Sunday, October 28, 2018

2018 BT Epic Report: The Hole-Shot Blues

The Berryman Trail Epic or BT Epic or BTE has all the makings of a great event. It's capped off our racing season now for the past 5 years and it's everything Ozark: beards, flannel, smoked meat, beer, a bon-fire to end all bon-fires and a fifty mile mountain bike race on a network of hill country trails under a dense canopy of hardwood trees. I can't think of a better way to spend a fall weekend.

This year's MTBLIMO crew was skeleton. Just Shawn-Shane Buscher and Alex "Do you have a Venezuelan aisle" Sanchez. Mike Miles met us there as well as the O'bs, Eric and Abbey. Her last BTE most likely (off to college next year). Sad face :(

We left Thursday night and drove to KC, where we stayed in a Best Western that left a lot to be desired but it was cheap. We ate at Denny's the next morning and of all the f-ing Denny's in the land, we eat at the same one Alex had eaten at after performing a gig in the area. Story goes he tried to get the waiter to give them booze. 

We arrived at the Bass River Resort under some misty skies around the lunch hour and checked into our cabins. As I was signing the paperwork I hear someone call out my name but using Abbott. I figured it was another racer but to my surprise is an old co-worker, Nicole Bormann, who was living in Columbia and was down supporting her friend who was racing. It was such an amazing surprise and made me so happy to see her smile and hear her infamous and infectious laugh that I miss hearing day to day.

Since all of the posh accommodations were booked, the only thing I could reserve earlier this year were two older cabins made of some plywood and beams. When we opened the door, it was colder inside than out. Luckily the heater worked awesome, albeit quite loud. No insulation in this place but we were warm and dry. 

Not too long after we arrived Mike showed up and we all hopped on bikes and took a stroll up the road. It was still drizzling a bit and even more by the time we got onto the single track. My ribs were holding up just fine but I decided not to go too far and risk a fall on the wet roots and rocks. Been there, done that. Got the fucking tshirt. So I popped back out onto the gravel and did a few openers and then headed back to the cabin and then to registration. The Resort built a brand new event center with a stage and large meeting space with tables and that was to be ground zero for post race celebrations. The timber was already stacked in an open field next to the Center for the bonfire that would be lit the next night. 

After everyone returned back to the cabin and got showered and hunkered down, the power went out in Mike's cabin so he and Ryan went down to the lodge to report and within minutes, they had someone there and got it fixed. Sort of. The night was spent getting bikes and gear ready for the big day. I slept pretty well considering my ribs. Ear plugs kept the noises at bay and a shot of whiskey helped send me off to sleep.

We were all pretty much up by 5:30. Can't really be quiet in small cabins so once one person is up so is everyone. Coffee and oats were on the menu, or if you're Shawn-Shane, cookies and coffee. At 5:40 Eric was at the door. Power was out again and it was chilly but Mike knew what to do and it was right back on. With the race not starting until a much more normal 8:30 (unlike the 7:30 start at Dakota Five-0 or the insane 7 am start at the Ozark Off-road) we had plenty of time to get ready. Outside it was pretty chilly and a fog was hovering in open areas. I carried a drop bag to the last aid station near the entrance so that I could stash my warm up layers. 

Wave 1 Photo by
By 8:15 I was at the line with 329 other racers. This year they decided to split the start into two waves to cut down on the congestion. It was a good plan in theory. In the pre race announcements, the promoter yelled to look for the truck blocking the road, signaling where we were to turn into the trees. Another good theory. I've done it many times, as recent as the day before. Piece of cake. I had also looked for markers the day before so that I could prepare to unlock my suspension before hitting the single track. As the minutes were ticking down, the sun finally draped us in warmth, the wind was low and it was going to be a perfect day for racing bikes! I was set.
Wave 2

Then, my computer shut off. 

"THIRTY SECONDS!" the announcer yelled.


I restarted the computer and watched it warm up. C'mon you POS! 


The screen came back up just as the start gun went off. I hit start. Then I got stuck behind the f-ing clog that happens every year. I'm lining up in the front next year. The race went up the road without me it seemed. Though I wasn't 100% due to my injuries and lack of training to try and heal, I still had some desire to push it up to the hole shot and then see how my ribs were going to handle things. I jumped from group to group and tried to get back some spots before heading up "the wall" as I like to call the first gravel climb. The opening stretch is only about 4 miles but it's climb after climb and it can just wear the shit outta ya - especially when your fucking computer isn't picking up your heart rate like it's been doing up until that moment. I do better racing with HR but at least I had power.

Riding up the road, I'm starting to see the markers I noticed the day before. I was in a group of guys and was holding onto their pace. As we started up a slight incline I see two racers coming right at us. Thinking they had mechanicals I dismissed them. Once over the rise, suddenly there is a stampede of racers coming at us. I was so confused. I saw Laura Scherff and she yells, "We missed it. There was no truck! We missed the turn!" I turned around with my little group. I'm thinking, nah, couldn't have missed it. I would have recognized it. There were a bunch of arrows the day before. I think it's still up the road. A couple others thought the same so we start back up the gravel when shortly after the rest of the first wave came over a rise and I'm like "Shit, we missed it." So we turn around again, weaving through people going slow as molasses. By then the 2nd wave has arrived, also missing the hole shot, and they're lining the road to let the first wavers through. At the entrance, there is a fucking conga line so I take a parallel ATV track right next to it that led to the same spot, passing probably 20 riders, and I slot right behind Julie Higgins. Within minutes, we're all walking the first technical descent b/c why? Wave 2 and 1 were all mixed in and it was just going all downhill. It was like scared cattle drive with racers trying to ride around the walkers, racers running and carrying bikes through the brush; whatever was necessary to make up ground like we were running from a forest fire. It was comical. Adrenaline is a drug by the way.

