Tuesday, October 11, 2011

2011 24 Hours of Moab Race Report

Moab, UT. 2010.

My first 24 Hour Race. Second mountain bike race ever. Ten months into my new obsession with bikes, I stood in my baggy shorts, plain tank top, elbow pads and  full Camelbak among 300 or so other racers to run around the most famous juniper tree in mountain bike racing. I was like a kid in a candy store, excited, nervous and basically giddy. I was pumped to give this first lap everything I had. I was scared of “babyhead hill” at mile ten (hence the elbow pads) and didn’t trust my ability to make it down with a great deal of speed, but I was game to give it a try. Being on a four-person team I rode my heart out on each lap. Everything ounce of energy and effort I had was left out “Behind The Rocks” and the best I could muster was a 1:31. I had never seen the quality of bikes and racers before. I watched guys come in consistently under an hour on each of their laps. It was like a whole new world had opened up to me. I was a little “starstruck” as I watched Jari Kirkland stand atop the podium after destroying the course and putting up 15 laps to take the women’s solo. I was in awe. I turned to one of my teammates, Chris, as we were leaving Moab and I said, “Next year, I am going to solo Moab.”

Moab, UT 2011.

365 days later, I was standing in the same spot wearing Trek Store bibs and jersey. Elbow pads gone, no Camelbak. No team. I was here alone to ride for 24 hours. I wasn’t worried about killing the run or even the first lap. I jogged around the tree in the middle of the pack and eased up the road. I hung back to avoid all the riders eating it on the first rocky section and mosied my way up and down everything before the “Nose Dive.” The course conditions were absolutely the best anyone could dream up. The rain had stopped at about 9 that morning and there was no dust anywhere at anytime during the race. The sand was hard-packed and stupid fast. I remembered the lines through the rocks and was able to ride them with confidence unlike last year. I don’t think I even broke a sweat on my first lap except for maybe the last three miles of road where I grabbed a big gear and tore into the log tent (because, really. I am and always will be a 10 year-old at heart and being a super speed racer is why we all ride….right?).

WIIIIIIIDE ANGLE picture trying to stay warm just before the run

Just as I approached the tent, I heard someone yell, “Yeah, second female in!” My lap time was 1:26. Ha. I had to smile a little to think that I totally eased through that lap and it was 5 minutes faster than my redline effort a year ago. 

A lot can happen in a year. 

I stopped quickly at my elaborate pit (aka my Mountain Hardware backpacking tent), grabbed some water, a GU Gel and chain lube. After two more laps, I put on my lights and made sure I had enough battery/light combos to get me through the long night that was coming. I knew I was leading the field of women, but I wanted to widen the gap and I had set a goal of 13 laps before the race. The air was starting to get cold and my fingers were freezing from the descents. I put on heavy gloves and kept pedaling.

Light and battery management as well as food and hydration took up about 5-10 minutes between each night lap. The temperature was dropping and my new friends camped beside me had a perfect and alluring campfire which I sat by while trying to choke down food that no longer appealed to me. It is a scientific fact that campfire minutes go by much more quickly than regular minutes, and before I knew it 17-20 minutes of real time had passed. And this became the trend for all my night laps even after my new friends left for their hotel in Moab.

As I think back, I wonder if I would have sat so long warming my feet if I hadn’t of been up almost a full lap? Having a big lead gave me some comfort and the colder it got, the more my 13 lap goal was in jeopardy. I was turning in consistent night lap times, but they were far slower than I had intended. At almost the exact same (mile 13) as last year, ironically enough, my headlamp failed and I wasn’t running a handlebar light on that lap. The moon was huge and bright so I would have made it in fine, but I was lucky enough that a woman came along shortly after and was nice enough to let me grab her wheel and pirate some lumens.

I was unable to eat much after about 2AM. Nothing looked even remotely appealing except GU. I think I took two bites of some kind of bar and set it down. I was battling the sleep monster as my eyes were starting to droop. My 4AM lap was the hardest lap of the race. It was (I think) harder than anything on the CTR also. I (and every other female I encountered and talked to on the course) had not felt any feeling in our toes since about midnight and there was literally frost on my handlebars. Before mile 1 there are rubber mats just below a descent that provide a way across a nasty, sandy wash. I hit these at about 4:03AM and crashed HARD. My tires went 25 different directions when they hit the slippery frost that had accumulated on the mats. GROAN. My knee and the right side of my face took the full force of that crash and I wanted to cuss. But I got up, fully prepared to fight and win this battle, and walked it off. I yelled up to another rider who would have gone down on the mats as soon as I had gotten back on my bike. We both went on and once we were a  little ways past, I heard someone yell “SONUVA” from behind me. Mats 2. Riders 1.

I pushed on and began to slowly walk some of the hills between mile 2 and 3. I felt groggy, fuzzy and sleepy. I could have curled up in a bed of rocks and been asleep in a second. The sleep monster was in my face and I kept fumbling to draw my sword and slay him. I was a little unaware of life going on around me as I just plodded along trying to stay awake.

After the Nose-Dive when the pace significantly increases, I felt better and finished out the lap. I stopped at my tent for about 30 seconds, slammed some caffeine and headed out for another lap. I knew the sun was coming to greet me in less than a half an hour. Yummy sunshine. The snow covered LaSalles teemed in the early dawn. My crazy, beautiful life has given my eyes some astonishing and dreamlike views and this was certainly one of them. I knew I was 2 or 3 laps ahead and could easily be in my warm and wonderful down bag in my tent, but the moment I experienced in the fresh sunlight on my bike is one for the memory banks that I will be able to relive for a long, long time.

I completed my tenth lap and everyone was cheering and going crazy at the log tent. I was up by over 3 laps and people were yelling and offering me shots and beers.  All the drowsiness and fatigue from two laps ago was gone, the glorious sun was shining and I knew I could do two more laps to get closer to my personal goal of 13. As it ended up, I finished my 11th lap and threw my timing chip in the air to celebrate my victory. My last lap in the new morning sun was something like 15 minutes faster than the previous one…ah, the mind game involved in racing. Indeed a crucial aspect to master.....as I had just proved to myself for the one-millionth time.

I caught a nap in my tent while I waited for the awards which started around 2:30. Flowers, a little bit of coin and a new Camelbak were the material fruits of my labor. I stepped down from the podium honored to have stood where some of my heroes had stood in years past. The dwindling numbers led to not so fierce competition in the women’s solo class, so dumb luck played a part in my ability to take the top spot. But I will take it, cherish it and use this race as a huge learning experience and confidence builder.

I CAN do this. I CAN solo without elaborate support. Negativity has no power over a heart like mine and a desire so intense. SO:

F the Naysayers!

I came along way on my bike in 2011. I went big right out of the gate. I tripped and fell a few times, let the bruises heal and got back up to accomplish and win some pretty cool stuff. I need to step up a level next season though. I have big goals to chase and an upcoming winter to work my tail off to help make them a reality. 

Oh, and speaking of the winter, I can't wait to start rollin' FATtire &  SINGLE speed  in the snow...

Lots of reflecting. My thoughts coming soon...Maybe some CX here soon too...Zuni ride is out though...Bummer.