Year after year (I think it's been 10 now), the Teva Mountain Games have brought together the country's greatest athletes in a wide variety of adventure sports. And, year after year, I have sought to take home to the prize in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, a multisport competition that combines a racer's times in a 20-minute downriver kayak race, a 90-minute mountain biking race, a 10k trail run, and, finally, a 30-minute, all-out, lung-burning road bike time trial up Vail Pass.
I have raced well at Teva in the past. But, unfortunately for me, so has my friend and competitor, Josiah Middaugh. Sound familiar? Yep, he's the same guy I keep going up against in snowshoe races, the Mt. Taylor Quadrathlon, and many others.
After working hard on my cycling this year, I figured my chances of de-throning Josiah were as good as ever. It's not that I don't want Josiah to win (or don't care about the college savings accounts for his three wonderful children); it's just that a race is a race and going for the win is what we do!
With regards to the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, the downriver kayak race (great story from the winner, the one and only Jeremy Rogers, is here: http://jeremyrodgers.blogspot.com/), is pretty much negligible as long as you stay upright. Josiah and I did a practice run with Sari Anderson, Gretchen Reeves, and Mike Kloser the day before the race, and we both felt confident on Saturday morning. After about 18 minutes of paddling, I had bested Josiah by 30 seconds. This was a good start, but would it be enough?
Two hours later we were mountain biking in a pro field of some of the best riders in the country. The legendary JHK took the cake by a few minutes, and second across the line was Evergreen's Mitch Hoke. Way to go, Mitch! I dogged Josiah for almost half of the course, but as he pulled away from me on one grinding section I began to feel like Jan Ulrich. Jan finished second to Lance Armstrong in many consecutive Tours, and I was beginning to feel the same way. Thankfully, I reminded myself, at least Josiah and I are racing clean.
The Chiru Sonic performed wonderfully, again, and I was pleased to be racing on a full suspension bike!
Back to the MTB. Racing side by side with Gunnison's Travis Scheefer, for most of the race (I thought of us as "Team Travis Squared" when the crowd yelled for us as a duo), we gained on Josiah on the final lap and finished 33 seconds behind him. I was happy with 12th overall in a very strong pro field, and stoked to be within three seconds of Josiah going in to Day 2.
When Josiah took off flying, I came to grips with the facts that he is finally running consistently after battling a knee injury for two years and I have only been running twice a week because I want to get better at biking. One plus one equals two, and in this case I finished about two minutes behind Josiah. My running background got me to a top 15 finish, but the legspeed was not quite there and I lost a minute to my closest competitors on the final descent.
Two minutes is a great amount of time to make up on a guy like Josiah in a 30-minute road bike time trial, but I was inspired by a sweet bike lent by Andy Biglow (my good friend, Greg Krause, won the TT on this bike a few years ago; he finished 2nd this year) coupled with solid training.
All in all, I was just over three minutes behind Josiah after four events, making for the closest 1-2 finish ever. Looks like we'll give it another shot next year! Hat's off to Josiah! Check out his cute, little daughter, Larson, roaming around in the awards video.
Next up is the Bailey Hundo, an excellent, local endurance MTB race in two weeks.