Welcome to the 4th annual Willow Springs TT! An unofficial, work-off-your-turkey-butt, obstacle filled, fun race. For the first time in four years, I was able to make it out to this..finally! Every year I work Thanksgiving weekend, giving up the days to the loyal and crazy Black Friday shoppers. Not this year! This year I got to participate in the coolest time trial this side of the Mississippi…or at least in Tucson.
Our friends one year decided to put this event on, just for a reason to camp out for a whole holiday weekend and it has become something of a Thanksgiving tradition. One that, I for one, hope to stick around for many more years to come! The contest is free to enter; just bring your land pass, some recovery beverages and some snackies for after and it’s all on! As Anne and Octavio, the organizers, put it: ‘It’s a little friendly competition among friends’. The absurdity of it all is why we do it…it’s foolery and frolicking in the dirt while pushing your body to it’s limit! Watching your chums make fools of themselves (which of course includes yourself, as well) followed by beer and comfort food! What more could you possibly ask for on a holiday weekend?!
The day is beautiful! Sun is shining and the temp is just about perfect for riding. There is a bit more wind than necessary, but what’s a little wind to stop us?! The idea is loosely based on a typical time trial, sending out the slowest riders first followed by progressively faster ones; but the difference here is the challenges laid out on course. For extra time bonus’, you must complete these little tests of feat to win the race. It has been shown in the past that just flying thru the course at light speed will not win you the day! (And the Lame award looms over you for this..)
Willow Springs trail is not a too technical course, a few slick and rocky spots along with some newly rutted jeep roads added in just for the extra pleasure of occasionally catching some air mid descent. This makes it a perfect spot for some tomfoolery to be thrown in.
We all sign up in the order we think we belong..but be careful…there is a sandbagger award so don’t say your too slow… I get some “O come on” and “too close to the top” words of encouragement so I let Kevin sign me up and I just wait my turn…which is fairly close to the end. Every minute, Anne sends off another rider. There are around 20 racers today. Some newbies, some oldies, some fast, some slow. Its really a wide range of talent and speed…but all know how to have a good time!
First challenge comes on what are affectionately known as “The Bitches”. Seven steep, rolling, rutted out hills along a gas line jeep road. I like this part because you can really get going fast here! At the top of each we stop and pick up some beads, I shove in my pocket and be on my way, picking up six altogether. There is photo op on one Bitch, Robert Dunn is grabbing shots of people pulling out some air coming over the top. He said I stuck to the dirt like glue and flew past at lightening speed. I did catch air down the way a bit, but what can you do.
Next up come the mustaches, bandanas and marshal badges at the corral. I grab a ‘stache and accidentally stick it directly to my upper lip. It sticks and believe it or not stays on the entire rest of the ride, aside from almost losing it during a farmer blow and a jello shot…
Fast now, thru the cactus garden and up the hill. After another gate are the hula skirts and lais. I scoot the hula over my helmeted head and move along. I’m sure it won’t get caught on anything… We run into some other riders out on the trail who were not involved in the TT. A few questions here and there. “What the heck?!” And I’m definitely sure one guy wasn’t too happy about being passed by a girl in grass skirt!
Along a fast little singletrack before the last gate, I’m riding just behind buddy Tony Dinsdale and a challenge pops out of nowhere. There are marshmallows stuck on the ends of a spoon plant. We skid to a stop as we’ve past it and hurry back to grab some of the fluff and continue on to the his and her trail. Thus far, I have managed to pass more than several of the riders sent out ahead of me and I’m feeling great! Here comes our next big obstacle…the Whiskey Tree. A makeshift bar set up under a tree. There is tequilla, Jaeger and chocolate milk to choose from and we’re limited to two (there is still at least another 25 minutes left to ride). I choose a Jaeger backed by a chocolate milk and earn my two tokens. O boy! I am warm and fuzzy now! Nice and relaxed on the rest of the race…maybe I should shot some Jaeger before every race! No..not really! JK!
Onwards thru the arches parking lot. There are several people out there getting ready to ride as I whirl thru in my lime green hula skirt and big honkin’ mustache. There were stares and some second takes for sure! I just laugh.
Climbing to the top of the Junebug trail, there are dozens of raw eggs to the side. The idea is to carry the egg back without breaking and without using back pockets to carry it. There is still a long climb and a fast descent to do. As a woman, I already have a perfect home for my little egg. I carefully stuff it into my bra and continue climbing. At first, I try not to breathe too deeply thinking I will crush the lil sucker; but turns out its not that fragile and becomes no problem getting it to the finish safely. Just as you begin the final descent back to the finish line, a bright red cooler stands alone in the sand along side the trail. Inside are extremely large jello shots. I cram one in, almost losing my ‘stache in the process, shove the cup in my pocket and fly back down.
I am the first one to finish, but not done until I hop off the bike and spin around a bat three times and then awkwardly wobble myself over to the finish table to show my treasures found out on course. This is the most fun I’ve had during a race in a long time…and I look like a 70s porn star with a grass skirt and a helmet on!
People continue rolling in an emptying pockets and looking just a foolish as I did. Love it! Kevin comes riding in with his egg in his mouth! He rode the rest of the way like that, said..’it was a little tough to breathe on the climb’..awesome! Several other guys bring their eggs secured inside the waist of their bib shorts. Everyone has a smile as they roll in and twirl on the bat and stumble to the finish and there is lots of laughter.
There are awards given out once the last rider rolls thru. Old cogs for medals and Kevin and I brought in some serious (or seriously un-spectacular!) schwag to give away. And then everyone settles in for some drinks and food and lots of camaraderie. It’s awesome. This is why we do what we do. This is the reason we work hard so that we can play hard. These people and these bikes and these trails and these events…it’s why we love to mountain bike! I can’t wait for next year!
Some amateur photos follow below, but for a real look at the action check out Robert Dunn’s site: http://www.robertdunnimages.com/p1041460034