To celebrate his final week of intern year LEWIS sets out to ride the High Uintas Classic- a time-honored 80 mile point to point bike race from Kamas, Utah to Evanston, Wyoming along the scenic Mirror Lake Highway. Climbing for the first 30 miles over the summit of Bald Mtn at over 10,700 feet, the course then decends steeply for approx. 15 miles and then peters out with gradual downhills and flats before pulling into Evanston. Having placed 3rd here last year, taking King of the Mountain in the process, LEWIS returned this year with high hopes despite his mediocre showings in his prior two races and compromised conditioning.
Arriving in Kamas an hour prior to the 10:50 start time LEWIS was unfazed by the chilly temperatures and spitting rain. He wisely decided that today would be a three-sock day: 2 for the feet and one extra-large tube sock for the gonads et al. For extra measure, LEWIS also poked arm and head holes in a trash bag and wore it under his thin jersey. Per his usual fashion he warmed up in a zone of intense concentration and spoke to no one on the start line.
The course began climbing almost immediately after leaving Kamas but with mild grades. There were a few cursory attacks in the first 20 miles, each chased down without much fuss with the pack remaining intact. The rain began to pick up, now at a steady downpour. The climb abruptly steepened at mile 23 and, given the increasing altitude and descending temperatures, the now-labored breathing of surrounding riders condensced in white puffs around them. A lead pack broke off at around 24 miles and, tube-sock and all, LEWIS simply could not match the effort! Heart rates soaring, he labored over the top and decided to stop here to put on the windbreaker he had stuffed into his jersey, getting passed by 2 other riders while doing so. Having stopped for less than a minute, already he could not feel his hands or feet and had started shivering with increasing violence. A support vehicle parked beside the 4 foot snowbanks announced to the riders that the temps were hovering in the mid 30s and to be careful on the descent.
The course immediately veered and descended steeply, the road awash in an inch of water. Traveling at 45 miles per hour, LEWIS felt his rear wheel begin to slide out from under him on the tight turns. With numb hands slowing himself was difficult but LEWIS managed to reduce his speed and finished the first descent with speeds in the mid 30s, all the while shaking so violently that he felt at all moments about to lurch off his bike. The remainder of the descent was lost in the cognitive haze of the early stages of hypothermia. LEWIS consoled himself only with the repeated, chattering refrain "fucking mother fucker" and the thought that at mile 47 there was a pull-off for the citizen's race finish with a shuttle back to the start.
For no good reason, LEWIS simply rode straight on past the pull-off, continuing his sing-song refrain and peculiar, choreaform shivering.
Although the temperatures rose with the descent his core temperature remained at an approximate 34 degrees centigrade. Nonetheless he managed to pass the two riders who had passed him while stopped at the summit and continued to ride on solo. Miles 45-80 were done entirely solo with no riders in sight either in front or behind. (LEWIS would later learn that out of the 45 starters in the Cat 4 division 25 dropped out or were pulled out by officials because of hypothermia.) Without the ability to draft and share the work, any hopes of chasing the lead pack vanished and LEWIS resigned himself to deliriously spinning his lonely, wet, and miserable wheels to the finish line where he was then rewarded with 2 hours of sitting around in the rain in his wet clothes freezing cold and mildly hypothermic before riding a school bus back to Kamas where he arrived, finally, at 5:30.
"The only other time I've been that cold was during the March of '94 Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race with Craig Lewis when we dumped 4 times," states LEWIS, massaging his now blackened and friable toes.