Last year, this race could've been wetsuit legal with the amount of rain dumped on the course. Liane and I managed to do 2 laps each last year. This year, the weather was much better, and I upped my goal to 4 laps. Zac was joining us this year as well, racing in the solo category.
We got up at 4:30 AM, prepared the bikes, and got dressed in several layers of clothing. The camping area where we were was 3.5 miles away from the start/finish area, and Zac and I still had to pick up our packets. We got on our bikes at 5:30 and started the ride to the venue. It was freezing cold, but we got our packets and racked our bikes for the start. We froze under a little tent while we visited with the guy next to us, who was also racing solo. We found Nate and Liane and gave them our warm weather gear, and at 7:00 AM it was time to line up for the start. Zac and I lined up at the back of the group, as our plan was to take it easy for the first lap. The gun went off and we waited a few seconds for the mass of riders to start moving.
Our ride started on a short section of road and then we turned onto the singeltrack of the Pemberton trail. Zac had never ridden the course, and I had never seen it dry. So the first lap was all about learning the course. The first half is a gradual climb, and on the first lap the deep sand still didn't have an established line through it. I had to dismount and walk through a wash section when a newbie just about crashed into me. After that it was smooth sailing. I chatted with Zac while we continued the climb and took in the scenery around us. We were going at a nice, social pace of about 8 mph. Finally the course turned and headed south, and the rolling hills gave us a chance to get up off the bike seats.
About a mile later we entered The Land of 1,000 Waterbars. Throughout the trail there were logs in the ground, even in the flat sections. We'd have to weed our way through the rocks and over the waterbars. I knew this would be a pain in the later laps. We finally topped out on the top of the climb and started the fast descent. The sun was coming up, causing horrible glare, and I had a hard time seeing the waterbars at 18 mph. There were also a couple of sharp turns where you had to scrub speed fast in order to make the turn. One turn had a nice cholla cactus waiting for those that blew the turn. I lost Zac in this section where I zigged instead of zagging, and he knew where to go after watching me. He went ahead and cruised on the downhill.
Towards the end I found myself in the familiar wash from last time. Last year, this wash was flooded with several inches of running water. This year it was dry, and I had no problem riding through it and making it up the climb on the other side. I crossed the road, and finished up the last short section of rolling singletrack before the campground. The course looped around the campground, and in the back section there was quite a bit of loose gravel, waiting to take riders down that tried to make the turn too fast. I made it around and saw Liane at the end. Riders were given the choice to exchange at the campground or the race venue. Since we were camped in the campground, exchanging there worked better for us. I handed Liane our punch card, which really looked like a Subway card, and she was off to start her first lap.
(From Garmin) Lap 1: 12.84 miles, 1:18:49, 9.77 mph average, 18.7 mph max
(My first lap was short because we were exchanging in the campground, which was 3 miles away from the timing tent. However, I would make up the distance on my last lap).
Zac had come in just before me, so he went straight out for his second lap. Right after my lap I ate a Cliff bar, nibbled on a Builder bar, and mixed my next round of Infinit for my Camelback. I also made myself a PB & honey sandwich to have ready for after the next lap, and made Zac a surprise PB sandwich for after his second lap. I had enough time to sit down in the sun in my tights and long sleeves and warm up. Talk about a difference from last year!
For my second lap I decided on shorts, bike jersey, and arm warmers as it was still a little chilly in the shade. Liane came in right around 1.5 hrs and said she had passed Zac on the trail fixing a flat, and he wasn't far behind her. I grabbed the Subway card and was off to start my second lap.
From the campground, the course wound around for 3 miles and hit the road, where we had a lane on the pavement blocked off for us. I came into the transition tent, got my card stamped, and headed out for the start of my lap. I was feeling really good this lap, and figured this would put me about half way through so I could push it a little and see how I felt. I also knew the course better this time around. On the sandy climb I averaged about 1 mph faster, and on the fast downhill I topped out at 19.5 mph. I discovered it was easier to jump the waterbars on the fast downhill. During this lap, the fast riders were catching and passing me, but I wasn't slowing down. I'd move over on the trail, but would still be pedaling hard. At some points, we were jumping over waterbars and flying through the air at the same time. It felt like I was in a motocross race! It was so cool! After one of the slow turns in the fast section, Brian Grasky caught me and yelled "Go Tri Girls". Actually, this lap a lot of people yelled "Go Tucson Tri Girls!" including the race director. I came flying into the campground and handed off to Liane, and told her that would be my fastest lap of the day, and I wasn't inteding to repeat that performance. I had also carried our Subway card under the leg of my shorts for part of the ride until I discovered sweat destroys the cards. So halfway through I had put it in my Camelbak to dry. I handed her a soggy card and she was off to get it punched for our team.
