Other than the first lap, where a group of various different race categories stuck together, I was pretty well alone. One other 6-hour rider hung onto my wheel through the first half of my second lap, but ultimately detached.
Other than that, the only other riders I saw were briefly upon being passed or passing, and Ryan Greef, who was racing the 12-hour solo. He and I started 5 laps together, but he would hammer impressively ahead, stop for a break at the start/finish, and then take back off. He was killing it, and put in a solid effort to win the 12-hour solo race. Very cool.
For me, the event was about time on the hard tail and time in the saddle, but it also became a strange lesson in hydration.
Obviously, in 2 decades of riding, I have run out of water just a couple times, and suffered from dehydration. As a dumb kid riding through sweltering summer heat, it was standard operating procedure to run out of water and go dizzy until I finally found a spring to scoop from. Drinking water from giardia-filled Vermont streams was a dumb idea.
While such mess-ups are rare now, I know for a fact I drink less on the trail than most my peers; I have no idea why, maybe all those dehydration rides as a dumb kid?
In this case, being breezy and cool with a chance of showers, I figured I would ride 2 laps per bottle, with my bottles staged at the start/finish for easy snagging.
I had more water just a short ways off course at my car should I need it.
The plan worked the first two laps, as it was still cool and I started well hydrated, but entering lap 3 with a fresh bottle, I realized I was actually quite thirsty, and was halfway through the bottle before I was halfway around the lap, leaving only half a bottle for the next 1.5 laps?!
I eased my water intake but quickly became dehydrated.
What was different in this event, compared to say, some long ride, was that I was trying to maintain a set pace. My first two lap times were just shy of an hour (55 and 56 minutes), and that meant I could do 6 laps before the cutoff, IF I didn’t significantly change my pace.
As soon as I got dehydrated though, my body responded. My muscles got heavy and stiff and stuff started to hurt like it shouldn’t have.
My body rebelled like I’d never felt it. Everything started to hurt. The nasty root sections inspired dread. I was eating well, but now my food was tapping out my water.
With my pace dropping, going off course to re-fill the bottles meant I might not make the cutoff, and could miss a lap
Fortunately, Meredith came by to cheer for me during lap 4, and re-filled my bottles, allowing me to do one bottle per lap for laps 4, 5, and 6. As evidence for the effect of dehydration though, my lap time crashed from 55 and 56 minutes the first 2 laps, to 64 minutes the third! I recovered slowly, getting my lap times back down to 60 minutes,
By the time I closed out lap 5, I had 65 minutes left to the cut off and had some energy to spare for the final lap, allowing me to squeeze my lap time back to 59 minutes for the final lap, which I was really happy about.
Despite the idiot move on water, the event was exactly what I wanted and needed, and I think it set me up for future races.