Yesterday was the Intermountain Cup opener Red Rock Rampage in St George. We had record field sizes in both men and women. Our sport seems to be healthier than ever. Weather was perfect, I drilled it hard and fast for 1:25 (so short!!). Good enough to stand in my favorite spot on the podium :-)
It was super fine catching up with everybody in the race crowd and meeting a few new faces. The first race of the season is always a reunion of sorts. The weather was nice enough to bust out the pasty white legs - saw many of those in the race...
Today I hooked up with the Maddoggers to ride. It was raining on and off so we headed to Church Rocks for a Camp Lynda-eske experience. Puddles and people.
Gary Fisher 29er crew Chris and KC rode with us too (actually we all chased a sparkly KC)
...and the Utahmountain biking.com crew and the Cannondale crew and the Revolution crew were all out on Church rocks. Most folks were a little smoked from the race the day before (except KC I think!!) so we all stood around and chatted more than rode.
All smiles all day from Brad
and Dwight was smiles too despite being the only one out on a little wheeled bike
We won and had a supa time. Big smiles on the top of the podium :-)
Just the "we" was not the "we" originally planned. Dave came down with a flu bug on Tuesday, got worse on Wed and on Thurs. The other half of the "we" was Tucson local Scott Morris who mobilized on last minute notice and jumped into be my team mate.
Here is Scott ready to go before the start with a number plate on his bike. Those who know Scott will see the funny in this... He is better known for self supported races that are over 300 miles and last for days - no number plates. He was game to give this lapped racing a go. Lucky me to have such awesome friends!!
I drove the 10 hours down to the race alone feeling a little orphaned with Dave staying home. When I drove into the race site another Dave was there to welcome me. Dave Byers and I had rented a party tent together for this one. Byers was racing solo unsupported.
This was home for the weekend and it was a brilliant base. It quickly became known as the circus tent. Complete with a space heater no less. We ran the space heater all night during the race and it was a beautiful thing.
Dave picked up #100 at registration which right away seemed to be a super cool number and good mojo
Scott having never done a 24 lapped race duo before was excited for the experience so it was only right he got to experience the run. I have ran enough times at OP...it is a bit rough for my liking. It was crazy watching it. It looked even more of a melee from the sidelines than when I have ran it.
..and so it started...Scott picked up his bike in about 50th place on the run and was off. Our game plan was to keep it steady and consistent for the 24.
I went to the timing tent with hundreds of other racers to wait for our turn. The first co-ed duo team came in at 1:05 - wow that was fast!! Jeny headed out on the course and I waited and waited for Scott. The next duo team came in at 1:06 - dam that was fast...and I waited and waited for Scott. I looked at my watch, 1:07, 1:08, dam those other teams had been out on course a long time - where was Scott??? 1:13 the third place co-ed duo team came in. My heart was 150 bpm just standing there. Did he crash or flat?? Where was he?? and then he appeared at 1:13:44. Funny, funny stuff cause we had set a target of about 1:10 - 1:15 for his first lap and he nailed it. I was just a tad amped ;-) I settled it right down on course and rode smooth and conservative and on plan.
By the end of my lap I had passed team # 233 and we moved up into third place. The other teams were moving fast. I did lap 2 (my first lap) in 1:12:11 and it felt fairly chill. Scott went back out and rode a 1:12:11 - that is right!! Matched my lap to the second!! We did that a lot throughout the race. It was fun to be even on a team, I am so used to being the slower link. I am proud of our race splits!
I focused on riding smooth, efficient and clean. On our 4th lap (my second lap) I spied a pink helmet I was catching and surmised it was Tracy Thelen from the second place duo team. Smooth and efficient went out the window for a bit as I got all excited. I made a really bad pass on her and this guy right behind her and made them put on their brakes, I was embarrassed...that was the worst pass I made in the entire race...so I said sorry and sprinted off to get out of sight. If I was Tracy I would have rolled my eyes at the display of inefficiency so early in the race. I felt like a dufus. But once out of sight I settled it back down and got back in my flow.
Scott went back out and rode our fastest lap of the race, a 1:09, our 5th/his 3rd lap. The cat is out of the bag now!! Scott Morris is fast!! We started to inch a few minutes closer to 1st place team each lap. Scott came in from our 7th lap only 4 min behind and then I was out on course chasing Jeny. I made a clean pass on her at the halfway mark but still had too much of a racer face on to slow down and chat to her - even tho she is one of my best friends!!!! I am so silly with my race face on sometimes and I know it!!