As things calmed down a bit, a did a computer check- 190 power. Ok, not horrible. Ride ride check, still 190. Well, I am riding hard to make up time. Gotta run this stupid climb that nobody seems to be able to ride. I finally get going and rip some down hills. The computer is still at 190 power. BUT I'M NOT PEDALING, YOU POS! So it's stuck. It's computing b/c the distance is working but no heart rate. F! So I just raced by feel. And I felt like I was going too hard and I knew it but I couldn't make myself slow down b/c I didn't know how far back I was. I didn't know where the other ladies in my age group were. They could be right in front of me or right behind so I just had to push. Ribs were handling things just fine thanks to my buddy, Larry, who taped me up before we left town.

By aid 1 at the highway crossing, I'm feeling pretty good. I shove down some food before heading back into the trees. The passing continued by me and to me. I was around dudes the whole time, and man they sure do like to talk a lot. I passed by Shawn-Shane not long after the road so I knew that I was somewhere among the 2nd wavers. I started seeing women here and there going at pretty good clips. One in particular would keep getting a gap until finally just after aid 2 I was able to get around her after she let some guys by that were between us. It was just before a fun descent so I stepped on the gas. The trails after aid 2 are what I look forward to during this race. They twist and turn and have a lot more descending than climbing and you can make up a lot of time, of which I tried, making bold passes, going by two sometimes 4 riders. I kept looking at my 190 and thinking I really needed to slow the fuck down. But I didn't. Just too many people to get through. The race was nerve racking, and I never felt like I was in a groove. I felt tense, in a hurry and just rattled. I'm glad I didn't crash although I did have a couple of scares. 

Finally out of the trees of the first section, I pass another woman on the long climb up to the road. Then on the gravel I fuel up a bit and restart my computer to see if I can get  my heart rate to read. It came back on and picked up my heart rate but no power. Greaaaat. Oh well. Then I see another woman up ahead. I don't panic but slowly get up to her and onto the wheel of a guy who is passing by her. I enter the next section of single track in a good spot and try to settle in. This section is long. Lots of riding in and out of ravins and across and out of creeks, only to repeat it again, what seemed like 1000 times. A couple sections lets you open it up but mostly it's grinding it out. By the time I came out of there, I was feeling the affect of the effort from the beginning of the race. 

I was caught by a woman, Amanda, who I think whipped up on me at the end of The Ouachita Challenge too. We came out onto the main road through the resort and had to climb a bit before heading back into the trees. I had stashed a bottle at aid 4 but after I felt how much water was left in my hydro pack, I decided not to stop and headed up the steep road climb. I was in my easiest gear just trying to keep from blowing sky high. Finally reaching the dirt service road, Amanda came around me and another guy. I tried to match her but she was just too strong and I was too out of gas. The last 7 or so miles of single track are pretty fun so I put in efforts where I could and hoped that I'd maybe catch up to her but it wasn't in the cards. Later I saw why. I hit all time power numbers in the first 90 minutes of the race. Oops. 

The finish was at the event center so once we came out of the trees for good, we were waved around the main lodge and around a fence where there was a really long finishing straight to the line. Once I got there, I found Ryan. We rehashed our hole-shot stories while we waited for the rest of our friends to arrive to give them high fives. When the announcement came that the food line was open we headed over to stuff our faces with smoked meat, taters and all kinds of sides. The new event center was nice but it wasn't the same as having the big finish tent right next to the line. Come to find out the promoter thought the same thing. It's already been announced that they're bringing the tent back! 

Alex explaining how he was actually first in the 2nd wave to the trees, even though he missed it.
(Ryan was technically first in the trees).
Later that evening I went around to the campsites to try and find my friend Nicole. I couldn't locate her so I just stayed in the event center & secured a table for the awards show. Soon the place filled up with standing room only. It was bright and loud. Finally, podium shots under actual light! Found out just before that I took 4th overall in women and 3rd in age group. Once again, the elders threw down. (wink wink). Abbey, despite going the furthest past the trail entrance, still managed a 4th place age group. 

Super cool that the promoter recognized the top 10 women just like they do for the men. Despite one of my slowest times here, I still had a great time riding bikes in the woods. Not gonna lie, I was pretty po'd about the hole debacle but it didn't last very long. Fifty-four miles will give you plenty of time to cool off. 

Aside from Mike tripping on some roots and fracturing his ankle, the evening went as usual: tell the same stories again and again, drink a lot, eat a lot, sit by the fire and keep doing more of the same. It was the perfect way to forget about a botched race and at the same time the perfect way to be reminded it really didn't matter anyway. 

