Next is Tim Hodnett, our "fast guy", who turned a 1:06 on his first lap. Every team should have at least one fast guy. We had exactly one.
Here is our celebrity, "Press VIP", and face of the team, Adam Lisonbee. Maybe you've heard of him:
Finally, the Madder Doggers felt like they needed to bring in a really fast ringer from the outside to complete the team. Since they couldn't find one, they got me instead:
The race itself was awesome, but the team camp was really the icing on the cake. Organizational whiz Keith Payne (don't even bother, he never updates anyway), went all out this year, and I have no doubt that we had the best camp in the entire tent city. We had a full-time cook (thanks Abby), a full-time mechanic (thanks Brian... I think), charging stations, a warming tent, and even labeled plastic cups. He really thought of everything. And in case you haven't heard, Keith really sets the standard for team managers, and works non-stop to acquire sponsors and other benefits for his team.
For strategy reasons, most teams pick the fastest guy to do the run. But with the Madder Doggers, the tradition is that the rookie runs, so I was up. Lining up with 300 other racers, all chomping at the bit is an experience that everyone should try at least once. I was lined up next to Mr. Sabrosa Jon, who accurately described the crowd as one big cluster****.
****Jon was sporting his typical hotrod jumpsuit, as can be seen here.
The first lap was absolute chaos, and therefore, one of the most fun experiences I've had on a bike. I wanted to go out on the run fast enough that I'd have a descent position on the bike, but not so fast that I'd completely blow up. Considering that I must be the world's worst runner, I think I ended up up closer to the blowing-up side of things, without gaining the benefit of a great position on the bike.
My legs felt like they were filled with lead after the run, but the adrenaline and the desire not to get passed kept me going. The hardest part about that first lap is deciding whether the extra effort to leave the good line in order to pass is worth it, especially since there was usually a train of 10 riders in front of and behind you, so there was no telling how long you'd be stuck in the sand and rough rock.
At the end of the first lap, I decided to sacrifice a couple of seconds in order to take my bike off of a sweet jump that we built in front of our campsite. The reports vary, but it sounds like I got somewhere between 4-5 feet of air, and pulled off a no-footed 360 (extra points for difficulty with clipless pedals). Unfortunately, Kris' picture was taken just before I executed my aerial maneuver:I came in from lap one just under the time I had hoped for, so I was happy. And then Adam and Tim went on to demolish my time. They were both on fire. My second lap went pretty good as well, only dropping about a minute from my first lap.
Lap 3 was my first night lap, starting at 10pm. My light setup worked awesome, and I was able to ride everything I rode during the day. I was really having a blast riding the course at night, and I felt like I was going to be within a couple minutes of my first two lap times. And then, after hiking down into nose-dive, my legs started cramping up. Both legs, calves and quads, were completely locked up. I spent a few minutes down in nose-dive gully trying to stretch them out. There were a couple of kids camping nearby who asked if I needed any help. I told them to carry me and my bike out of the gully, but they didn't oblige.
Once I finally got back on my bike, everything was fine. I blame the cramping on the running at the beginning, but Karl says I'm being a baby about it. He's probably right.
During the break between laps 3 and 4 I loaded up with electrolytes to help with the cramping. I think it worked, but it also kept me awake the rest of the night. Lap 4 was a tough one for me. We had a good lead, I hadn't slept a wink, and it was colder than I had dressed for, so I lacked motivation. My headlamp went out (yes, that one), so I was only left with the bar light. I pretty much soft pedaled the lap without incident, and figured at that point of the race, the main goal was to keep the rubber side down and not get any flats, so it was a success.
I finally got about 45-50 minutes of sleep between laps 4 and 5, which made a world of difference. Riding in the daylight was soooo nice, and I felt like a million bucks. My lap time wasn't spectacular, but the other guys were still riding strong so we were able to hold onto the lead.
I feel lucky to have been on this team this year. We had one really fast guy and 3 other guys who were consistent enough to hold off the other teams. I heard a lot of complaints about the course being lame, but I'm not sure where those complaints come from. The course was perfect for a big race, with plenty of technical climbs and descents to keep things interesting. The entire experience is crazy, from the run at the beginning to looking down on a glowing tent city at 4am in the middle of the desert. I'm already looking forward to next year.