Scott and I rode what I consider a text book race. Mistakes we made were minor and fixed quickly. We had no crashes, cholla incidents or mechanicals.
By the morning we realized if we hammered out laps we might make 20 laps. That was huge!! I pulled out a 1:12 lap just after dawn matching my first lap pace!! It was fun to be hammering and not having to keep it smooth and efficient anymore. I was aiming for fast now not efficient, flying up the bitches in my big chain ring - fun, fun. I hopped into the draft of a passing SS rider who was rocking along and drafted him for a long time. He was awesome. Thanks Charlie :-)
I came in off the 18th lap at 10:43am. Scott had to ride a 1:17 or faster to get back in before noon. 19 laps would win it for us and set a course record...so going for 20 laps was a sheer hammer move...tee hee!!
In the timing tent waiting again for Scott....they started the count down to noon at 11:50...10 minutes left...then 5 mins left...no Scott.... "another rider coming" shouts out the announcer, "who wants this one". Everyone waiting stands on their toes and leans forward to see who is coming in. "Number 224". I whoop and run out there to meet Scott waving my arms and yelling!! Yeah!! I was psyched heading out on course at 11:55:25.
The 20th lap was a ton of fun. There was no point to hammer so happy cruise pace was switched on. The course was empty, no constant passing which was refreshing. It most definitely felt like a victory lap. Scott was waiting at the finish with smiles, high fives and hugs - super awesome race...
Meanwhile....Dave Byers rode a killer race with the same start smart finish fast philosophy and rode it all the way up into 3rd place on the podium. It was awesome to see him come through the pits when I was on my rest lap.
We had great mojo in our pit!!
Dave Harris stayed in the game with text updates on the race from home and Scott's SO Paula came on Saturday evening to do support. Paula didn't think she did much for me but we had some awesome night time smack talk going sealed up in our circus tent which stoked the fire ;-)
From a coaching perspective it was a massive success too with nine LW Coaching athletes on the podiums - I was really as excited about that as my own race. 9 podiums is a lot of race stories now to relay. My jaw dropped at the awards ceremony as so many got up there on the podium. What a fine coaching moment for me.
A moniker I'll claim with pride, it did not come easy. Not even remotely.
The challenges were many. Sometimes curveballs from the route, sometimes from my gear, constantly from the altitude...but most often from within.
On Georgia pass I learned I wouldn't be racing this one. At treeline I only wanted to lay down and sleep. Movement was slow motion through heavy fog.
Surprises around every corner it seemed.
Companionship that I didn't know was possible in a "race" setting.
And a return home to a love grown stronger.
I am tired, skinnier than ever, feverish and sick even - yet full of contentment for having completed the beast against a stacked deck, and for how fortunate I am to have a few great people in my life.
And Stefan: thank you so much for presenting the challenge.
KMC is a course of contrasts. Lots of singletrack. Wide open desert country, Vermillion cliff backdrops. Miles and miles of alpine deep forests. A recovering burn area. Grand Canyon views. And, this year: an alternate option to go 200 miles instead of the tried and true 130 option.
Which do you think we chose? Right...it's a no brainer ;)
My recovery post Grand Loop was a question mark for awhile. 3 days after GLR I told LW we had to do the 130. At t=5 days the plan was upgraded to the 200 with a bivvy. At t=9 I was ready to commit to the 200 with no bivvy. Shoulda stuck with the day 5 plan - the route is burly!
New for this event was matching bikes for 2-Epic. Since I got the Milk Money in May I've had this intense bike emphatuation like I haven't seen in years. It was so infectuous LW followed suit and picked up the *only* small Milk Money in existence (and to be perfectly clear: it should be obvious now that we are not affiliated with Siren/WBR. That is a story for another time...this story is much better).
Damn my gal just exudes style!!!
First of all we needed a revised water plan. At first we weren't aware of any water sources for the first ~10 hours of the route. A bit of car scouting revealed some good news, no need for 350 oz loads at the start.
Whew, what a relief. We also took a look at One Mile spring which I was quite keen on but LW was not so into the thumb sized tadpoles. They were almost frogs and huge!
The car scout gave us some time for sightseeing. There is a Condor release program in the vermillion cliffs above House Rock road. LW's wingspan is not quite as big as a Golden Eagle and she could be carried away for dinner by a Condor!