It's been one hella season for Dirt Girl and the MTBLimo crews. From the desert canyons of Texas to the Black Hills of South Dakota and from MTB Nationals in Arkansas to our Great Wide Open trip around Colorado, we've had amazing, memorable experiences with wonderful friends. So to cap off the 2018 writing (and riding) season, just want to say thanks to all who came along for the ride. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

2018 Oz Trails Off-Road Race Report or Gimme A Slab of Bruised Ribs with a Side of Sealant

The inaugural Epic Rides Oz Trail Off-Road had been on our schedule since we read the announcement earlier this year. It was a perfect race to slot in between Dakota Five-0 and the BT Epic in late October to help keep us topped off. 

We've ridden a lot of the race course for fun over the years and with something like 500 bursty climbs and thousands of turns, we felt it fit our power riding style quite well. And it was a first-time event that would pull in pros from all over. Yeah, had to do it.

The #mbtlimo had a new passenger this trip. We invited trail leader extraordinaire Eric Geiger to come along. One day the Husboy and I were asking ourselves who hadn't been on a trip with us who likes to do the long haulers? Eric's name came up and he jumped at the opportunity. Mike Miles also tagged along on the initial drive out and then Ted Mustachio Lechnowski and No Fucks Eyberg showed up later Friday night. We rented a little Airbnb just under a mile from the start line. That was lucky b/c at the time we signed up, the route hadn't been disclosed yet.

We left Omaha super early Friday morning. So early in fact that we woke up the family living above the 24-hour drive through at Abelardos on Center Street. Needless to say, we didn't end up leaving town until 6:30 but our breakfast burritos were hot and fresh (hopefully Ryan's tip encouraged them not to spit in our eggs).

We arrived in Walmart's hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas around the lunch hour, and entered our rental after several attempts to reset my password on the AirBNB app to get the door key code. We dropped our stuff and rode to the town square that was full of farmer's market vendors and all things bike festival from tents to the epic finish line arch to a vendor market. The whole set up was super pro and it should be. 

Epic Rides is no newbie when it comes to putting on high end bike events. They also put on the Whiskey 50 and a bunch of other races that attract riders from around the country and beyond. It didn't hurt that this race in particular paid out the most in mtb history to the pros. Equally. 

We rode from town along the greenway's many bike parks to show Eric what life is like in mountain bike dream land. We rode along the freeride track at Crystal Bridges, then to the small park at Slaughter Pen that started the mtb craze down there. Eric even rode off the big drop! From there we continued on the greenway to Blowing Springs but first we had to ride the cement pump track that was next to the elementary school. Finally we got to the hole shot where we cheered on the fun riders who were doing a 25 miler. The track was dry and loose that day but the forecast for the weekend was going to make this the last time we were going to see dry tracks. We rode a couple sections of the trail and then turned back to check in and get our number plates. 

There were bmx stunt riders doing amazing aerial stunts off of ramps and music pumping and people having a hella time. I didn't want to leave but it was coffee time and that meant only one place: Onyx Coffee Lab. Go there. Right now.

Back at the house we rested and got bikes ready. By the time dinner was on the stove, Mustachio arrived and he was able to eat with us. Todd arrived much later after we had gone to bed. I left the light on for him.

Alarm went off at 4:30 am. With a 7:30 start time, I needed to get food and coffee down. I slept really well which is very unusual for me. Must have been the king size bed! Soon the rest of the natives appeared one by one, some more bleary-eyed than the other (seems the bedroom upstairs was a tad warm and noisy). 

The forecast was rain off and on but not much accumulation. When we left in the dark for the start line. The air was stagnate and humid. My new Oakleys were probably not going to be much use to me this day, I thought. As we turned the corner to the start area, the emcee was already 5 cups of coffee in and loud and excited. It was 25 minutes til go time. I took two spins down the finishing straight that was all gated off, and about 3 potty breaks and then got in line about 8 rows back. 

My start was clunky trying to get into my pedal. Once clipped in, I stood up and hammered. Ted was long gone and Eyberg was doing the shorter route that started later. I didn't see Eric. My pacing was good. Soon Ryan came around and I jumped on his wheel. There was a bit of wind once we were out of the town center. We took neighborhood and backroads, lined with locals holding onto to children in one hand and coffee in the other. The first big climb up a gravel road sent me backwards a bit after a great threshold effort to almost get up to the front. I caught back up to Ryan and as soon as the dirt road went down, this giant cloud of dust overtook all of us and it was a free for all. I lost Ryan for bit as he zigzagged among the riders so I tried to follow as best I could. Once in the trees we were strung out pretty well and didn't get hung up on anything. Ryan disappeared and I got into my groove. 

It was a pretty steady effort for the first 90 minutes. Lots of punchy climbs and lots of riding up switchback flow trails. I felt like we were betraying them. And, well, let's just say they were going to get their revenge. But equally there were as many descents and so flowy. So fun. The Back 40 is like riding a bunch of tiny kid roller coasters through a ravine. I wanted to put my hands in the air but that would have been bad.

A steady rain began early in the race. Thank the Lord it wasn't cold. It was like riding in a jungle. Oakley's came off and didn't go back on my nose the rest of the day. 

