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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

100 Tatanka

"Hi! Can I jump in the back of your truck?" I asked as the man rolled down his window. I was about 30 miles into my scheduled 100 mile ride, out of water and 2 miles from the first scheduled stop when I ran into the "Big Herd" of buffalo.
"Yes! Jump in!" I threw my bike in his box and then jumped in behind it. A few minutes later he stuck his head out, "do you want to sit up here?" "Sure, do you have room?" So I jumped out and then hopped up into the front seat. I was greeted by a man and wife and their niece and two puppies on vacation from Missouri. My mom thought this was funny as the lady who found me on the side of the road when I got a brain injury was also from Missouri.

I had started the morning, like I start all big ride days, putzing around. I finally rolled out around 11 (I know, I know...) and wanting to get some miles in took the back road into Custer State Park, I also thought this route would have me avoid any of the herds thinking they would be up higher since the temps were over
100 degrees. I was getting off of Wildlife loop road and heading towards Blue Bell (maybe 2 miles) where I could refuel (I had just run out of water), I looked to my right and saw the 'Big Herd' to the right and looked ahead and saw a line of cars stopped. I thought they were all stopped to take pictures (uh, tourists) when I took the right and realized that the herd was on both sides of the road and buffalo were zigzagging back and forth over the road. I wouldn't be able to turn around and ride 30 miles back without water given how hot it was so my only choice was to negotiate around these guys (this herd is a little aggressive, already having one goring for the year). I edged a bit forward keeping close to one car, there is no way I'm going to make it through this without getting gored, I saw the headlines, "Higher-up at Wind Cave National Park has his niece gored by Buffalo, clearly not teaching her anything...." I would never survive another family dinner if that happened. I looked ahead and saw a truck with a tandem in back, seeing they were still about 30 feet back from the hustle and bustle that was taking place ahead I made my move. Thankfully they took me in. We made it through without too much trouble. They then dropped me off at Blue Bell where I could get more water and snacks and continue on my way.
Top of Mt. Coolidge

I did continue but cut it short at 80 miles instead of 100, my computer read out 106 average temp for the day and my stomach started to fight back after about 50 miles with some fatigue setting in. I'll blame it on the heat, but it was a good ride to have after the Tatanka 100- did the same amount of mileage in half the time.

2/3 of people in this picture are legal scholars (hint the one in the middle is not....)
I also finished working and for those of who don't know I ended up working at my parent's law office. Which I really tried to avoid coming into the summer, because I didn't want them to realize I
had NO idea what I was doing!  I had a different internship to begin with but once that fell through at the last minute this was the only thing open. I'm actually so thankful that I was able to be in my parents's firm. I ended up spending most days with my dad and had a really inside look into the legal profession, which is certainly filled with hilarity, and not a lot of dull moments. I also realized just how lucky I was to be able to have my dad as a mentor in a potential career, and to see him in that capacity as I'm sure most people aren't that lucky.

I'm headed to CO now to hangout until Leadville (I have wedding festivities down there the next 3 weekends). I'm looking forward to is, although this has been the first summer I've spent in the Black Hills since getting into mountain biking it has been better than I thought. I am hoping for less snake sightings in CO!
106 degrees=straight to DQ!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tatanka 100

I spent a lot of the Tatanka 100 thinking about Lance Armstrong, but probably not for 
Getting ready
reasons you would think. There is a video of him doing a Beer Mile (run a lap, chug a beer, repeat x4) I was watching it with Wayne one day and after the first lap he walks off the track mumbling, "this isn't what I expected..." Wayne's response was, "what did he's a beer mile!" That's what I kept saying, "this isn't what I expected..." and then a little voice would pop into my head saying, "well, what did you expect, it's the Centennial Trail" and I would respond back with, "I don't know...not this" which is how 13 hours of racing could really be summed up, not at all what I expected.

There wasn't one thing that went catastrophically wrong but enough little things that results in one large biomechanical malfunction which resulted in my slowest race ever. I had started the day not feeling at 100%, maybe around 70% having raced the 
Monday before but I figured I had 83 miles for me legs to figure it out so wasn't too worried. I had only decided to do the 83 miler a few days before, thinking I would just be doing the 35. I figured the longest it would take me would be about 10 hours. We started on pavement for a neutral roll out of about 3 miles before hitting the trail. Within about the first 6 miles I soon realized why the times were so slow from last year, the trail gets pretty congested to begin with and then there are a lot of hike-a-bike sections, but not hike-a-bike roll your bike along with you, more lift your bike up, put it on the rock and climb up yourself. Oofta, definitely no rhythm to the ride. The first aid station was at mile 16 so I kept thinking about that, trying to stay on pace and get my legs shook out.

