Friday, February 5, 2016

Upper Buffalo Headwaters Challenge

It's been a while and this wasn't a race, but it was probably one of the most mentally and physically challenging things I have done since the crash.

It all started when I found out I'd be moving to Little Rock, AR for work.  I started searching Facebook for trails and rides and the OORC Upper Buffalo Headwaters Challenge made the top of the list.
Photo Credit: OORC

There was a half (26+ miles) and a full (44 miles).  The full was advertised as 5500 feet of climbing,  and would be physically and mentally challenging. The location would be "remote" and as I found out on the day of the ride there was no cell service and 911 would work off satellite, but if you were hurt it would be a minimum of 2 hours to airlift you out!  They also encouraged you to have gear to spend the night in the woods if you got lost or hurt or broke your bike.  My first thought when I read the info was "Ugghh, no way.  It would be lots of climbing and suffering.  There would be no lift and no resort accommodations." It sounded like the half would be like one lap at Mohican, which I already think is a horrible ride with only a few fun DH sections that aren't worth the climbs (but that's my opinion).  There were going to be only 2 rest stops, the first at mile 17 and the 2nd at mile 30.  The event would start at 9:30 for all participants and the cutoff time for the first stop was 12:30 and the second 3:30, respectively.

Somehow, the weeks went by and I let GM talk me into the full.  He kept saying it was nothing and I could handle it.  I started spending more and more time once a week out in the woods doing a long ride pedaling more and more climbs (son of a ... why I have to be so stubborn is beyond me).  He has no concept of how much I detest suffering, climbing and racing now.  No wait, I think he does, he just likes it when I suffer, lol.  I even begged Dirty Drifts to come down and do this with me as he is one of my favorite people to ride XC with but no luck.  This ride would not only be almost twice as far as I'd ever ridden but it would be twice as much climbing as I'd ever done in one ride on a mountain bike. These thoughts were in the forefront of my mind and yet I still let him convince me the full was the way to go. 

Friday, I drove the nearly 3 hours NW into the Ozarks to meet with what turned out to be an incredibly cool and welcoming group of riders.  F.A.S.T. had rented out a lodge about 45 minutes from the start (which was actually really close without camping -- another thing I prefer not to do).  We had some sweet accommodations and great food. 
Photo Credit: Ken Sluyter

There were 22 of us and we were up and at 'em and out the door by 7:30am.  It sounded like most of the crew was breaking up into smaller groups to ride together and half were going to do the full and half were going to do the half.  I knew I probably wouldn't be able to keep up on the climbs so I had prepared to ride alone.  The event announcers went over final instructions for emergencies, aid station locations and then snapped pics of the 330 brave riders that were about to take on the challenge.
A rare photo of me.  Photo Credit: Michael Roys

Photo Credit: Kevin Yingst.

I've always been a planner and a strategist, reviewing course layouts and forming my plan of attack, this event was no different.  I figured if I could average 6 mph with breaks and pushing I'd finish around 4:30p (before dark).  I had a map in my pocket and there was also one on my buff of the half.  I had packed a jacket, tools, spare tube, a fun size pack of M & M's and (2) Reese mini-cups, mounted a light onto my handle bars, along with 3L of fluid.  I had opted not to bring an extra cleat, derailleur hanger or chain link as I only knew how to fix the cleat anyway.
The challenge started with a 2 mile climb up a fire road to the start of the single track, some people of course were in a hurry and sprinted out to the front and up the hill.  The climb was brutal and there was lots of bottle necking as people lost their momentum and had to dismount.  I followed a guy for awhile until he lost his momentum and abruptly stopped.  I too had to dismount as there was nowhere to go (thankfully).  I happily pushed with many others to the top.  I knew the drop in would lead to about a mile of fun, i.e. DOWNHILL!!  When we reached the drop-in, I waited for the people in front to go and give them a little head start before dropping in but others just kept cutting in front of me.  Oh well, here goes nothing.  I dropped in and started jumping all the rollers and rocks I could just for fun.  I'd slow down before a section I could jump to give the people in front some room and then pedal hard and huck to flat off the tiny rollers and kickers.  I could hear the guy behind me cheering and yelling.  We were both laughing and I was having a blast.  As I made my way down, surprisingly rider after rider started pulling over and letting me by (guess chivalry isn't dead after all).  I repetitively shouted "thank you" and enjoyed the free speed.

When I reached the bottom there was a few miles of flat and lots of creek crossings.  I'd never ridden anything like this.  I saw lots of riders dismounting and walking and some riding.  I would track stand, give some room and then charge on through.   As they got bigger and bigger I got wetter and muddier and realized I'd have to start taking a pedal stroke or two to keep my momentum.  They were also getting deeper and deeper and my socks were getting soaked just riding through.

We started a non-technical climb back out that seemed to take forever and I was pushing again.  I saw some of my F.A.S.T cabin mates and we exchanged words of encouragement.  JZ saw me one of the few times on a climb where I was actually pedaling and yelled something like " Downhillers do pedal uphill."  I had to laugh, it wouldn't last long.  When it was finally over after what seemed like an hour we dropped down on to a trail called Azalea falls.

Photo Credit: OORC
This one had some small rocks and a slight down grade to start.  I had remembered JZ saying this loop would be more my speed earlier in the week.  A guy behind me yelled "Hey aren't you the girl from Iron Mountain?"  I looked back and recognized a mountain biker I had met a few weeks ago.  I yelled back "Hi!" and "Yeah!"  He said something else as the down hill started but I couldn't hear him and I started shredding away.  This downhill was a little more exposed and there were some small drop and kickers on the left side of the trail if you wanted even more fun.... and I always pick the fun way.  I was having a blast and people again were moving out of my way (whenever they could find an open spot) as I caught them (except one guy - he looked back at me saw I was a girl I guess and just kept rolling in front of me -- oh well, I didn't care.  I was having fun either way).  It did get a little muddy over some of the rollers and one drop I flew over had me landing in peanut butter mud and I could feel my tire sliding...Oh boy, I was a little scared but that little fear and danger of living on the edge has become part of the fun nowadays.  I told myself "hold on to the bike, don't touch the brakes, ride it out."  Needless to say I made it to the bottom with a big old smile on my face and upright.  I looked back to see if that guy was there to talk to but no one was in sight so I started the next climb.

I made it through a little over 6.5 miles the first hour, so I was a bit ahead of schedule.  I climbed back out and up to the top to the next fun trail called "sidewinder" and dropped in.  This one was switchback after switchback to the bottom.  It connected to a new section of trail, I believe was called "Wildcat."  The trail was definitely new.  The dirt wasn't packed and the flags were still in the ground.  I would have gotten off and started pushing but the climb eventually went through a bunch of rocks and out of pride and to work on my tech skills, I rode up through all the rocks.  The rocks ended with a nice big one you had to pull up on the front end and keep your momentum going to get up and over.  RA apparently, didn't pull up hard enough, twisting his handlebars and taking a bar end to the gut -- ouch!   As soon, as I cleared the last of the rocks I dismounted and started pushing, trying to catch my breath.