Check one at 15 miles in seems a bit chaotic. I didn't see where to fill up. It seemed as if they were still setting it up or something. So I kept going and decided I'd make two bottles last til mile 30. I hadn't seen any women literally since the start line. I had no idea where I was until I was told I was top Something overall about 25 miles in. I was feeling awesome and all cylinders were firing. I caught the eventual winner of my age group (this is important information later) on a road climb. We went back and forth a bit and I was starting to run out of water so I pulled off at a random aid station that appeared and filled one bottle. Bad decision #1. So I'm back on the chase and caught back up to Renae. That effort put me in the hurt so I backed off a bit. I went through check 2, grabbed a beer up and got a push up the hill. That was awesome.

So I'm cruising along and I see a random guy at an intersection looking up and yelling at someone. Renae had taken a route that took her off the trail and up above the course. So I followed the guy on the actual course and put in an effort to create a good gap. So I'm hauling it, feeling great. Then I see another woman on the side fixing a flat. She's got it under control so I keep going. A few turns later the trail opens up in a field and it goes through two trees. Between the two trees is a rather tall and fat root. No problem. I'll totally wheel lift over that thing, I said to myself (mistake #2). I amped up the effort, preloaded the suspension, got the front wheel over and then it got really ugly. My guess is my back wheel didn't clear the slick root, sending the bike sideways and since my weight was forward, I continued on that trajectory while the bike slid under me. I hit on my right side. I stood up and felt the pain immediately in my right side. I've never had broken or cracked ribs but been around enough guys who have and it seemed to me that I probably had just a good bruising because I could move my chore around and take big breaths without too much pain. I took a quick assessment of my legs and then looked at the bike. All seemed well so I jumped on the bike and as soon as I pedaled there was a loud grinding noise coming from the derailleur. In that time, the woman changing the flat came by and said the girls were really getting hit hard. I'd find out what she meant later. Upon accessing the issue with my der, I noticed something on it and went to wipe it off so I could get a better look at things and well, it was a small strip of bloody skin. I looked around at myself and it was only after lifting my arms did I see the blood running down my right arm. My elbow was ground zero of that crash and I must have also landed on the bars or headset , hitting my ribs. My computer had also popped off. I was able to put the chain back on and get back on the bike within a couple minutes and I felt surprisingly good. Yes, there was pain in my rib area but not sharp so I decided to keep on the gas. 

It rained off and on the whole race and the tracks were sketchy in spots. Somewhere between miles 30-40, my day took a turn for the worse in more ways than one. On a section of track called the Ledges where parts of the trail actually are bench cut out of the hillsides but the base is limestone rock that can be super slick. The track follows folds in the hillsides, and going over ravines sometimes involved wood bridges, sometimes on armored trail made of the same limestone. In one particular junction and since I was already injured, I didn't want to chance a slip so I decided to clip out and walk over one particular area. Another guy did the same behind me only he ended up slipping off the ledge and fell ass over tea kettle, bike and all at least 10 feet down, yelling along the way in pain. I yelled out that I was coming to help and by use of small trees and brush, picked my way down to the guy. I asked if he thought anything was broken. He said no but that he fell on his back pretty hard. By the time I got to him he was sitting up and saying he was probably okay. As soon as I saw other riders, I yelled for help and we daisy-chained the guy's bike up and then they helped pull him up. We weren't far from a trail patrol station but the guy seemed fine. His bars were all twisted and his helmet was broken but considering, not bad. So, I got back on my bike and continued on.

Not for long.

Maybe 5-10 minutes later, my back tire started spewing sealant so I jumped off and quickly tried to get the sealant to do its job. It seemed to have worked but as soon as I got a couple bike pedals up the track, air started coming out again. Now my tire was pretty low but the sealant seemed to beholding. I hit the tire with my only Co2 and some more air came out but then stopped. It was squishy but not horrible, probably 15psi. I rode for quite a while but then it started coming out again so I started walking and asking people for air as they went by. The ravine guy of all people stopped and gave me an extra Co2 so I gave it a hit instead of putting in a tube. The tire was a muddy mess and I as probably going to fuck it up anyway. The air held for a ways but slowly leaked out. When I reached the last aid station at mile 40ish, I was yelling for a pump of any kind but everyone just stared at me like I was asking for the recipe for peking duck. Kinda annoyed, I kept on riding until I was banging the rim around the Slaughter Pen trails, finally deciding to walk once back at Blowing Springs. I asked those who went by if they had anything. And guess who stopped? Renae, the woman who ended up winning the race, actually. She took off her pack, dug out the pump, showed me how to use it and still managed to beat the remaining racers all the while with only one cleat. 

Yep, shit show.

I pumped up the tire but it wasn't holding enough to ride hard. I should have put in a tube at that point but I wasn't that far from the end and by then I figured I was off the podium since I hadn't seen any of the others my age all day but if you know me I don't quit and finishing DFL is better than quitting any day. Plus it was hard to know what experiences were happening with the others. Maybe one had dropped out. Maybe they were actually behind me. I had to keep going. 

It wasn't until the very last section of single track that the tire finally rolled off the rim and I ran to the finish line once I got onto the finishing straight. I pumped the air at the bystanders as they cheered me to the finish. I heard over the PA "We got a runner" and the crowd sent me some love.

