Sunday, May 15, 2011

It's good to be racing again

So the past 3 weekends I've been able to line up and race my mountain bike. Talk about ending a dry spell. First there was the race is Pueblo, Co. I really liked the course and despite a leaky tire, I managed to come in with a win. (see previous post for report).

The next race was in Fruita. It was our third time racing the RMSC series at Rabbit Valley. It's one of my top 10 places to vacation ride if not damn near top 2 but racing it, well, that's totally different story. The day started of great. I'm experimenting this year with an old school pre-race diet: waffles or pancakes and eggs. I popped two whole wheat waffles in the toaster, added some pbutter for protein (didn't have eggs) and called it good. We had to get the Todds to the coarse pretty early so I ate again about two hours out. At one hour out I popped a few sodium pills and then 45 minutes out a goo.

The day was windy and cool. The clouds weren't too organized so the sun popped out here and there. RF and I stayed in the car after seeing off the Todds if that gives you a sense of the temp. So we're hanging out in the car listening to music, watching the people come and go. When we think it's time to go wait for the Todds to come in, I turn the key before shutting things down and click. Yep, good ol blondie here had turned the key the wrong way to play music and killed the battery. For the love! So, I walked up to the parking lot patrol peeps and asked if the ranger had some cables. He was out on his bike (of course) but luckily a guy heard my request and generously offered his cables. I had to wait for the Todds to come in and Wixen's wife to reappear with the keys so it was a good 20 minutes before we could pull their car up to our and give ol Pearl a jump. By then it was time to kit up and start the mind game.

It was pretty chilly still and the wind was a howling. Warming up was great one way and it sucked the other but it was a great mental warm up knowing we'd have to deal with the same exact conditions on the course. The goal was to sit in.

At the start gate with all the other Cat 1 and pros it seemed a little bleak than in previous years. I found Eyberg and gave him my warm layers, except for my arm warmers. Figured if it got hot enough, I'd just push them down. Finally at the start line, I'm dead center in front. That never happens to me out there. I'm usually 2nd row. Gulp.

Gun goes off and I hop on. Good contact with the pedal and I'm mashing. The group is together for the first few hundred yards but starts to split around the 1.5 mile mark. The pace is totally doable. I'm 3rd wheel going into the 2nd mile. 3rd mile I push off the front and charge the hill to get my heart rate up and ready for the next harder, longer and more techie climbs. Once at the top, I'm in front but being mellow. (I told people had it been a 3 mile race, I would've won).

Soon, girls came around and I answer but the first techie section has me clipping out and hopping down a step down that was just too tall. Not much lost, I jumped back on the train, getting in front of some girls that took a different route. I'm about 4th wheel. As the trail begins to climb, I start to lose positions as I don't quite have sustained high end yet. My heart rate is taking forever to come down too. In my mind I'm trying to calm down but then the trail flattens out and eventually goes downward so I stomp on the gas to make up some time. We're on service roads for most of the race if not 90% of it so this is big ring all the way.

I'm feeling okay, playing tag with a couple ladies. The one woman who lead out at the start was in my view and quick. Then a woman comes up behind me and says "let's go get her". So I jump on her wheel but can't maintain and I was ok with that because the longest, evilest climb is waiting not far ahead and I'm not in a real big hurry to get to it. I wanted my heart rate to come down before I hit it because I was going to ride the whole thing come hell or vomit. (Luckily neither appeared). It's a loose, rocky, rutty piece of crap road that steepens as it goes up. The one woman who had just passed me clipped out and I could see the former leader trying to make a go for the top. When I saw her clip out too, I was fired up. I was not going to walk. And I didn't. I see Eyberg cheering me on and then Wixen is at the top with my bottle. My saviors! I popped a goo and continued on.

Now, for those of you who haven't raced this before, this next section of the coarse is brutal. It's Westwater Mesa and it's not exactly what I call a reward for climbing up to it. It's like a motor cross course on Porcupine Rim: stutter bumps that are so deep you have no choice but to just surf them broken up by rock garden after rock garden that sucks the life out of your upper body with each pedal stroke. Oh and throw in a wind storm just to make sure we can't get warm (arm warmers were back up after pushing them down before the hill climb). The fun part was I actually got to race a woman up there. She came up from behind and asked to pass. I allowed but then she messed up a step up and I had to bail on it too. Frustrated, I went back around and stayed there for a while but then she passed me again when the trail started to go down and the step downs started to grow in height (my weakness). But I saw her again walking a hike a bike section, which I tried to run because another woman had come up on me. I got to the top and took off.

