Shortly after ditching Tyler and Montreal, I found myself in a super fun, mostly gradual downhill single track. Fast and fun stuff. After about fifteen minutes of riding by myself I started to think that the escape might keep but I kept glancing back constantly. This was definitely a predator/prey situation and I didn't feel like the predator. More like a fuzzy little bunny on alligator alley...
Eventually, I glanced back to see both Tyler and Montreal closing in on me. I knew the catch was imminent but I dug a little deeper to make them work to close that last 200 feet. The actual catch took another ten minutes and somehow Tyler made it up without Montreal.
The good news was that it was now down to a two man race. The bad news was that despite still having some energy reserves, cramps were starting to set in and we still had 25-ish miles to go.
A short while later, we hit another aid station at mile 43. The helpful support staff informed us that we were only 20 miles from the finish. Ummm, excuse us? 20 miles? That would make this 50 mile race 63 miles. It was quite a kick to the scrote.
Tyler and I rode together for the next 10-ish miles, frequently trading the lead and generally enjoying the super fun terrain. At mile 55 (5 miles from the actual finish) Tyler rolled through the final aid station maybe two seconds in front of me and we headed into the final section of rail trail/single track. The first part was a long gradual climb and Tyler's Vermont climbing legs began to show as he quickly opened up a 20 second gap.
I was in a world of hurt and unable to close the gap on the open sections but got within a few seconds at one point in the tight single track which I was still able to ride well. Unfortunately, the mental demons were creeping in making it hard to to dig in for the final push. Entering the final section of single track, I caught site of Tyler not far up the trail and gave it one final dig to try to pull him back but it was too little too late and Tyler crossed the line a mere 27 seconds ahead of me in the 5.5hr race.