I made it to the first aid station and made a plan to get what I needed and get out of there- I moved quickly. I left following two guys out, one local and one from CO. The heat was definitely starting to take its toll and after about 3 miles and half way down a descent the local guy went down on the left of the trail, he cramped up and and waved both of us along saying he'd be fine, so we kept descending and I kept drinking to stay on top of any cramps that might be headed my way. We got to a road with no course marking....ohhhh crap! Still not sure where we missed the turn we turned around and started back up what was initially a nice reprieve. We realized our mistake was where the guy cramped, as we both had been looking left the trail had taken a fork right. It was frustrating and took me a while to recover mentally from. Between the 1st and 2nd it's still pretty primitive trail, with stair hiking (my favorite), and a feeling of bush whacking through some areas with grass brushing against my handlebars and thick grass stalks that had only recently been pushed down to forge the trail. 
Driving the struggle bus.... Photo: Randy Ericksen

This is the only time in my life that I've actually been concerned with a race cut off time- and it was going to be close, especially because I had taken a break to sit down on the side of the trail and eat something. I rolled into the aid station and saw lots of riders milling around. I ate some apples and laid down on a slab of cardboard for a while. I then got up and walked over to two women that I had talked to earlier in the day, they were calling it, not wanting to waste their whole day. It was so tempting, to bail with them, so I sat and ate some chips and pickles that they had given me while weighing the pros and cons. Pro: I'll be done with this wretched race. Con: I'll have to ride longer tomorrow. I got back up and overheard people talking about turning the aid station into a recovery aid station, that they were going to start pulling people...I grabbed my bike and got out of there deciding to at least make it to the next aid station. 

The section was hot, exposed, dusty, and on a two-track open to motorized vehicles. It sucked the life out of me, or what was left at that point. I really started to get frustrated and started to do a lot of soul searching to get me through- I came up with a mantra "sometimes fast---sometimes last." I also thought back to a ride I had done earlier that week with Barb when I had looked down and saw a snake below me on the side of the trail. I called back to Barb, "there is a snake back there" her response "where?!? I don't see it, but I don't look down, I look at where I'm suppose to be going" very wise words as I had started the day trying to look where I was going to avoid any mishaps with snakes and as the miles slowly crept by and the time seemed to be exponentially faster at passing, this became my thought process too, stop thinking about where I am right now, in this very moment and think about where you are going, this is training for Leadville, this doesn't matter. It didn't make it any easier though. I stuck with it but getting to that third aid station almost did me in. I
He was suppose to be tied up for directions
rolled in 3rd aid station, grabbed the only drop bag I had packed for the day and promptly sat down in a chair that was provided by the boy scouts running the station. I grabbed a cup of chips, then grabbed another one, then another, then another, then another, then another-the most chips I have ever eaten during a race but I think my body wanted the salt. And then I sat there, and sat there, and sat there, and sat there weighing if I should drop out or not. I talked to the race directors from the gravel race I had done earlier this year in Spearfish as one had crashed out and the other pulled the plug 
and they offered me a ride back and then I weighed the pros and cons with them. It was most frustrating because at this point I was already toasted and racing for the next weekend was off the table so even if I didn't finish at this point I didn't gain much. They were familiar with the next section and gave me low down. It seemed there was really only one good climb out and then it was rolling. And so I finally got out of that chair and back on my bike. 

