I had no idea how far we were riding, so when I picked up my packet I asked around. First I heard 17 miles, then 19 miles, then 24 miles. I decided to stop asking around. I found Krista and Erik and waited around for my wave to start. They had changed the start times around. I normally start at 8:47 AM, but was now starting at close to 11 AM. At least this gave me more time to sleep and get ready.
I filled my Camelbak, carried a water bottle, and put a bunch of nutrition bars in my pack. I was not going to get stuck out in the middle of the forest with no food. Finally it was time for my start, and my group took off. I was going into this race pretty easy, mostly there just to ride and not really "race." I spoke to another girl that said she did triathlons, and then mentioned XTERRA. I told her I did XTERRAs too, and found out she was Laura Kelly from Sedona. We had wondered who each other were since we had seen the names in the results so much. Nice to finally put a face to the name.
The first part of the course was a dirt road, and then we hit a rocky, technical descent that was a ton of fun. Then we started the climb of death. We were on a fireroad that seemed to climb forever. I caught up to a guy in the rock crusher class and he said that yes, the course was 24 miles long. But he didn't know how long the climb was.
I felt like I was climbing Mt. Lemmon all over again. The climb finally ended 6 miles later. We hit a section of singletrack called "the catwalk" because the trail was very skinny and exposed to impeding doom on the other side. At least the views were nice. I snapped a few pics with my camera phone (lets you know how hard I was "racing").
View from "The Top":
Where the singletrack starts:
View from The Catwalk:
The Catwalk was a nice little descent that led into the shaded forest and a big boulder area called Hobbit Forest. I had enough time to ask the locals that were on the trails where I was, which is how I found out all these wacky names. It was quite technical, and in some spots my cranks would not clear between some of the boulders. Much hike-a-bike was to be had. After that section was a really long downhill singletrack. I took it easy on some of the rollers since I had never been on this trail, and in some spots I couldn't see what was waiting on the other side.
The trail then opened up into a nice, green, grassy field. I could see the back of the San Francisco Peaks at this point, and yet another climb started. After that my mind is a blur of climbing, hiking, more climbing, and exhaustion. I just wanted to get to the part where the Cat 2 course intersected the Cat 3 beginner course, because I figured that part would be easier. In my high elevation hallucinations, I saw trees and rocks covered in googly eye stickers in one section of the trail. No clue if it was real though.
When I got to the beginner course, I was wasted and tired. The volunteers kept asking if I was the last racer, and I was pretty sure I was. The first part was a nice little downhill that led to the pavement. I followed the arrows all the way to where the pavement ended and began to climb up a rocky dirt road when a volunteer got out of his car. He thought the race was over and was heading back, but was nice enough to give me directions to make a left turn and a right. Well the left turn was onto some crazy rocky singletrack on a steep climb. This was the beginner course?!? More hike-a-bike. That lasted what seemed like forever before I finally hit the dirt road and crossed back onto the out & back section that we rode at the beginning of the race. I hardly recognized the rocky, technical downhill we had done earlier. All I knew was that I was out of water, I was crazy tired, and I wanted to be done. I hiked up to the top and finally hit the dirt road leading to the finish.
Throughout the ride I had visions of the timing mats being gone, the venue being packed up, and my RV being the only car left in the parking lot. As I approached the finish I saw people were still there and the timing mats were still out. Krista and Lynelle had even stayed around and they were waiting for me at the finish. I crossed the finish mat and immediately got off my bike. 24 miles and 4.5 hours of riding, with 4800 ft of ascent. Joy. But, this race was worth 1.5X more points, so it was a good thing I showed up and finished because I got 5th place in my age group overall for the series! I got a really cool medal and a nice little backpack bag as schwag.
Photos courtesy of Lynelle.
Krista and I after I finished the Race Course of Death:
On the box for 5th place!
So that is the end of the MBAA mountain bike series for this year. Zac and I are planning to race again next year, along with Krista, Erik, and Liane.