Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dirt Girl Goes to the City of Spas

There's not much in this world that makes Dirt Girl happier than leaving for a long road trip to a new place to ride bikes. I had never been to Arkansas until now and well, hmmm, yeah...I'd go back. In fact we are in a couple of months, but I digress.

The Spa City Challenge, in Hot Springs, was our first race of the 2012 season and our first race as part of the new TREK Bicycle Store grass roots regional team. (more on that soon). It has been a pretty good winter for training so I wasn't too worried going into this event. I had had some quality rides outside and on the trainer during the weeks leading up, so I felt pretty good. RF and I luckily had a chance to take our new TREK Top Fuel 9.9 SSL bikes out for a test ride a couple weeks ago down in Lawrence. Holy smoke! They should have called them the SLS for So Long Suckas, cuz that's how much fun it is to ride!

The usual suspects tagged along with us: Mike "Southern Man" Miles, Jeremy Cook (JC), and the Todds (Wixon and Eyberg). We left Thursday night and drove part way. A quick stop at Chipotle to top off the food stores for Saturday was on the agenda. Southern Man and JC were all about the Chic Fil A next door. We made it to our stop near Joplin and bunked up for the night. Complimentary breakfast of waffles (I love those waffle makers) and eggs got us back on the road early. We arrived in Hot Springs around noon, just in time for lunch (seeing a pattern?). After chow we checked into the hotel and kitted up for a recon ride of the course.

The week leading up to the event, had said anywhere from 40% - 100% chance of rain. So at first we weren't sure if we were going to be able to pre ride but as it turned out, the course was primo. The area had received a pretty hefty downpour on Thursday and there were a few greasy spots and some water crossings but they were at the start of the race for the most part. We did a full lap and I was excited. The course was perfect for us. Not much sustained climbing and all single track, just like here. The main difference was the rock; lots of shale and sharp rock to keep riders focused. It flowed beautifully. Just when you were wanting the climb to be over, it was. It twisted and turned, back and forth, up and down. Never a dull moment, which meant also not much in terms of recovery. We were constantly pedaling. But that's what ya do when you ride; pedal.

Once done with the recon, we had to wash down the bikes. The venue was awesome. It had all the amenities, including a bike wash station. After we washed bikes we headed out to get registered. While standing in line, Tinker Juarez, walked in. Very cool dude. JC got a pick with the legendary racer.

Next stop was the local bike shop. We weren't sure what we'd find inside the little neighborhood shop.With a stash of cruisers our front, it was hard to say but we were pleasantly surprised to find nice stuff and they had every form of energy goos/bars/mixes you would want. But the best was the receiver hitch that the Todd's bought for RF's van. They surprised him with the gift later that night after he had pointed it out to me in the store. Now, wasn't that sweet of them?!

By the time we got back to the hotel, you guessed it, dinner time. But where to go? There was a horse race in town so the roads were just bumper to bumper so we decided to walk across the hotel's parking lot to the Dixie Cafe. All southern home fried vittles at their finest. 19 sides to choose from, the menu boasted! And complimentary bottomless basket of jalepeno corn bread and rolls. We were happy as clams. Fried clams.


The rest of the night was spent getting ready for the early wake up call and chillaxin. That's when I discovered I didn't bring my TREK jersey. I'm such a dork. I lay everything out so I can see it and then I didn't even notice it was missing. I thought about it before we left Omaha and then didn't go look for it. So, I wore Ryan's jersey. Luckily they are a little on the small side, so basically, it looked like a club fit jersey. He just wore the one he had from the recon ride, mud splattered and all. Geez, was this going to be an omen or a good luck charm?

Race morning wasn't too bad. Up at 6 and down to the comp breakfast. We were packed up and heading to the venue by 7:15. No traffic. We were on site by 7:30 for a 9 am start. Just after we pulled up a bubbly duo, Pete and Karen, from TREK Store STL came over to say hey! Then Karen suggested we all put in for a team classification to see if we could get the most team points. Great plan. Now we're more motivated to finish this thing. We got a great spot right on the course, just before the S/F.

 The start was Le Man style on dirt and pavement up to the racked bikes. I'll let the vid tell the story. Check out RF! He rocked the start! I saw Miles come around me and then Todd E came around me (seems he couldn't find his borrowed bike right away).

I had a pretty good start. The traffic wasn't too backed up. I did see Todd again on a switch back, right behind Karen. She was really getting after it. I knew she had done well the year before so I was hoping to bridge up to her. Welp, so much for hoping (for now) he-he.

