I got shredded. Destroyed. Almost brought to my knees. Let's put it this way...I was ONE HOUR slower than last year. One entire hour. Sixty minutes. 73 out of 75 in my age group. What...the hell?! I've never been that low in the standings. I can't blame that on mud alone.
Everything seemed fine until around mile 10 or so when my calves started to cramp. Okay, I've had that before, no problem. I stopped about a mile or so later to switch out my gloves since my hands were super hot, also to take a minute or so break so I could eat a Clif Shot gel. From that point on, I just kept getting slower and slower and slower.
Around mile 16.5 I was feeling really down. It was also at this time that the final few Rapid Wheelmen starting about 8 waves behind me, passed. At mile 20 I was mad. Flat out pissed. Head down, hardly looking up and around. What is going on? This isn't right. Four mph up the hills. Seven mph on the flats. Granny gear almost full-time. Wondering where my wife was so I could get a ride back to the finish. Done. Toast. If this was my first mountain bike race, it would for sure be my last. Who would submit themselves to this garbage!?
At that point, a friend of mine's co-worker, Rob, came riding up. He asked how I was doing.
I told him "I'm bad, Rob. Real bad."
He said "Okay, no problem, I'll ride with you."
Me: "How are you?"
Rob: "Good, I feel really good. I had a flat tire at about mile ten and decided to just take it easy."
Me: "Well, don't wait for me, you'll be out here all day."
Rob: "Don't worry about it. I got nothing to do. You're gonna finish this race. Not finishing just plain sucks. You'll be mad if you don't."
He was in no hurry. And he was right. Not finishing, sucks. I only didn't finish one race, my inaugural Iceman in 2011. Even though it was mechanical issues that caused me to DNF, I was mad and depressed about that for a full month afterwards. Rob walked up the same hills I walked. Pulled ahead, then stopped to wait for me. Even if I wanted him to go away, he wasn't going to.
When I saw my wife at mile 22, I wasn't sure what I was going to. She was (of course) at the top of one of the steepest hills on the entire route, in which I was walking all the way from the base. She tried to motivate me by yelling at me to get on and ride, I said "waatccch it womaaannn, I'll pushhh you downnn innnaa mud." Only my wife could take this non-personal and just kinda chuckled.
She walked with me to the top where I was seeing stars at this point, slurring my speech.
"Hi. I don't feeeell gooood. I haven't felllt, like, this baaaadd befoore." Shaking my head as if that would help. I was SO bonked. Wasted. OUT. OF. GAS.
"Heeer. Canyooou taaake thheese?" Handing her my other set of gloves in my jersey pocket.
"Caaaannnyouuuu, gettt my wafffflllee ouuutof myyy baacck pocckettt?"
"Mmmmm. Theeese are good." Nodding to myself.
I was barely able to open the packet. Hands not functioning. Crumbs going everywhere. Rob made his way back to find me (presumably assuming I would be in the fetal position in a ditch). I drunkenly introduced him to my wife and off we went. Only one more hour (12 miles) to go.
After this point, I don't remember a whole lot. I DO remember stopping to pet a nice dog once. (I think that was real, anyways.) I remember praying that the Honey Stinger Waffle save me from this hell and magically push me to the finish. And that is exactly what it did. I swear, those are the most amazing things, and they taste great. They've helped me out of a bind a few times before. I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner. Within 3-5 or so miles of the finish, I could feel some lucidity coming back. Legs working a bit better. Climbing hills. No longer walking. Further being encouraged by Rob. Holy crap. I think I am going to make it.
I did make it. And after all that I made a new friend. I also got my ass handed to me right away, first race of the season. Warning shot across the bow noticed. Yet another experience to carry with me whenever I find myself in this spot again - because I do know, it will happen again.
Before the finish I saw my wife and friend, Jeremy - waiting in anticipation...I spoke to them the theme song from Lego Movie as I rode past...."Everything is Awesome".
What a comparison between last year and this. Geez.