Weather was perfect and the trails were dry and fast.
550 riders launched from the camp ground at 0630. I was ahead of half of them so wasn't affected much by the huge dust ball.
Denis and I rode together briefly on the first climb. I fell in a pile of sand on a right turn, and never saw him again.
I was a little cautious about my pace. Last year I had an issue with my knees. I definitely don't want to revisit that. Also I didn't leave my lights in the drop bag, which means I had to reach AS5 by 1620, and have enough juice left for 25 miles more riding. So I rode hard, but reserved a little.
Went into the hike-a-bike section to AS2 with some pretty good riders so there was space for me to ride a good portion of the trail.
Between AS2 and 3, I cleared all the climbs , had only one dab on the descent, plus a flat. When I arrived at AS3, my knees were fine. I knew I had improved from last year.
I rode most of the trails between AS3 and 4. The rocks gardens were shorter than those in the Shed so no problem there. However I did make a stupid mistake and fell down the hill - luckily I was able to grab a tree to stop me from going too far down. I couldn't do some steep technical sections. It might have helped if I had a 34t cog in the back.
From AS4 to 5 was a long 19 miles of road and fire road climb. I felt pretty good on the road section and passed everybody in sight, including one guy who lost his middle and big rings pedaling hard with his granny on the road. Later there was a female rider (Bike Factory Racing) caught up and stayed on my tail for a good few miles. Sharp right turn onto the fire road, I scaled down quite a bit so I could keep pedaling, and she took off for good. At that point I realized my endurance was probably just up to around 70 miles or 8 hours. Nonetheless I pedaled up non-stop. I was so glad to see AS5 finally. It was around 1520.
Left AS5, I kept pushing up to the Apex. I got passed by quite a few riders. A singlespeeder passed by, I told him it was all downhill from there. Later we both found I was wrong.
The singlespeeder and I arrived at AS6 together. He recognized me from last year, well, he remembered my orange Vicious Cycles. We chatted a little, and he left AS6 about 45 seconds ahead of me.
I used the big ring on the road and caught up him turning onto the last long climb. He was leading at the beginning but soon had to stop and walk some of the climbs. I was able to go up non-stop in my middle ring so finally I was ahead of him.
I took the last long descent to camp ground easy and really enjoyed it. A couple riders passed me but I didn't care at all. At that point all I wanted was to enjoy the last bit of riding and to be home safe and sound.
When I hit the gong, the time was 11 hours and 29 minutes.
Over the course I consumed approximately 4 bottles of Gatorade, two cans of Dr. Pepper, three cups of Coke, a few pieces of PBJ, some bananas, a couple gummy bears, a couple chocolate sweets, and some mints. I didn't eat any Shot Bloks. Except for Gatorade and Dr. Pepper, the stuff I left in the drop bags all went to waste.
There was a photographer taking pictures at finish line and on the course. I'll see if I can find one of mine later once he posted them online.
The bike was cleaned and lubed the next day. A few scratches on the rear rim, probably from riding through those rock gardens. Oh, well.
BTW, that was my first ever camping experience. I fell into good sleep soon listening to a mother signing lullaby to her 11 month old baby in the neighboring tent. Wasn't it nice?
GPS trace: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/12762319
Discussion thread on a local MTB forum (MORE): http://www.more-mtb.org/forum/showthread.php?t=16475
Fellow rider, Denis, posted an amazing time 9:30, took the 2nd in Clydesdale, and 3rd in Master.
Results on Cycling News