Let me tell you what an amazing experience I had at a favorite race of mine! The last race of the calendar year. A very merry endurance mountain bike event. DCB Adventures Dawn to Dusk at the Pemberton Trail outside Fountain Hills, AZ in the McDowell Regional Mountain Park is a celebrated race here in Southern Arizona…especially more so now that owner/operator David Benjes has found a new home in the lovely (and cold!) state of Colorado. DCB puts on a fantastic event with his jovial and entertaining announcing, fab schwag and an atmosphere of camaraderie and friendly, but seriously stout competition.
This is my 5th year participating in the D2D. I have attempted Solo twice before and a Mixed Duo twice. My solo attempts were from just hitting my goal number of laps and being done with it to crashing hard and deciding that I wasn’t going to make any more laps around. My duos were a bit more successful, claiming 1st in 2010 with Dan Mellady and 4th last year with my hubby. This year, I wanted to go it solo again. I wanted to ride my bike all day long and put in as many laps as I could. I was actually using this as a bit of a training race for the duo I’ve signed up for at our local 24hr race coming in February. This would be a good opportunity to work on my race nutrition, as well. I had an idea of what I wanted to do; but would it be enough? Endurance racing is, in some aspects, an eating contest- she who gets the right amount and combinations, takes the prize. I’m not sure what my expectations truly were, I thought I could get in eight laps on the 15.5 mile course leaving me with around 128 miles in the 10 hour time limit (extra miles coming at the start of the race). Seemed reasonable. I found out I was capable of so much more…
The morning started out early, having already claimed a coveted spot along the fenceline the night before; Kevin and I were able to drive right in, park under our event tent and unload our gear without much difficulty. It’s always a good sign starting a race day without frustrations. The race started at sunrise, precisely 0713. It was a chilly coast down to the start line, but Benjes was there stimulating the group with his irresistible charm even at such an early hour. Part of our Team OVB was there today to compete, mostly in the Male Duo category..I was the only solo among us. It was great to have so many of my guys at the start of the race! It has also been quite some time since the AZ MTB series had ended and I got to see several of my racing gals out there this morning, I was so happy to catch up a bit with them! It’s awesome to see so many women out here competing…and every one of them with a big smile on! 🙂 So the day starts with my first GU pack and the sound of a blowhorn, loud and unmistakable. We ride uphill on a paved road, which actually weeds out a lot of riders within the first 3.5 miles. I have my boys around me and we all hit the dirt together. Thru the venue and the start of the big climb, which I will complete 8 more times after. I feel good, surprisingly I might say by a little, as on the road those quads were already burning. It quickly becomes apparent who my competition will be as right along with me is Katie Ellis and Heidi Clayton (who has an amazing story herself!). I pull ahead a bit on this climb and teammate Mike Mazura comes out to pull for some time. This climb is singletrack and jeep road..not technical at all, so a little wind break works. Mike does a great pull, I come around him again. The left hand turn comes (this will be a much looked-forward to point in each lap) and we start to hit some rollers. A couple steeper climbs followed each time by an even faster descent. As the race goes on, this section is both a relief and dreaded. You certainly get a break from the tenacious climbing, but you also move into something like intervals…which is just as hard. This goes on for awhile until we hit another climb at the back of the course, albeit much shorter; but a tad more technical and rocky. Somewhere in here, as we keep turning back towards the venue, the sun has not only decided to shine brightly; but also directly in my line of site. It’s like being blind for split seconds here and there while going a break neck speeds over rocky, off-camber terrain with only 29inches of rubber and a brain basket between you and whatever it was you just ran over top of. A little nerve racking I would say; but you just keep pedaling and hope your bike knows what to do…trust in your own skills. This is where I fall behind my fellow teammates a little, obviously I am slightly more cautious… After some serious descending and a hairy left turn, we climb again, thru a bit of sand. Altho this does flatten down some as the race goes on. Then the last push up a very lofty peak which becomes the “oh my god I’m almost there” of every lap, leading into the fast rolling finish around the campground (more hairpin turns) and thru the exchange.