I was almost to the top of the climb when I noticed a ledge with a nice drop on the right.
I think this was the drop.  Photo Credit: OORC
 I pushed up farther, set my bike down and walked back to look at it.  I saw some tire tread on the take off so someone sometime had already tried to hit it.  Another rider was pushing up and I asked him if he could watch for on-coming riders so I could hit the drop.  He was super cool and said he would.  It was about the size of a drop at the Mohican Wilderness at home.  I had punked out there too scared to do it without SD to help me back in November.  GM still heckles me about pussing out that day, but there would be no heckling today!  I was going for it.  I marched back up to my bike decided to push up just a little farther.  I had never hit a drop this size on a little bike like this or with clipless pedals and I wasn't wearing any pads or my full face.  Lately thought I've been forcing myself to think more confident and try new stuff without SD and the guys around.  It's the one skill SD can't teach but I am most certain he wishes he could.  It holds me back more than anything.  I shouted down to the guy "Clear?"  He yelled to another rider coming up that I was going to hit the drop.  The rider pulled off and I yelled "dropping" and went for it.  I took no pedals and didn't touch the brakes.  I flew off  the drop and new I had too much speed.  I landed way too far down the trail and grabbed the brakes and tried to make the right turn.  The bike started to slide and I low sided but didn't go over the side.  I had some dirt rash but I was fine.  The guys were super stoked and yelling "That was awesome!  You jumped at least 15 feet."  I laughed and said it would have been awesome had I not crashed.  The one guy was funny saying "Man, I wish I would have video taped that." I ended up with a scraped up right leg and my hip and right butt cheek have 2 pretty big bruises on them too, but all surface damage.   We got back on our bikes and headed for the first aid station.  I made it to mile 17 in a little under 3 hours.  I was right on schedule even with my shenanigans. 

The aid station was at the top of a hill (of course).  It was the known as the Fire Tower.
Photo Credit: OORC

They had rice cakes (blueberry and raisin, pbj and one with bacon, peppers and onions -- I think).
Photo Credit: L. Danielle Many

I had only been drinking Gatorade and water, so I wanted something salty, not sweet.  I only wanted to stay for about 5-7 minutes so as not to lose too much time.  More and more people arrived and I could overhear lots of people talking about how brutal the ride was thus far.  I saw JZ and RA and told RA I was heading out and didn't want to waste anymore time.  He agreed and we both left about the same time.  I headed down a fire road to the next section.

I left the aid station riding next to some guy and he told me we were going to hit a downhill first.  He then asked me if I was "fast" on the DH's.  I had to smile.  "Fast" is such a relative term I thought.  I said "no."  He then told me to go first anyways.  If someone is that keen on letting me go first I've learned -- just go, so I dropped in.  I looked back after a minute and he wasn't there.  This downhill was super fun and I saw a lot of ladies through here.  As  they let me pass, I yelled words of encouragement and thanks.  When I got to the bottom the creek crossings were double the size of the ones earlier in the day.  I have no idea which ones you walk and which ones you ride and I was tired of wet socks so I hiked me and my bike through a few barefoot, sat down on the other side and put my shoes and socks back on.  This section was flat but we ran into a rock garden that reminded me of West Branch.  There's no downhill momentum to carry you, so you kind of just have to slam your way  through.  There were lots of loose small rocks I could feel shifting under my tires and a few big ones you had to pick your way through.

Mile 22 had the biggest stream crossing by far.  I think it was about 30 yards or so and almost up to my mid thigh.  It was around 70 degrees so the cold water felt great on my legs.  A few people rode through it well above their crank and hubs.  I chose to keep my shoes and socks dry and again barefoot hike a biked it.  I was half way.
Photo Credit: River Valley Adventures
I finally had to go to the bathroom too and found a spot in the woods.  I had been drinking all day but was surprised this was the first time in over 3 hours I had to go.  We were back on a fire road and this was by far THE HARDEST and WORST part of the ride.  This climb would be 7-8 miles of fire road back to the fire tower, aid station and mile marker 30.  It would get as steep as 20-21% at some points and you'd climb or push in my case crest the top and the pitch would just get steep again.  It was how can I say this "f*cking awful!"  It got to the point where I would hop on my bike for 10 seconds here and there just to see my Garmin speed go faster than the 1.2 mph I was averaging on foot pushing.  I met up with 2 guys and we ended up finishing the last half mile or so back to the fire tower together.  It was 2:45pm at the 30 mile check-in.  I made the last cut-off by 45 minutes. 

The aid station was a ghost town.  The volunteers told us we were the last ones.  I was shocked!  I hadn't planned on being first but wasn't planning on being last.  One of the guys said there was at least 5 riders behind us.  That didn't make me feel much better though.  I found out many people who had wanted to do the full had dropped to the half after reaching the first aid station at mile 17 and some had even bailed after the first aid station and taken the road back.  I knew this ride would be no joke and I'd suffer because I was out of shape but I wasn't feeling that bad yet and only had 14 miles to go.  I always have a "striking distance" point where if I get to a certain mile I know all I have to do it hold on and finish.  Today it was mile 40 (so really just 10 more miles and I knew I'd make it).

I left the aid station for the last time ready to finish this thing.  I turned on my headphones for the first time that day and dropped down the same single track we had the first time we left the aid station.  I could tell my legs were tired but I felt super flowy and smooth jamming to the music, not having to pass anyone and just enjoying the trail.  I got to the bottom and was at nearly 33 miles.  Sweet!  I pedaled on hoping for a few miles of flat, because the only other way to go was up.  I came to an intersection I had turned left at earlier in the day and turned right. I was headed for home!

The climbing started again unfortunately, ugghh.  I was off and pushing sooner and sooner, not wanting to trash my quads too much before making it to the top and getting on a trail called "Bear." It had a slight decline, not even a down hill and I was weaving my way through some trees and twisties and I caught a hidden tree stump funny with my front tire.  It sent me flying over the bars.  I slammed the back of my head into the ground and my glasses went flying.  I was in shock!  This crash hurt so much more than sliding out on after the drop.  I wasn't going fast or being aggressive, just a random weird crash.  I got up slowly and took some Aleve I had brought with me.  The back of my head on the right side hurt a little where it had slammed into the ground but I wasn't dizzy and seemed ok.  I put my glasses back on and grabbed my bike.  It seemed ok and then I realized the shifter was broken -- "Son of A...!"
I could shift down to make it harder but I couldn't shift up to make it easier and I had 9 miles to go.  I had a moment of panic and thought about how if I can't ride it out I might be sleeping in the woods after all.  Then I just got pissed off.  I wasn't giving up and I still had one gear.  I hopped back on the bike and did thing only thing I could...  I kept going.  I rode when I could and pushed when I had to.  Nothing had changed except I had to start pushing sooner.  I made it to the Buffalo Headwaters Trail and ran into some of the volunteers cleaning up the markers and told them what happened.  I knew there was a shorter route to cut out 2 miles up ahead and double checked with them.  It was now a safety/survival issue for me.  I had one gear left to get me through this.  My bike hadn't seized up but I was done.  I would ride 40+ miles either way.  I headed straight instead of turning right and hik-a-biked myself up and out of the woods.  I was all too elated to see the familiar road back to the start and coast the last 0.25 miles downhill. I had coke in my car for the post ride, but it was warm and a fellow rider parked next to me finishing when I did offered me a cold one!  It was the BEST tasting coke I've ever had.  I had been dreaming of one for about the last 3.5 hours.  I had done it!!!  I had survived the UBHWC of 2016!!!  I was pumped.

