Friday, July 8, 2011

Fire Cracked

So, when the overall expectation doesn't match the outcome, then I must look back and appreciate the small victories.

What a line of bullshit.

Nah, it's all good. I really wanted to have a solid race but this year's Firecracker 50 eluded me again. My first mistake was watching Titanic the night before. It must have mellowed me out TOO much. What was I thinking?

The morning started off on par feeling tired from lack of sleep. Pretty typical. I whipped up some whole wheat p-cakes covered in Agave Syrup and Peanut butter and downed a couple eggs to keep the hunger pains from coming too early. I washed it all down with a cup of joe and settled on the couch for a bit to digest, stretch and watch The Tour. (Phil Liggett has a way of calming me down. Must be something about how he pronounces the names of the French castles).

I had set out everything the night before so really all I had to do was kit up. About 7:30 I tore myself from the couch and did just that. By 8am I was ready to roll. We filled up our bottles and took them over to the finish line area where aid station trucks waited for pick up of provisions. The race provides water and gatorade but we'd rather go with what we're used to so we premix it all and have it sent up.

For the next hour I warmed up around the neighborhood where we were staying, which was only a couple blocks from the starting line as well as the finish line. That made it super convenient for hitting the toilet multiple times from pre-race jitters. I was worried that I'd pee out all of the water I had in me before I even got started.

Finally around 9:15 I headed for Main Street. True to form, it was packed. Wall to wall people lined the street to watch the riders pass by on their way to their own personal pain cave. Our group was behind the Cat 1 50+ guys. All Cat 1 women and SS were grouped together. We had calf markings to identify our categories but I couldn't really see who was in my group. Turns out, there were only 3 of us.

When it came time for our roll out, we strolled up Main Street, slapping hands and enjoying the moment. A woman and her two girls with decorated bikes lead us out. Once they peeled off, the race was on. It started off very mellow. One woman jumped off the front immediately and couple more soon after but for the most part, the group stayed together up the road climb. I just kept telling myself to stay steady and breath. As the road got steeper we started to string out. Then other categories started passing by. After a couple of switch backs and around the last turn, past the whiskey shot ramp that folks were trying to steer riders towards, the road turned to dirt and leveled out. Okay, time to breath again. For the next 3 miles or so the road wound its way around the mountain, gradually taking us up to above 10,000 feet. This part of the course is a bit waining on the psyche as with each turn you hope it's the aid station #1, which meant we would be at the top. Once I did reach the top, I grabbed a volunteer's offering of water, poured it down my throat and on my head. I tossed the bottle in a bin before hitting single track. Finally.

We pre-rode this part of the course a couple days prior. We knew about the slippery, slimy sections that stubbornly held on to the last of the snow melt. Think of moto whoopdeedoos with water. Good times. Then at the bottom of a few descents were puddles that spanned the whole trail. Bike wash time. Nothing like wet feet at mile 7 of fifty. Yay for dry, arid mountain air.

Once through that, we were sent to a new section of single track that went around a closed section of trail (Iowa Mill) that in the past we had to climb on rocky single track that only had one line unless you were a mountain goat. I was so glad I didn't have to do that climb. It comes too early. This meant for more energy later on Little French. The new single track section was a blast; downhill, tacky with berms and turns around trees, rocks and roots. I had a smile from ear to ear.

The next section was also new. Usually we bomb down a gravel road, which is also two way traffic for racers coming up. Yes, very dangerous, especially this time where folks would certainly be trying to go into the oncoming lane to avoid puddles, etc. So the promoters took out part of the road descent and sent us on single track again. This part was super tight, no passing whatsoever type stuff.
In the middle of it was a bridge made of logs that was about 10ft off the ground. It was covered with a mesh screen for traction. When we test road it prior to the race, I had to stop and look at it first. I tried going around it but that turned out to be sketchier than riding the bridge. I knew I had to do it so I did got up the nerve. I just looked at the end of it. It was bumpy and had a dip in the middle but I just said keep pedaling. To my relief, when we got to it during the race, there were giant bean bags underneath. Once through that section, we were back onto Sallie Barber road towards aid station #2 and the dreaded Little French climb.

I stopped at the aid station and swapped bottles. I put down a goo and a bite of Lara Bar and was off. I was following a few ladies, one which was in my cat. I made an effort to look at my computer at the start of single track: 1:19. From here it was about a mile to the top. ONE LONG MILE.

The fun part this year was the snow melt. As we got higher, a little river of water flowed down the middle of the trail, making the shale rock even more slippery. Ryan's advice of turning off the pro pedal and letting the shocks do their magic was the ticket. I road the whole thing, without putting a foot down, passing people left and right. As I got to the top, I heard a guy cheering on racers. He made his way down to me and pushed me up the last few feet, telling me to breath from my stomach and to keep the pedal stroke nice and round. Pretty cool to get a push at 11000 feet! There was a gnarly stream crossing at the bottom of the short descent that has claimed Ryan's tubes a couple times. I always hope I don't go into it too hard but just hard enough so I can get across the rocks and up the other side. My wish came true. I continued on but not before I let out a huge whoop, grateful to be done with that POS climb. I looked at my computer 1:39. It only took me 20 minutes. I was stoked. With that found energy and excitement, I was off like a fox and down the shale covered trail, past the point last year where I caught a log with my handle bars and got thrown down the mountain. I see you this time, I said!