Lap 2: 15.57 miles, 1:26:05, 10.9 mph average, 19.5 mph max
Lap 2 was the fastest I had ever averaged on a course on a mountain bike, at just under 11 mph.
I got back to our camp spot, devoured my sandwich, made another sandwich, and filled my Camelbak again. I decided to make a seat adjustment for the next lap. This course was fast and not very technical, so I didn't need my seat to be back very far. I moved it up on the rails to see if that would help some of the lower back pain I was feeling. I was able to sit down and doze in the sun for about 20 minutes before getting back up and ready for the next lap. The sun was out and it was finally warm, so I switched to my sleeveless TTG jersey for the next lap.
Liane came in very close to her previous time, and handed me a tired looking Subway card. She said the timing folks said other cards are looking way worse than ours. I stuck the card in my back pocket, and rode the 3 miles to the timing tent to get it punched. The timing lady had a hard time getting a hole punched in our moist card. After that, I trotted out of the tent and started my 3rd lap. Holy crap, who stole my legs? Ok, this lap was starting to hurt. Maybe it was the fact that this race fell in our off-season, and I hadn't really been training for it? Yeah, probably. As I rode I started doing the math and wondered if this would be my last lap. The race directions said riders had to be out on their last lap at 4:20 PM. There was no way I was getting back in time to have Liane back before 4:20 for me to go out on a 4th lap. So I started to think this could very well be my last lap. That made me feel a little better.
During this lap one guy passed me and said "Geez, look at your legs. I wish I could spin like that." I hadn't realized it, but I was sustaining a really smooth cadence spin in the sand. I looked at him as he passed and he was a slow masher of the pedals. Of course, he was the one doing the passing. I told him my legs probably looked better than they felt. On this lap I started to pass riders that were looking ragged and going pretty slow. I gave everyone encouragement and told them good job. After all, this was probably my last lap! I started the fast descent and realized the waterbars were very painful this time around. I had to work hard to get the bike up and over them, and in the spots where I was lazy I was happy to be on a full suspension bike. It can correct those mistakes better than my hardtail can. At this point, I just wanted to be OFF the bike.
I rolled into camp and Liane was all set to go for her 3rd lap. She asked if I was up for 4, and I said I didn't know if we could make the cutoff in time. She said we could and was off on her last lap. I heard over the PA system that the cutoff was now 4:30-something PM. Time to get ready for the 4th lap.
Lap 3: 15.57 miles, 1:20:02, 10.5 mph average, 21.2 mph max
For the last lap, I reached into the Ironman toolbox and pulled out everything I had learned this past year. I quickly ate another sandwich while cleaning and lubing my chain. I went over and got one of the free 15 minute chair massage's that Nate said Liane did, and made her feel better. I dumped my nutrition mix out of my Camelbak and replaced it with water. I was over the nutrition mix. I de-fizzed some Coke by slowly pouring small amounts into a bike bottle an stirring it around to force the CO2 out. I packed my Camelback pouch and jersey pockets with fun-sized Snicker bars. And I taped my camping headlamp to my helmet. I was pretty sure I would be coming in in the dark, and was not going out without a headlamp. I was kicking myself for not packing my Niterider HID. I strapped my windbreaker to my Camelback, pulled on my armwarmers under my bike jersey, and sat down for a short bit before heading over to the exchange.
Nate said Zac said this was his last lap. Sure enough, he came in just in front of Liane and said he was done as this was lap #5 for him. Liane rolled in as some guy was racing her to the corner, and she handed over the remains of our Subway card. I told her my last lap was now sponsored by Coke and Snickers and that it would be a slow lap. I mounted up and started chasing Zac down.
It didn't take me long to catch Zac, and I chatted with him before passing him and heading to the timing tent. I rolled in and the punch card girl said, "You missed it by 30 seconds. Are you going out again?" Now, these sound like contradictory statements to me, so I just said "Yes." I walked my bike out of the tent, and as I rounded the corner she was on the phone. I asked if I could go out and she said yes, so on I went. As I got to the start/finish arch, the gatekeepers were watching me and said "Ok" and got their barriers ready. I asked them if I was the last one, and they said yes, I was, and they barricaded the lane behind me. I was now the last rider on the course. I told Zac "I'm the last one" as he rolled into the timing tent area and I headed in the opposite direction onto the course.
In a way, it was kind of nice knowing I was the last one out there, as I wouldn't have people coming up behind me saying "on your left." I was now racing the sun. I was hoping to get to Mile 8 before the sun went down. The sun was slowly dipping behind the mountains, and I began to think there was no way I'd make it. My legs were so tired and sore. I made myself drink a sip of Coke every mile, followed by a sip of water. After having my nutrition mix all day, the Coke was a nice change.
