I registered immediately in expert before I changed my mind.  Considering the hours I have in at Palos, my string of good results in WORS so far and the Fat tire race coming up, I need the miles anyway. Fresh off a week of "dude ranching" in Jackson Hole, I felt refreshed, but not cleansed. I ate a lot, drank a lot and got no miles in during the vacation other than a good hike. I returned home to a pile of work -  then rain leading into the race weekend and the  relaxation was quickly replaced with frustration.

Nevertheless, I went into Meltdown with a goal of a podium in my age group and felt "ready".  We were expecting a big team showing and I was looking forward to cheering-on my mates in the Sport and Citizen classes. They put on a great show and kicked some serious ass considering the fact that most of them are unfamiliar with the terrain.   Jacob and I ventured all-over the course and caught some good action at ravine "3" (see Dave's pics). Eric asked for some last minute advice to which I replied "dont look down" and when he came screaming (yes, screaming at ME) down the ravine, my next bit of advice was "close your eyes". Bad omen?  Not sure, but a half-lap later, they were pulling him out of the trees on Gravity Cavity!  Instead of "Tap out" I guess he "sapped out" and they took him away in the bus for an obligatory scan! Other than Helge and Jasons flats (again!), and Bob's digger, the rest of the crew came in battered but otherwise unbruised with great stories to tell.

Next-up, expert. The conditions of the course on the pre-ride were impressive to say the least and major kudos to the CAMBR group for whipping the course into shape ahead of the rain. Got a good warmup with John, Lee and Chris from Wheelfast and felt good for the start. Got decent positioning next to Dennis "Leadville" Schueler  (my age group competitior) and we chatted about Lance and the hell that Leadville was this year and that took the edge off a bit. Got a decent start and I wanted to get good positioning into the singletrack. The grassy section and climb early-on kinda sucks the life out of you, but it wasn't too bad. Lap one felt good, really fast with lots of trade-offs with an expo singlespeeder and another geared guy, a couple passes, then put my head down into the ravines and got a gap. Never, ever went so fast through the 3R's, WOW!

However, I realized that my Hr was higher then I wanted, but I was racing, right?  First lap went well, but I forgot to lap the Garmin, so I had no idea what I did for time. Going into lap 2 with a bit of a gap both ways, I see HAC Chris at the roundabout with a blue-cup handup yelling "take this, take this" but I was unable. However, after the climb, he's still there yelling and I'm parched. I grab it, big swig and its a mouthful of Over Ale, which wasn't quite what I was expecting!  The next handup from Jacob was great as I pass the HAC tent with all the yelling, cheering and the inflatable finger beating from Julie!  A gulp of something a bit more "expected" and keep going. Time to save something for lap three. No drama, felt normal and paced myself.

Then the grassy climb at the end of lap 2 was telling me the pain was yet to come. Another pro handup from Jacob (as well as another blue cup attempt from Vince(denied!) and its time to press-on. More yells (yeah) but I know the worst is yet to come. Big-ass-hill, not too bad, but I do get passed. stair steps - starting to hurt (I get passed again) and it looks (from the grey hair) like its a class competitor from Flatlandia - damn!  I try to hang, but he is pulling me. I seem to pick up a bit on him in Turf, then wham - first cramp, left lower thigh and left hamstring on the way out of turf (F*@K!). I keep spinning - slowly - knowing the climb out is next. I didn't go granny, but went down all-the-way on the back as my right ham starts cramping too. Never happened before and I am pissed. Another passes me heading to the sharp right before 3 ravines and I just do my best to hang-on. The ravines go ok, I try to stretch on the way down half-day and lost a lot of time in the new section worrying about the climb up Gravity. Still cramping, but surviving. I try to maintain, saving what I can for the end. Holly goes by, as does another one. As I go up to the roundabout Flatlandia Mike is coming at me on the other side. For a moment I think "can I get him?" and I realize that could be fatal and sit. As I come back from the roundabout I see my current position looks safe, and decide I at least have to pedal up the hill, cramp, or no cramp.

The encouragement from my Son, my friends and teammates was really necessary at that point, so BIG thanks!

I'm blown-up, frustrated, but glad its over, and I immediately ask Chris for that "handup". Jacob gets the results and he yells "dad, you got a podium!". Wow, surpised and pleased to see I ended-up 3rd in class! I knew Dennis would win and I wasn't far back of Flatlandia Mike, so I felt a LOT better knowing I held second for as long as I did. I guess I pressed a bit too hard on lap one, as I was thinking pre-race that just under 40 minute laps were in order.  I ended at 2:03.40 with a 38/41/44 going backwards on lap 3. Back to a better "post vacation" diet and more miles!

We had the HAC and Wheelfast gang over to our place for a little post-race party, and it really capped-off a tremendous weekend that highlights what a great team we really have! My hats off to my lovely wife Kristin for puttin' together the party, and again to CAMBR for a truly "pro" event.  Cannot wait for next year!

 -Al Thom