Hitting camp was fun, always a highlight of this event. DaveC, our host, was sporting a new puffy. Dang I gotta get one of those things! It was chilly in camp - a first at this event. Ma nature didn't get the memo on global warming in the west this year.
We did what we could but he was clearly expecting more folks! Packing dry ice to the Kaibab, that's a fine trick MC. Thanks for the treats.
Under any other circumstance I'd be hitting the sack early given the 3 AM anticipated start time. But it's so rare to have time with fellow ultra MTB nuts, there's plenty of time for sleep later, right? And...as the eve progressed it started to get funny, mostly for DaveC. He had planned on the 200, but then LW and I filled him in on what we thought of the route - hard. We thought we might get it done in 24 hours (ha!), and then Chad, who had left earlier that day, came into camp after deciding not to ride alone for another 130 miles...by the time I turned in at 11pm or so Dave had decided he was just gonna go ride some AZT with whoever was up for it in the AM. Dave Kirk was still on the course, planning to do a 2 day ride I think.
So, KMC wasn't a race this year. Funny thing is, we never approached it as one. We were looking for a 2-epic adventure, a team time-trial of sorts, one with lots of viewstops, singletrack, and mutual crack. KMC and our mojo delivered in spades...
Since it wasn't a race and the weather was so cool, there was no need for that 3 AM start. We chose to start whenever we got moving. 4am? I guess the GPS file will tell all but it was still full dark for the first hour or so. Cruising mostly downhill on the AZT for miles was a gentle warmup. LW was flying on her new bike! I could tell right of the bat this new ride was going to work for her.
The first 27 miles of the route is all AZT singletrack heading N to the UT border. On the north end the trail drops down some steep switchbacks with a panoramic eyefull of red desert cliffs. Not a bad entrance to the day!
From there it's a 19 mile slog on the House Rock road, heading N to 89a. This is probably the hardest part of the route on a SS - washboard hell, it's not so ass friendly. But putting the rp23 on full open eases the sting of the washboard...suspension oh how I have missed thee!
Soon we arrived at our water source. How much to carry to the next source? The route just went up and up for quite some time and we weren't sure how warm it would get. We left with a pretty big load. Better safe than sorry out here.
The next 5 hours or so was a steady batch of in your face stingers in the way of short to long climbs. Burma road (east side game road) N of the 224 intersection was new to us both had full of hard terrain! But the burn, oh my. The flowers were off the charts.
Up on the AZT at about 9k' now, we ran into the boyz. MC, twinkle in his eye, silently unzips his Mike & Ike's pocket in his frame bag and gives me a taunting smile. I nearly dove head first into the colorful sugar hole.
If you haven't ridden the AZT heading S into the park - put it on your list of things to do. The trail is outstanding! Some wicked fun, fast descending in deep woods and loamy soil. LW knew all the twists and turns in this section which helped a lot...it felt like we were flying.
Have I mentioned how great a riding partner LW is? Back on House Rock road we both put the MP3s on. They certainly lower PE and smooth the washboard some but it also makes it hard to communicate verbally. With LW it just doesn't matter. We read each other well without words...
As it turned out this was my view for most of the ride. No complaints here ;)
Point Sublime road was also stinger filled. Long sandy sections at nearly 9k'? Then the climbs come at ya one after another. It broke me down a bit so when LW zipped on over to this spot my head was spinning.
I was seriously getting hit by vertigo on that rock outcropping! Best GC view I've seen.
Onward. Damn this route is long! Are we there yet? I was starting to lose track of time...maybe 2 hours later we hit Quaking Aspen spring and had a nice feed, coffee break, and our final water fill up. Getting close, sorta...
There were an increasing number of things to manage. The sun went down and with it the temps. We were getting tired too. That makes it easier to stop...
Rainbow rim in the dark! "LW I hope you are having fun cause this is a blast!" "Um, yea sure this is great" or something like that was the reply. Truth is we were both knackered and struggling on the trail, we couldn't really fuel well and I knew that at this pace we were not going to make the finish before sunrise. On top of that, I was becoming increasingly aware of my diminishing food reserves. I planned for nearly 400 cal/hour and was running out already! I was really just trying to toss out some positive vibes to the team. I think it worked a little?
LW has ridden Rainbow Rim many times and knows it well. One of the last climbs she completely railed on. OMG I don't know where that came from but it was more than I had at that point.