Finally across the line, I was a mess. I looked around for anyone and found Eric. I told him my situation and to ask Ryan to meet me at the bike shop so I wouldn't have to walk back to the house. After sitting there a bit, and seeing Eric ride by trying to figure out the correct way to the house, a buddy from KC who had just started working at the shop had one of his mechanics put my tube in for me. As I was standing there, dripping and muddy, getting funny looks from people, the mechanic said my tube had a hole!!!! Huh, no shit. I wouldn't have been able to finish had I tried to put a tube in during the race after all. I smiled at the situation, thinking about the choices I made during the race that caused a chain reaction of other events, that ultimately resulted in me walking across the finish line and also somehow into 5th place. 

Getting the last spot on the podium was remarkable. I had it in me to get up higher on the step when I started the race. I had it in me even at the end but the day just didn't work out that way. Even the pros' race the next day had similar difficulties so it seemed if you kept air in your tires and rubber side down, you had a better chance just to finish. It's races like these where I learn the most. I don't flat that often. I haven't crashed that spectacularly in a while. I don't ride off-road in the rain much and I certainly don't pull someone out of a ravine regularly. All of those challenges required a mental toughness to stay focused and adjust to the situation as best I could. We were all facing similar challenges but it was refreshing that, despite those challenges, we still found a way to take care of each other. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Dakota Five-O 2018 - A Season Finale of Friends

The 2018 Dakota Five-O was one that will go down as pretty spectacular. With so many new people from Omaha doing the race or trying to better their time from last year, I don't know if I was more nervous for them or me.

The MTBLIMO left Omaha with the always delightful cast: the eloquent EOB and his daughter and junior phenom and giggle box Abbey (AOB) who kindly listened to Dave as he spoke in depth of his avian encounters whilst on his travels this summer. To counter Dave's other words of wisdom, KGil was always ready to put in the last word. Sully and "Zander" as Dave likes to call Alex Sanchez filled out the roster. Eight people, eight bikes, two of which were inside in front of hundreds of pounds of gear with room to spare! This is why the moniker MTBLIMO fits perfectly.

We bunked in Mitchell, SD for the night at a quaint hotel. The next morning was a bit slow to go as we had to wait for Dave to dump the van's waste basket (he's a bus driver and likes things neat). But then he forgot it in his room and so had to go back and get the key, then proceeded to get the wrong room, went back down to get the correct room key and then back to the van. We think he was just taking an extra long dump and didn't want to tell us.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, everyone wanted good coffee so we stopped at a small coffee shack that only served foo-foo drinks so each one took a few minutes to make. Dave got friendly with the owner who happened to drive up through the drive through but it was all in good fun. Full of coffee and waffles, we were ready for the next 4 hours on the road.

By noon we made it to Spearfish. The campground's better spots were already taken so we plopped down in the middle in order to fit all of our tents plus the 13 other campers that were coming up with dogs, kids and what-not. It became Omaha Island.

After unpacking and setting up tents, we snacked and drove up to the first aid station and road about an hour into the trail before turning around. Sully broke his wheel but was able to get back on it to ride back to the van. We called Eyberg who wasn't coming til Saturday to bring another wheel. What a guy! Then I almost got taken out not once but twice while descending a fast gravel road. A deer cut right in front of me after prancing next to me for several yards and then taking his place was a playful young cow who also found it funny to cut in front of me at 25 mph. It was like the scene in Jurassic Park. I was like is TRex coming down the road? It was kinda nuts.

That night we did something a bit different. We took part in some of the town's bike week partying where they shut down main street for live music and food stations and kids riding bikes. We saw so many people from home it was as if we were at one of our own races. Talked to Perry a bit and gave him big high fives!

Saturday morning was an early rise to get up on the trail before the crowds. I was feeling like my cold was coming back and sure enough by the time I got down to the campground, my throat was soar. I was having a heck of a time dialing in my suspension and did a bad thing. I unscrewed a knob that drained the rear shock lever fluid and a couple drops came out before I could screw it back. Well that was enough to cause air bubbles and for the lever not to work. It was in locked mode! Great, I was going to have to race with a heavy hard tale! I confessed my sin to Ryan who calmly said let's get it to the shop for a bleed. We took it to Rushmore Mountain Sports right there on Main St and gave it to the possibly drunk mechanic (they were handing out free PBRs all day). He gave me some line about having trouble with a similar set up the week before. I went outside and sulked at my stupidity. The mechanic came out with Powder Puff and look of despair on his face. SHIT, I thought. I asked him what his look meant and he smiled and said, Nothing! Just kidding, all fixed. Whew!!! High fives all the way. I was back in business. And he added probably more fluid than what was in there before b/c it was pretty firm but I was done dicking with the thing and was just going to run what I brung. The rest of the day was just that: rest, eat, drink and self medicate. I should have added a whiskey shot or two to help me sleep because as usual, I did not.

The alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. I was eating and drinking coffee by 5am. Then I laid back down for about 30 min until I heard others stirring about. I already had all my gear ready so I got dressed and fidgeted around for a bit. I probably hit the loo about 5x before leaving the campground for good but before I could do that of course my Stages power meter battery gave me a low battery alert so I had to change that out really quick but it took enough time that I forwent with my warm up and instead just did some spin-ups around the start line.

