I am on a pilgrimage of sorts. Nothing as meaningful as a journey to Mecca or a trip to the oracle of Zeus, but a pilgrimage nonetheless. According to Wikipedia, “A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith.” By those metrics, my bike ride to Interbike, care of Specialized’s six stage, 600 mile dealer ride from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas, would qualify as a “journey to a shrine”, ie The Sands Expo Center. And yes, the Sands Expo Center would qualify as a “location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith”, as it is home to what my life and career, literally at times, revolve around: the bicycle.
Nephi, our final destination on Day One, lies almost due south of Salt Lake City and gets its name from the Book of Mormon. Our journey, which departed from Specialized’s warehouse, dove south through the incorporated edges of SLC and eventually landed us on the western edge of Utah Lake. 5 flats within the first 30 miles put the governor on our progress but did nothing to deflate our enthusiasm.
On paper, today’s route, at 112 miles with over 7,000 ft of climbing, didn’t appear to be too difficult, but appearances can be deceiving. I don’t know if there’s something unique about Specialized dealers or not, but all of them can put the hammer down, which meant that the pace, once we got through the “valley of flat darkness”, was elevated, to say the least; We were averaging 25 mph in a well synchronized double pace line. By the time we reached one of our last refueling spots at mile 66, our group had been whittled down to a select few. After a quick stuffing of pockets, topping off of bottles, and gulping down of a Roctane gel, we were off and headed into the toughest part of the day, a 20 mile climb up Mount Nebo. To add to the adventure of our pilgrimage, we took a little used dirt road called Santaquin Canyon that winds its way through the Uinta National Forest. In the bible it is said that Mount Nebo looks down upon the place of Moses’ death which, in my case, was quite prophetic since this is where the “wheels came off my bus” a bit. To say that I was suffering on the climb, one that saw us go from 4,200 ft. all the way to just over 9,000 ft., would be an understatement. I literally felt my engine shutting down as I lost contact with the front four riders on the gravel ascent. I had to dig into my Gu Energy Labs bag of tricks, looking for a miracle, and grabbed a Roctane gel and then a Peanut Butter GU, which brought me back from going off the deep end of caloric deficit. I was also thankful to have some of our new Electrolyte Capsules, as they helped stave off cramps that were quietly trying to creep into my legs.
I rode the last 2o miles solo and without any water, which is always a bit disconcerting consider that this is the optimum time to begin the recovery process, especially since I have five more 100 mile plus days ahead of me. I stumbled into Nephi,definitely a bit dehydrated, and quickly found our hotel where our guides, Western Spirit, had recovery waiting. An ice cold Chocolate Smoothie Recovery drink was just the ticket to get me on the recovery train and, hopefully, ready to do it all over again tomorrow. Check back to tomorrow to see how this train rolls.