The course was very well marked.  I missed a turn here and there but never by more than a 100 feet or so and the weather was beyond perfect with sun and 60 degree temps.  The volunteers were amazingly awesome and OORC put on quite an EPIC event.  They do a spectacular job and if you live in Arkansas and ride a mountain bike of any kind this is a great adventure to do.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Mayhem Enduro

I swore I'd never race a mountain bike.  I even promised a certain someone I wouldn't use my powers for evil, but after almost a year of shredding with some amazing guys (SD, CF, HB, JB, JS, GM, IM, DR and the owner of The Bicycle Hub, RP .... also who I race for), I started kicking the idea of racing The Mayehm Enduro around.

I'd talked to SD about it and to my surprise, he was completely okay with me doing it under two conditions....

1) I was super careful and only hit the features I knew I could make
2) I had to have fun and enjoy it

This pretty much sums up our relationship (SD & ME).  He's out of control - lol!  Photo Credit: Chad Fonger

I signed up at the last minute and realized there were only 10 women in the race.  They were all ranked "Pro/Expert" including Rae Gandolf, Marla Streb and Angi Weston!!!  (Ugh, I had never raced a mountain bike in anyway, unless you count SD saying "Ready, ready... Time to get RAD" and then dropping me on a downhill as I rode as hard as I could to get to the bottom before he could drink a whole water bottle).  I registered as "sport" as they had no "novice/beginner" category -- GULP.

I was so nervous on Saturday.  I pre-rode stages 4 and 5 and crashed on a gap three times and a steep I had easily conquered a week ago without problems following the guys.  What was going on?  I also found out MC had gone down badly and he's way better than me.  Thankfully, it looks like he will make a full recovery.  I was beyond nervous.  I didn't want to get hurt.  My friends suggested I go around the features, but that was impossible.  I am not an XC rider and this was an enduro.

I texted SD and he said it would be ok if I didn't want to race.  He didn't want me to get hurt and we were going to Mountain Creek the following weekend to downhill and he wanted me to rest.  I went back and forth.  Even GM said he was relieved when I told him I didn't think I wanted to race.  He had originally pushed for me to enter it.

Race morning came and I rolled around on my bike.  I had put the bib on and was going over my bike when I realized the rear suspension was locked!  That's why I had crashed!!  I opened it and started suiting up to race....."What the heck was I doing?"  I kept asking myself.  I rolled by GM and told him I was going to the bathroom (with all my gear, hahaha).  He knew though.  I said a small prayer that we would all come out of this without any damage and headed to the start.

The first transfer was really long... like 15-20 minutes of pedaling.  I came around a left hand corner with a small descent and roots and there was a guy sitting on the ground moaning and another guy standing by him... "Oh no!  Someone had crashed on a transfer -- Eek!"  I asked if they were ok and the one guy said "yeah" so I pedaled on.  Per SD's direction I had worn my full face and pads.  I did opt for sunglasses though.  No way could I ride with goggles.  It was so hot in my full face but hey I'd pass out from heat stroke before I cracked my skull again.

I got to the start of section 1 (Bumpy Hollow) and had to pee.  I ditched my bike and hit the bushes.  Nervous as hell I rode up to the start table.  I started thinking about the features in the sections and tried to calm myself.  "5, 4, 3, 2, 1... GO!" and I was off.  I rolled through the berms to the road gap and pulled right and hit the go around.  I knew the first part would be slow as I can't hit the road gap into the berm turn.... yet.  I pedaled across the road and went through the berms into the three big tables.  I hit them a little conservatively as I was thinking of MC and sending it might lead to ending it for me.  I cleared the last table and drifted around the grass corner to the first gap.  "Ready, ready" I told myself and "send it."  I cleared the gap easily and my instincts kicked in and I drifted into the right turn -- I did it! I did it!  I made the gap and the drift.  I started thinking about SD, wishing he was here to follow him and calm me down.  I was getting worked up as I knew a double I had cased twice and gone OTB in the past was coming up.   He had once told me he's always with me in spirit and to "send that shit!"  I thought "you better be right!!"  I was coming up on it and I told myself "no brakes" and "send it."  I flew over the double and cleared it perfectly!!!!  YESSSSS!!!  It was on.  I started pedaling my ass off after that and knew I rode section 1 better than ever. 

I was so hot after section 1 that I ripped my helmet and gloves off and pushed through half of the transfer to section 2.  I was stoked 1 down 4 to go and the hardest stage was still to come.

Section 2 (Playa) started with a lot of pedaling to the "Death Drop."  It's a double drop that you can roll.  I had finally (wo)manned up and rolled it about 3 weeks before the race, after I made GM roll it and show me the line. Today, I knew it by heart and bombed it.  Pedaled up to the wall berms  and gap jump that lay ahead.  I dropped in and again tried to calm  myself and think about SD's advice.
Wall berm to Gap  Photo Credit: Vance Nonno
There was a wall berm gap that I had bailed on following SD into a week or so ago.  I had even gone down earlier in the week and tried it. I cleared the gap every time, but I crashed into the wall all three tries. RG had told me I had to look where I wanted to go.  Right before I dropped the wall berm I told myself "commit!"  and I made the turn and hit the gap.  I landed on the trail to the left away from the wall, where you are suppose to and was shocked!  I yelled "yeah, yeah, hell yeah!!!"  There were a few spectators and I was the first girl through and they started cheering and yelling too.  I hit the table and step up after and ripped through the berm done with the hardest part of stage 2.  I finished the stage again knowing it was the best I'd ever ridden through there.

I pretty much pushed the bike all the way through section 3's transfer.  I was getting nauseated and I was dumping water on my head to keep cool.  Thank goodness a down hiller had taught me how to ride and that there was absolutely no shame in pushing.  People rode by me and I just kept pushing. 

Section 3 (West Niles) was by far the scariest stage for me.  It had 3 step downs, a step up, 2 doubles and about 6-8 gap jumps with a sketchy rocky descent for those good enough to hit the rock on gap rock off.  The biggest feature was the first step down, into a berm and then a double.  I had hit it with GM about 3 weeks ago.  He had told me not to hit it, if I wasn't comfortable.  I was uncomfortable with everything!  Was he nuts?  I watched him hit it with the kind of speed and precision that wins enduros.  I was in awe.  I also watched a guy hit the the line and crash into a tree after the double right before I was about to hit it for my first time.  I cased the step down a little but it didn't matter, going into the berm because the course was built by down hillers so with just two pedal strokes into the berm I was still able to clear the double on my first try.  GM wasn't the only one who was surprised, haha.  Anyway, back to the race.  I was nervous.  I cased the step down a tiny bit and even the double with my back tire.  I popped over the step up a little too fast and almost went off the trail, but managed to make the sharp left turn into a gap and then an immediate right berm into a rock garden.  I skipped the next step down as I had crashed twice on it (the second time really hard with a full face on) and pedaled my ass off into the next double.  I was through the worst of it.  I climbed for a few seconds and then started through a few turns before hitting another step down into a left berm and 2 smaller rock gaps.  I flew around the left turn where the line splits and told myself take the high side, it's quicker and better.  The low side is easy to want to take off the turn but it's slower and sketchy.  It was dry and my tire slid into a tree on the turn and got stuck for a second.  I started yelling "Quicksand!!!  Someone put quicksand on the course."  I could hear and see spectators laughing as I was almost done.  I pedaled past the rock on/rock off jump (I had crashed on the rock off part twice) and chose the go around.  There was a woman walking her bike and she hurried to get out of my way.  I yelled "sorry and thank you!"  And then just for a final laugh I yelled "awkward, awkward descent!!!" as I slid/rolled down to the bottom, hahaha.  I had done it.  The hardest stage was over!  Again, I rode another section better than ever... 3 for 3!  Two more to go.
Rock descent if you chose the harder line. Photo Credit: Vance Nonno

I was actually starting to enjoy myself.  I was less nervous and having fun as instructed.  My nausea was manageable and there was an aid station to get more fluids.