The climb wasn't bad, no more rock features so I was able to stay on the bike and just pedal. And that's what I did. For the next 35 miles, there were a few short climbs that I had to get off and walk up because my legs had nothing left in them. I rolled in to the last aid station, nearly depleted and so happy to know I was now getting so close. The man put a cold wash cloth on my neck and the lady poured me a coke, which I didn't think I wanted but promptly drank. I sat down on a cooler and pulled out my cell phone to text Barb and give her an update, I had a message from my coach, "how'd the race go?" I burst out laughing and yelled, "THIS IS THE LONGEST RACE EVER!" I texted Barb with an update, letting her know I still had 17 miles to go. Even with 17 miles left I still knew it would be close to 2-2.5 hours. I left the aid station with enough fruit snack bags to get me through the week (better to be safe than sorry). I was doing well until the last 4 miles. I thought back to this little girl who was put a bike with training wheels, on her parents taking their hands of her she began screaming, "GET ME OFF THIS BIKE!" I have never identified more with a child than those last miles. Tears began to well up in my eyes from the frustration the day had brought. I cut through a cow track, which had a goat walking down it, which was a bit of a comedic relief. I knew the ending was at a city park but had no idea where the park was in relation to where I was and when I came up on one park that was 
desolate I had figured that everyone had left, fortunately I saw signs to keep going and was soon on the bike path. I was ushered into the high school track and saw a lone person standing at the opposite end. Again thinking this was the end, and was depressed that it took me so long that everyone was gone--she then pointed me around the corner where I was greeted by Barb and the finish line. 

I rode the next day, just to make sure that I could but the next few days were a little rough. I've even spent time questioning why I'm doing Leadville again. I've been opting for trainer workouts over going outside so I could at least watch 30 Rock and not have to think about anything.

I'm so thankful that Barb did the 17 miles and was willing to drive me home, otherwise I think I would have just laid down in the grass and stayed there until I ran out of fruit snacks. 

She finished wayyyy before me!
Here are the numbers:
Distance: 79 miles
Time: 12:56
Avg. Speed: 6.10
Elevation: 10,417
Avg. HR: 145
Avg Power: 95
Time spent at aid stations: 2 hours--I wish I was kidding!
Quarq provided live tracking, which was nice when I was talking to Sully about dropping out at each point along the way and he could offer me up points of encouragement. 
Just a note my goal time for Leadville is 9:35- I was at mile 53 when I hit that mark in this race...almost comical. 

Finally got my summer tan!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Teamwork makes the Dream Work

Colorado Trail riding...
I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago when one of the girls casually brought up that she wanted to do a mountain bike race this year. I pounced on her having found out about a week earlier that my teammate for the Firecracker 50 last year wouldn't be able to race this year and was still slightly bummed at having to find a new teammate. "The Firecracker 50 is a great race, it's so much fun! You'll only have to do 25 miles and I'll do the other 25, c'mon you've run 30 miles- you'll be fine!" Fortunately her boyfriend got on board with this plan and he found a teammate too.

Squad Goals 
I was a little unsure the morning of Firecracker how my legs were going to react for the day. Two days before I had spend 3 hours on the Colorado Trail (completely worth it!) after an hour of intervals up at Leadville and the day before did a 2 hour ride with some friends, while I wasn't exactly pushing the pace I wasn't exactly sitting around in compression socks either. I had to keep reminding myself that it was training and everything counts towards Leadville whether or not my legs are on.

The race started with Allison going first, I rode the parade with her and Dave (whose partner was also going first). I think what really sold her on the race was getting
Ready to Race!
 to be in the parade and I hoped that her enthusiasm would keep throughout the race. After leading her out, Dave and I took off for the park where the exchange zone and finish area was. There Sully (because he's the best) washed my bike, because a clean bike is a happy bike and we waited.

The next few hours were a bit agonizing, last year Sully had been on course so I had an idea of when I would see my teammate, this year was a little harder to guesstimate. I kept drinking and eating just to be ready--I even got dress after the pros got done with their first lap because chamois time is training time. I still get nervous for shorter races, probably more so than longer ones because they still seem so foreign to me so sitting around waiting was not helping the butterflies in my stomach. I was sitting watching people come down the front side of the mountain, looking for a blue camelbak when I heard "Ginsbach/Jasinski team is through!" "Oh Crap! That's me!!" I now know how how Superman felt every time he had to do a quick change in the phone booth- I stripped off my sweat shirt, jumped up from my chair and followed Sully (who had grabbed my bike) at a jog to the transition area. I checked in with Allison to see how it was and how she felt, she said she had fun, number plate was switched and I was on my way.

The first 7 miles is a steady grade up  Boreas pass, I was familiar with it from last year and having
Easing into this camping thing
spent a night camping up where the road feeds into the trail. I kept thinking it was going to turn really steep but it maintained a nice steady railroad grade. I kept trying to average between 9-11 mph while riding conservatively enough to make it to the first aid station and top off my fuel levels. I was also worried my legs were going to go out in the first few miles but figured I would keep pushing until they did.
This section is why I will never do the 50, or at least have reservations before signing up. Beginning the second lap fresh every person I seem to pass was a hollow shell who seemed so defeated by having to being the process again. Most were beyond gone a "good job" or "nice work" and I wished I had more that I could have offered to get them up the hill.