My lord, I have only drank a half bottle of my GU grape Roctane. I will surely bonk if that continues. I down a GU espresso love, grab another bottle and bust thru the exchange for lap two. At this point, I had not seen any other women until I’m coming out of my fuel stop and they both cruise by. Ok, its on! Both Katie Ellis and I quickly pass Heidi before the initial big climb. Katie at some point in here, comes around me climbing strong; so I stay on her. Then it happens. After the welcomed left turn, I find myself on top of her and wanting to accelerate. So I go around. I never see her again during the race.
Laps go by and I feel remarkably well. Why I am surprised by this, who knows. But it isn’t until I’m out on lap 7 and around mile 100 that I start to feel some of the burn and the harder it seems to keep my pace up that initial climb. I have been on the bike nearing eight hours at this point. I know that I have the base fitness for this. I train and know I have the strength. But I don’t remember feeling this good for this long and I have to attribute a good portion of it to my chosen nutrition today. I had brought bananas and bars and the ever nourishing chocolate chip cookies…but I have eaten none of these. Each lap, I come in briefly and suck down a GU. I alternate between Vanilla-Orange Roctane and Espresso Love (my two favs) and I manage to drink an entire bottle of Roctane grape during each lap (minus the first two. With the excitement, adrenaline pumping and chill in the air I could only get myself to consume a 1/2 each). As the day and laps continued, it just didn’t cross my mind to eat anything else…I felt good and I didn’t want to jinx that. I never bonked. I never even felt hungry. I was getting in just about 300 calories per hour and that number is the magic one for me. And, with all the caffiene-infused GUs, a lot of zing and vigor!
Other than Kevin lubing my chain on lap 5 and a brief moment during number 7’s exchange where I came to terms with the fact that I was going to have to do a ninth lap and thought I best take a little girls room break (which took way longer than expected..guess I was hydrated well!); my time off the bike consisted somewhere in the 1-3 minute range each hour. Rounding off, that’s no more than 27 minutes out of a 10 hour race (per Garmin is was more like 12!). Think about that… That 7th lap was my hardest-I had been pushing as hard as my body could at a pace I thought I could keep for 10 hours straight and my brain almost starting getting in the way.
No incidents occurred. I mean, there were a couple shakey moments that could have turned into something but didn’t. On lap 8, I did see a wolf off the side of the trail. It was not a scrawny coyote and there were no people around for it to belong to. It was not a dog. It was a wolf. Quietly watching me ride by. With curiosity? No, I think with intent. Spirit animal? Maybe. On lap 9, I just wanted to get back before dark. I had no light and the rocky descent on the back half is no place to be in the dark…lightless. I almost ran over my friend Stephanie here. Not on purpose of course, it was just a number of things happening at once and including 2 guys wishing to pass in the wrong spot. But there were no casualties, so all is good. This last lap, I just needed to ride steady, to finish the race. To still push, but just hard enough. And I made it. I rode thru the finish line and just felt so completely accomplished. I had done more that I thought I could and I felt fantastic for most of it. I even smiled for the camera on a climb in lap 8! (check me out: http://www.zazoosh.com/photos/697013245 ) In the end I did 9 laps, 143 miles, over 8000 ft of climbing and had a finishing time of 10h16m… just 5 minutes ahead of Katie Ellis. She really rode well in the end…looking at the lap times there and considering at the end of lap 6 I had been ahead by some 13 minutes, it was really a competition until my wheel crossed over the finish line.
Thanks to having my extremely supportive husband, his assistance to me during an event that he too was racing, was invaluable! Both he and his teammate Jonathan were crucial in my doing as well as I did and getting on top of that podium. And to outdo that, they got onto the podium in 2nd place for SS duo. Awesome! Team OVB really represented well! Our other guys out there respectively placed 4th, 14th and 47th out of 61 geared male duos and a 20th place in male quad which included 2 juniors! It was a good day on the bike!