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2012 Bailey Hundo – Mens Pro?
28th Jun 2012 Posted in: Blog , Race Reports 2
2012 Bailey Hundo – Mens Pro?
I was getting emotional again. 100 miles of amazing mountain biking will do that to you.

The lightning gave way to hail just past 8,000′ with 20 miles left in the race. At first it seemed novel, I’d never raced through hail before. But it hurt. And it was cold, the temperature dropped over 30° … 20 minutes later when the hail turned to driving rain and the course turned downhill, ‘novel’ gave way to ‘intense’. The 2012 Bailey Hundo was delivering heavy on the “Epic” scale.

I had no expectations for this race. I’d never raced at altitude before and this would be the longest day in the saddle for me this season. To prepare I got to Denver a week early and stayed with “24 Solo” star Nick Alexander.

He’s still doing well in the Tri-scene even amidst the tough, uber-fit crowd from Boulder. Nick took me riding up Lookout Mountain in Golden, the legs felt great but I could feel the lack of O2 in my lungs as expected. Nick stayed on the road while I took a trail down the mountain and met one of the locals.

As part of my acclimation process I spent a day riding above Colorado Springs with 2x Olympian and World Champion Alison Dunlap.

It’s always good to see Al and now she’s a Mom with little Emmit keeping her busy. Her husband Greg, also a super-fit rider couldn’t join as he was busy managing things at SRM. A true cycling-family. We rode from her house in Colorado Springs up into the hills close to what is now an inferno. It had been years since I rode with Al and she’s still fit, still fast and her technical skills are amazing. I had a few ‘hold my breath’ moments descending through some tight little rock chutes. Al rips. Check out her riding camps – www.alisondunlap.com

The sunset on the drive back to Denver was amazing – tho a bit of foreshadowing. Considering this was taken as I drove past the Air Force academy that is now threatened by flames, this could be a sunset, could be a wildfire.

I took a couple days off and then it was time to drive to Bailey & set up camp. This event has huge potential as they have a great finish area with camping next to a gorgeous trout stream. My tent was about 6′ away from the cool water and I wished I had a fly rod. Nearby is Bailey, a tiny town along the side of route 285 at the mouth of the Pike National Forest – better known as “South Park”. In town they had Bailey Day complete with a contest for best pony tail and mullet, so we heard.

Race day would start early – 4am to start breakfast. The race would begin at 6. The temps were in the 30′s. I was freezing cold but felt lean and ready.

State Senator Mark Scheffel got it started with a shotgun blast. Old school, wild west style.

With the pain of last years’ SM100 still in mind I played my cards very conservatively this day. Started out slow amidst the ‘Mens Pro’ field (I’m far from a Pro, not sure who put me there).  I let a lot of folks pass me on the first few climbs then settled in and began passing them back. This was the first climb, shot by Nick who leapfrogged around the course to cheer me on and take photos before volunteering at Aid 8. Nick’s awesome.

Course knowledge is everything and had I known better I would have pushed more to get ahead before the amazing single track began. There was almost no room to pass and clearly there were some folks in front of me who don’t like to go downhill like I do, even through blinding dust and a brilliant sunrise. I patiently waited to pass and sometimes guys would just pull over and let me by. Have to say the people were great, super polite and everyone seemed stoked. Nick caught me eating a little mid-morning snack.

I was absolutely loving my new Flash 29′r hard tail. It was my first real mtb ride on it and it was blazing. Huge thanks to Cannondale for the support.

I think this was near Aid 3, I never even saw Nick but heard someone cheering for me as I continued to make up ground. The course went through a forest burned back in the 90′s – and it never grew back. It was a surreal landscape making one feel they were at 10,000′ but luckily for me it was only about 7k.

I was ahead of schedule and Nick missed me at Aid 5. I was busy having an absolutely amazing day out, feeling no pain and dancing on the pedals. I got emotional. After so many races gone bad, this was going good. Really good. The bike and I were one, flying over, around, back and forth, faster and faster. No one was ahead of me. No one was even in sight. I looked down the valley and it seemed to go on forever. I smiled, a tear swept back across my cheek. I was so alive in that moment. Then I washed out on a corner and hit the deck pretty hard. Ok Mr. Emo, pull it together and stay focused. Little did I know the dance would soon turn to a waltze, then a shuffle, they a crawl. After 20 minutes of the most amazing downhill I reached the switchbacks above, literally above, aid 6. Not a place to make a mistake. At the aid station I grabbed my drop bag, refueled and set out on the refreshing road section complete with tail wind, then the course went back onto dirt roads and shot straight up. Here was where the race began or for a few, ended. Scroll back up – this was the “HELLA STEEP” part. Yes it hurt but I just felt great and made a point to keep passing the carrots ahead of me.

I spent less than 2 minutes at aid 8 visiting with Nick, he was really excited and got me rolling again quick but the sky ahead was dark and rumbling. “Do you need anything else?” he asked as I left, “I need it to not rain on me” I said. Soon after the hail began.

I had about 20 miles left. I passed the mountain top aid station knowing if I stopped moving I’d freeze. Although the thought of descending through the piles of hail stones and puddles for 2,000′ wasn’t warming me up either. There was a guy chasing me down – perfect motivation to keep pressing forward. When the climb ended at 8,247′ I smiled, “I got this” I thought and tucked in. I was taking big risks on the loose fire road and figured maybe I shouldn’t apex the corners so much since the roads were not blocked off to traffic. Seconds later I narrowly missed a massive 4×4 around a blind right hander. The guy chasing behind me was totally out of sight and while ‘sight’ was very limited I knew a crash at 47mph would wreck the day and any chance at a good result. I was freezing but the end was somewhere close. Had to be. The road leveled out and I saw the final aid station. As I rolled past I asked “How far from here?” and a volunteer yelled back, “About 5 miles”

I hammered out of the saddle into what I thought was the final climb. About 2 miles into it I saw a big sign, “5 Miles to Finish!” That hurt. My last match was burning up quick. The guy chasing appeared again, he was also out of the saddle hammering. I kept at it. I’d be damned if I was going to give up a spot now. More downhill and godammit more climbing. More downhill and the valley floor. This was it. A mix of rain, sweat and tears poured from my eyes. I was getting emotional again. 100 miles of amazing mountain biking will do that to you.

I crossed the finish line a minute over 8 hours. There was my team mate and good friend Jessica. I was so cold I could hardly talk. She got me a blanket and let me curl up in the back of her car & after about 30 minutes I stopped shivering and made my way to the beer tent. I talked to Jess and other finishers, everyone was very stoked. Nick finally showed up and I got into warm clothing. We left for Denver and a big pasta dinner near Nick’s place. There was a great band playing some funky hillbilly fusion and I was, in every sense of the word, stoked.

As predicted I didn’t make the top 10 (came in 13th in Pro) but I did make the Top 10 for Fundraisers (6th)! Top 20 are in the photo.

Thanks to the race promoters and other racers for such a great event. Thanks to all those who donated in my name. Thanks Alison and Nick. And a sincere thank you to Lucas McCain who got this ball rolling. Sorry we didn’t get to race together my friend – but I hope you’ll join me when I return to this amazing event next year! Cheers,

Thanks for reading.

-JB

2 Responses

  1. you sistah says:

    Hey! That was a great read. Thanks for sending it as I forget to check. Loved the photos too. Congrats on the finish, 13th sounds pretty good to me!

    Looking forward to seeing you in the flesh at the end of July! Love you!

  2. Diana Manchester says:

    Awesome, Jason – writing almost as good as the biking. Way to go!!! Nick’s photos pretty awesome, too.

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