emotions heading into the race went from excited about the conditions to deathly afraid just a day or two before as it seemed a death march would be on tap again. then lance started talking reroute which was intriguing, then conditions improved and the original route was back on. the start of the race after getting through town sucked as it normally did. a stretch of trail not used for snowmobiles was unrideable for anyone of my ability and bike setup. couple pugsleys had mediocre success and somehow cory just killed that section, very impressive to watch. hit the heritage trail around 7th or something like that and it was instant excitement and overflowing optimism. we were FLYING! found myself as high as third after passing drew taking care of something. he quickly caught back up to me, chatted briefly, shifted and dropped me. soon after that lance and i were riding near each other and i was thinking to myself there is no way a pugsley is gonna finish in the top 10. the speeds were just too fast for them to keep up over the 60+ miles. not sure that's entirely true considering the effort dennis and lance were putting in but "skinny" bikes were most certainly gonna hold their own.
and then came the groomer and life as we knew it ceased to exist. lance was nearby and dropped me instantly as painful memories of last year's death march began to bury my early and foolish optimism. a total of 3 pugsleys passed me within 15 minutes of the groomer coming by and i walked and walked and walked. the cold certainly wasn't as bad as 2 years ago but it was still cold. the incredibly frustrating walk/ride cycle continued in total isolation for me all the way into dyersville. sanity was kept by repeatedly doing the math to figure out what place i was in (8th as best i could figure) and making a plan for what i needed to accomplish at the gas station.
a few miles outside of dyersville i met dennis and lance on their return trip and holy god they were crushing it. i was absolutely blown away by the effort they were putting in. also saw cory and nick in dyersville but on their bikes heading back. so that was 4 people and i met up with adam at the gas station. i was confused and he confirmed my confusion when he told me he was 5th and i was 6th. i knew for sure i was missing drew and i thought one other guy. apparently drew's crank arm had fallen off and i didn't catch why the other guy had dropped but i was left in 6th. adam was gone fairly soon after i arrived and i continued my efforts at staying very deliberate and focused on what was necessary. then scott showed up. he was only 5 or so minutes behind me and trevor showed up shortly after him. i was impressed and instantly forced back into race mode. so i got packed back up after some pizza and pepsi and headed for dubuque with renewed optimism that all the riders had created a faster line headed back.
the first few miles out of dyersville were very fast again and after that open section i found what i'd been looking for in a super hard pack line left from all the riders heading out to dubuque. after meeting 5 sleds the line deteriorated. it was a little hit and miss but mostly rideable until the one thing that hadn't occurred to me happened...that f-ing groomer came back. strangely this time i was able to find some rideable lines but if there was any doubt about the epic nature of this year's race before, those doubts were immediately gone. i was able to ride more than i'd been able to after the first time i met the groomer but it was very, very slow going and still a lot of walking. eventually the sun went down and the demons started their attacks. cold and hunger fueled them as i began to doubt myself and my possible finish. durango became my sole focus. i knew it wasn't the end but i knew i could stop there, get off the bike and take care of some necessities to prepare for the final push. holy god durango was a long way away. it just never came and never came and never came. the trail was again fairly rideable but the sections that had been so fast on the way out were notw totally ruined by the groomer and sled traffic.
finally reached the bar in durango and saw some friendly faces as jesse had pulled the plug in dyersville and had met up with burky to assume his expected role of putting a huge dent in the bar tab. i got situated in durango and headed for the finish. leaving durango was hands down the coldest i was the whole ride. i'd started to lose feeling in my toes and they were now beginning to hurt and my decision not to change to dry gloves under my moose mitts proved to be frustraingly naive. i've done this enough to know the importance of dry gloves but skipped it in haste. so my only choice was putting on my big goretex/fleece mittens. downside of this...no more eating or drinking for the rest of the trip. i held out okay until i hit city limits. i got onto the paved trail and city streets in the full depths of a massive bonk. even on pavement i doubt i was moving even 7mph. finally made it back to the hotel/finish line some nine and half hours after i'd started. that was a damn long time. i was 6th, having been bested by 4 pugsleys (one of them ss...well done nick) and one geared skinny bike as cory rode very strong. very impressed by everybody's effort out there. super happy for scott who came in also on a single speed jabber in 7th some 15-20 minutes behind me. i think 2 more guys came in after scott for a total of 9 finishers. a lot of guys slayed some dragons that day. i'm pretty sure lance, cory, adam and scott have done all three years and finished this year for the first time.
eventually we ended up at the busted lift in full celebratory mode then got to spend sunday playing in the water park with the little man. i am absolutely crushed. very frustrated too because i was lazy about getting around to registering for dirty kanza and missed out as it filled up before i could get online to register. was really looking forward to that one...guess i'll be rethinking my summer race plans.
recovery day sunday