I reached the first aid station grabbed a bottle and some chews because it had been a while since I had eaten anything and started on the trail. This course is so much fun, and with the rain that week had brought the dirt was especially good. I began descending and would slowly pick people off always trying to make sure not to encroach on them and let me know that whenever a good spot was available I would go around. I kept riding and soon found myself at the bottom of Little French, which is synonymous with this race. It's a loose, two-track, baby head rock climb that I only ever remember being about 50 yards but as I approached it this year I realized it actually begins much farther down. I kept turning the pedals over, reminding myself how much I hate hike-a-biking and those unfortunate souls around me motivated me to keep riding. I got my rear wheel on a rear rock and spun out which made me immediately hop off, take 2 steps and hop back on to keep going. The last 50 yards (the part I remember from last year) I spun my rear wheel out on another rock and hopped off, realizing it was a little too steep and a little too loose to get a good start I power walked the rest of the way thinking this is also great training for Leadville.

The next section is super fast and super smooth, and I soon found myself at the second aid station and pushing towards the last one. There is so much good single track in this race that I was soaking it all up, and was into the last aid station before I knew it. Right after the aid station I went to pass a guy, there was plenty of room and right before making my move he stood up and took off. At first I thought maybe he had heard me coming and wanted to stay in front of me and then I realized this guy is a really good climber. I stuck on his wheel, and we moved up through more people. I began to
Didn't take the "A" line on Race day
recognize areas that we had rode the day before and when we were at a log I knew we were close. I stayed on the guy's wheel and let him pull me up into the bike park. This is the best part of the course, it's almost 2 miles of just full on descent with jumps, log features, and berms, so much fun! I followed the guy through one of the switch backs and the top when he asked if I wanted to go around, I hesitated, this guy had just pulled me around for 4 miles and he was going to let me go first on this descent?!? But then I took him up on his offer, telling him that if he needed to get by to let me know. I rallied down that descent, trying to stay focus enough on what I was doing and not get too far ahead of myself. I came into the finish and the guy who let me go in front wasn't far behind, I thanked him for pulling me the last 4 miles and letting me go first.

I got done and found my teammate and found out that I lost to Dave's time by 9 minutes...if only I had known. My time was the exact same as last year, which is good and bad. Good to think I got done with law school, haven't ridden much at elevation, and haven't done a lot of big climbing days. Bad because I'm not sure I'll be faster at Leadville at this point.  
Crushed it.

Doing the team event might be one of my favorite races of the year. It seems that the race director does everything in his power to make sure that everyone has a great time out there- fully stocked aid stations (they give you bottle hand ups so you don't even need to stop), sends out emails before with all the details and even instructing people on how to pass and get passed. And the course is incredible (almost worth signing up for the full to do it twice!) every time you get close to being mental broken down over a climb you are rewarded with a tasty, well-earned descent.

Here are the numbers:
Distance: 25.1 miles
Time: 2:35:41
Speed: 9.66mph
Average power: 152
Average HR: 157
2 Bottles (1 Skratch)
1 bag of HoneyStinger Chews

This weekend I'm doing an 83 mile mountain bike race in the Black Hills. I wasn't too concerned until I started looking at the finishing times from last year, women were from 9-16 hours and the fastest men were around 8 hours. Could end up being a much longer day in the saddle (with more snake sightings) than I was thinking...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Queen of the Hills

The 15 hours leading up to the Queen of the Hills race at the Black Hills Fat Tire Festival did not give me high hopes for the race itself. Packet pickup was advertised as going till 5 and after arriving at 4:30 we learned that they left at 4. We went to the next location where we were told they didn't have our packets there and it wouldn't matter anyways because they didn't have our race numbers so everyone would have to get them in the morning before the race. There really wasn't a lot of information about the race on the website either, it's a race that combines a hill climb, cross country race, and downhill time segments for the overall. I asked if there were separate  waves or different start times, no mass start. How the timing worked for the three separate categories- there will be people there so you'll know which portions are timed. Are there any feed zones? There will be people with coolers that will have water. We were also told that the course was marked so Sully and I left to go try to preside. The course was marked but not in any fashion that really made sense of where to go and our only race course map was a strava file which left much to be desired. We rode around for 1:30 and only went 6 miles because at every trail junction we would stop and try to negotiate if the course went this way or that way. Let's just say I was not impressed, and left feeling anxious about what was going to transpire the next day.  
Getting my HR down after the climb. Photo: Randy Ericksen

