Short Version: My goal was to get a podium, albeit in a small field. The race unfolded without any disasters. I couldn't keep up the pace of the leaders on the second climb of the first day. Got 3rd. Stayed with leaders longer the 2nd day. Got 2nd. 3rd overall with a total time of 12:24:15, official time of 12:27:01.
Long Version: After caravanning through a smokey Sonora Pass with the EBVC "Endurance" van, we registered and had an enjoyable dinner at Astorga's Mexican restaurant. I settled on the most pedestrian dish of the party: a burrito with a salad and a side or rice and beans. I was lucky "rooming" with Craig and Ian. Even though I felt we were stepping all over each other, I can't imagine the scene upstairs at the Ramada with four.
Day 1: I felt well trained and prepped equipment-wise for EC. However, as soon as I got to the line on my computer battery died. It's nice to have some idea of miles to go near the end of each stage. But I figured I knew the course well enough after six years. And honestly it was nice not to have the distraction. I knew one of my competitors, Joel Sothern, from Thousand Oaks, and was anticipating a guy from Park City, Utah, to be a threat. It turned out a guy from Pennsylvania, Bob Meikle, was the one. He was light and liked to turn a good cadence. Five of us, including Paul McKenzie and a guy who Paul knows from Marin Co., set a good pace and quickly dropped the field. We shed Paul near the top of 168 (the first two thirds of the first climb to South Lake) and on the final 15% gradients before the turn-around we lost the guy Paul knows. A good fast descent with the three of us trading leads. This contrasts with previous years, competing against Kevin Keenan from Alto Velo who bombed the descents. I had to muster the greatest courage to tuck and let gravity do its work, hoping to keep on wheels and limit my time losses. On the flats, Sothern got on the wheel of a pro 1,2 guy and I was putting in more effort than I wanted to stay on his wheel while shedding arm warmers and eating. Sothern clipped right ahead on the second climb and I had to let them go, as I would have paid dearly later. Sothern and Meikle were 2.5 minutes ahead at the turn around. The rest of the day I was riding alone. I felt myself precipitously slow down on the steep sections of upper Rock Creek Rd. Otherwise I thought I kept a good pace. I was 9 minutes+ behind Meikle who was about 5 minutes behind Sothern. Total time: 6:24:30 by my watch. 6:26:29 official time. I am always curious as to how the time keepers are off. Race food 5 x 20 oz. bottles fluid, 36 oz. with Hammer Perpetuem drink mix, Clif Bar, Power Bar, Cheese and Turkey Pita Sandwich and 6-7 gels. Burger, recovery drink, water, coke, and lots of other stuff at the top. Lovely Fettucini Milano, salad and small pizza at Upper Crust Pizza. Quite filling.
Day 2: More of the same. The three of us easily dropped the rest starting with us, except the guy Paul knows (the one climb wonder.) At the top Craig Lattimer was ready to descend and offered us his wheel. Sothern and Meikle dallied a bit and I closed the gap to Craig who had slowed. Once we built up speed again (only about 40mph) Craig slowed and I had to zip past. He had a flat. Around the next bend a car in our lane, well ahead, braked for a group of riders taking the full lane ascending. I only had 2-3 seconds to slow and pass the car on the left as the group of riders moved to their right. It didn't feel too crazy. But there was no way for me to stop and I had to have faith that the guys behind had left a sufficient gap. The second climb and first part of the last climb where uneventful. We traded pulls. But when Sothern was on the front he kept getting out of his saddle and surging. To test us? To show me this is what I tend to do? I had been careful to keep a steady pace. And since I was at my limit, I didn't feel I should be the one to close the gaps and let Meikle do it. At the start of the steeps (with about 7K to go, one surge was too much and I let the two go. As I proceeded up the switch backs I could see Sothern drop behind Meikle and gradually I started to bring Sothern back. I couldn't see Meikle and overtook Sothern with about 500 meters to go. Total time: 5:59:45 on my Joule. 6:00:32 official. Race food 5 x 20 oz. bottles fluids, 36 oz. with Hammer Perpetuem, Power Bar, 6-7 gels. Turkey and Cheese Pita sandwich, burger, coke, recovery drink, water, fruit salad, and trail mix at the top. Beer and fruit salad at Schatt's. Pasta veggie rotoulle, huge salad, beer, and vegan cookies at my Scott and Jan Busby's after I bade the guys farewell.
Just to note my times were not my fastest over the courses which which have varied over the past few years. Day 1 comparable best: 2011 in 6:19: 13 recorded, 6:21:02 official, Day 2 comparable best: 2012 in 5:44:05 recorded, 5:48:50 official. The slower time this year on Day 2 can easily be explained by an extremely slow neutral start out to turn-off from 395 and the slower first descent. And getting older sucks.