By the end of the trail (with ~45 miles left to go) we were done. As in stick a fork in ya done. Sleep monsters were everywhere. We made the call to stop even though we didn't pack overnight gear. 2 emergency blankets was the extent of our contingency plan. And, ya know? It really wasn't that bad. Years ago I got stuck unexpectedly on a mountain top with a climbing buddy - it snowed and my buddy looked at me and said "Dave, this is no time to be shy" and with that we were forced to spoon for an uncomfortable and smelly night. It wasn't that fun. Spooning with LW for a night is infinately better!
We had a great spot. Thick pine mat and a protective log.
Yes, we are solar powered.
Whether it was the 8 java juices in the previous 5 hours or the sounds of that big bruin in the woods I'm not sure but there wasn't much sleep to be had for me until there was a touch of light in the sky. LW was snooring within seconds of getting horizontal!!! Role reversal...
We still got up to the reality of low water reserves and my nearly exhausted food supply. Turns out LW packed lots more than she was eating, whew! What a great teammate. Her food tasted better too.
I had the power meter on board again for this trip - in fact it's the only 29er rear wheel I have that I trust right now so it's mandatory. The post race analysis says that by the time we stopped the first day we had done 30k' vert and over 8k kJ. That's a big day - as big (maybe bigger?) as the first day I did on GL 2 weeks back. Joel hasn't been calling LW mighty mouse for nothing.
The tail end of the route is probably the easiest section and we just cruised it on in. Well except that one mile section of 12% grade - that was hard - but after that we were back on the plateau and just about done. That's when I exclaimed "It's looking more and more likely we're gonna get this thing done!"
And sure enough we did. Still no female finishers on the 130 route but there is one now on the 200.
It was an adventure like we didn't expect - the best kind of adventure.
When I did the Grand Loop in '07 it was a completely consuming affair. Everything about it was so new, so foreign, so promising, so freightening...I was green to multi-day self-supported racing (still am, really). Having that first one in the books removed much of the unknown about the event this time.
By far, Grand Loop '09 was all about the internal struggle of multi-day racing. I knew that at the start, yet still got more than I expected in that department!
I had goals and expectations. First and foremost was simply to finish on the SS. The second was to do it faster than I did the first time around and set a new record mark for the route. Little did I know that Jefe would be hitting the route with similar aspirations putting in a record ride on his SS... The more time I spend on a SS the more I realize that, especially for longer events, they can be faster even though they seem to be such a disadvantage at times. Goal #2 was tied in with this theory.
All shiny and new for the start. I got as much on the bike (and not on my back) as possible. This turned out to be a great strategy for the most part as pack weight never turned into a sore back - a concern with all the standing required. As for the gear, I stressed over that a lot...of course...and had pretty much settled on a 33.22 (29er). The day before the start I felt so friggin good I changed and went with a 33.21. The nice thing about leaving the start is you don't have to think about gear choice anymore. Ride, eat, sleep if ya gotta, repeat. Ah, the simple life.
This is the year for everyone to do the "race" on their own terms. Scott and Chad did the route backwards (actually a consistent theme for Scott this year), while others started at various times. I chose to start at Westwater. It was closer to home, it would split the desert section of the KT - and since it was cooler in general an early morning start meant starting without being sleep deprived, something all but Jefe, Jim and Matt took advantage of. The conditions this year were anything but traditional.
I was moving faster this year than in '07 - by a lot most of the time. It's hard to wrap my head around, actually. Cool temps, big wheels, experience, I just don't really know. After the '07 ride I knew it could be done faster cause I stopped a lot to make coffee...but when I was riding I was riding fast, or so I thought. Doing the mulit-rider playback analysis in topofusion with the '07 and '09 files is eye-popping. If it wasn't muddy I was just faster this year.
I tossed on 2.35 rampages front and rear with the idea that going with super low pressure in the rear would maintain traction up sandy climbs. This worked great and I only walked in 2 short steep bits on the shandies, and very little on the way to N Beaver. I hit the Paradox (from Dewey) about 1 hour 50 min faster than in '07! I didn't know at the time, only after the topofusion analysis.
This view from Yellow Jacket on the KT always gets a wow.
What remains of Dewey.
Looking over to the Unc from the Shandies.
You know where this is! Weather started brilliant but quickly deteriorated. Cool temps were great - but came with lots of moisture. It was a mixed bag for sure.
Sure enough, high in the La Sals the storms hit in earnest. Fast riding turned to unrideable muck. So much for that shiny new bike. Suddenly those 2.35 rampages with minimal clearance became a liability. Ugh.