The weather was perfect. The tiniest bit chilly and wouldn't even get into 80s that day. Absolutely gorgeous weather. My head was a bit stuffed and my throat scratchy but the lungs were clear. I took some Acetematiphine in hopes it would help with any body pain or soar throat. I went to the line, took a look around at all the friends from home and believed I was going to have a good day on the bike. 

The race starts out of town with everyone in the wave leaving at once. (The next wave left 10 minutes later and that's where Ryan was so I had it in my mind to stay ahead of him as long as possible. More on that later). The opening climb takes about 15-20 minutes with some steep short climbs at the start to really peg that heart rate if you're not careful. By the time we were on gravel, I was breathing pretty good but in control. I had no idea how many women were ahead of me or behind. One or two did go by on the road not too long before the single track, I think. Abbey and I were together and right with Eyberg and Sully. They were our carrots actually for the first half of the race.

Once into the single track, I was feeling great and strong. Abbey jumped in ahead and was riding really well, even passing aggressively. We did pass one woman before the first road crossing and then soon after came up on a couple more who had passed us on the road. Abbey jumped on the wheel of one and I just kinda stayed where I was. They weren't going much faster. A few dudes got in between me and them but I didn't panic and soon I was back behind them. On a particularly technical power climb over a rock, Abs had to clip out so I did the same and just ran it. She didn't get back into her pedals before I got to her so I went by and took up the chase to the next woman. When we got to her she was actually off the side a bit fumbling with something and when she saw us hopped back on the trail. I tried going around her at first but as the trail started to go down, she passed us and Sully who was directly in front of me. The trail started to go up again and the woman, Petra - a local bad ass - was taking her time on the climb. I wasn't having that so I went by again with Abbey right with me and we got a small gap, even passing a second woman who had been in front of her. They didn't exactly chase, this is only like mile 15, so it's important to stay calm and stay steady. Lighting matches early results in them going out too soon sometimes. There was plenty of racing yet to do.

As the trail climbed towards Aid 1, it did start to get steeper and our gap grew. We were within spitting distance of Eyberg who would then just disappear on descents. Assuming the two women would do the same, I just tried to keep Todd in sight hoping to increase the gap to the chasers. We made it in and out of Aid 1 without getting passed. We took off and I again took the front. I was feeling good with my pace and wanted to keep it up.

The trail was super rough and a bit longer from reroutes from tree removal that had to be done to almost entire mountain sides due to two tornadoes that hit the area in the last three months. Despite that, it was still a great track. The Ridge Riders and Forest Service kicked serious ass getting that disaster area in shape for the race. It was sad to see such a beautiful area so ravaged. 

For the next hour or so the trail gave us everything from rough to smooth to steep descents to climbs that took us off the bike. By Aid 3 I still had gas in the tank and as we began the romp up to the bacon station, we passed another very fast woman in my category who had stopped to fill her camelback. I said to Abbey, it was time to go. But that's more mental than physical because that climb is really long and gets steeper and steeper towards the top. Eventually Abbey had to dismount but because I absolutely despise walking my bike, I will go into the red longer than probably advised to avoid it so I kept riding. Eventually I had to also dismount towards the very top sandy section but only for a few steps. I could see Abbey around the bend so she wasn't that far off. I figured she'd catch up at some point but with that other woman from my category within minutes, I couldn't linger. 

Once past the bacon station, it was more or less down hill. I put the hammer down down down but not so much that I my breathing was out of control. I managed Dakota Ridge with putting a foot down just once but not having anyone else in front of me to deal with so that was awesome. I caught Sully on the dirt road before the final section of single track. He was staving off cramps at that point. I dumped into the trees and turned on the after burners. I was by myself for the next 10 miles or so and just as I popped out of the trees and back onto the gravel road, I heard someone behind me. I figured it was Abbey or Sully but to my surprise it was Ryan. "Baby!" I yelled with a huge grin. What a wonderful surprise. He jumped out in front and together we road all the way back to the finish line. Luckily a parent of one of the junior riders snapped our picture as we came down the finishing chute. It was an epic way to finish the race! 

Just over 5 hours it wasn't my best but right on par, actually, with recent results. Abbey wasn't too long behind as well as Sully and Eyberg. I only saw the one woman that we past at Aid 3. The other two I didn't see again. I landed in 3rd place in my age group and 7th out of over 100 women. Not bad for this old timer. The winner, Christy Olsen, from Cheyenne is an animal. Never saw her but that's b/c she was 30 minutes ahead the whole time. She ended up as the overall women's winner as well. I love it when the Masters women throw down.

But I love it even more when the kids throw down. Abbey won her age group by a significant margin, placing 9th overall out of over 100 women. Dillon got 3rd. Even more exciting are the new junior riders who finished the entire fifty miles for the first time. Elise, Niaomi, Maggie, Betsy, Lance and Jake all put their noses down and finished. It wasn't about getting a good finish time, it was about having a good time. And when we asked them if they'd do it again, they all said yes! That's what I'm talking about. 

The Five-O casts a spell over all who come up to it. So much so that we even had five friends come up and NOT race but hang out, cheer on riders and enjoy the area. That says a lot about how the event markets itself. 