The morning of the race, having to get our numbers we arrived earlier than usual only to learn that it was going to start an hour later at 8 instead of 7 because of thunderstorms. We put our numbers on then went to get more coffee, or at least me more coffee. We came back after the rain had stopped and warmed up. They then started the call ups. They didn't do separate waves but did divide us by age group, and there were so few in my age group that I ended up in the front row with all the boys. I still get really nervous racing with guys because I never know how it's going to go. The race started on a bike path for about a mile or so before the hill climb begins, this helped tremendously to spread everyone out a little bit and have them fit into their proper position. Doing the hill climb even with a warm up doesn't change the fact that my legs were immediately filled with lactic acid and it felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. 

Going down! Photo: Randy Ericksen
I followed the wheel in front of me and towards the top I had to hop off to scramble up some rock features, I apologized to the guy behind me who told me I was doing fine and to keep doing me. I made it up the climb and saw the people that indicated the time section was over. Keep pushing but continue recovering. I was focused on riding when a minute or two later I heard a familiar voice, "Kate, there is a snake, get off the trail!" I have been told that enough times to follow the voice up to Sully who was standing off the trail with a stick in his hand (I wish there was a photo). He was calling out to the other riders warning them too. I immediately hopped off my bike and ran towards Sully when I noticed a snake in the middle of the trail, coiled up, hissing, and moving around. I then remembered that snakes can jump (or so I'm told) and I moved a little faster. Sully got in front of me and we avoided it completely- about 15 seconds later we heard a shriek and later found out that a lady had run over it. That snake was pissed, and I've never stuck around long enough to see a snake get that reactive. I continued on Sully's wheel for a bit thanking him for stopping otherwise my race might have been over if I was the one to run over it- he was soon gone as we got on a descent and he took off. 

After the descent I got passed by a lady, and tried to stay on her wheel for a bit after she told me to hold on but I couldn't keep pace with her for too long and watched as she slowly pulled ahead. The course flows really well with a few short climbs and two big ones. The course wasn't terribly crowded either and on the back side of the course the distance began to grow between each rider. I was riding along looking to the switch backs above me to anticipate what was coming when I looked down and saw it slithering underneath me. I screamed having run over a snake and got chills running down my spine. Two minutes later I saw a course volunteer, "I ran over a snake back there!" "Was it a rattlesnake?" He inquired. "I don't know but it could still kill me!" I didn't know if it was a rattlesnake, but there are signs posted about them being over the hillside, and after the first encounter was not sticking around to find out. 

Photo: Randy Ericksen
The one unfortunate part of our preride mishap is that we went down this section that we were convinced was the timed downhill, it had a few drops, rock waterfalls and was really fun to go down. During the race I found out that we actually got to go up it. I made it up one of the features before having to get up and run the rest of the way up. The climb does feed into the timed downhill portion but it has more berms and less rock features. I started down and was passed by two guys but both were really nice saying they'd see me on the climb again. I got done and started lap two by asking if the snake at the top was taken care of. They didn't know but figured I would check again at the top of the climb. I started up and again had to get off at the portion that I ran up on the first lap. This time I stopped and gave a guy one of my extra CO2s since he had a flat. All I asked in return was that if he got in front of me he'd warn me of any snakes. I also asked that of any guy who passed me at that point and throughout the rest of the race. I check with the volunteers at the top about the snake and they thought it was gone. I was still reluctant coming around the corner and the section where Sully called me off for the snake. I then realized the faster I went the less time I would have if I did see. It was gone and I continued on my way. The first lap they cut out about 2 miles due to the rain and then decided to put it back in on the second lap, which made for some very challenging mental math trying to figure out how much I had left and how much of my bottle I could drink. It didn't seem to add much elevation which I was grateful for at that time and I got to the rocky climb sooner than I thought (miscalculation  
Sully working hard. Photo: Randy Ericksen
on the mental math). I was nearly out of my one bottle and just really wanted water. I got to the top of the climb and there was a group of volunteers there, I asked if they had any water and they told me further up the climb before the descent. I went to get back on my bike and completely missed landing on the rear wheel, yeah still not sure how I managed that- they all kind of stared at me and I said, "actually do have tequila" and then I got back on my bike and climbed up. I reached the top of the climb and saw the two people who were suppose to have water. I was only 2-3 miles from the finish and it was mostly descent but the sun had been exposed long enough and I had been out of my bottle long enough that all I could think about was stopping. I wasn't sure what the situation was so when I asked they took a bit to dig a Dasani bottle out of the cooler. I stopped for a few chugs and then handed it back and continued down into the finish. I got down to the finish and found Sully who had finished 3 minutes before me. I had saw him on one of the switchback climbs and tried to catch him but couldn't do it. 

