Oh my gosh! What a different day! Just the atmosphere on the start line is better for me today. My heart rate is 80… I’m calm. I’m smiling. I’m in my element. I have friendly faces and familiar surroundings. I am looking forward to this race, riding thru the wildflowers and green desert of spring on sweet singletrack with only me, my bike and 250 of my closest local mountain bikers! The pressure has been lifted. Happy St Patrick’s Day, indeed!
This is a great race! Swiss American Racing uses almost all of the singletrack in the park to put together a marathon of a ride. They have great schwag, great awards, free beer at the finish and the people are awesome! This is the place to be.
I decided that I needed to handle my nutrition a little differently for this race. Since I would be on the bike for around three hours (rather than 1.5h) without wanting to stop at an aid station and no one to hand up a bottle, I thought best to use my Camelbak. I usually like to race without; but as hot as it was last year and needing to keep up the hydration and calories (especially after half racing and being stuck in a car the day before), I thought best to handle it this way. I used GU Roctane in my bladder plus a bottle on my bike, this makes for 3 total. I tape my GU gels to my top tube for easy, tear away access. I rely mainly on the Vanilla-Orange Roctane…it is my favorite, with a Peanut Butter for substance and an Espresso Love thrown in there for variety. I think this will keep me in the right physical and mind state for the task at hand. Now, I just need to remember to keep an eye on time so I do eat!
I wasn’t able to compete in the time trial the day before because I was suffering in every way at another race, but I didn’t lose too much advantage as they are handling the start a little bit different this year. Instead of the mass chaos of 250 people trying to hit the singletrack located 100 yards downhill first, there are waves based on racer Category and time trial finish. Holding a Pro card put me in the front of the 2nd wave, just 30 seconds behind the winning TT female, who just happened to be Leah McCabe. Kata Skaggs is beside me and Jane Meneely is one row behind. Here’s my competition laid out before me. I am not worried. I’m just ready to spend the next 3 hours racing my bike here. I feel very happy to be here today. This is a blessing following the horrible day before. And we’re off!
The legs complain in the beginning, no no no…this can’t be happening again today. I let up and just allow myself to ease into a flow. I’m getting passed, but I don’t panic, just keep turning my pedals trying to get those legs warmed. Kata passes me. Jane passes me. And I know Leah is up there somewhere. Once the initial burner climb ends and the trail begins to undulate, I start to feel better. I’m handling the bike well and find I can speed into and thru the descents today. This feels good. This feels really good! I make some leeway. On the next climb in the tech loop, I find out that Leah has some how ended up behind me; as we crawl up the climb unable to find opportunity to pass, I lose my balance trying to avoid the guys wheel in front of me and teeter off the bike, foot down. I get outta the way and there’s Leah coming around me? I hop back on behind her and push up the rest of the hill. We descend a bit and we need to get out from behind some of these guys. The passing is hard. There is lots of wonderful trail to ride here, not much for passing room and I’m not the most aggressive passer, either (something I need to work on). I urge her to keep moving up and then decide it’s time I pass Leah, go around and continue on. I know she won’t be far off, tho. Then I catch Kata and Jane, pass and keep riding. I feel pretty good right now. We enter into the Pemberton campground and off to the Scenic Trail, top three women all in a row.
Then, I catch some marbles of loose dirt cornering a curve too fast and in an instant I find myself on the ground. The girls one by one pass by asking if I’m good, I tell them “Go on!” and quickly put myself back in motion. Now I’m a bit skittish on the loose corners. Some guys pass me and of course I get stuck behind them on the next big climb. I can see Kata and Jane ahead, getting further and further away from me. Kata looks as if she has a motor whizzing her up the trail! I can see it all play out ahead of me. If only I could get around! Finally at a crest, I pass and start playing catch up. Jane is first and when I pass, she hangs on. We climb thru the new Pemberton singletrack, eyeing Kata up ahead and slowly gaining. My goal is to get to her and sit on her wheel for a rest..good plan. We finally lure her in and I sit up momentarily…until she pulls up, motioning me to go around. The three of us now, riding together again. Maybe we can work together during this race. Continuing on, the trail is absolutely beautiful! Most times during a race, there isn’t much time to look around; but the greenery and flowers simply smack you in the face in a usually brown and drab desert. I can’t help but smile and feel like I am exactly where I belong-here on my bike, hearing my rhythmic breathing with the turn of the cranks and the sound of my wheels over the dirt, surrounded by color and rebirth..springtime! It’s an amazing feeling and I remember why I love doing this.
