There is a place, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no toil. This, is not it. –Bob Roll
42 miles. 8800′ vertical gain. Day 4, The Aqueduct stage, so named because of the massive corrugated pipe running along the trail before Aid 1, likely placed there to make sure you eat sh*t if you happened to travel on the wrong side of it.
No doubt owing to the brilliant, though semi-sadistic, nature of Mike Mac, the stages of the Epic flow day to day so that each successive day brutalizes you more than the previous. Despite the universal utterance from finishers of each stage that that stage had to have been the hardest, it only gets worse. After the a$$-kicking of Guyot yesterday, the Aqueduct followed with meanness in her heart and blood on her lips. Heinous Hill and Vomit Hill (yeah, I know) were lined up back-to-back to start you off with a couple swift kicks in the Jimmy. The Keystone climb in the middle puts you in a headlock until you cry uncle. And when you do, she finishes you off with a biblical-sized haymaker at mile 36. It sounds like a quaint vacation spot, but Rock Island Gulch has murder on it’s mind. The grade is over 20%, and the terrain is loose shale and rock. Low blow, Michael. Low blow.
But, that sinister soul also has a soft spot. And today, it was a revisit to the Colorado Trail. Same section as day 2 (which I’ve been advertising to anyone willing to listen as the worst day I’ve ever spent on a bike), except this time in reverse. Yesterday, I rode with Ken and Andrew, which made the nasty Guyot stage so much more bearable. Today, I rode with Ken and Chris C (Happy 44th B-day, Chris!). When you ride your heart out and still come in 5th, you may as well just ride with friends and enjoy the pain together. During one of our extended yoga sessions on the Keystone climb, Team Bliss appeared. We had passed the overall first place coed duo team early on, so it appeared that they were in first place for the stage. John rode the Leadville 100 on Saturday (the Epic started on Sunday), so they’ve been in recovery mode until now. But today, they were on their game. Michele led us down the CT trail, which was fast and furious, and fun. We passed spots on the the trail that whipped up flashbacks to the blubbering and self-pity from Day 2. But today was another day, the sun was out, and the trail was tacky and ripe. We rode as a group into aid 3, and eventually on their way to the stage win. Big congrats to them. They trail the overall lead by about an hour. But anything can happen in these races, so they still have a shot. I’m hoping they let us tag along again, so I can at least experience a win by proxy.
Tomorrow is the infamous Wheeler stage. More on that tomorrow.