Section 4 (Beaver City DH) : I had ridden the harder line the night before to look at the gap and 3 tables but I had not ridden the go around route so it was gonna be a little bit of a surprise as I just wasn't ready to hit that gap in the race for the first time.  I remembered there were some little drop/kickers to get speed off of somewhere.  I knew this stage was gonna be about pedal speed.  I hit it hard at the start and flew to through the go around, blasted the little drops and stole as much speed as possible off them.  I debated the rock to rock gap I had flatted on but at the last second bailed and pulled right to bounce through the rocks instead.  I was pedaling and heard a guy coming behind me and yelling.  I knew there was a gap coming up.  I couldn't pull off and make the gap.  It was a huck to straight flat, no turns and open.  I had hit the night before for the first time.  I pedaled hard and sent it.  I flew through the air and landed perfect.  I pedaled up and to the right out of the guy's way.  He came flying by and yelled "Thanks and nice jump!"  I was pumped.  Everybody in enduro was so cool and encouraging.  The stage ends with a downhill and your choice of two lines.  The higher line was again better, but I took the lower line which was tighter and almost wrecked, going into the finish - Doh!!!  Still upright and in one piece I again knew I rolled in with my best time ever.

The transfer to 5 was about as long as the first transfer to section 1.  I was fried by then.  I rode with my helmet, gloves and pads hooked on my handlebar.  I had a headache and my nausea was still there.  I pedaled about 3-5mph, keeping my heart rate down as low as possible and trying to get as much fresh air as possible and cool off a little.  Stage 5 thankfully, had VN's dad there with snacks, including pickles!  I ate 3 of them and took about a 10 minute break before starting the stage.  I met Marla Streb and she was super freaking cool!  She gave me some pointers for my upcoming trip to Mountain Creek before riding off and shredding the last stage.

Section 5 (Beaver City Brainer) Not sure if I had taken too long of a rest or my body had had enough but I almost crashed in the first 100 meters on some rocks and then my tire slipped around the next turn and almost washed out.  I came up on the first feature which I thought was a gap, but it was a step down to a double and a steep.  I didn't have nearly enough speed and you have to jump it otherwise you do the go around -- CRAP!!!  I pulled right and sprinted around the go around pumped the double and hit the steep.  Angry with my stupid mistake, I tried to hammer it and then I saw the gap I kept crashing on the night before.  I cleared it without any issues and headed for the creek gap and the finish!  I debated this jump in my head for days.  I knew I could make it.  I just had to go fast.  As I dropped down, I thought "Pin it and send it!"  I also thought about how I had a pretty good race on the day and how tired I was and that I had not crashed once.  My wreck from August flashed through my head and I decided to skip it.  There would be another day and I wanted to hit it with SD or GM pacing me into it.  I put my ego in check and rolled around to the finish.

And there you have it.  Some people do an XC race on dirt sidewalk type of terrain or something with a lot of climbs... but nope not me.  I decided this "wannabe shredder" was gonna bite off more than she could chew and go big or go home.  I was super pumped when I finished.  Not one crash.  I had hit almost every flipping feature and I had raced the best I could.  I figured I'd get last, which was gonna be super embarrassing, but I had put together a pretty good race for a first timer that hadn't even been mountain biking for a full year yet.  I also knew SD was gonna be super proud of me, especially since I hadn't crashed and I'd hit a bunch of features.  

I immediately got a beer and sat down watching the rest of the guys come in.  NF had a great race, IM's crazy ass went OTB on the creek gap, VN got blinded jumping the creek gap with popcorn and beer spray and burped his bike through the finish (ahahahaha -- EPIC!) and GM, well like I said before... "I watched him hit it with the kind of speed and precision that wins enduros"  AND HE DID!!!! (by one second).  
GM on the podium - FYI "You're gonna break it!"

He was nice enough to decline the $20 I offered him to go get my car and come pick me up.  He made me climb back up the hill with him and TC to the campsite after two beers telling me it was good training for my next enduro...."WHAT?!?!?!?!!?!" 

I can't say enough amazing things about this race, the course and the organizers and volunteers (AOA and HB).  The Wilds is an amazing gem in Ohio for mountain bike riding.  If you want to get rad... this is the race for you!!! Oh and to boot, I won a pass for Ray's Indoor Mountain Bike Park next year -- WINNING!!!

I keep kicking around the idea of doing another one.  I didn't finish last and I do need to start training... for something.  I hate being out of shape, but I love the rush from riding mountain bikes like this.  Hmmmmm, maybe GM is onto something.....maybe.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Run For Regis Half Marathon

It has been nearly 6 months since my accident and my awesome doc had encouraged me to start working out, but to take it slow, not push myself too hard and listen to my body.  My knee is still not healed and it swells after lots of time on my feet, but I am incapable of not working out and having fun. 
All that said, I wanted to try running again and I thought as long I was careful not to fall, the trails might be a little more forgiving than the pavement.  I signed myself up for the Winter Run for Regis half marathon the day it opened. 
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I even talked one of my co-workers, BE who is quite a good trail runner (the girl can run down hills like she's flying!) into trail running with me in prep for this.  We hit up a few of the CRTR runs on Thursday nights and met a few times at Ledges to run the actual course.  I slipped sometimes.  I fell sometimes.  I got muddy sometimes.  I suffered sometimes, but I always enjoyed myself and got better and better.

Race morning finally came and I was so nervous, my back would hurt or my knee would ache or I'd fall on my bad wrist, or I'd just not be able to cover the distance or a million other things, like forgetting my pre-race breakfast (a banana) on the counter.

It was cold!  I thought even with my bunz on under my tights, yep I'm gonna freeze my ass.  I did absolutely no warm-up figuring 2-3 hours on the trails would be plenty of running.  I lined up by TriSaraTops in the middle.  My only plan was not to die and survive this thing.  There were a lot of runners for single track (over 100 runners).  We were to run the orange loop (8.4) then the green (4.7).

This was by far the slowest and most comfortable start to a race I have ever experienced.  It was awesome.  No one was too crazy about getting going (those people -- pretty much all my awesome teammates were already up at the front from the get-go).  We were running the loop backwards from what I knew of it so we were going to get a big downhill and then climb.  I did end up passing a few people through that section as they had chosen to gingerly make their way down!  I comfortably sat on person after person passing only when there was an opening or they looked like they were slowing on the climbs.  I forced myself not to run any of the big hills in the beginning for fear I'd blow myself up after the first hour.  I figured I'd run 11:30-12:00/mile so I had to be patient.