Jane and I ride together the entire rest of the race. Somewhere, and I’m not sure when it happened, Kata dropped off the back a bit and I seemed to be pulling along Jane and another man. At times, Jane would come around and help out in a pull; but this is more difficult on a mountain bike where technical parts come and go and skill or comfort levels are never the same. I pull away just a bit on the rocky descents, but not by much. I pull away on a climb out on Coachwhip; but I never lose Jane, she is always there. The situation of us riding together thru an entire marathon race is an interesting one. You sorta become allies and at the same time remain competitors. We’re friends, but it’s still a race. We have words here and there…how fun the trail is, how beautiful the flowers are, asking if the other needs or wants to pass. It’s actually rather nice to know where your closest competition is…right on your wheel…keep going or get dropped! I have visions of the finish…might I have to sprint? Lord knows I am not a sprinter. It doesn’t matter, I am having a blast and this is going to be a race to finish line! We are getting closer to the end. Every turn-off onto a different trail, volunteers yell out “The first two women!” That’s really motivating to hear! The descent on the back of the Long Loop is rugged today. Always rocky and fatiguing, today it seems much more so..I believe the rains have had a hand in it. As we finish out the Loop and come thru the venue, I know there is still another 3 miles to go; but Jane comes up beside me and starts to speed up. I won’t let her get away, but I say “We’re not done yet.” “We have to be done.” “Nope, Sport-Tech backwards.” The longest 3 miles ever! Jane sounds devastated at first, thinking it was the finish; I know the feeling, it’s discouraging to think you’re done and learn you must keep going. She pulls into the final singletrack ahead of me. I’m losing strength in my legs, but she moves over and wants me to pass. I try to push and the legs only half cooperate. The trail doesn’t flow quite as well in this direction and climbing seems to never end. I see ahead the break coming and push. As the trail begins to undulate back into the finish line, I push harder. I take the downhills faster. I don’t want to sprint in the end; but I never drop Jane. Chris Grove riding ahead has seen us not long before and informed the crowd and announcer that the women will be sprinting to the finish! We fly out of the singletrack and into the dirt parking lot. Here she comes! Gear down, gear down! Push the pedals around! The crowd is yelling! And we whisk thru the line together….she gets me by a tire. There is video…slow motion video of the finish. We come thru both wearing big, wide, goofy smiles and I see myself sit up just before the actual finish line as Jane pushes her bike thru it…the tire width. Everyone is congratulating us and raving about the awesome finish. I am reeling! A little known fact is, Jane had beat me by more than several minutes in every endurance race we competed in together last year (don’t let her Cat3 status fool you…someone needs to be moving up…), this time we finished together. First place, second place..we both resulted the same time, she sprinted thru the line better than I and I don’t care…I’m thrilled! I couldn’t have asked for a better race! The camaraderie. The beauty. The excitement. It was wonderful! This is what it’s all about. This is why I want to do this. This is exactly what I needed!
Kata comes in just under a minute and a half behind Jane and I, she did amazing after racing the day before and a 400 mile drive following! And Leah rolled in another 2 minutes after Kata. Really, all the top women were very close together in time.
My nutrition plan was right on! I never felt like my mind was wandering or losing focus and I was able to keep pushing time after time even with tiring legs. Taping the GUs for easy reaching was brilliant. I think I hit it right on the tip of perfection there!
Afterwards we all talk about our day out on the dirt, drink some well deserved adult recovery drinks and I mow down on a tasty burger from the Super Farm Super Truck. Award ceremony is completed with lots of spectators still hanging around socializing. Several OVBer’s were there today, competing and hanging out afterwards. The boys did great, coming in with some excellent times and top 50 for two of them! Cassi improved upon her time from last year by well over an hour! Amazing how she is coming along. It was a fantastic day!