The only way to get through this area was meadow hopping. Lots of boulders and sagebrush to dodge, I look up and OMG there are two cyclists coming towards me doing the same!! No way, it couldn't be...sure enough, Hollywood and Mr. Topofusion were doing the same, looking rather soggy too! It was surreal to be surrounded by my own breathing and thoughts for several hours and then run into a pair doing the same. Chad and I had a moment up there, and I gotta say he looked fresh and froggy. Lookout, this new kid on the block is on the rise!
Working through those meadows took forever. There was one last big nasty muddy climb, more meadow hopping, before things improved. Several hours later I ran into Marshal out on his birthday ride. He seemed unfazed by the weather and fully prepared. In fact I was doing a lot of walking where it looked like he was riding mud. He's got muck super powers ;)
We rode together a little, shared a few tales. Then he says "well looks like no records this year eh?" That was a big blow. It was on my mind, but I wasn't willing to face that. The muck event took a lot out of me, I can't lie, and this was a low point of the ride. Shortly thereafter, I couldn't figure out a turn and lost another 15 minutes - GPS track and all. Meh.
Some time later rolling through the Paradox valley I was becoming aware of some voice inside that was telling me not to be discouraged, some underlying optimism that a good ride was still to be had. The phone at the Bedrock store was out of service - another big blow (hey I ain't single these days!) - but that just served as a launch pad to attack this route with everything. I was starting to feel a little crazy and wanting to get jiggy with it. So, I unleashed my secret weapon: Java juice and m&ms. Stoveless this time, the caffeine fix came from these little packets of heaven. Better than GU hands down! Chasing copious amounts of M&Ms, well that was the kick the turbo needed. Bedrock to Pinto Mesa took all of 6 hours, the hardest section of the Paradox, in the witching hours. It was such a blast. Lot's of hike a bike, at times run a bike - that Java Juice is strong stuff and at times I had to conciously pull in the reigns. 3:40 AM just below Pinto it was time for a couple hours shuteye, the first thus far. I'd been pushing for about 22 hours at this point.
That meant Glencoe Bench for the sunrise! A gorgeous spot, surely made all the better by sleep deprivation and exhaustion. You can barely make out the La Sals in this pic. Yep, this route covers some ground.
Up, up, up. Houser road was pretty tough above 9k on the SS and I did a fair bit of hoofing. Yet, the TF comparison still says faster than '07. I'm tossing all my gears away, they don't do any good anyway!
The prize for the last 60 miles of climbing? Nearly unrideable singletrack - downed trees, snow cover - the upper Tab is simply not ready. I had twinges of guilt riding as it was rideable but muddy, knowing we were not doing the trail any good.
Snow and trees notwithstanding, it didn't take very long. It seemed long...but the file says otherwise. The infamous Roubideaux was next, 16 drainage crossings, much of the ups are hikes, all rubbly, all drop dead gorgeous and teeming with critters of all kinds. I took a nap under a tree during a shower, but other than that it flowed by magically. Much easier than I recalled! The only issue was that my chain was developing a sqeek - my lube escaped from the pack about 120 miles ago, doh!
That is the last pic I snapped. The camera was bugging me and I was hammering. It almost didn't make the trip.
Heading up Love Mesa it looked like I'd hit the top in daylight. Never having seen the view from up there I was motivated to do so, and when it started to look tight I ramped it up some more, and really hammered the final 45 minutes or so. And didn't eat...and just missed the sunset at the top. Dang it. It was cold at the top, and I was pretty much bonked with mostly downhill gravel road for the next few hours. Shit. Same thing that forced me to stop last time.
I put on warm gear I brought specifically for this section, knowing this could happen. I was certainly warm, sweating even, but I was toast. Dominguez was the goal but the few hills before the drop in were killing me. The legs were done, and when that happens on a SS there is only one thing to do. Walk. It was agonizingly slow, I was pissed at how inefficient this was...the eyes couldn't focus right and I was starting to halucinate...and finally about midnight pulled the bivvy out. 6 hours later I was moving again but the damage was done. Too tired to get much of anything down the hatch, I woke still pretty bonked out. A good long while rehydrating and fueling at Dominguez helped but it sure felt like I had slipped into survival mode.
The rest of the day was all about walking as little as possible. I knew it would hurt but would be faster to keep riding. I came this year to go fast and I gave it what was left. Not much, but the Whitewater to LL section was still under 3.5 hours, and the No Mas climb faster than '07 when I swear I flew up that thing.
