Eric and I drove up to Soda Springs fairly early on Friday in order to miss traffic, and to get a little spin in before dark. The Ice Lake Lodge where we were staying, is situated right on a lake in a beautiful area. After picking up my race number, we had a nice dinner at the Lodge with our neighbors Steven and Cathy "Seaweed". Steven "the Weedman" was also giving this race a 2nd go after bonking at mile 85 last year. We both wanted to turn our bad luck around this year.
The race started promptly at 7 am, and the group of around 200 racers took off on the dusty 8 mile downhill. I was being cautious because the group was stirring up so much dust it was very hard to see the ground. There were big sharp rocks and loose gravel that could definitely flip you over the handle bars. After 10 miles of gravel road we hit the first check-point where I tossed my arm warmers. I had not looked at the course profile, so had no idea where the climbs where, which sometimes is kind of nice, at least when you are feeling good. I was feeling really strong from all the climbing in Italy.
When we reached the 2nd checkpoint at mile 21, we got onto a really fun single-track for about 16 miles. We were climbing some really steep and rocky trails, and there were actually some short hike-a-bike sections to break things up. The descents were loose, rocky, and FUN!! I felt like I was back in Italy at some points. I think the rough riding there really helped me out in this race. I passed one rider on this section, but besides that I was on my own from this point on.
Even though it didn't seem that hot, I was feeling both of my calves twinging with little cramps, so I kept taking my salt tablets. After more gravel road through national forest, I finally stopped at the checkpoint at mile 50 to fill up my dry camelbak. We went by this checkpoint twice. After the checkpoint there was another fun single-track and then we looped back on a gravel-climb. Having no idea how far ahead of second place I was, I asked at the checkpoint, and they reassured me I was over 15 minutes ahead. I am not sure why I asked, because I have come to never trust any information I get out on the course, whether it is about place or distance.
I have to say that this race was very well organized this year. There were lots of checkpoints and volunteers. The place where I followed the wrong arrow last year, had a flag person pointing us in the right direction. I was relieved after passing that spot. We finished going back up the same 8 miles we had come down. I felt much better than I had expected. Overall, I felt really good the whole time. I only stopped briefly at two checkpoints and my only complaint was that my neck was killing me from all the rough riding.
I finished in 8:57:40, and at the finish line, Jim was very excited to see me in first place and under 9 hrs. Apparently he had a 100 dollar bet with someone about my place and time. He also had bet that I would finish in top 10 overall, but he lost there, because I was 13th!
The men's pro division was won by Tinker Juarez who killed the rest of the field despite a short detour. If Tinker doesn't let his age (48) slow him down, I guess I still have a few more good years in me too :-)
Thanks Jim for putting on a first class event, thanks also to all of the volunteers out on the course!