I finished 2nd overall for women and first in my age group. I was 1st in the hill climb for women, 2nd in the cross country, and 3rd for the downhill section. When I was talking to Sully beforehand I actually thought it would be reversed, with the hill climb being my worst section. I think if it hadn't been delayed an hour the weather would have been perfect and one bottle would have been enough. I also thought the water station would be a little bit better since the race was 24 miles, but next year I'll just bring someone to feed me. The race was actually a lot better than I was anticipating and it seems like it has huge potential to grow and really be a destination race. I'm grateful to have options to race close to home. It seems that all the people who race in SD are really nice--I always stress so much about it--so I'm always very thankful for that (I haven't done a race yet in the state with anyone mean).
All that for a pair of socks...

We spent the next day going over some of the trails on the Wildcat Classic course (a race in August that everyone should come to!) that is outside of my hometown. Mainly we just climbed up to go down the amazing descent at the end--but definitely worth it. 
Trails outside of town I can ride to makes me VERY happy!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Gold Rush Gravel Grinder

Last time I said that forgetting your legs was the worst thing to do when it comes to a race, actually I take that back--forgetting to register for the race might take the cake. Fortunately when I emailed the race director for the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder her response was, no problem-we could always use more females.

The start- before I really knew what was before me. Photo: Les Hesierman
I didn't think having to pedal for 110 miles was going to be that bad until I learned of the 100 degree heat for that day but even then I could not imagine what I was in store for. At 6:00 race morning it was already hot out and my stomach did not like it, I was able to get about 1/4 of what I normally eat for breakfast down before the race started which I knew wasn't the best plan but it was better than nothing. The neutral roll out started and I cruised along thinking they would regroup us before sending us out on the gravel, they didn't so by the time we officially started racing we were already strung out-I had to quickly assess and get on someone's wheel. Having done one gravel race before I knew that I should hang on to someone's wheel as much as possible. And that's what I did for the first 40 miles. It helped that we were in a canyon by a creek so the heat wasn't terrible at this point. I spent the first two hours only taking in liquids, which I knew could potentially set me up for failure later but my stomach was not having any of it. I made it to the first aid station at mile 33 and refilled my bottles, thinking I had kept pretty good pace. I got food out to eat on the next section because I knew I needed to force something down or I would be done.  The next aid station was at mile 68, which made me a little nervous but I knew if I conserved my water, I could make it if I kept on pace.
Getting pulled around is my go-to move. Photo: Les Heiserman

I didn't keep on pace though and from mile 40 to 68 is a long, steady, gradual climb up. It was never steep enough that it warranted getting out of the saddle but steady enough that I was just continuously mashing my pedals and remaining in a static position. At around mile 43 I was starting to get worried about my water situation, there is no way I would be able to make it to mile 68 with what I had. But there was no other option either, I was closer to 68 than I was the beginning so only option was to keep going--and there wasn't a lot of cell phone service out there to call anyone.

I was saved by the grace of God-- and this is really the only way I was able to keep going. The race director was around mile 50 and had a barrel of water. It seemed like he was picking someone up on the course (I'm not sure the reason he was out there- maybe he took pity on our poor souls who were slogging away) but I reloaded my bottles there and it saved me. One of the guys I was riding with said he was calling it. We were at a split and he said if you go left it loops you back to town on the 70 mile course and if you go right you'll stay on course. I asked if they would take our times over for the 70 mile- he didn't think so. I decided to keep going but immediately questioned my decision as I rode off.   
The next 18 miles didn't go by any faster. It was miserable, somewhere in that time span I questioned everything, riding bikes, racing bikes, doing Leadville- they all seemed like awful ideas and yet the only thing I could do was to keep riding my bike. I simultaneously hated my bike and desperately needed it. I was in a low for about 35 minutes, and began eating by the clock and trying to work out of it. I began taking breaks; every 20 minutes or so I would find some shade, get off my bike and just stand there letting the breeze cool me off, eat something, stretch and then get back on to continue. One guy made the comment that we were no longer racing, we were just surviving. It changed my perspective a bit. I started saying I can survive this, I will outlast-as long as I don't get heat exhaustion. 