Photo courtesy of

All went well for the first 3 1/2 laps. The bike was eating up the trail. The Bonty carbon wheels kept me on track through the rocks and water crossings without pause. The trail didn't have many technical features to test the suspension but I do have to say, I LOVED the two thumbs down auto lock for front and rear. Hill? What hill? Lock and load! This was also the first time having a 2x10 and for this trail, it really was perfect for me. I didn't really need the big ring except for a couple of the downhill straight aways. I was having a ball until on lap 3 when I looked down. So I was following a SS rider who was really strong and rode great through the trees. We hit one of the big ring straight aways and I reached down for my bottle. I took a peak at my hand and when I looked up the SS rider had dropped his chain and I was going full blast and figured I wouldn't be able to break in time to miss him. It wasn't like he was that close to me but I was startled and with a bottle in my right hand all I had was front brake. Yeah, you know where this is going. 

So, yeah, the breaks work awesome! Needless to say I ate it big time. It was one of those crashes that puts you down so fast your brain goes into shock and blocks it all out until you stand up. I pulled the bike out of a tree/bush on the side of the trail. Walked over to my bottle and apologized to the SS rider for being an idiot and off I went. I'm sure it was spectacular from any vantage point. Nothing really hurt but my left forearm was swelled up pretty good. I rolled into the pit and did a once over the bike. I lubed the chain and checked the wheels. I know I lost a podium spot there. As I pulled out of the check-in table I looked down. NO water bottle! CRAP. So I turned around and went back to get it. What a moron. I told myself to settle down and get a grip. I was only half done.

Photo courtesy of

The rest of the race went well. In a crazy change of things, my back actually started hurting less. That never happens. Yeah, it was tight, but not the kind that makes me wish the race was over. That really helped the mental game. I spent the next couple of laps trying to catch the woman whom I thought went by me when I forgot my bottle but when I caught up to the rider, it wasn't her. So I just kept going. A couple of folks said, "Andrea us just ahead" but she was a ghost. I never saw her. I did manage to catch Karen on her last lap. That gave me wings cuz I didn't see her all race except for that one time at the beginning. I came into lap 6 with 1 hour and 19 minutes left on the cut off clock. If I didn't make it back to the finish line by 6:30, the lap wouldn't count. I felt I'd make it in no problem but I didn't let up. I was ticking people off left and right and since there were also duo teams out there, it was hard to know who was a solo rider and who wasn't so I just said everyone is fair game and chased them all down, passing some dozen or so riders, men and women in the half of the race. They were all super nice about it. I'm really impressed with that whole southern hospitality thang. It's for realz. 

I rolled into the finish line at 6:13 flat to the cheers of my husband and travel mates. At first I thought I'd made it onto the podium but a reshuffle of the results told a different story. I did manage a 1st place category win and a 4 place overall women and a 32nd place overall out of 150 or so. I'll take it for a first race on a new trail and a new bike with a new coach. I was covered with dirt and mud splatterings and the underside of my bike had a thick crusty layer of dried mud as well. But I was smiling and happy to be done. 

While I was winding down racers were coming in to beat the time cut off so I stood on the side of the trail and yelled for them. One girl, 13 years old, literally made it at 6:30. Everyone was screaming their heads off for her. It was a fun way to top off the race.

I had a blast at Spa City. I would recommend the trip to this event. DLT Multisport was a great promoter and the trails were amazing and the trail care crew in charge of the trail system gets major props! Aside from some greasy low lying areas, you'd never know it had down-poured a couple days prior. And to have national caliber racers at the event like Tinker and Pua, well, that's a feather in any promoter's cap. Meeting Karen and Pete was great. Looks like they'll be at many of the same events as TREK Omaha so we'll see them again. Pete won the SS race, sporting cut off denim. The other MWCC podium finisher was my new wardrobe manager, Ryan. I guess the jersey he loaned me turned out to be the luckier of the two. :)

Spa City 40-49 Women's Podium

Spa City 30-39 Podium
After a full day of racing and multiple calories burned, the topic of the night was eats and drinks. Southern Man Miles had just the spot. McClard's BBQ, supposedly Bill Clinton's favorite dive. And dive it was, so you know what that meant- great food. Cash only and fast service. The rest of the night was pacing our alcohol intake back at the hotel. And just before 10pm we walked once again over to Dixie Cafe for ice cream. Yep, it's definitely race season.