matter. People were congratulating me, high fiving, and I just needed nutrition… I hit the wall. After Steve gave me a winner’s jersey as consolation for being the first and only singlespeeder and a t-shirt, recovery began. According to my Garmin, I burned 8,300 calories over the 2 day race. I had at least 8 spinach, feta, and olive quesadillas that I downed with a bottle of chocolate recoverite. Then a bagel with cream cheese, a few kit kats and some peanut butter cups. More recoverite, and some more water. I got my finishers medal… stuffed it and my EC jersey in my pockets, put on my Arcteryx jacket and full-finger Ergon gloves that were waiting for me at the summit, and began the 21 mile descent down to my wife and daughter waiting for me at the bottom. Although the race is officially over at the end of the last climb, and many racers are picked up at the top, which might be a good idea because you’re totally spent… the BEST, most FANTASTIC part of the whole weekend is that last descent. I’m from the school of earn your turns. For those that didn’t ride back down, you missed out on pure magic. You are so stoked and energized that you just completed such a great feat, and you’re grinning ear to ear as you whiz past some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Dropping down from 10k to 4k through fast and furious rolling turns… pure bliss!! And then I saw them… cowbells ringing, jumping around. Angela and Lucy, by the car. They weren’t sure if I’d done it or what. No cell service. It didn’t matter. Daddy was back. We hugged and kissed and had our own private celebration… and then the oh crap feeling set it. I had to get on a plane to Florida at 7pm, and it was already after 4. We had an hour drive back to Mammoth, shower, clean up… didn’t leave much wiggle room to get to the airport. I made it by 6:30p… and finally relaxed for a moment before the announcement came: “The flight is cancelled due to high winds. The plane is being diverted back to Los Angeles”. As Homer Simpson would say, “Doh!”. This means I missed my 10pm flight to Ft. Lauderdale, which means I wouldn’t be at work the next day. Which means my boss wouldn’t be happy as they were filming Jason Statham dangling off the penthouse tower at the Waldorf Astoria, Boca Raton. This isn’t where I wanted my mind to be. But that’s life. So I got with the travel coordinator right away, who put me on the Virgin flight at 10:30am out of lax. I fell asleep around 8pm, woke up at 2am, and drove to l.a. to try and beat the traffic. I had my recovery compression socks on, and fought oh so hard to not fall asleep behind the wheel… so happy when the sun came up. Anyhoo, made it to Florida, worked all week with friends, had a comfy bed at the Waldorf Astoria- ate good food… and now I’m back at home in Mammoth, to take my first sigh since finishing the race as I sit here in my tempurpedic bed. So that’s the short of it, now here’s the long if you care:
Day 1 – 15, 465′ of elevation gain:
6:50am, Saturday morning. I’m feeling dandy. I’d been tapering for over a week, and been playing a lot of James Bond on the old skoo Nintendo 64. Body and mind charged up well. I got Friday off from work, and that made a big difference. My bike was ready to go- same setup as I did the Fall Century, I was dialed. It was on. The first climb was 20 miles up to South Lake. After training on 33:17 gearing, the 33:19 felt so good. I gained a ton of confidence as this first climb came and went relatively easily. The colors were turning so beautifully, and I wish I could share the views with you… the sun rose behind me, casting that morning orange light over the buttermilks and surrounding mountains. A young rider, Daniel, from UC San Diego pulled up next to me and commented how he’d never seen anything like it… he wished he had a vacation home here. Like I find myself feeling often, I realized how blessed I am to live up in paradise. I jumped on nutrition early, making sure to stay up on my gu brew, endurolytes, and bananas. The second climb was much shorter, only 9 miles or so… but significantly steeper- up to Pine Creek. Another area that I’d never been to. Majestic to say the least. As we rode through the mountain pass, I could see a storm brewing ahead, and we were heading straight for it. Here we go. I looked back down the valley and saw nothing but blue skies. So, I decided to pushed my pace, with the hopes of summiting, and turning around riding back to sunshine before getting pounded by rain. The winds kicked up, and I was charging into a massive head wind