Ketchum, ID 7/05/14
What the hell am I thinking? I pull up Apple Maps and out of curiosity check the distance from Los Angeles to Ketchum, ID. 15 hours and 32 minutes-885 miles. Totally drivable. I want to throw a national race on the calendar and Marathon Nationals are on the 4th of July weekend in Sun Valley, which sounds like an amazing road trip. It’s a great chance to line up alongside Jeremiah Bishop and Todd Wells. The course is 50 miles and how high can Sun Valley be? Piece of cake. I rent a car, decide on the Tenopah/Wells route through the lonely Nevada dessert to avoid any Vegas holiday traffic, secure an Air BNB a few hundred yards from the starting line and load up my electrical taped Niner in the car and hit the road at 4am to make it to the preface meeting by 7:15. There’s something empowering about watching the sun rise over the Mojave. I’ve got plenty of time. At some point near the Idaho border I check my watch, feeling smug that I’ve made such great time, and then check my phone only to realize I’ve just entered the Mountain Time Zone and have lost an hour. Balls. I’m cutting it close. Time to step on the gas. Small towns roll by as the Sawtooth mountains come into view and begin to grow larger. I roll up to the meeting with above 5 minutes to spare. Turns out attendance was totally pointless. I did learn there were Cokes at the third aid station and a bunch of team managers asked asinine questions about the course. I stubble back to my room. 15 hours in the car has wrecked my ass and legs. Balls again. I’m trying to hydrate but the morning of the race I wake up with a pounding headache. Normally altitude doesn’t do much but the dryness and the road hypnotism have taken their toll and that’s not to mention the heat. It’s in the upper 80s by the time our field assembles after noon. I make my first rookie mistake before the gun even goes off. They call the Pro field to the line and I enter from the wrong side, walking over the starting line with my timing chip on my shoe. Beep beep go the computers. Shake shake goes the USAC official’s head. He is very displeased. I just started my lap according to the timing system. After a few conversations and a few more head shakes it’s all sorted. I feel out of place at the starting line, I don’t have someone standing next to me holding an umbrella over my head to keep the sun off. The gun goes off and I’m having a blast. We scream down the bike trail start, one giant peloton all sitting on wheels and pushing the big ring. All I can think to myself is “you’ve got Todd Wells on your right and Jeremiah Bishop on your left. Don’t overlap their wheel and take them out. It’s probably not the publicity Pedalers had in mind with a sponsorship.” We hit the climb about 4 miles in and it’s straight up. Five miles and about two thousand feet. I haven’t pre-ridden the course so when it narrows to singletrack I’m caught out on a bad line and have to jump off and push. It’s exhausting and I watch the field blow by. I hop back on to the tail end but at that point my heart rate is way higher than it should be. My lungs burn and I have about 45 miles left to race. Balls. We get to the top and I’ve fallen off the back of the main group. We hit the descent and I start to reel a rider in when I feel my back end slipping around. It’s all jagged granite and loose rocks but this feels different. I look down and have the horrifying realization I just sliced my sidewall and have lost all my Stan’s. “Fuck!!!!!! Fuck damn” I scream at the top of my lungs. There’s no where to pull off and there’s a drop to my right of about 500 feet. “Rider back, on your left, coming up on your left” riders navigate around me as I flip my bike and try to put in a tube. I blow through my C02 with sickening speed. The tire swells and deflates. I haul out the pump. Nothing. Now I’m really stuck. I’ve passed an aid station a few miles back but there has to be a closer one. I begin to push. Two hours and five miles later I reach a few guys with some water bottles and a pickup truck. “Wish we could help” they say. Wait? What are you doing here then? “We can call you a ride if you can get down to the bottom.” They point down the mountain. Somewhere there’s a spec that looks like the bottom of a chairlift. I’ve still got some hiking to do. After another half an hour I reach the bottom of the run and start looking around for a ride. I’m deep in the grief and self-pity state of mind when John Nobil comes strolling up behind me pushing his bike. “What’s up John!” “Double flat.” “No way! Me too.” Misery loves company.