I did exactly what I was supposed to do. I went to bed early so that I could get a good night’s sleep. I was going to need it. After all, I was willingly marching to my doom the next morning and I would be needing my strength if this suicide mission was going to go as well as I hoped it would.
It had been only a few days since taking on the Davis 24 hr challenge and my legs were a bit uncertain of this plan to compete in the Julian Death March. I had no choice. I had a bone to pick with the Death March and I fully intended to make up for last year’s Death March Debacle by completing the course in a respectable time and not letting it tear me down nearly to the point of tears as it had done the year before.
Last year’s Death March was a learning experience to say the least. I made some poor tire, tube, and wheel choices which left me stranded in the desert, wondering if I would be the first literal casualty of the race. I wondered if they would be forced to change the name of the event, the same way that The Death Ride had to change it’s name to The Tour of the California Alps after an unfortunate rider really died during the event. What would they call the Julian Death March? They could definitely call it something to the effect of ‘One of the Most Challenging Days You Will Ever Spend on Your Mountain Bike Ride’, though this is not quite as romantic as The Death March I suppose.
In any case, I made it through the event last year alive but most definitely beat down and humbled by the way the day had unfolded. If you look back far enough through the blogs, you can find last year’s race report. It was a hell of a day on the bike. I swore after last year’s race that I would be back to take my revenge on the course which had beaten me so badly and I wasn’t going to let some unsure legs stop me from taking on the Death March once again.
Taking what I had learned from last year’s race, I felt confident in my choice to race my Scalpel with standard-ass 26 inch mtb tires and 100mm of desert rock-eating travel. Oh hell yeah.
I was still nervous the night before the race. I don’t know why. I more or less knew the course, I would be riding the proper equipment, and I was going to bed early enough to get a good night’s sleep. What did I have to worry about? Hell if I know. Maybe I was nervous about my legs and how they would feel the next morning. Maybe I was nervous because I really wanted to do well at The Death March because I felt as though I had something to prove and deep down I knew that realistically I would probably not be riding at my true best due to the previous weekend’s efforts. So what? Why can’t I just relax and consider the fact that not sleeping is certainly not going to help my chances at having a good day on the bike? Beats me.
It’s okay though, if I would have been able to drift away into dreamland that Friday night, I would have missed out on all of the high quality programming that was available at 1am. I awoke after a few hours of tossing and turning to the sounds of Rachel Ray whipping up a quick and healthy family meal in front of a live audience and I was in the car twenty minutes later. The thought of simply falling into my bed and sleeping until 11am crossed my mind, spun on it’s heel, sprinted back and tackled me from behind, then held me on the ground while it screamed in my ear to stay home and sleep. No. I had to show this race that I was not afraid. And I wasn’t afraid of the race, or of the course, or of the other competitors. I had made my peace with the fact that my expectations for the Death March needed to be realistic which had allowed me to finally relax into a restless slumber the night before. I was a little afraid of the weather.
I had missed the memo that most of San Diego County would be engulfed by a thick and gloomy fog that morning but I was determined to conquer this race, crappy weather or not. To my relief, just as I drove passed the 3,000 ft elevation mark, I escaped from the cold grip of the dense fog which was holding the rest of the county captive. It was like flying a plane up to an elevation above the clouds, up here it was a perfectly sunny and beautiful day, without a cloud in the sky and the sun was just peaking out from behind the rocky mountain peaks as I wound my way out to Julian through the hills. It was like I had left the world where I lived in order to race my bike in a completely different one.
Plenty of familiar faces at the start, including one of my favorites, John Solumito who had not gotten to compete at The Death March last year due to issues with his VW Van before the start. John was forced to sit out the race and wait for a tow truck to show up last year while the rest of us went out and punished ourselves. I expect that John was looking for a little redemption in this year’s Death March as well.
The Death March took place on the same weekend as the legendary Sea Otter Classic last year and this year it took place one weekend before. The date change certainly had an effect on the number of participants. I swear there must have been twice as many people at the start this year. Or at least it certainly seemed that way. Good, doing stupid things become slightly less stupid as more people do them with you. With an event name like The Death March, you need quite a few others out there with you not to look like a total nut case in the eyes of the rest of the world.
Packing my pockets and choosing clothing for the day proved slightly challenging. The sun was out, which meant it might get quite warm. It was freakin hot last year. The weather called for high temps in the 60s. The weather also called for overcast conditions all day, so it was safe to say that we could throw the weather forecast straight out the window. As I do not yet have a super computer smart phone doing all of my thinking for me and providing me with up to the second weather updates, I was on my own when it came to picking out what to wear. Figured I’d rather have too many clothes than not have enough. I rarely feel overdressed, but if I had a nickel for every time I have wished I had another layer... Well, I’d have quite a few nickels.