for the last 2 miles. I got some drizzle, but not too bad… my plan worked, as I blasted at 40+mph back down and into the sun again… I felt bad for all the people I saw climbing as I descended, knowing they were gonna get the brunt of the storm and head winds. After grinding through some flats for about 10 miles, I hit the final climb of the day. 22 miles up Lower Rock Creek to Tom’s Place and then up Rock Creek Rd. to Mosquito Flats- this gets us to 10,250′, the highest point of the race. Honestly, this is where my body started to feel it. I was over 6 hours in to the race, and definitely fatigued. But I was familiar with this section of the course, and just settled in to a nice, relaxed pace. Other than a little onset of cramps in my left leg around 7 hours in, I was good. I soft pedalled with the left and compensated with the right for a couple minutes, and the 30 year old who showed up to the high school house party never came back! As I passed sections 1 and 2 of Lower Rock Creek Trail, I was jonesing to bomb down them… and show these roadies what’s up… oh how I longed for the dirt! But yeah, I kept climbing up. And up some more. Relentless. Neverending Story. Atreyu. Finally made it. Day 1 was done. I was thinking, this is actually possible. I can. I will. Come back tomorrow and finish this bitch off. Dinner at Thai Thai by the Bishop Airport with some live violin music was great. A little Tom Kha soup, Satay, Phad Thai, a couple Dr. Peppers- I was feeling good. Changed my gear from a 19 to a 21 to prepare for the steeper Sunday climbs and adjust for my tired body- and it was off to sleep. Eye on the prize.
Day 2 – 13,570′ of elevation gain
Woke up achy. It’s cold, and early. Other than my backside, didn’t feel half bad. What really worked me more than I thought, are all the flat portions. Between all the relentless climbs and breathtaking descents, there are a lot of flats that just suck for an SS- but my attitude stayed positive. I knew my times wouldn’t be amazing, so I used the flats to recharge, and enjoy the scenery. I felt like I was spinning and going nowhere… and it’s the only time I felt chaffing or any other pain. I found myself saying, “just get me to the next climb already so I can get my tush out of this frickin saddle.” The scenery was still amazing, but I found myself just wanting to “get ‘er done”. Knowing I had to catch a flight, and work the next day was in the back of my head. The first climb to Glacier Lodge was tough. Average grade 8% to gain 4k over 9 miles. Glad it was first up, while I still had some energy. I noticed there were far fewer riders on course Day 2. I found out later that 54 people scratched. I felt good knowing that I’d already out done some people. If you came into this race half assed, you’re not gonna finish. Anyhoo, climb 2 was the easiest (avg. 5% over 8.5 miles), and I took it very easy, trying to save whatever I have left for the last monster effort up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. I described the last climb already, but basically it was the largest climb of the ride, gaining over 6,100k in 21 miles. You are so spent at this point that it’s all mental getting to the top. Your brain is telling your body to quit. Your body is telling your brain it can’t go any further. Your only chance is if your balls tell both to chata (chat the f&%k up). My friend Sal tought me that one.
So that’s that. I learned that road cycling is pretty sweet. I’m gonna do more of it this year. Now that I got my first road bike from Footloosea couple weeks ago… :). You can get to some amazing places and see things in a great way. My buddy Nate just released a road biking guide to the Eastern Sierra, and I’m gonna tap into it for sure. Plus, the speedy descents are sweet! But I’m still dirty. Can’t drag me away from that dirt. Last weekend for the bike park here in Mammoth, and you know I’m getting me some on the fully!!! Don’t tell anybody, but once the park closes for the season, I plan on riding Uptown to Beach Cruiser to Off the Top to the summit- I’ve always wanted to ride to the top.
I’m tired. I was still gonna do 24 Hours of Moab, but a commercial is coming to Mammoth for a Monday night shoot, and I rarely get to work at home, so I took the job. Then I fly down to L.A. on Tuesday to work on another commercial wed-thurs, which takes Moab out of the picture. Right now, putting food on the table is more important than racing, so I’ve gotta take the jobs when they come… But I can’t let this good fitness go to waste… I’ll find another race soon… HOOT!!