Beauty start today, big white clouds and a little cooler. I stayed on the back of the lead for about 25k. Fast over the grassy hills till we got over to the forest. Just beautiful landscapes today - forested hills, river valleys with yellow poplars, big round rock outcrops. Valley after unpopulated valley. I was right behind Sonya and the Malaysian at feed one, but my bottles weren't as expected again even though Jack and I did a peer review of proper drop off. There's 4 boxes at aid 1 but there were 6 at drop off so something funny going on. I then was back a couple minutes to make up, took about 10k to make it back, then it was the three of us again for the next climb, I popped when Sonya went faster, but caught the Malaysian then her on the long descent after snacking and soft pedalling the top. After aid 2 things got even more spectacular. Yellow trees in river valley, then turned left up a giant valley, just felt like another century, even another planet. Untouched. Khan Khentii National Park.
Led Sonya and the Malaysian up the valley until the climb, deal being Sonya was going to take off on the big climb, me and Malaysian were going to ride rest together, he had enough English to communicate he didn't want to be alone. It worked for a while but I had to visit the wilderness on the climb as my stomach is still struggling and that was last I saw him till finish. Shoot.
Great descent then it was an hour plus of river and big crossings. Some shockingly deep. All cold. Après race I unscrewed the S&S couplers to check - dry as a bone inside. The Kelowna crew caught me with one Mongolian. They were all hammering, and I wanted to get caught as there was quite a headwind down the valley. We worked together for a half hour or so, then it got frisky with attacks. I wasn't really in the mood for that - yeah it's a race - but we've got a long way to go, and where these guys are getting surge pull strength time after time was beyond me. Eventually Matt does a giant TT pull ang gaps, an Italian goes with him, Steve mechanicals, and I'm with the Mongolian. We keep motoring until Steve comes by again at Mach speed trying to catch Matt. Bagging a 25k TT to the finish isn't resonating with me by current capacity or mindset. Off he goes.
Well, the Mongolian then attacked me twice, and I covered. I was trying to reconcile if I was missing something - did every other person really want to do a solo TT into the wind for an hour on what was going to be pretty close to a 6h day instead of group ride into the end? I really wasn't in the mood for this, was feeling energy deficient, and wanted a drafting partner for the last 20k not a solo effort. Hmm. So I laid down a couple minutes of effort, opened a big gap on him, then sat up and let him roll back up. So he knew that I wasn't done just yet. Rest of way in was cooperative and I got a trademark iron handshake at the finish. Felt empty, belly worked better but not ideal yet, so end was burning fumes.
Brain worked really slow at the finish. I got my ger assignment, and so far am with Sonya and Matt and an Italian lady, sounds like her husband is joining. We're on the ground tonight with thunder brewing.
It took me a half an hour to get decent, and an hour to hold a conversation. I put my head down on the table and held off crying - how's that for a finish line bonk. Pretty much everything is sore. Ate bowl after bowl of mushroom soup reminiscent of moms, sitting in my dirty shorts an an overshirt until I got the wherewithal to shower. There was also two kind of pasta and borscht, but the mushroom soup was really doing it.
After crossing the river 20x, I knew what the shower would be like, as the shower water was pumped all of 50 feet from the river. I've heard so many languages of "cold" and various profanities... man it's a character builder. I like cooler showers, but this was trying. This whole thing is character building. Couple of the Kelowna guys said they were freeze soaking their legs in the river trying to inch their way in, when a Mongolian guy hitches his horse to a tree, strips down, dives in and swims around. Hardy. Can't even make this stuff up. These guys just prove daily how soft my first world office life is. I wish it weren't so stark; they're inspiring.
We've been pondering the race pack in our ger - every stage has a physical challenge and technical challenge rating. The physical challenge ratings aren't even worth looking at - they only have "high" or "very high". We start getting into the long stages tomorrow - tomorrow finishes with a 28km climb.