Aug 8, 2005

Brian Head Part 1: Wednesday, Thursday & Friday

The Drive
Denise, Ryder, Josh, Jeannie
& I left Mentone around 9 pm on Wednesday night. We drove until 1:30 am on Thursday morning and stayed at the Virgin River Hotel Casino for only 29.99! We got the whole experience by eating breakfast at the Chuck Wagon Restaurant. The service was horrible, but the food was worth the $3.50 we paid for an entire breakfast. Ryder opted for milk only, so Denise & I got off really cheap. Overall, the Virgin River Hotel & Casino gets four stars in my book.

Thursday morning after breakfast, we stopped in Cedar City to buy groceries (ice cream). Then we drove curvy Hwy 143 from the town of Parowan (elevation 5990 ft.) to Brian Head. The road tops out at 10,400 ft., but our condo was at 9700 ft. According to Josh, Hwy 143 was reminiscent of the roads in the French Alps due to its extreme pitch and lack of guard rails. I’ll have to take his word for it.

When we reached our condo, at about 2 pm, it was pouring rain - hard rain. But unlike the movie Hard Rain, staring Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, Minnie Driver & Randy Quaid, it was no joke. The drops were cold, heavy & didn’t appear to be letting up. So much for pre-riding the 27-mile XC course. Instead we unpacked the van (in the rain) of its duffle bags, food, bike gear & baby stuff. Josh & I immediately felt the altitude on our first ascent up the stairs to our second floor condo. We made many trips up & down the stairs because Denise, Jeannie & Ryder packed a lot of stuff. The rain finally let up long enough for us to get in an hour ride. Basically we rode the first 5 miles of the XC course, which went up Hwy 143 & hooked a hard left up a dirt road toward Brain Head Peak. An interesting way to start a mountain bike race, but I liked it. We had talked to James earlier in the day & he said the rest of the course was gnarly. Turns out he was right & the mud didn’t make it any better.

The Race
Due to the long opening climb, they started us with the Junior Experts. In all, about 60 of us left the line at the 2 pm start time. By the time we reached the top of the climb, about 5 miles in, I was sitting 3rd or 4th Semi-Pro with two Junior X’s in front of me. Nearly everyone else had broken from our tempo. From that point to the feed zone, which was about an hour in, I rode in the same position. Denise & Ryder gave me a perfect feed, but it wasn’t long after that I cracked on a long steep & slippery uphill. The hill turned into a hike-a-bike for some of us, including me, & I just couldn’t recover from it. I also lost some places in some of the slick, root-littered descents that favored the east coast contingent. And then came the rain. And then came the chain suck problems. In the end I finished 12th, just over six minutes off the leader’s time. I was somewhat satisfied considering the conditions, but Larry Longo made me feel better when he said, “You can’t live in Redlands and race at 10,000 feet.” Thanks Larry.

We reached over 11,000 ft. at one point & rode through piles of unthawed hail.

Even though he suffered from contact lens problems during the race, James was excited because the day prior, he pre-rode with Kelli Emmett.

The Steven King portion of the course was the Boy Scout Tent Camp that we rode through. Picture riding your bike through dozens & dozens of muddy Boy Scouts running around in the rain & screaming like crazed maniacs. Freaky.

Saturday & Sunday to be continued...

Breakfast on race day.

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