So after the races and awards, many of us gathered at a local Mexican place for second dinner and then back to the campgrounds to seal the deal around the campfire. From Ryan learning how to do the "floss" dance from the kids, to the Cleasby's eclectic music mix, to Frank's Wizard Staff, this year's Five-O was less about the race and more about friends who shared the experience together.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Laramie EndurOMG 2018

The last time we raced the Laramie Enduro in 2010, I was on a revenge mission after ripping open my knee the year prior at this event. After the second act, we decided we didn't need to return again, preferring a higher single track to gravel ratio, especially on a 70 mile slog. Fast forward eight years and I have to say this newly improved Enduro Epic is my new favorite race (enduro, as in endurance– it claimed the word before enduro was even part of the American racing nomenclature). It has everything this girl loves about back-country racing, including wild animal sightings.

So the husboy and I packed up the #mtblimo and left town the Thursday night before the race. We bedded down at Lake Mac near Ogallala. It's always quiet, dark and we can park near a toilet if it's during their main season. Love vamping for that feature. We woke up Friday morning to a heavy fog over the lake. It made from some rad views!

We arrived at the race venue near Happy Jack Recreational area around mid-morning. We found a nice shady spot near the start line and went out for a quick spin for an hour on the course. 

I had just put on a new dropper post just for this race. After pre-riding the whole thing on our Great Wide Open trip last month, I felt a dropper would help me descend the many gnarly gravity-fed sections of the race course. My only hesitation was not having the time to develop enough muscle memory for quick use of the buttons for both the dropper and my rear-lock out, which had to be moved to the right side to make room for the dropper lever on the left. I only had one ride on the set up at Swanson and had a few mistakes but this race wasn't going to be an A race. It was more like an experiment. This race was to kick off my fall season training so that I'd be better prepared for three big races coming up.

(Off tangent for a second)
So one of my main problems racing is I go out too hard and burn matches early and spend the rest of the race playing catch up. My stomach is usually the first to abort the mission of racing and then it all goes downhill from there. Upon researching finish times from last year, I noticed many racers' 2nd lap was 15 to 30 minutes slower almost across the board and I had to wonder was the course that difficult, or did it rain in the middle of the race or was it really hot? So it got me thinking about how I was going to pace myself so that my splits would be closer together. One lap was 31 miles. I thought it might take me 3.5 hours and I was signed up to do the Epic which was two laps. Outside of 24-hour racing, I've never done a race for that duration, especially one with a difficulty rating of a blue-black trail. I didn't want to think about racing for over 7 hours. Instead I tought of it as two races that were around 3.5 hours each, a duration that I have definitely done many times. The goal was to try to finish the second lap in the same time as the first. The best tool for that was racing with heart rate instead of power. I've done that before but it's really difficult when you fucking leave your heart rate monitor at home hanging on your closet door handle! Crap! I tell ya, you'd think after twenty years of racing, I'd have some kind of routine for packing the essentials. Nope. We had to go into town for packet pickup and hoped that the bike shop carried one. No luck. I called a running store. Nope. Then I asked Tim O'hara, an old team mate who lived in Cheyenne who was coming up for the race if he had one. Strike three! So, Ryan came to the rescue and let me use his and it made all the difference, both physically and mentally!

After packet pickup we grabbed some much needed lunch. Jeffrey's Bistro was a place we'd been to back in 2009 and it was still as good. The chocolate peanut butter pie was a big hit with Ryan! We hit up the grocery and liquor store before heading back to camp and getting everything set for the race. It rained off and on that afternoon. We even had to wait out some hail in the van. That was loud. 

Later that evening, we went for a stroll up the race track to see what we could see. And oh boy, did we see something awesome! As we walked down the trail chatting about stuff, suddenly Ryan stops. I was looking off in the distance and as my head spun around to see why he stopped, a very large adult male moose practically floated across the trail not 20 yards away. It had huge antlers, Ryan counted at least 8 points on one side! It didn't care one iota that we were there as it made its way up the slope to graze. Ryan kept wanting to walk closer and I was like nope, and started walking backwards. As soon as the moose looked up at us, Ryan too started walking backwards. At one point, the moose walked to the opposite side of a small tree and I'll be damned if that huge beast didn't practically disappear right before our eyes. Made us wonder how many times we've ridden by something of that size without knowing it! Oh, of course neither of us had our phones but in a way it was better so that we could just be in the moment instead of being a bystander snapping shots. It was an amazing site! 

We walked back to the van under a fading light. Many new racers had since shown up in their campers but all was pretty quiet.

The alarm went off at 5am but that's like 6am at home so it wasn't a big deal. We got water boiling for coffee and oats and once all of that was down the hatch, I actually laid back down. With just over an hour til go time, we both got out of the van and warmed up for the race. The morning air was damp and cool. The sky was overcast. It was perfect racing conditions. Just before we headed over to the start, our friend Tim O'hara stopped by to say hi. That was awesome! When we got to the line, there were three waves based on what you thought your finish time of lap one would be. I was in the 2nd wave and there wasn't any way of knowing who was racing one lap or two so I guess everyone was a target. ;)

When the promoter yelled go, it was as a pretty unexciting start. Knowing 30-60 miles was ahead, nobody was in a really big rush. I only saw a couple women at the line, one was in front of me and was getting after it in a big way (hello Heidi from Cheyenne!). The opening 2 miles was a mix of gravel roads and two-track that was full of deep and wide rain puddles. I had a flashback to 2009 because I crashed and tore open my knee trying to ride through a puddle at speed back then! 