This next section was fun. Lots of wide open double track and roller coaster power climbs, however, it had started to sleet and of course the wind was still howling. Not wanting to be stuck in BFE without a rain slick, that sleet shower was enough to kick in the endorphins and find some renewed energy. The chick who had been following me after the mesa got by. I stayed with her for a while through the hilly, rainbow colored soil that is Western Colorado, riding skinny lines down hog back ridges. As the descents got more technical, I got more chicken. Grrr! And she pulled away. Not much though. As I approached one small descent that swooped into the next hill, I saw my little rabbit walking. HA. I hate walking so I was going to climb. I had to get over one little step up and I'd been riding them all week. No sweat, right? As Rafal would say, mmmmhmmm. First wheel up, back wheel u....u...u FAIL and over I go. I put my right foot down in hopes of stepping out as I slowly teetered downhill and that was not a good idea. It became a pogo stick and hyper extended. Ow. I pick up the bike and slowly get my ass up the rest of the hill. At the top is the one woman I battled with on the mesa talking to another woman. They asked if I was ok, which was cool. I knew I'd be fine as I've injured myself like this before (I'm pretty sure I have a stretched tendon from an old injury) and knew I could ride it out. But while I was standing I took  goo a drink, stretched out my back and got back on the saddle.

At this point, I was about 2/3 the way done. The next section was the Western Rim backwards and for any of you who've been there, you know it's so amazing. Luckily, I've been, so I didn't have to stop and look at the view but I tell ya, people, if you want an epic race course, this is one of them. The WR snakes in and out of canyons and we literally race on their edges, whipping around corners, power climbing terrain changes one after the other but all with the famous Fruita flow. This isn't racing, this is fun.

After the WR section, it was time to think about home, as in the finish. Part of this involves riding the same service roads at the start, mixed in with double track sections that broke up the sandy roads ala roller coaster hilly goodness. My knee was thumping but manageable. My stomach was queasy. Again, manageable. I hadn't looked at my computer in a while and when we came upon a certain camp ground where we had been the day before, I took a look down. I was at about 2:40. At that point I made it a goal to come in under 3. Not three hours, but under three and that meant clean riding through the sandy roads and up all of the climbs. The roads were classic western Co. with rock gardens and sand pits. I had two techy climbs ahead of me. The first one starts off as a double track downhill so there's lots of momentum to get up the 4X4 service road it Ts. I took a hard left and shifted into an easier gear so I could pick my way through the rocks. It was fairly easy as I just followed the line all 400 other racers had done but it still took some body English. One hill was done and it was time to bring her home. I jumped onto the next double track section that wonderfully goes down and banks beautifully up to the final hill but it's very steep so I dumped gears and spun my way up. At the top the wind storm greeted me but I didn't care. I could see the finishing flag and that's all I cared about. Two hundred yards later I was back and under 3 hours. Ryan and the Todds were there with high fives and big hugs. I had no idea what place I had come in but they seemed to think it was pretty good.

I got off my bike and walked back to the parking lot. My knee was stiffening up. Ryan was in good condition, having had a great race. We exchanged war stories as we walked up the gravel road. I've said once and I'll say it again, the best part of racing is being done. We shoved some food down our gullets (my post race routine is chocolate milk, followed by some real food and then a Coke). Before we shoved off for Fruita proper, we walked back down to the finish line to see results. 4th place in the Cat 1 40+! Awesome. I was off the podium by a little less than a minute and a half. The crash was the difference. Well, one of them.
 Considering the week we had and the miles we had put under us, I was happy with that result and the crazy part, it was almost exactly the same time I had last year. AND I was in better shape then. What does that say?

Well the race was over but there was one more thing we had to do. Tradition has always been to go to Fiesta Guadalajara in Fruita and devour some Tex Mex and margaritas after the race. I didn't quite have the stomach to finish my football sized burrito but I did some damage. We went on and on about the race and probably bored Todd's wife and daughter to death but my guess is the Todd's found a new place to visit.

Back at the ranch, and while we were still buzzing from the race and margaritas, we packed up the cars in preparation for the early departure (the Wixens left at like 2am). And like a good travel companion, while I was cleaning sand out of every crack, TW went on a DQ run. Yes! We capped off the night and the week with a toast to good friends, gratitude for no major bike or body part injuries and a promise to 2012!

For more photos from our entire trip, see Patty Wixen's album here! Thanks, Patty!