Here's the long version:
I knew it was going to be hot when at 5:30 in the a.m. it was already warm enough that shorts and short sleeves were in order. Before the sun was up. Wow. It was certainly early too. I briefly lost my keys, and sda breiefly lost his shorts. Luckily we got all that sorted out before any major freakout. Minor freakouts aside, I was at the start 15 minutes before the gun, or before the ACDC was blasting as it were. Saw Mic and his crew prerace, and Jim Craig too. It's good to see some friendly faces out there.
Instead of starting way back like last year, I wanted to be a bit further up, and started pretty solid mid pack. The first singletrack was maybe a quarter mile from the start, which equals a major cluster. I was dead stopped waiting for folks to get a move on through the funnel. People were in good spirits, I had to laugh at those who started mooing. Ah, to feel like cattle at 7:05.
I prerode the first small section of singletrack the night before, so I knew what to expect and rode it well, passing a few people here and there. It felt good to have some race mojo going on. After a mile or tow of that we crossed the highway and started the first dirtroad section. I gave myself a once over - lungs, legs, mindset, all systems were go. I settled in at my own pace, feeling good. Very good actually. The course gets rolly before that next section of singletrack, and it keeps turning onto the roads less traveled. This year, that meant sand, but i was ready for it with the big wheels and bigger tires. I was floating smooth and straight through the sandtraps, watching other folks bob and weave and fight their way through. I was passing folks all over out there, especially on the dh's - I was tracking straight past groups of 4's and 5's, even a group of 8 all at once. Very good indeed!
The second piece of singletrack is uphill, cresting at the super steep downhill wall - if you've done the LE, yep, that one. I rode well on the uphill, and still feeling good, I was catching up to the folks in front of me. At the end of that singletrack, we pointed it down the wall. And then guy#1 in that group lost it in the rut. Bam! Over the bars, in the dirt, guy #2 crashed into #1's bike, and I was able to stop with only a gentle bumb up against #2's ride. Whew! Everyone was safe, so I took off again, out into the backcountry two tracks of Wyoming. The first aid station came just in time, I refilled, ate a little, and popped the earphones on now that the race had thinned out a bit.
Ah, music. I don't ride with music much, but it was a lifesaver out there. I picked a ton of songs that kept me in the groove, spinning along. I even heard, at the next aide station, an aquaintance that I've always concidered to be faster than me tell me that I was going so much faster that it was like I hit a switch. Wow, havn't heard that one before! It also kept my mind off how hard it was getting out there. And how hot it was getting out there.
Here's what I remember between Aide #2 and #4: The sun was baking us. The roads were sandy. The singletrack was everywhere. I simply don't remember nearly that much trail last year, and this year it was everywhere. And this part of the course that was the same as last year! What a difference a year and not suffering makes! A particularly uplifting moment was when I rolled up on #4 - last year I remember an insanely hard climb that wiped me out. I stopped three quarters of the way up to rest. I spent almost an hour at #4 recovering. This year I was anticipating it. Waiting for it around every corner. And when I rolled up to #4, I was stunned. Sure, it was a long steady climb, but I was in my middle pushing a decent pace. What a difference a year, and a few more long rides, can make!
Here's the real crucible with the current version of the Enduro: The first 55ish miles are hard. The last 15 are brutal. Leaving #4, I was pretty confident. A mile down the road we dumped onto singletrack. It got steep. We were riding barely trail, cattlepath, me on my fully rigid bike. My hands were on fire, no longer able to absorb the hits from the trail. I could feel each vibration from the trail jarring my bones, or so it seemed. It was during the heat of the day, the sun directly overhead, there was little shade. We were circumnavigated a mountain, and taking the brunt of its fluctuating slopes. It seemed like every right hand corner revealed a steeper and looser climb.
I cracked like Humpty Dumpty - but instead of falling off the wall, I hit it.
I limped into the last aide station, and collapsed into some shade. Immediately a volunteer was there asking if I needed water or food or an EMT. After a rest of at least 20 minutes, and a refueling of water and salted potatoes, I was up. The road was miserable, baking in the midafternoon heat and sun. When I came to the last climb, Headquarters, I was estatic. There would be shade! I remember climbing more this year on the bike, less on my feet, and before I knew it I was at the top, where I was treated to some rolling trail, that was rooty and rocky. The last thing my hands and elbows and shoulders needed. I was walking nearly anything that resempled technical trail, for fear that I'd lose it and break myself. And finally I saw the road. A quarter mile later and I was at the finish line with a beer in hand, a smile on my face, and new and old friends around me.
So that's Laramie. No results on their website yet, but according to my watch I beat last years time by over an hour. And a shout out to Jesper for wearing his colors at the race. It's great to see other 'Stone jerseys out there!
Here's a few shots from the Eve of Enduro, camping out.