As soon as the single track started, so did the tech. The Medicine Bow area is rich with rocky outcroppings. Vedavoo is a popular climbing area and the course went through it all. Due to the rain the night before and the fog that morning, everything was wet so we were all doing a bit more sliding around. There wasn't much passing either. If you veered off to pass, good luck. Sniper rocks were everywhere among the sage brush. I kept up for the most part on the opening climbs and just had to keep my cool on the descents. I had my heart rate front and center on my Garmin. Coach told me to keep asking myself can I go this hard on lap two and if the answer was no, then back off. I had a long day ahead of talking to myself.

About 9 miles into the race, I caught Heidi who asked if I was Roxzanne and she gave this blog a shout out. :) As we were chatting up a climb, I see someone walking their bike on just the back wheel way up at the top. Then I see that it's Ryan! He's muddy and has some scrapes and said he blew up his wheel but that he was fine and for me to keep going. I started to stress a bit but not even a couple minutes later, I came up to aid 1 and knew he would get help there. I put it out of my mind and kept on past aid one and onto some gravel roads. I caught up to one of the women I saw on the single track who was a local and was ripping the descents. I was so impressed with the level of talent the women had around me. They were strong climbers and just tore up the tracks. Not sure if they were on longer travel forks or what but they would just plain disappear. 

The next 10 miles was a big test of all riding skills. From wet, rooty climbs to rocky hike a bikes to ripping descents that tested not just one's skill but nerve, those ten miles tested me. I put some time into the local but lost it when I took a much needed bathroom break at the next aid station. Knowing the toilet was off the trail at the finish line, I decided to take my break there and eat a PB and J (well I tried to eat it and ride but that didn't last so I tossed it). 

Miles 20 - 31 were probably the most difficult and yet the most fun. A lot of elevation gain and loss with some seriously yell-outloud fast rollers, that lasted like a minute or more. Nothing steep or crazy but just a long line of whoops that begged you to ride really fast. That section and some of the gnarly stuff made having the dropper totally worth the weight penalty. What a freaking blast. It was like being on a kiddie roller coaster in the woods. So. Much. Fun!

I came through lap one around 3:37 or so and went directly to the feed zone. As Ryan helped me reload, I stuffed some potato chips and water down my throat. Salt was all I wanted right then. I saw a couple women go by without stopping so I knew I was going to have some work to do. I was off within minutes, with the goal of finishing as fast as lap one. 

The start of lap two was awesome. I was alone for a lot of it so I could really go my pace. I started to catch people shortly before aid 1 and then on the gravel road after it. One woman and I went back and forth most of the race. I'd catch her on the climbs and she would pull her magic trick and would be gone on the descent. On one of the climbs I asked her if she raced enduro, as in big bikes, and she did. I complimented her on her descending skills. It was clear she knew what she was doing but she could climb also. Out of aid 2 I caught Tim and together we rode until the last 7 or so miles. I also caught the woman again who let me go by and I tried to push up all of the climbs knowing she would be able to make up a lot of time on the descents. I felt strong. My stomach was behaving and my legs responded even that late into the race. I was down to the last of my food and started to feel hungry with about 5 miles to go. I slammed my last waffle (which had some caffeine in it thankfully) hoping to stave off the hunger. I was too close to lose concentration on the gravity sections. As soon as I was down for good and heading towards the finish, I turned on the power so I could stay ahead of the next rider in case it was her. I saw Ryan yelling less than a quarter mile from the finish. I had done it - my second lap at about 3:45 was only 8 minutes slower and I was able to finish with enough in the tank to push. Those were my goals so where I finished really as important. But as it turned out, I made it onto the podium with some pretty fast women who are well known at races like these. They were sub 7 hours total! Rockstars!

Women's 40-49 Epic Podium

Tim O'Hara wearing his Psycowpath Tshirt just for us!

Of the many marathon races we do, this course is one of the more challenging and interesting. Though it's not droppy, the descents are fast and loose (old school) and the climbs are sustaining but not soul crushing. I had to work for sure but only when it really pitched up did I walk and that was a total of two times each lap. We put a large 46 tooth cog in the back and yes I used it and I'm so glad it was in my tool box, especially on lap 2 when I was starting to get tired. But the track had everything so it kept my interest and focus yet let me play. What else could you ask for?

So it looks to me like we have a new annual race to add to the schedule. The event promoters are seasoned. They have tons of volunteers and the aid stations, 10 miles apart, have all you need to go minimalist. The event has live music, great swag, they'll feed you, beer you and there's plenty of camping around. Racers can do one lap or two. Our prize was a hand-made mug that's going to be sent to us in the mail. I can't wait. It'll sit up proudly with my Five-0 mugs.

The rest of the night was spent eating everything in site (luckily I made a snap decision to buy some cold fried chicken!) I took a nap while Ryan hob-nobbed with campers next to us - a bunch of mid-life bros up from Denver having a hella weekend. They let us crash their campfire and shared stories of bikes, motos and camper filled dreams. We all had just busted our asses to ride around some rocks but as the sun went down behind the hills, it was to be just another story for when we found ourselves around the next campfire with new friends.

Wyoming, we'll be back.