But wait - there is more! Traditional GL racers are done at the LL trailhead, but since I started in Westwater, I got to ride pavement out to Fruita, interstate to Loma, then 40 ish miles of the Kokopelli that I hadn't yet done. That meant the Salt Creek hike a bike was coming soon. Right about here is when I paused to reconsider the (lack of)wisdom of my start point.
To prepare, I took advantage of the McDonalds passing in Fruita. $10 of garbage down the hatch, I (thought I) was fueled and ready. Trouble is, McDs is nothing like I'd been eating for the last 4 months or so and it tried to escape all the way to WW. Sore tired legs and bad gut notwithstanding, I knew where I was time-wise - roughly 7 hours ahead of record pace - and just had to get'r done. The pressure was off and I fully enjoyed the cruise to WW.
An amazing thing happens when you ride your bike for days on end with minimal sleep. You become one with that machine, the bars, fork, wheels all an extension of your body. Bike handling becomes so extraordinarily crisp it is almost like an out of body experience. I loved the techy singletrack leading to Salt Creek. Anything that didn't require a lot of power, that is ;) There are long sections between Rabbit Valley and Bitter Creek with tons of flow, real ripping double track and those were a blast. The desert was cool this afternoon/evening, and just before WW I actually had to put on my arm warmers. Go figure!
Right as I rolled up to the railroad overpass near WW - the start and finish of my loop - an Amtrak train sped over, full of onlookers, all cheering my finish. At least that's what my addled mind told me. This can be a lonely sport - solo starts, solo finishes - but meeting up with other riders on route and the Amtrak cheering section were certain highlights ;)
The GPS file tells me these times: 2 days, 12 hours 44 min for the traditional (bedrock) route. For the complete loop (inluding the typically untimed section from the Tab TH to Loma) it was 2 days 15 hours 39 min. That's about 6.5 hours faster than the '07 record ride and this year's conditions were questionable at best. And SS - guess what I think about that??
The event this year saw lots of action. There were so many tire tracks out there I couldn't keep them all straight! Monday morning I got online in Fruita and saw that Jefe was about to finish and he was hauling the mail, due to finish well under the previous record. Instead of heading home, I drove back to GJ and the Tab TH to meet him - Cat Morrison and Zack were already there and Jefe was onroute to eating a whole chicken and then some...simply awesome to chat with the 3 of them in the perfect temps of the midday desert. He put in a phenomenal ride, also on a SS! His energy and enthusiasm for the experience was contagious, I swear he did not just finish the GL ;)
As for my recovery...I was completely shelled post event. After finishing I headed straight for Fruita, the super 8 was calling loudly and the WW mosquitoes were way too hungry. The mirror there told the story of my race. I did not see a 44 year old dude I knew 3 days ago, what I saw was an ageless dude with not enough layers to hide a single piece of muscle fiber or vein. Indeed when I got home the tanita told me bodyfat was at 2.4%. It is rising quickly but that pace I don't think was sustainable for much longer. It really makes me think about strategies for longer events like CTR...
I'd be remiss if I didn't show some appreciation here. Mike Curiak has long provided the inspiration to do this sort of event, in fact this exact event. On top of that, he has built bulletproof wheels on which to do them, and even helped me quickly acquire the Lenz Milk Money (which he had a large role in designing) which turned out to be the ideal bike for this difficult route. Scott Morris' Topofusion and bikepacking.net have become enormous contributions to the endurance racing scene. Saving the best for last, Lynda is an inspiration on many levels. One is simply to keep up with the gal, the second is sweet things to daydream about on long suffery climbs. The entire endurance MTB crowd is super group of folks I'm happy to consider as family.
The world needs more 12 hour races. It's got to be my favorite distance/duration. The great folks over in Cortez, CO are doing their part to make the world a better place by hosting the annual 12 Hours of Mesa Verde.
Last year I had a pretty good time at this event and just knew LW would love this course. She's a gifted bike handler and this course requires constant attention from the gun. So, we made a 2-epic assault on the event. Both SS, both self-supported.
Early that morning getting ready for the event I cracked open a new chamois, pulled a brand new team jersey out of the plasic, and rolled my brand new bike to the car. I was full of anticipation and ready to race for HOURS...the race couldn't come soon enough - well until I temporarily lost my sunglasses, that is.