I latched on to AC for a few miles and let her pull me through.  She was stronger on the uphills, but after telling myself to relax, see where I wanted to go on the DH and just mimic the ground I let go of the brakes (aka my quads and just bombed down the hills).  I slipped only twice and went down, but was perfectly fine.  I had my headphones with me, but I had told myself to just run under control to the first aid station very comfortably and had been enjoying the chat with AC.  We hit the first station, which was at Pine Hollow at the top of the "Sound of Music" hill around 50-55 minutes.  I took a gel and some Gatorade (no time to dawdle, it was after all a race).

We headed back into the woods and I took a glance at my Garmin.  I was running 10:30-11:00 minutes.  I got a little excited thinking I might actually be able to finish this mother in under 2:30!  We started passing a few people again and then I ended up next to AC and then in front of her.  Around 5-5.5 miles I felt I had reached the point where I was on my own.  I popped my headphones in and just started focusing on staying under control and relaxing.  I looked around at the trees and one by one runners kept coming back to me.  I felt amazing!  I just kept saying "on your left" and "Morning" as I passed by.  Most everyone said "hello" and moved out of the way and some even said I looked strong -- Woot!!  I wasn't trying to kill myself and I.WAS.HAVING.FUN.IN.A.RACE!   I had to smile.  I've always been mentally tough about pushing myself and suffering, but I have never felt this centered and calm.  I had worked a lot on my mental game and focusing on doing things that scared me and picturing myself doing the task without fail in my head.  I was afraid it would make me cocky or conceited but it's not that at all.  It's the confidence in my training, skill and mental strength to "do it more better" as HB always tells me that is making the once thought impossible, now possible.  Part of it is thanks to "the #ZenDHMaster," SD as I jokingly call him.  He's forced me to see how to focus on accomplishing the task at hand and being confident about it and accepting that "falling down" is gonna happen but it can be minimized, cause when I make it, it's a whole lot of fun and even at times one hell of a rush.  I felt great coming into the next aid station.  Holy crap, I only had 4.7 miles left and I would have run my longest and hardest trail race ever!

I headed out for my green loop and  realized it was gonna be fast going out and the last mile was gonna be by far the hardest and all uphill with boulders to run/climb over.  I lost the markers twice and was unsure where to go, but a photographer or another runner was there to point me in the right direction each time.  I pushed a little through the last couple miles to compensate for the hellish climb out I knew would be coming.  I was so relieved to be the runner still running and enjoying the race and not the one in survival mode barely moving forward.  Just as I thought the last mile was hard.  I had gotten a blister on my left arch and my legs were starting to get tired.  I passed a lot of runners going out which meant I must have been in the front half of the racers.  I  pushed up to the Octagon where there was food and warm dry clothes.  I felt great and finished my first race of 2015.  I had done more than survive I had destroyed my goal....... maybe this trail stuff (be it on a bike or foot) isn't as bad as I had once thought.

Total Time: 2:16:29

Managed to finish 19/116 overall (keep in mind 4 of the people that beat me were my own teammates -- HOLLA for TBH!!!!)
7th women overall
5th in my AG. 
Runner's were still finishing when I took this, but I was cold and had to roll!

Team Bicycle Hub cleaned up today at this Race!!

Cash (EP) won the 50K
Ghost (KL) finished 4th OA
Daisy finished 5th OA and won the women's half (her sister took 2nd for the women too)
Return of the Mack was 7th OA
Marsassy was 11th OA
JT finished 23rd OA, just behind me
JC rolled through a solid 8.4 miles with a bad foot.

And the race schwag was really sUweeeet!!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Interclub Relay Race

So much has happened since my last entry, some of it good and some of it pretty heartbreaking, but somehow I came out the other side walking and yep, running again.

After the accident, I found I wanted to try running since my knee was only holding up to so much climbing on the bike, so I signed myself up for Run for Regis in January and hit the trails.  Somewhere, somehow and God willing I love them now, on the bike or on foot, muddy and full of bugs bring 'em on (I just keep baby wipes and clean clothes in the car now for after - HA!).

So our unofficial team leader, Daisy talked 6 of us from Team Bicycle Hub into signing up for the Northeast Running Clubs: Interclub Relay Race and still unable to say "No Daisy, that's a bad idea for me."  I replied "IN."  I was thankfully given the 3 mile leg.  My other teammates (MarSassy and Ghost) would run the 5 and 8 mile legs (no sense in leaving the slowpoke out there any longer than need be).  Team: Felonious Jogger Floggers was born.

It was low 30's and sunny.  I ended up changing into capris and road shoes after I pre-ran part of the bridle trail and started cooking during my warm-up and saw it was fairly dry.   It had been a few weeks since I had hungout with my teammates but we picked up right where we left off taking silly pics and joking around before sufferfest began. 

Ghost took off at 9am with the 8 mile group and then MarSassy left 3 minutes later for the 5 mile route and then I would leave 3 minutes after that with the 3 milers.  I started with B-Dizzle who was talking trash about the OSU vs. WI game and how he was gonna beat me, just like my Badgers had gotten beat.  I had nothing good to say to his truths so I just wrapped my arms around him and hugged him until the race started so I could stay warm. 

I detest 3 mile races.  It's always balls out from the start, blow-up around the 1.5-2 mile mark and then curse my way to the finish for the last mile or so.  I was in the second row and true to form the race started like there was a hole shot, ugh!  I ripped through the first half mile before I finally convinced myself to back off.  I was running comfortable not sure how much climbing I would have to do.  I even felt good enough to yell at B-Dizzle as I passed him to quit goofing around because he had stopped to tie his shoe.  He was up and past me before the first mile.  The course was rolling and mile 1 clipped off at 8:20.

E-Gad!!!  That was the slowest first mile in a race I had probably run in 4 years, not counting a marathon or half iron.  Well, my pride was damaged and I started picking it up.  I dropped a few people and passed a few more.  Mile 2 was pretty flat and maybe a little more downhill.  Downhills on a mountain bike or on foot --- SOLD!!!  Mile 2 - 7:49. 

The last mile was rolling (upish) and had 2 steep, albeit short climbs.  I walked both briskly since hills tend to make my knee swell and I was moving as fast as the guy in front of me was jogging, hahaha!  E-speed had once told me "walking uphill with a purpose is just as fast as running sometimes."  The walking also allowed me a little bit of recovery so I started closing on the downhills on the guy in front of me and eventually got him before the finish.  Mile 3 - 8:05. 

Time: 24:14. 

Thank goodness for the guys, they ran fast enough to put us in 5th place overall for the co-ed teams, with MarSassy running a 42:03 for 5 miles and Ghost ripping off 1:00:13 for 8 miles. 

Total Time: 2:06:13

Our other Team: Two Roses and a Thorn (very fitting if you know Cash) finished 3rd overall for the co-ed teams even with Crash taking a wrong turn and ending up with a 5 minute detour.  They still got him his wood after all.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Round Up Triathlon

Our team had been kicking around the idea of doing the "Round Up Tri" hosted by Champ Racing and we needed 5 girls to compete, so not wanting our team to be short and after 10 years of letting Daisy talk me into stuff, I submitted my entry (when am I ever gonna learn??).  I picked up the Joker from Daisy's husband earlier in the week and set it in the bike room.  I had no time to ride it and knew he was such a perfectionist that my bike was clean as a whistle and up to spec. 

