Elk, Bear, Run-in With a Ranger, and a 3-rd Place Finish
By Kem Akol
So, since I broke my elbow earlier this year I have been "jonzing" to do an Ironman or something of that nature ( as Arnold would say). So I decided last week to do a Bigfoot event called the 12 hours of Humbolt.
I left Friday afternoon and the traffic was pretty bad so I went to Redding and west on 299 to Arcata. I have fond memories of traveling with my college water polo team to Humbolt State to whup up on the Lumberjacks... And as I remember, the trip was full of beautiful sites.
As I drove a conservative 55 mph I soon encountered a very large deer or elk with the typical stupid come-hit-me look in his eyes. I slowed and honked and sure enough he scampered away. And I was on my way. Until, while I was rounding a corner something darted across the roadway and I could barely swerve to avoid it! And it was... a giant brown bear! And I missed it by inches. I slowed pretty much to a pedestrian 45 mph the rest of the way...
When I got there I wanted to locate the park so I found a map and went to the park. Now there was a gate and a big space on the right side of the gate so I drove around it and parked under a giant redwood tree. And I pitched my tent and went to sleep... until 5:15 when the spotlight of the local police shined in on me like God's torch.
After writing me a ticket and making me de-camp he told me to leave and I did... In the morning I spoke with a nice cop at the race and he took my ticket and said he would "take care of it."
When the gun went off I found myself in the little green room but soon everything was taken care of and I was off! It started with a huge granny gear uphill followed by some more uphill, and then some more uphill, and some more uphill. There was lots of singletrack and it reminded me of Wilder/Nicene Marks. The course ended up being 1,350 ft of elevation per lap and 7.6 miles in distance.
I was turning about one hour per lap, and I was in good spirits and had good eats. I had put together a menu to stay the course with turkey sandwiches (with and without cheese), Brown Cow yogurt, cherries, various Laura Bars, sweet and salty bars, Fritos corn chips, Gatorade, water, tea, and Anchor Steam beer. Every other lap I would consiously stretch, and flop down in my chair and eat while sitting there. I rested about 3-6 minutes per stop.
I had noticed a considerable group of young homeless people and was concerned that I had set up camp in the middle of their camp. I was scared for my turkey sandwchiches. I asked one of the teams if they could move me and they did while I was racing and I felt the security of being amongst my own kind again. I was comfortable and warm, and encountered someone from one of the teams who remembered me from high school (Acalanes High 1974)...Wow! He told me I had the same determined look as then!!
Lap 5 started about the same but then I heard a pop and the next time I clicked into my right pedal I noticed it didn't. After turning the spindle 90 degrees I was able to engage the cleet and it was lucky I had brought an extra set of pedals so the next stop I changed out the pedal and was still in good spirits and was making all the obsticles and was doing fine until lap 8 when I noticed a certain spongy feel and soon my back tire was flat. After changing it I was off and when I returned to the base I repumped up to the proper level.
Up to that time I thought I could pull off 12 laps because I was turning about one hour (including my stops). After the flat I felt kinda flat. I had to to small chainring instead of middle. I had to stand to relieve my back. Although my decending was getting faster through the familiar trails I was getting a little delirious because I would lose track of just where on the the course I was... sort of a time-space continueum...
I realized on lap 10 I would not make the 12 so I slowed to a more pleasant pace (my heart rate had dropped about 20 beats) and I cruzed in. I finished with 11 laps in 11:30
As it turns out, two other gents were faster... I kinda wished I'd known where they were.... next time (less rest, more pain)... I had a fun time. I didn't crash. I'm not too sore...(just my lower back), and I think I got this endurance thing out of my system for this year...