The course was a bit longer this year at 16.5 miles, so I figured there would be no way to do more than 8 laps. The course is all singletrack, and the thing I really botched last year was lap 1 placing. I ran like a small child and lost 15 minutes to traffic. This year I was ready for the run. Not by doing run training, but by convincing myself I was going to run at the front. Running is a state of mind, right? So that's what I did and it worked. I was shocked when I got to my bike after the Lemans start and there was nobody else near me to get in my way...so I just pedalled off with the leaders, and immediately moderated my pace. It was going to be a long day...I'd already made the initial move I wanted so chilled from there.
OK so by now I'm generally bored with the lap race concept, but this one is different. The trails are so damn fun, and even better at speed - and there were a lot of really cool folks in attendance. A sold out solo field, lots of Ssers, and big wheels were the rule, not the exception. So I just kept roosting along enjoying the trails and the perfect conditions.
One thing jumped right out at me, especially doing some riding with a rigid rider. The Milk Money is da bomb in techy stuff. Having rear suspension on a SS might sound blasphemous, but whoa. You just gotta try it...every time in techy bits I was gaining time over rigid riders, period. What's more, it saved my butt considerably over the HT ride last year. Last year Tuffy Rim brought about dread, this year I looked forward to it!
The race felt a lot like last year...one lap I didn't feel that great and then got better every lap after that. Fueling was perfect - although due to the heat I was going through 100 oz fluids/lap on course + about 20 in the pit. That's roughly 85 oz/hour which I thought was not humanly possible, but anyway...I guess I was riding hard ;)
Towards the end of lap 7 I was looking at the time and was shocked to see that it might be possible to do 9 laps if I got jiggy with it. Well, I didn't really want to get jiggy with it...so I slowed down a little, and then took a long pit. Dave Byers (who was helping refill camelbacks, thanks man!) wanted to know the merits of FS SS riding. Finally I said "well I'm still racing so we can chat more later!" and off I went for lap 8. There was only about 1:23 left so no way to come in before 6:30 and have that option for a 9th lap.
So the last lap was just going to be an easy cruise - and then I spotted Jens in front of me about 30 seconds. Jens was leading the Solo geared cat and has won the 2 previous years. Suddenly I switched from riding hard to racing mode. Could a SSer really take the solo overall? There was some extra gas in the tank I wasn't aware of ;) He was riding fast and looked super smooth, and dropped me mid-course where it was more flat than uphill. He came back into view a bit before Tuffy Rim. I don't think he liked having me on his wheel as he pulled over and from there I rode every climb like it was the last and blasted Tuffy rim hard using all that suspension. Whipping through the trees the last few miles of the course there was some serious mental stuff flowing. I swear I could hear brakes behind me squeeling, only to look back and see nobody. I was convinced I was moving fast enough that I was outrunning the sound of my own brakes...the pinyon canopy overhead was blurry making it feel more like playstation than a bike ride. It was heady for sure. It all came clear shortly after the finish as I learned I was losing sight in my left eye (again!) and my earbuds were a bit too loud :)
I came into the finish at 6:27 - 3 min before the deadline! Dang...decision time. I sat in a chair and no solos came in the next 3 minutes, the race was done and I had no desire for another. Done!
Utah was well represented. KC and Chris Holley ripped it.
Shannon and Jen were 2nd in duo mixed. I got to ride with Jen on each of her laps :)
LW and I never crossed paths during the race - which is a good thing. I was getting steady reports from pit neighbor Sharon that she was smiling every time through. It's a rare event that we both manage to hit that top step together. 'Twas a good weekend!
Racing on Mother's Day weekend, moms got a special purple ribbon. There were a lot of moms on course!
This wouldn't be complete without some geekout. Of course I raced with a power meter on board. It's fascinating how different SS racing is from gears. Here's a power distribution from a 12 hour event in Park City 4 years ago.
Compare that to the distribution from the Mesa Verde event:
Um, yea. 1.5 hours in L6! That explains why I feel the way I do right now.
That was a really fun weekend. Dave and I raced Whiskey 50 on Saturday and rode the Prescott Monstercross on Sunday. Dave spent most of Saturday chasing me and I spent all of Sunday chasing him...I was kinda blown on Sunday.
On Saturday I raced geared women and Dave raced SS. We all started in one big pack tho' The start was on pavement. It was very Trans Rockies like with a big pack start on pavement. Having survived 14 of those starts and another 7 similar starts at BCBike race I am a pro. It was plenty rough and the guys were trying to push me around.
