Photo by Zach Pina of Kitsbow
Long overdue, but better late than never. My wife and I drove up to Napa on the Friday before the big race. We stopped in town and had an amazing pizza dinner with her uncle in St. Helena. I had to get to bed as soon as possible because tomorrow was going to be a long day. I wake up around 5 the next morning and drive up to Cobb, about an hour north of St. Helena. I get to the race site and pick up my number plate. I get my gear together, find a decent drop zone for my bag along the trail and warm up for eight grueling hours of fun.
I had a number of friends in the start field. I line up at the very front and wait for the gun to go off. People are wedging themselves right in front of me, which is fine because there'll be plenty of time to pace and pass. I wasn't about to put the hammer down, but I want to be able to put in a good first lap, and not get stuck behind traffic. Among the people to cut in front of me is Levi Leipheimer, racing on a three person team. It's really cool to see him doing more mountain bike events these days. The last time I raced with Levi was at the first Grasshopper race.
The start is fast, and I try not to blow up in the first lap. However, the first thing I notice is how soft and loamy the ground is. Or perhaps I have a slow leak… It turns out that I have a slow leaking rear tire, and I'm not even halfway through the first lap. Oh shit. I feel rim strikes here and there, hoping my tire doesn't roll off the rim. I dial down my speed a bit, but make sure I don't lose position. Luckily, halfway around the loop I come across the SuperPro tent, blaring music and handing out bacon. I yell out for a floor pump, and they direct me to the end of their tent. My friend Adam is there, and holds my bike upright while I frantically pump air into my wheel. I go 40psi to make sure the sealant does its job, and that I don't have to pump it up again for another hour or so.
I'm already stressing out and start to lose focus. I mark a few people in my category and get to work. By the end of the first lap and through the finish/start loop where everyone is waiting to relay off to their team members the line of racers is pretty stretched out. My first lap was around 40 minutes, and I plan on averaging a 45 minute lap by the end of the day.
By the third hour I'm starting to feel the effects of my hard effort, and start to be more mindful of my nutrition. The weather is starting to heat up, and I don't want to dehydrate. I picked up some Osmo drink mix the other day, and decided to go with it, but only filling half of my bottles for the day. I alternated from Osmo and water, and found it to be really helpful without upsetting my stomach. Every lap I'm picking up a fresh bottle and either a pack of GU Chomps or a Clif Bar. It seemed to do the trick. I think for the next endurance race the only thing different would be to run Osmo the entire time, and maybe add a mini Coke or a cold Starbucks drink. I could have used that towards the end.
With two hours or so to go I'm really feeling the course and hold a good consistent pace. My hands and feet feel so raw at this point from being rattled for six straight hours. I wish I had worn gloves with a bit more padding. And, of course, my ass is hurting, but I'm feeling great otherwise. I'm gauging my effort and think I've managed to hold onto the top 10, despite having to stop a few times to refuel and refill my leaky tire.
I'm on my last lap, and I decide to really push hard to make sure I hold whatever position I've held over eight hours. I pass at least 15 or so people on the last climb back to the finish line with 5 minutes before the eight-hour mark. I could do another lap, but it won't count if I go over eight hours and 45 minutes. I've been averaging 50 minute laps towards the end, my last being a 48 minute hustle. I roll across the finish line, and the crowd is yelling at me to do one more! I knew it would be a risk to go out for one more, but I'd have to really push myself to make the cutoff. I succumb to peer pressure and head out for one more lap, the crowd applauding me as I roll through the neutral aid station. Halfway up the fire road climb I realized I had enough, and shamefully turn back down the road. I knew I had a put in a solid effort, and it would be a huge risk to go out for one more lap that may not count.
I get back and notify race officials that I'm done, and head over to the live results. I'm in 3rd place! I hang around the finish line for a bit, and go back to my car to clean up. I meet up with the rest of my friends, swap stories and have lunch. Awards is quickly underway, and I step on the 3rd podium spot. However, after checking updated results later that evening, I find out I had been bumped down to 4th. Someone ahead of me squeezed in one more lap, just a minute or so before cutoff time. I'm bummed for a second, and happily accept my strong 4th place result.
I did 10 laps, 81 miles and climbed over 12000'. Boggs was a great way to test my endurance, having done a lot of shorter XC courses earlier in the season. I learned more about my nutrition, and feel like I've got that dialed down for the Leadville qualifier in Tahoe, followed up with the Leadville Trail 100 in August.