The next section was also new. Usually we ride through a meadow on the ruttiest pieces of crap road that's straight out of a third-world ghetto. But not this time. Too muddy. Darn. This time we got to hit some fun double track and gravel roads and new single track before hitting the 3rd aid station. Normally I'd arrive there with numb hands after having to descend down a sketchy, rocky, ledge with lots of exposure. They took that out too. I was loving this new course more and more. I arrived at Aid #3 but only took a few gulps of water because my bottle was still partially full and I just had one climb before the end of the lap. I think I swallowed a Perpetum chew and took off for the long climb up Sallie Barber road (the one with the two-way with riders coming at me at 40 mph). I kept it at a moderate pace, not too hard, not too slow. Once finally hitting the top, it was gonzo time. Down, down, down rolling dirt service roads and eventually to single track for probably the last 5 miles or so. It's so fun, it's ridiculous. I am always so excited to race the end of the lap. Tight single track like at home but with more rocks and roots and since it's going down, the heart rate isn't pegged. The legs did start to burn a bit, having to stand for so long on the pedals but knowing it would't last didn't get me too worried about it. Finally, I hit the Carter Park switch backs and swooped around the corners with as much speed as I could. Towards the end, a guy behind me gave me props. Right on. I came through the straight-away to the finish line and heard my name being called over the loud speaker. So pro. Not. But it was cool. 

I looked for April Eyberg who had my lap 2 hand ups, well, in hand. She shoved a bottle in the cage and a bar in my mouth. I was off in seconds, Nascar stylee. And feeling pretty good. Okay, let's do this again.

Back up the road climb, to the gravel road to aid station 1. Welcome to hell. Click here for my race profile.

So this is where the tail takes on a more negative tone, so I will spare you the sob story. The short of the long is, I waited too long to refuel, so I was in the red as I began the single track section. My legs felt great, but my stomach was on fire if I spiked my heart rate too much. So I held it in zone 3 and said I'd access at station #2 to see if I had it in me to climb Little French. When I got there, I wasn't in any shape to do anything but turn my ass around and ride the road back to town. I ate a bite of bar and washed it down. Everything ached, waist up. I hate quitting. I hate walking my bike. I hate walking by bike because I've quit. I was not going to quit. I was just going to continue moving forward. 

Up Little French. I hate that bitch. I almost made it up, however. Goes to show how slow one goes up that thing. I walked the last few minutes, rode down the trail, crossed the stream and took off down the trail. Alone. That time it took about 40 minutes.

I got through the single track albeit slow. I popped out onto a dirt road and at the bottom was Ryan. Standing next to his bike. He had a flat. I stopped and jumped off to give him my spare. It was my only tube so he refused, saying there were too many possibilities for flats. I painfully left him. Not 5 minutes later, I blew a side wall. I never flat. First time at this event in 6 years. I was glad Ryan didn't take my tube! Eyberg went by asking if I needed anything. At the time I didn't know it was him but I was fine. Just frustrated. 10-15 minutes later I was back on two tires but I really felt terrible at that point. I should've hung out and ate food or something but I just motored on, going deeper and deeper into the red. My heart rate spikes got lower and lower. I could pedal fine, just not breath very hard. Needless to say, I was riding super slow. We're talking zone 1-2. It sucked so bad. At aid station 3 I grabbed the spare tube we stashed. I'd come too far to have to DNF on a mechanical. I took off, up Sallie Barber for the last time. I got passed a bunch which didn't help my mental state. Once I reached the top, I was so happy. It was all down hill from there, so to speak. There were some single track climbs that I had to stop after to let my heart rate settle down, unfortunately. I was very tired. I felt like I could just fall over and sleep right on the trail, which is very dangerous. So I made an extra effort to pay attention to the trail so I wouldn't do something stupid. As I came out of the trees and onto the switch backs above the finish line I heard my name: Josh (the groom who's wedding we attended) had caught up to me and we finished the race together. That was cool. I was so happy for him that I forgot about my own situation for the last minute. 

I looked up after crossing the line and there was RF in street clothes (uh-oh) and the Eybergs, all smiles and high fives. I was wishing for low fives, actually. 

Six hours, thirty minutes. So ridiculously slow it's embarrassing but oh well, I finished. I willed myself to the end. This will to finish also put me on the podium for 2nd place but it's not one I can really celebrate. I was at the bottom of all the women who raced in Cat 1 so yes I was disappointed. Cool to have hardware to show for my death march but bummed that I could't enjoy the race more because of how I felt. 

Anyway, it took a good 30 minutes before I felt that I could make my way back to the condo. Once there I sucked down a coke and ate some chicken and watermelon. I started feeling better. Hmmmm, I wonder why (sarcasm). I only burned 3200 calories and lost 5 lbs. in water weight! I literally had nothing left but it's not because I used my resources improperly. It's because I didn't use them at all. Lesson: eat before you're hungry and even if you don't feel like it.

As I mentioned in the opening, ya gotta look at the small victories to appreciate the effort. I climbed Little French handedly the first lap, I didn't crash, I was able to change my tire without issue, the new single track was the bizzomb, I finished with a friend, Todd had a great race and even though RF didn't finish his first lap was amazingly fast on a longer course. There are enough good things about this event to want to return, so the answer is yes, we'll be back in 2012. There's no doubt about it.


  1. Great job, Roxy. I was wondering how it turned out. I had checked the results and now I finally have the story. :)

  2. Excellent read. Don't be so hard on yourself. My motto is if you finish a ride on two wheels, it was a great ride/race. Keep up the great work.

    Tom Baumgarten

  3. Good ride! This race is matter where you live!


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