IT'S NOT THE WALK OF SHAME... but, a slow roll out of bed and and ginger steps  downstairs reminds me yesterday's bike race was real.  Real hard, real far and real fun.  The idea of putting fingertips to keyboard last night was impossible.

What can I tell you about HUNKR-LA?

To start, this is the first HUNKR I've experienced from the rider's side... while my expectations for doing well were low, I was giddy with the prospect of lining up.  And it was better than I expected.  The HUNKR Nation is full of amazing people.  

New and untried was our neutral roll out.  A beautiful Mazda MX-5 lead us out for about 30 minutes.  We rode along chatting and meeting new people.  The pace was such that more than one, pulled aside for a nature break and easily caught back.  It was the perfect warm up and really set the tone that we were all in this together.

Once we hit the flag indicating the start, it was on... but not really.  Bierman took off on his road bike and tires set up.  Then a group of 3, including women's winner Rhonda Quick, eased off the front.  The rest of us, rode a reasonable tempo.  The eventual men's podium - McCulloch, Scarbrough, and Tinker - barely lifted the pace.  

No doubt, I wasn't the only one surprised to still be with the true talents.  

For the next 20 minutes the situation went from warm to simmer.  The moment it went to a true boil it was bye-bye.  

Too rich for me, I muttered to my buddy Jim.  It's a long day, he replied. 

In the next 20 minutes the main group of riders was reduced to packs of 5-10.  After all, we were on a 27 mile rolling climb.  It's hard to describe how beautiful this abandoned highway is to ride on.  No cars. An expansive vista well above the horizon.  And, the weather was perfect.

Towards the top I was politicking for our group of 8 to stay together if at all possible for the upcoming road section.  We refueled with Hammer and bananas at the first aid station.

A few other riders joined us out of Aid Station 1.  We were about 10 strong.  26 miles of desolate, well maintained, country road lay ahead of us.

The first 10ish miles were twisty, rolling and fast.  The punchy climbs popped a few riders.  We weren't drilling it, but we weren't waiting around either.  That was followed by the Lake Elizabeth climb, a true leg grinder.  Along the way we caught a few riders who'd been out alone for a long time.  Some clung on, others dropped off.

At the top of that climb 14 miles of false flat downhill found us in a beautiful well functioning pace line.  For sure we were making up lots of time.  But, the steady effort was revealing an upcoming battle with cramps.  The familiar twinges were rippling from calves to hips.  It didn't matter, there was no way I was going to get left behind as a solo battle would have been much more difficult.

Finally, we pulled into the aid station at Warm Springs.  Luckily the pace line rotation had me lead in and I was first out and back riding. 

There was no point in waiting or trying to stick together.  Ahead was a 2 mile climb with power-sucking sand sections.  In the recon, I'd struggled mightily here. 

Then, it was 102 degrees. 
Now a nice 80 burned down upon me. 
Then, I was riding HVY MTL with Sawtooth 42s. 
Now, I was riding Robot's CRUX with Maxxis Rambler 38s. 
Then, I had to dismount multiple times and limp across the sand sections. 
Now, I rode the entire climb.

Was it the lighter bike?  The beefier tread?  The better weather?  Probs all 3.  I was shocked and stoked to ride it all.  I really blew my mind.

Now it was time for the 7 mile mostly down hill.  It's a lot rougher than the climb.  Plenty of deeper sand, but with the speed pretty easy to rip across.  Plenty of chunky jagged rock.  I chose to take it easy, figuring nothing is slower than a shredded tire.  The straight up canyon rock with wall to wall concrete at the bottom was as fascinating as ever.

It felt great to hit the gravel road at the bottom, and awful to realize the hideous climb waiting for me.  I took a final 1/2 bottle of Hammer and turned the cranks and fought the cramps.  

Nick didn't stop and rode by.
I could see Paul's white sleeves up ahead.
All three of us battled our individual demons.  

After about 10 minutes I caught Paul.  We gave each other our respective blow-by-blow ride details.  Then Troy rode by... and Paul left me.

It gave me time to think about how I got here.  Alone.  On a devilish climb.  Riding HUNKR.  A dream come true.

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