Dave and I started near each other but it was such a big rough start we lost each other quickly. I got ahead of him on the first paved climb and right before the single track started he darted in front of me. Then we were rolling through the trees climbing this fabulous switchback climb - beautiful - in a line of guys and I was right on Dave's wheel. It was making me laugh and chirp and shout out whee! It is really comfortable being on his wheel after all the stage racing we have done.
The climbing got steep and loose. I dropped to the granny riding it and Dave was off his SS walking. We lost each other then cause I was racing - aint no waiting for your BF ;-) On the 50 mile course there is this long out and back section. I was about 2 mins up from the turn around about to hit the 3k climb when I saw Dave so figured out I had about a 3 min lead on him. I was purty sure he would catch me on the climb.
Then Mike Hogan Titus-Chipolte rider came up by me riding smooth and fast and I hopped on his wheel. Mike set a furious pace and pulled me up the climb so fast I never did see Dave.
At Aid station 3 I had to drop off Mike as I needed water and when I started back off again I had pretty much blown up and wove up the rest of the climb seeing stars!! After that was a big single track descent which I rode like a beginner cause I was so blown! Near the bottom of the descent I hear this voice "hey nutter" and Dave had caught me on a descent on his SS!!
I let him by and he disappears off quickly. A couple of hundred yards later the trail ends and we are on the 2 miles of gradual downhill pavement to the finish. Dave is about 200 yards in front of me.
When I hit the pavement a motorcycle cop pulls up beside me and asks if I am 1st place woman! I had a police escort with flashing lights to the finish line!! I pop into my big chain ring and catch Dave in short order. He jumps on my wheel.
So I roll in up to the finish line with my police escort in front and my boyfriend on my wheel. The cop toots his horn and they announce first place woman is finishing and the crowd cheers. How cool was that :-) Yah it was really cool for me. It made me laugh out loud and smile really big.
Dave was 5th place SSer. They had a wicked deep and fast field.
It was great to hang out with the enduro nuts after the race. Endurance mtb racing attracts the coolest ever characters.
They updated the course this year with extra single-track. It's now a blast whereas before it was ho-hum. The day before rain storm put the course in race perfect shape. It was fast and I rolled it in close to the 90 min mark. What a short race for me! Normally I am just starting to get settled in at the 90 min mark!!
Dave came to be support guru for the day so I could put on my chammy and race. Thanks Dave - you are awesome!
Dave's first job, minutes before the kids race, was search and rescue to locate Wesley and his pal Scott who had gone off to ride the kids course and not returned. He found them roaming off down in the direction of the Grand Canyon I think. The kids course was poorly marked.
Next up he was Emma's chaperone in her race.
She was crashed out on the start line by another kid who reportedly came flying in at her from the side. It hurt her leg. Some sobbing pursued then she raced it out for a nice 4th place finish in the 9 and under girls.
Here is the 9 and under boys start. Bryn sporting his new "big" 24" wheels and Wes right behind. Wheel size is an issue for these kids as we all know bigger wheels are faster...At the last race Bryn was on a 20-er...
Wes and Bryn yo-yoed and battled it out. Wes punched it on the last hill to finish first again. He had to work harder for it this time and came darn near to puking on the finish-line.
Wes and Bryn (yes I'll be getting Wes a new helmet shortly...)
Next up was my race. Emma took control of the camera and got some great shots while sitting on top of Dave's shoulders.
The XC gals started super fast - I am not used to that and got caught behind off the line. I made it up to Sue Butler's wheel with a little tight passing and a few big watt bursts before the first climb. We rode together for the first lap with a brief visit from KC. The second and third laps I rode on ahead and leap frogged through the tail end of the Expert men who started in front of us. The race was over in a flash.
Here I am drilling it up the last climb, just cause...29er uh huh...
1st - me (LWcoaching.com), 2nd Sue Butler (Monavie-Cannondale), 3rd KC Holley (Gary Fisher). Jen Hanks (Revolution/Peak Fasteners), Erika Powers (Revolution/Peak Fasteners) and DJ Morisette (Over The Edge, Hurricane) rounded out the Pro womens field. We have some strong gals here in Utah.
Emma always loves to come to the podium. She is still my wee girly I carry around but she looks huge in this pic. It makes me laugh cause I don't think of her as being this big.
So that was fun and I will be putting more shorter races into my schedule this year I think...