I ran a few miles throughout the week to keep my legs loose and spent race day morning bass fishing with my dad to relax.  The 5:30am wake-up call and half the day in the sun may have been a little more than I could handle when I passed out at 3p at my parents.  My dad woke me up a little after 4:30p saying "don't you have a race tonight?"  I nodded still half asleep, slowly dragging myself out of the recliner. 

I stopped to grab a coke on the way to the race in hopes it would pep me up.  It was muggy and hot and I was not feeling it, at all.  I arrived and dawdled, taking my time getting my packet and setting up, trying to decide if I wanted to drop to the super-sprint or just hang with Shooter and Animal and drink beer.  Daisy was not having any of it.  She told me to rack my gear and get ready.  Damn!!!  I had no urge to warm-up and my jogging included 2 trips to the bathroom before donning my wetsuit.  It was a 500Y/400m (something like that) clockwise swim.  I breathe on my right so I had that going for me, but I hadn't swam since January and knew I was going to blow-up in the water at some point. 

Only (2) of my teammates had made it out (Daisy and SG), but BAFF only had (3) girls competing too, so it looked like we'd still have a shot at the team competition.  I lined up in the 2nd row.  I didn't care to have a good start position, heck I didn't even want to start.  The swim always looks so much farther in open water than in a pool too and this one looked like a good 15 minutes for me.
Photo courtesy of Elisa Budoff

The horn sounded and off I went.  The ground was mushy and slimy and disgusting.  I dove in.  I couldn't take the nastiness between my toes and I made my way to the firs buoy.  I arrived at the first buoy a lot faster than what I would have thought and that seemed odd because I was not in any type of swim shape.  Just a few strokes after that it happened -- I blew up, ugh.  My arms and lungs were on fire.  I was hyperventilating trying to get air and it felt like someone was trying to drill a hole between my shoulder blades.  I could feel my hips sinking and my stroke length shortening.  Since learning to mountain bike, I have been focusing on not fighting the bike and relaxing, letting it all just flow.  I stopped fighting with water and taking long strokes again and focusing on keeping my core tight.  I could feel myself gliding through the water much better. I never completely relaxed because my back and my arms continued to ache and burn.  I was exhausted but I wasn't cramping and I knew I could swim like this long enough to get through the swim.  The sun was so bad on the way back I couldn't see the last buoy until I was almost on top of it (I was extremely happy to be swimming in a straight line).  I had some body contact on and off with 2 girls from that point in, nothing too bad and I just made sure to 1) hold my line 2) avoid getting kicked in the face at all costs.  To my surprise, I exited the water with Daisy!  I heard Animal yelling and cheering for us and I had to smile and laugh at his ridiculous screaming.  We made a mad dash to the kiddie pool and joked about pushing each other down all the way to transition.  Ahhh, just like old times, I thought.  We had swam together in a full once and it amazes me how we're like magnets in the water now. 

I immediately sat down in T1.  I was done.  Daisy's husband, Shooter started screaming at me to get up and this was a triathlon and what the hell was I doing (take note this is one of my teammates yelling and heckling me, hahahahaha!!!!).  I yelled back "I'm old!  Leave me alone!!!!"  to which he proceeded to heckle me even harder.  I ripped off my wetsuit threw on my bike gear and ran out of T1.  The worst part was over.  I had survived.  Now, I just had to make up ground on the people ahead of me.

The bike course was 12-13 miles (2 loops) that was mostly flat with a few small rollers.  There were no big climbs and all right turns.  I messed up my Garmin so I don't have the first 2ish miles, but the course was pretty fast, from the splits I did get.  I had a hard time recovering from the swim and didn't start to come around on the bike until 4 miles in.  I felt like I felt like I was going about 17 mph, my left quad was tight and my seat felt nose up and was smashing my crotch.  Arggghhhh, this was suppose to be the part of the race I enjoyed the most.  I started laughing in between sucking air and thinking about all the stuff not right with my race and then I did something I never do.  Instead of telling myself to "stop being a pansy and push harder."  I told myself to "relax, focus on your breathing, stop fighting the bike and let it flow."  I don't know if it helped my speed but I felt better on the bike and the miles started clipping off.  My Garmin takes 5 mile splits on the bike (split 1- 14:10, split 2- 13:40).  I caught 1 BAFF team member and knew my other 2 teammates were ahead of me so I was hoping that had moved us into the lead for the team competition.  I pulled into the park and pulled my feet out of my shoes too early having to soft pedal longer than I should have (Come on Heier, Get it together!!!" I thought).

I jumped off my bike and thought I sent a shoe flying but luckily it just scraped the ground and stayed attached to the pedals as I ran for my bike rack.  I was surprised to see people had racked in my spot so I threw my bike on the rack as close to my stuff as possible, pulled on my racing flats and headed out.  This transition was much better than T1, no sitting needed.

My breathing was labored but my legs actually felt ok.  I'm still running less than 10/mpw and having pain in that left foot, but it's way better and I know in general I look more like a runner and less like Chunk doing the ole' truffle shuffle.  Animal and EB were all cheering for me as I ran by.  I waved and smiled.  It was almost over.  I could see SG just ahead about a 1/4 mile and she was coming back to me faster than I had hoped.  I felt like I was running 8:30-8:45/mile, but I can never tell.  I started passing people one by one on the run.  I caught SG about a 1/2 mile later.  She looked like she was hurting and I told her we were doing great in the team competition and we just had to survive this run.  She's a tough triathlete and I thought she might start pacing off me, but a cramp was really bugging her.  The run was entirely within the campsite and there were lots of little kids cheering and thankfully as I made a wrong turn they redirected me back onto course.  I was so stoked towards the end of the loop to see (2) little kids with a hose and these awesome water guns screaming "You want to get shot?"  I was elated and yelled "Fire away!!!"  They blasted me with water and it felt amazing.  I yelled "Thank you!!!" and just past them ST's wife was running a FREE beer stand.  I was so tempted to just stop and have a nice summer ale, but I continued on. 
Photo Courtesy of Chris Martino

As I came through to start my second loop Shooter and Animal were holding out beer for me and I stopped and grabbed Animal's.  It was soooooo delicious.  I handed it back to him, ready to give him a big hug, but then I remembered I was racing and all he got was a wave as I started running again. About half way through my last lap, I saw KZ and she was coming hard.  Oh crap!!  I knew she was a better runner than me and I still had about 0.8 miles left to the finish.  My Garmin had logged splits of 7:35 and 7:38 so I knew I was running steady.  I decided to lay some surges down.  If KZ got within striking distance of me she would be nearly impossible to outsprint.  I picked it up until I hit the water boys again and then slowed so I could get blasted for the second time - it was so glorious.  I started to pick it back up until I got to the trail portion of the race and before I entered the woods looked back one more time.  No one was there.  I took it easy through the woods and as I exited started to hammer for the finish, not realizing how close it was (I probably should have run hard through the woods on the trail it was so close to the end).  I crossed the line in 1:12:27.  My goal had been sub-1:10.  I came away with 3rd female overall, losing to DT (who is an extremely well rounded triathlete) and my insanely awesome teammate, none other than Daisy.  You would think after all these years, she would be tired of hurting me, but no apparently it never gets old for her.
Team Bicycle Hub photo courtesy of Elisa Budoff

Top 3 women photo courtesy of Elisa Budoff

Overall the race was rough for me. I just don't like suffering and pushing myself like I used to.  It doesn't help my case preparing so poorly as I did either, but I love being part of  Team Bicycle Hub and sharing this nonsense with them. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Twinsburg Duathlon 2014

I can't say enough about the races or the race director of Northcoast Multisports, but I love his events and always make the effort to participate and volunteer as much as possible for their events.  My family even gets a little endurance bug and will jump in a race or two with me.  This year would be no different.  My little brother (who has never ridden a road bike in his life) was going to "Man Up" and do the du!! 

