It wasn’t long before I started catching the tail end of the expert men. This would normally make me very gleeful, but considering they were the 60+ category I held myself in check. Once I started catching the younger expert gals (who started 3 mins ahead of us) I knew I was in with a chance of a good finishing time. I must have been gloating a little too much though because half way round the 2nd lap I felt an odd splash of something cold on my calf. It took a few seconds to register what it could be – no stream crossings, no puddles, no leaky water bottle, it could only be one thing – Stan’s tire sealant! I looked down at my rear tire and confirmed my suspicion. My rear tire was running dangerously low as I must have burped air out of my tire. It wasn’t completely flat, but it did need more air so I pulled over to try and re-inflate it. I go to grab my CO2, but can’t quite believe what I’m seeing – a wide open saddle bag completely empty of tools! I have nothing left, nada, zilch, not even a rogue chain link hanging in there. All the bouncing around on the course must have opened it up and discharged the contents onto the course.
As I’m standing there with my saddle bag open and my mouth even further open I’m being passed by numerous gals. I’m convinced my race is done, and determine there and then never ever to use regular tires on a tubeless set up. As I’m pretty much as far away from the start/finish area as possible I can only do one thing – get back on my bike and hope that I can nurse my tire (now around 10-20psi) back to the start. I soon get into the rhythm of off weighting the rear wheel over any rocks or dips in the trail. I can feel the rim hitting the rocks every now and then, but on the whole it’s holding up. I concentrate on finding the smoothest possible lines through rocks and on the descents and pushing it hard on smooth sections. I start to catch back up with a few of the gals that passed me so begin to feel a little better.
I’m pleased to get back to the start/finish area, but realize that I can’t actually take help from anyone without being disqualified. Should I go on and risk completely flatting in the middle of the course or quit and forfeit the race. Well I guess you already know the answer to this one – I passed on through and headed out for my 3rd lap. Looking on the bright side of things at least the low psi was good in the sandy sections! I knew that Chris would forgive me if my rim got a little out of shape?
The 3rd lap is hard going – it’s getting way hotter now – mid 80’s with no respite as the whole course is in full sun – cacti don’t cast much shade! I’m getting really tired standing up more than I would normally to try and protect the rear tire. So much so that on one rocky ascent I bobble off course and smack my knee on a rock. With blood trickling down my leg the cuss words are filling my head. I looked a mighty pretty sight, but got back on and continued on.
I did make it to the end, but was a little depressed thinking how strong I felt and how much I’d blown it. I went back to the car to dress my wounds –
As the older and younger gals got intermixed it was hard to tell where I’d finished – I had to be told by a friend that I’d actually taken 1st in my age! All of the gals that had passed me by were not in my category at all, in fact because of the start time differences, only 3 of the younger gals actually had a better time than me! This was getting better and better by the minute. I ended up a few minutes ahead of the next gal, putting me solid in 1st for the overall too – I was shocked, but happy.