I reached a point where the sun was in a low spot in the mountains, giving me more light. I wondered if I could make far enough to where I could view the sun past the mountains. It was a long shot, but I kept pedaling. The further northwest I went, the more light I was getting. Finally the sun peeked out from beside the mountain. I had bought myself a few more minutes of sunlight! I made it to Mile 8, and stopped briefly to take off my sunglasses and put on my clear glasses, and eat a Snickers bar. Mile 8 was where the course turned and headed south and got into the rollers. I knew the downhill wasn't far behind. My new goal was now to make it as far as I could before turning on my headlamp.
It is also spooky knowing you are the last racer on the course. If I crashed bad, there would be no one immediately coming up and finding my body on the course to call for help. The course sweepers were out, but they were moving slower and picking stuff up along the way. So I decided not to chance it, and in some sketchy areas I decided to do get off and walk just to be safe. The light was getting to low to risk it. I finally reached the downhill for the last time, and as before, it was difficult to see the waterbars, this time because the sun had gone down. I switched on my headlamp and tightened the back of my helmet to keep it from slipping down each time I hit a waterbar. I just wanted to get to the road because that meant I had a short way to go before getting to the campground. It felt like it took FOREVER to hit the road, but at least the road was easy to see from all the traffic of everyone from the race leaving.
It was now really dark at this point, and I couldn't go very fast because my camping headlamp doesn't throw enough light to ride by. It's fine for trail running, but not mountain biking. I swear at this point I was using some sort of 6th sense to get through the trail as I was practically blind. I finally made it to the road and crossed over, and slowly made my way to the campground. Nate and Zac were waiting there, and said something to me. I thought it was something like "You've been DQed", or "the race is over, pull in here," or something to that effect. Instead a flash went off and Nate yelled "I got her!" and I passed by and rode the loop around the campground. On the way out Zac said they moved to the awards to the campground, and to take the trail back from the timing tent. Forget it! There was no way I was doing that! I was blind and trying not to crash and there was no way I was coming back on the trail. I would hitch-hike back if I had to, but I was NOT riding the trail once I was done.
The last 2.3 miles were pretty touchy out there. There were riders coming back from the timing tent and some didn't have headlights, so I had to watch out for them to avoid a head-on collision. There were also side trails that intersected the race course trail, and at one point I was sure I was on the wrong trail. I couldn't see tire tracks or anything, but decided the only thing I could do was keep going and hopefully end up in the right spot. It turns out I was on the race course the entire time, I just didn't recognize it in the dark and with practically no light. I somehow made it to the road alive, and followed that to the timing tent. I rolled in and stopped at the lone volunteer there and told her I was the last one in. I leaned my bike against the tent wall, grabbed whatever free food they had sprawled out on the table (pretzles, cheese popcorn, and cookies) and called Zac on the cellphone. I told him I needed a ride back and to meet me at the end of the road. He said Liane was coming to get me in their Jeep. I pulled my windbreaker on and got to the intersection of the road just as she drove up in her Jeep. We threw my bike on the rack, and she already had the ass heaters in the seats cranked up on high. I was so glad because I was freezing to death.
Lap 4: 17.88 miles, 1:48:26, 9.9 mph average, 19.5 mph max
Total mileage I rode for the day: 65.36
We got back to camp and I quickly changed and we headed over to the awards. Turns out we came in 4th out of 5 in the duo female category, which was pretty good considering we hadn't been training for this race in our off-season. We completed a total of 7 laps and miraculously didn't die out there. Liane did great and cranked out 3 very consistent laps. Zac had finished his 5th lap, and survived his first solo endurance mountain bike experience, which is awesome for him.
What about the December Runathon?
Ah yes, the runathon. My post from Friday said I was planning on running before the race. Well, we got up at 4:30 AM and had way too much stuff to get done the morning of the race that it didn't happen. After the race we went directly to a restaurant, and at 7PM Liane and I were discussing if 2 runs in one day would count. I was pretty sure at this point my run for the day wasn't happening. On the drive home I fell asleep. I seem to remember having a conversation with Zac in my sleep about wheels on walkers for old people. Turns out I did. I tend to talk about strange things when I'm half asleep, so this is not out of the ordinary. Zac is alwasy quick to remind me about the conversation about lawnmower spark plugs that I still don't recall (probably because I was asleep!).
We rolled into the driveway, and maybe because I was still asleep I made the decision to put on my running shoes. Anyways, it was just before midnight, so I threw my shoes on, grabbed my Garmin and headlamp, and started running at 11:55 PM. I ran down the residential streets by my house and did my 2 miles for the runathon. This is probably the stupidest thing I've ever done. I'm going to blame the lack of sleep and too much time on a mountain bike in one day. But, I did my runathon run for the day, so I'm still at 100% for running everyday in December.