I had done this race one time solo a few years back in nursing school and 2 years ago as a relay with my mom.  This year I would be going solo again with my only excuse for being slow that I'm old (haha).  I had put the Joker (Quintana Roo CD0.1) back together after using parts for EPIC bike ride from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. the weekend before.  I also changed out the pedals on Flo' Rida (LiteSpeed C1) for my brother to ride.  I would have rather ridden my road bike, but no way I was going to put my brother on that homicidal tri bike of mine.

I was so stoked to see my brother race.  He tried to act calm cool and collected but I could tell he was nervous.  I helped him get set-up in transition and walked him in and out of the entrance/exit and showed him the mount/dismount line.  All the little helpful details I gave him and his reply "You f^ck%ng triathletes are crazy!"  I had to laugh.  I was hanging on to my multisport background by a hair.  I was pretty much just a roadie now (and yep, I had to agree triathletes were crazy). 

Team Bicycle Hub was in full effect this weekend with some of us racing Mohican yesterday and some of us  (E-speed, DM and me) doing the Du today.  We snapped a few pics before the race.  I tried to talk my brother into a warm-up "jog."  He adamantly refused asking me to explain the route for the run and bike.  I foolishly agreed and bypassed my warm-up.

We lined up in the middle of the field and I tried to coax my brother closer to the front.  He said "no, but you can go."  The competitor in me knew I should get up closer to the front, but I love my brother like no other and he won.  I started back with him. 

The horn sounded and we took off balls out!!  I was sucking wind after 1/4 mile.  Ugghh, old age, no warm-up, this was gonna hurt the whole we go.  I saw a lot more women than I would have liked (maybe 10 or so) up in front of me.  I knew my run was weak only averaging 5 miles per week, but even on tired legs I was gonna try and rip the bike. 
About 3/4 of a mile into the run people started coming back to me.  I started to settle in and make my way to mile 1 -- 6:52.  Oh boy, no wonder I felt bad.  I hadn't see the south side of 7 minutes for a few years.  I made my way up the hill and into T1.  The run is a tad over 2 miles apparently.  Time 14:54 (7:06/mile)

Transition is easy in a du, no fighting with the wetsuit, just grab and go.  I was in and out in less than :45 seconds.

I always coming screaming out of T1 on the bike and this was no different.  I started passing people one after another.  I knew I had taken off fast because no one was moving even remotely as fast as me.  Not having any water or gels I focused on trying to settle myself down on the bike and ride this like a time trial.  I stayed on my aero bars unless I was making a turn.  A few times I caught myself not pedaling through the corners and backing off on my pedal stroke like I do when crit racing or pace lining.  I had to remind myself this was steady state and to keep up the intensity.  My legs were tight.  They would not loosen up.  There was a tiny headwind going south and I felt like I was going 14 mph at some points.  I started thinking about why I do this to myself.  I love riding.  I don't even follow any training plans anymore.  I just ride and have fun.  This was not fun, this was hurting, and then my Garmin beeped for the first 5 miles -- 14:21.  Damn, I thought this is why I do this to put it down and see what I am made of.  I knew my second run was going to be rough no matter what time I put up for the bike, so right then and there I made the decision to at least try and put up the fastest female bike split on the date.  I could see more people up ahead and I reeled them in one at a time.  The only mistake I made was not passing a friend sooner on Glenwood, up the hill.  I didn't draft but I let him pace me up for a minute or so, matching his pedal stroke before telling myself to stop being a sissy and get up the climb.  I went around him finally and yelled at him to pick it up.  I could see one more person in the distance and I was set on trying to get them before T2.  The course was all downhill from that point and I just kept pushing.  I closed on the cyclist before T2 and lo' and behold it was my teammate, e-speed.  I yelled some words of encouragement at her and pulled my feet out of my shoes, before successfully completing a flying dismount.  Time 28:48 (avg. 20.8mph). 

Ran into T2, dropped my stuff and out I went in :40 seconds.  As I passed transition on the run I saw my parents cheering and yelling.  I threw up my fist and yelled "I ripped that sh%t!!!"  I could tell my parents were excited.  My dad ALWAYS teases me about how slow I am, but I know he's super pumped and proud of me.  My mom was smiling and cheering, she's watched me race so many times, if I didn't do this she'd be worried, haha. 

I checked my watch.  I was ahead of my projected time.  I was at 45 minutes out.  I knew I couldn't break an hour, but definitely the 1:05 I had put in.  My body was pooped and running was so foreign now.  Two miles might as well be a marathon!  I did my best to run and hold my form. I knew if it got bad or I had any pain, I would have to walk per physical therapy recommendations.  My foot has been so much better, but it's still not completely healed.  My teammate passed me back in less than a 1/4 of a mile from T2 and would go on to crush me on the run.  I thought about my little brother and hoped he was having a good race and I pushed a little harder.  I wanted to finish and go back for him.  A few guys passed me on the 2nd run, but there wasn't a female in sight.  I was shocked.  I knew I was sitting in the top 10, maybe even top 5.  I rounded the corner and saw the finish line about 200 meters up.  "Less than 1 minute, if you move your ass" I told myself.  I picked it up and finished in 1:01:28.  Second run 16:20 (7:47/mile).  And you know what -- I pulled off the fastest female bike split on the day, just like I swore I would!!  Whoooo Hooooo!!!!

I took a minute to congratulate my teammate on being 2nd Female Overall (Way to Go E-speed, her ubby, DM pulled off a 4th in an insanely fast AG!!), made sure I wasn't going to vomit, grabbed my water bottle and headed back out to look for my brother.  I found him with less than a mile to go.  I ran along side him encouraging him and cheering for him.  I think I annoyed him more than helped him --haha. 
My sister-in-law, niece and nephew had also made it out and when he picked it up to finish they were all cheering for him with my parents.  I couldn't have been prouder.  He completed his first Du!! 

My family congratulated us and I could tell everyone was so proud of my brother, even my niece agreed "daddy is fast."  I was amped and excited, our makeshift family morning had gone so well.  I proceeded to torture my 4 year old niece post race by tickling and shaking her to which we both were laughing hyserically.  I love it when she sees me for the first time.  She always gets this huge grin and yells "Aunt Beth!!!"  like she just knows there is going to be some ridiculousness and lots of laughing to come.  LOVE.THAT.LITTLE.GIRL. 
My nephew he smiles at me when he sees me, but as always he is looking for food and trying to get into trouble, haha (of course, he is only 2). 