I struggled into mile 68 planning to drop out, have my dad come pick me up and go eat a hamburger. I rolled up to the check point and then asked how many women were in front of me, "you're the first one" I responded, "Well... I suppose I will keep going then." I took a break inside the lodge and refilled my bottles, pulled some food out of my drop bag, and then got back on the bike. I didn't make it very far as the course wasn't marked and my cue sheets were some what confusing at this point, or I was becoming delirious (just kidding mom!). I turned around and went back to the check point and asked which way to go. One guy was about to leave and told me he'd take me back the way we needed to go. Thank goodness! I was not in the mood for getting lost. I hung on with him for a while and then told him, "I'm probably going to drop off so don't feel like you need to wait for me." I did and he kept going, but at this point the directions were more clear. 

We finally reached a sustainable downhill section, which I thought would be a nice reprieve but it was mostly a two-track with enough rocks that I felt like a Raggedy-Ann Doll and every muscle in my body remained braced for impact. My chest became so ridged that I was forcing air out just so I would breath in, no need to go all vaso vagal out here. There is one last good climb going into mile 85, I actually misread the cue sheet so when I started it was only a mile, I then realized that it was closer to three. A lot of people were off their bike walking up it. I'm not sure if was the heat, the fact that sometimes I ride a single speed or the fact that I hate hike-a-biking but I kept mashing up in my lowest gear to avoid getting off the bike and walking. It wasn't terribly steep but at this point in the race everything seem to expend more energy than necessary. 

Last climb- but still 25 miles to go. Photo: Les Heiserman
I made it to the last check-in point around mile 86, got some water and then turned around. The next 25 miles or so are mostly downhill, not steep enough that you can coast but at least it wasn't uphill. I watched the miles tick by (not fast enough) and couldn't wait to finally get off my bike. With 10 miles to go one of the guy who was walking up the hill earlier blew by me like I was standing still, sure I was still cruising at 22/23mph but there was nothing left. I started singing, "Everything hurts sometimes" my own rendition. I've never had so many simultaneous aches at the end of a race, down to my bones hurt and I think if someone had offered me a ride at that point I would have taken it, that's how far gone I was. Fortunately nobody did so I kept riding down Spearfish Canyon. I was so happy when I was done, I got off my bike and laid under a tree for a good 30 minutes--which rendered some very weird stares but my response was, "just say no to gravel". 
Sharing our tales of misery
I spent a good portion of the race thinking I was never going to do a gravel race again. I later found out that I won my age group and the women's overall walking away with $200---I realized shortly there after that I'll probably do gravel again. For our podium picture, they said 3rd place was still out on course...
Having second thoughts about my retirement
I'm grateful to the race directors, as I saw both of them on course making sure that people had enough water and seeing if riders needed anything. And also to my best friend Heidi, who let me stay at her house and take over her kitchen to make all the food I thought I was going to eat during the ride. 

Here is the break down: 
Miles: 110.8
Time: 9:06:07 (Time I was actually riding: 8:37- I said I took a lot of breaks in the shade...)
Avg. Speed: 12.1
Elevation: 6,401
Avg. Heart Rate: 155
5(!!!) Snake sightings

10 Bottles of Water
5 Servings of Skratch
4 Rice cakes with blueberries and chocolate (I was carrying 6 total along with 5 sweet potato cakes, 2 gushers and 1 sharing size Peanut M&Ms bag but never consumed them..oops). 

Monday, May 30, 2016

To Get Where You're Going

Have you ever went to play baseball but only to forget your glove? That's what showing up to a race and forgetting your legs feels like. You can still race, but it's not very pretty. That's how I felt at Ironhorse. I finished, it wasn't pretty and I never want my legs to decide not to show up again.
Not race course but definitely worth riding!

