November 16th was my last big race of 2013, and it was a tough one. I had heard for years how beautiful Palo Duro Canyon is, and what a good fun twisty race they had. So even though I wasn’t training much, I hitched a ride to Canyon Texas with Dax Kastrin and Rich Walters. We got there in plenty of time to pre-ride, and it really was super-fun and curvy with lots of swoopy descents and short power climbs, with just enough little drops to keep things interesting.
I lined up with the 100+ racers doing the full marathon (advertised as 52 miles), on about the third row. We had a mile or so pavement climb before the singletrack, but a near crash just in front of me, and then a loud dramatic crash right next to me, put me farther back in the pack. When we hit the singletrack everything slowed way down, and it was really hard to pass. One guy did pass me and since he looked fairly mature, I asked him his age and he said 53. I said “ok, I guess we are racing!”.
After a few miles things opened up a bit, and I caught and passed him back. But then I dumped the bike in a tight turn and he got back by, and I had to stop again to fix my seat, which was twisted. Soon after that I took a wrong turn, losing another half minute or so. I finally caught and passed him at the end of the first long lap.
The second lap went better, and I made good time despite the wind. Did I forget to mention the wind? It was great when it was behind you, so fast it was always faster than your speed, but brutal when the track turned upwind and hard enough to blow you off your line when it was a crosswind, and once blew me totally off the track. It was dehydrating too, so I stopped to pick up my reserve bottle (I started with a full Camelback of Gu Roctane and a bottle of H20).
The last lap got tough. The short uphills and downhills seemed easy, but they were deceptive because they were so fun they made you go fast and hard, and after 3+ hours all the quick efforts added up. My buddy Rich described it as riding to the top of your house, along the roof-top, dropping back to ground level, and then repeating that another thousand times. My Garmin said over 4000 feet of climbing for the day, even without any long climbs. I started to cramp early in the lap, not just my quads but also my hamstrings and even my shins. I had to slow way down to keep from totally locking up, and a few guys caught me. I kept going as hard as I could, right on the edge of my legs going rigid, because I knew there was a 53 year old behind me. I’m always glad to see the finish line, but this one was a huge relief.
Turns out the old guy I was worried about was on a single-speed, so I shouldn’t have worried too much. He finished a couple of minutes behind me, and that was fast enough to win the overall SS division.
There was one old guy in front of me I didn’t know about, not that I could have gone much faster except maybe getting a better start. I ended up second in the 50+ category, not first like I wanted but not too terrible for my first time at a tough race with a big masters field.
Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s racer and friend Nina Baum won the women’s open category (again). Alison Kinsler was second.
Once again my Race Golds were flawless and I had no flats, just like all the other ten races I did this season! I’m super thankful for great equipment that let me finish on the podium on every race I started, despite all the rocks and thorns in the New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and Western Colorado races.