We rounded out the morning by hitting up Bob Evans and taking some selfies.
I'm so lucky to have the family I have and some days like these it all comes together perfectly and I thank God this is my life, even when it hurts a little, haha. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Race At The Lake 1 (RATL - 1)

Well, I finally did it.  I (wo)-manned up and got in my first and certainly not last crit race!  And it was glorious....for 10 laps.

I had plenty of experience riding in groups and understood it was not about who was the fastest, but who was the smartest.  I felt confident in my bike handling skills and knew even after riding for 18 days straight for #30DaysOfBiking, I could hold my own.  Plus I wanted to see what Flo Rida' could do, so off to RATL hosted by the Summit FreeWheelers it would be.  They would run all the CAT women together (1,2,3 and the 4s).  Since, I am a rookie I start at 4 (not that I have any urge to CAT up, EVER, but eventually I will have to).  Of course, this is what when I watched my first crit race...
Needless to say RK is back up and racing stronger than ever!

I had plenty of rest and headed down about 8am.  My race was to go off at 10:15am, so I had lots of time so even stopped to make a deposit at the ATM.  I was less than 5 miles away from the race site when I realized I didn't have enough cash to register.  A 10 minute detour back to an ATM (that wasn't my bank) and about $6 in fees later I rolled into the park.  I got my gear all ready and watched the men's CAT 5 race and cheered for (2) of my teammates.  The field was huge, 55 guys!!  They only raced 8 miles, but the pace was brutal and they hammered over 24 mph average.  DaisyDuc's hubby is a monster on the bike and came away with 4th for Team Bicycle Hub! 

Daisy and I rolled out for a warm-up.  My legs felt heavy and stiff riding over some small rollers.  I checked my heart rate and it said 169bpm.  Ooohhhh, this was going to be ugly.  I was bummed I would probably get dropped and not be able to hang with the field very long.  We rolled back into the parking lot and too my surprise my mom was there!  I gave her a hug and chatted with her before deciding to pin my # on.

I soft pedaled back to my car and grabbed it out of my car.  I then locked the door and yep, you guessed it I realized my motherF-ing keys were inside.  I was so annoyed with myself at this point.  Maybe it was fatigue or nerves, but there they sat on my gym bag on my passengers seat.  I debated riding home and back (about 60 miles round trip) or getting a ride with my mom immediately to go get them and just skip the race, but my mom said that was dumb and she would just go get them and bring them back for me.  I felt horrible, but then Daisy, my knight in green argyle spandex swooped in and offered to call AAA.  I was so grateful and relieved my mom wouldn't have to go back to my house and I didn't have to ride there either.  I was still annoyed but needed to get my head together.  I road a few more easy laps around the parking lot as the CAT 4 men finished before taking off my warm-ups and staging.

I only wore my kit with arm warmers.  Kevlar and JE had warned me that after 2 laps I'd be plenty warm.  We rolled around 1/2 the course to the start. I was pretty cold when we got to the start.  It was a great start spot, right on a hill.  It would be 12 laps, about 15 miles, lap 4 was our preme lap (dont' quote me on that).  I lined up in the middle with SG.  EP and Daisy took the inside left, front. 

Cycling is a gentleman's sport, so you don't brake check your opponents or try to run them into potholes and barricades, however small tricks and tactics that do not involve endangering other rider's safety is common.  I was on red alert and although the course is 2 lanes and closed off to cars as soon as the bell went off the experienced CAT's jumped...and so did I.  This was not a no-drop group ride.  The main field hammered a little up the hill at the start and immediately dropped a few who had not clipped in quick enough and stayed on a wheel.  I got low and settled myself in about 5-6 riders back.  I wanted to stay near the front, in case of any breaks.  I figured there would be 1 or 2 on the preme laps and the last 2-3, but it was the start of the season and I was betting everyone would air on the side of caution and feel out the field. 
RATL 1 courtesy of WAS Labs Cycling

The course dropped down and wound around some corners and through the parking lot where we had staged and most of the other people were.  It was a rush railing left and right, my heart was beating at what I guessed was 150-165 and coming back down (I was already recovering from the start), and I knew I could ride at that rate all day.  We came around and back up the hill.  My legs felt heavy on the climb and I could feel my heart rate go up. I hung onto the wheel in front of me and let the girl pull me up to the start/finish.  Whooo hoooo!!!! 1  down 11 to go.

Each lap, I invested my time trying to stay toward the front, tucking into the pack and conserving as much energy as possible.  I was starting to fatigue from all the days of riding and thought, maybe I can't hold onto this.  I checked the lap counter as we came around -- 8 to go!!!  Oh man, I was hoping, I had already done 8!

I checked around, we had started with 16 and were down to 10.  I knew (3) of the riders were at least Cat 3s, and I was still there with them.  My teammate and beast on the bicycle, DaisyDuc was also still in the main field.  She looked like she was soft pedaling on the outside at times, fresh as a you guessed it, Daisy!  I on the other hand, was wheel sucking like it was my job.  She broke from the field on our preme lap.  I immediately sat up and reminded myself  "do not chase your teammate."  I started yelling in my head "Go Daisy!! Go!!"  The field picked up the pace a little but she took it uncontested.  I'm betting had she just kept pushing and going she could have gotten away and stayed away from the main field.  The girl can push some watts!!!

Daisy grabbing her preme - photo courtesy of WAS Labs Cycling

Lap after lap just kept going by and there I was still in it. There was only one breakaway attempt before the hill in the middle of the race that failed.  My legs weren't ready to give up.  Every lap I came around I felt better and better. 

The only mishap was a girl on my right was forcing me off my line left.  Daisy was on my left and we rubbed shoulders and handlebars a little bit.  I yelled "My bad!!" and we kept riding.  No one was moving us out of the race.

Oh and the other mishap,  I don't know what I was thinking but I thought we were on lap 11 and I wanted to be at the front coming off the climb, so I powered up to the front and pushed on the hill a little.  My legs were heavy but I knew I could suffer for 3 minutes.  I rolled up to the top and heard the official yell "Two laps to go!!!"  Wait what?!?!?!  What?!?! Say again?!?!  I couldn't ride like that for 2 more laps.  Immediately, defeated and sucking air the main field went around me.  I was caught up in my lap mistake for too long that when I decided I would still try to hang on, it was too late they were gone.  I should have just said "F$*K!!" and jumped right back on, but it was like a slap to the face.  It had shocked me and I had spent a lot of gas. 

What I thought was lap 11, photo courtesy of Joey & Janet Edwards

I rode my last 2 laps of shame alone, waving and smiling to my teammates yelling "I can't count!!"  I even lapped 2 girls right before the finish and encouraged them to get on my wheel, but they had one more to go and they waved me on. 

I finished 9th overall, 5th in the CAT 4s.  I was super annoyed with myself and all the absent minded mistakes I had made that morning (it continued on into the afternoon too, post-RATL). 

Daisy took 2nd in the CAT 4s.  I am guessing our average speed was 18-20 mph -- completely doable.  Overall, I thought I did a great job, suffering on and off, staying with the main field and paying attention, at least until the end of lap 10. 

TBH representing at RATL photo courtesy of The Bicycle Hub

The race was well run, the course was fun, and the weather was perfect.  It was very beginner friendly and I can not encourage enough women to give it a try if they ever were interested in crit racing.  Summit Freewheelers did a wonderful job hosting.