I was abnormally nervous for the Ironhorse race, maybe more so than any other race I've done. I'm not sure it it was coming off a year of law school without a gauge of where I'm at, racing with the pros, or it only being 18 miles. Fortunately we were staying with some friends, and Bryan was racing the pro men's category, which took off 1 minute before my race. I mainly just followed him around like a puppy  the whole weekend in preparation of the race. He made me feel better when preriding the course the day before he reminded me that everyone would be suffering. After a lap on course and picking his brain some more we went and rode some other trail in Durango. Durango has an amazing trail system, we only scratched the surface so certainly worth a trip back. Because of the race we kept it short and only did an extra hour of riding off course. 

The morning of the Ironhorse we woke up and went and did a lap on course, okay I did half a lap because my legs weren't feeling great while Bryan finished a full one. I spun out a bit longer on the road hoping to start a spark in my legs but really wasn't too worried about it at this point. I got back to the house, ate and put my legs up and then ate again.
Following Bryan and Sully around 

Before leaving I changed into my kit, filled bottles and went through the schedule with Sully for feeds and then followed Bryan out of the house. The race starts on an uphill and is pavement for about 2-3 minutes before reaching the dirt. I followed Bryan up and down some hills to warm up to help get my heart rate up before the uphill start and then cruised around till the race and touched base with Sully again before the start.
Back row is where it's at

The start was really uneventful, there were about 25 women and I started in the back. We started and immediately the pace was set pretty high, it's mainly a race of who can get to the dirt first because after that the passing becomes very questionable. It was in the first few minutes, on the pavement that I realized my racing legs were not going to be with me. I got on the dirt climb and continued to turn the pedals over trying to inspire my legs to do anything, something, but there was no spark. I was hanging with a small group of girls and just trying to hold on with everything I had. There are two big climbs on the course and both on the first half of each lap. The one big issue I have with the race is the age group men started 3 minutes behind us. They caught our group on the second climb and immediately separated us out. The fast guys seem to know how to pass, realizing that a 1-2 second delay isn't going to make or break them, in order to wait till it's clear. It's the guys who are midpack, and not all of them either, but those guys started making really sketchy passes and left me as the collateral. I would hear one guy go to pass and give him the go followed by, "me too", "me too", "me too" until I would be run off the trail. I got jostled like this more than I was comfortable with and finally lost it when one guy who passed me with no warning and not in a passible spot caused me to go off on the side of the trail. I asked him if he was serious in my most grown up voice, he told me I could use my words to tell him it wasn't clear, so I used my words to call him an asshole. I immediately regretted it because he seemed like a huge jerk who wasn't worth the sin. It's the first time that I've actually lost my cool during a race and realized soon after that it wasn't worth it. The thing that I'm sure he didn't realize was that it wasn't just him but the 12 guys in front of him who had the same mentality. I took a moment to regain my composure, and didn't have another problem after that. As my friend Kara says, "it only takes one jerk to ruin the moment." 

The second half of the lap, is fast, with even some questionable descents. There is a loose baby rock decent that immediately turns into a sharp uphill and a few tree branches that could really ruin your day. I was the most nervous for the descents, but it's the only place I was able to catch people and make up any time. 
Even Sully's hand up couldn't save me- Photo: Kenny When

The one really cool feature this race has is that you go through a brewery in the middle of town right before the finish. It's really fun, the crowd is cheering and yelling so loud and there is so much energy. Because of the transition from outside to inside it's really hard to see anything inside the bar other than the light on the other end, so I would just go towards that and hope for the best. From there it's a steep ramp off the back porch and back onto the race course. On the second lap I grabbed a beer hand up but immediately regretted it because it wasn't tequila so dumped it out and continued on my way. 

The final two laps were really uneventful on the third lap I caught up with one girl on the climb and I sat on her wheel for a while and then she sat on mine, then she started to pull away and I muscled up every reservoir inside of me to go with her and it worked, I went and then I immediately dropped off 7 seconds later. 
So glad to be done!

I finished almost last, but that's okay. I wrote my coach after the race saying that even though it wasn't the result I was hoping for it was hard to complain having spent the previous two weeks riding with little rest and going into the race without fresh legs. I told him that I had followed Bryan (he finished 6th) around so didn't think it was my nutrition/rest/hydration/warm-up or pre-ride but just that the legs were not there after all the riding we had done. He wrote back saying he could see I was fatigued from the training that I've been doing, and sometimes it needs to happen to get where you're going. 

I'm off this weekend and just doing a few rides this week in Boulder and then will be heading back to South Dakota. The next weekend I'll be doing a 110 mile gravel grinder in Spearfish, and planning on bringing my legs to that one.