Yes, a new blog post...since its been a few weeks, I've apparently taken the liberty to ramble on for awhile to make up for lost words. Its a little long winded, so if you just want to know the final result, scroll to the bottom... I used to think I was a distance runner. It must have been a phase to transition me from my soccer playing days to something else. I ran a few 1/2 marathons and did a full marathon and was all ready to tackle a 50-km trail run, but running hurts after awhile and I skipped the 50K. Then I moved to California and just had to buy a bike. But I was still all about the long distance thing, so I thought I should do long distance mountain bike races, and really for no reason other than that I thought I was some sort of endurance athlete or that I wanted to be some crazy endurance athlete, and I had a mountain bike that I sort of knew how to sort of ride on singletrack. So last year I did the craziness of Boggs 8-hour mountain bike race on a brand new full-suspension that I sucked at riding. But I survived and had so much fun that I decided to do it again...and bring people with me! Somehow Natasha and I convinced each other to do it (she says I convinced her, but I think it was really her idea to do it this year).
So fast-forward another year. I figured out how to ride my full-suspension bike at a reasonable, yet still significantly slower than most, downhill speed. And I gained a lot of cycling fitness and all that in the last year, too. But I also did a lot of track racing and cyclocross and crits--pretty much the opposite of marathon mountain bike races, but whatever. The pedals go around just the same. Oh, and I'm rocking some serious "thesis fitness" right now as I'd like to call it...I've been lucky to get 1.5 hour rides in about three times during the week and maybe eeked out 3.5 to 4 hours on either Saturday or Sunday, but rarely did I ride on both Saturday and Sunday (except for that stupid Madera thing) in the last 3 months due to demands of finishing my master's thesis. So I really had no expectations going into Boggs this past weekend. I was hoping to match the same number of laps I had finished the year before, but I had no idea what would happen.
Before I get into the bloody details that Newell requested, I have to thank the unbelievable support crew we had! Terry waited patiently at the starting line for the entire 8 hours, keeping Natasha and I hydrated and fed all day long. Natasha's hubby Aaron was there for most laps and made sure we had the right food and lubed my chain when it needed it. Plus Hernando was there and up to his usual heckling shenanigans while Sabine made sure we were all taken care of and saved the day with a cookie for me (more on that later)...plus the three of them all got to go ride the sweet trails up there while we were racing, so it worked out great.
Now for the race...there was this racer announcement meeting at 8 and races were supposed to start at 8:30. Well, the guy talked until 8:25 so I had about 5 minutes to go change and get back to the line. I literally rolled up, set my foot down, and then they started us. Luckily I had 8 hours to get warmed up. The course was exactly the same as the year, so at least I knew what to expect. The first few laps went by easily. The weather was gorgeous, the trails were perfect, the fellow racers were cordial and friendly. There were guys on unicycles and couples on tandems and the fabulous Lorri Lown rocking some awesome pink socks to go with her awesome pink bike (not gonna lie, I'm a little jealous)...
Around 1 pm, people started getting a little crabby. I was still happily frolicking along at my "thesis fitness" pace, but some people wanted to go much faster and wanted me to get out of there way. Most likely because around lap 4 I started going really slow. The "thesis fitness" was catching up with me. After the 4th lap I got the great reassurance from Terry of "you'd better hurry up if you think you're going to do 3 more laps" and "Natasha is about to lap you". Now, I fully expected Tash to lap me, so I was cool with that. She was actually racing as opposed to my putzing. Plus she knew all the secrets of endurance racing after doing the 24-Hours of Adrenaline a ridiculous number of times, like drinking Mountain Dew in between laps. So I made a deal with myself...go until I finish 7 laps or until Tash passes me--then I could drink beer.
Off I went for lap 5...holy cow I'm slow. And my hamstrings hurt. But I made it back around. Terry fueled me up and sent me off and told me to hurry up. So I started out on lap 6. The course had one big fire road climb early in the lap, then some fun, rolling singletrack for awhile, and then a monstrous death march of a climb that went for about a mile up a fire road and then another mile up some singletrack. The first climb was taking its toll on me, but I survived. Unfortunately my hamstrings were getting so tight that it hurt to pedal or stand on my pedals, so I just sat on my saddle and coasted through a lot of the next section. Then came the second huge climb. I noticed that I was getting so defeated that I was starting to do that whiny weird gasping breathing thing I do when I'm on the edge of a melt down and about to cry. So I decided, this is it. I'm only doing 6 laps this year. No one could fault me with all the moving and school and lack of training and general crap we're dealing with right now. But it was less than I did last year, which frustrated me, but not enough to care to do another lap. So I suffered my way to the top of the climb. The Boggs folks were smart when they designed that course though...roughly the last 1.5 miles back to the start/finish area was fun downhill. So the meltdown didn't fully come to fruition and I swooped my way back to the venue where the support crew was there to see me say, "I'm done". Too bad I was still smiling from the last downhill section so they didn't believe me. Plus I looked like a big dofus with my helmet all askew on my head, so no one would take me seriously anyway.
I was all prepared to convince Terry that I was done. He'd talked me into doing another lap last year, so I knew what tactics he'd use to get me to do another lap. I was ready to counter him. But then Aaron said, "its only 3:15, you have have over 2 hours to finish this last lap. You have to do another one". Uh, okay...Then Sabine says, "just stretch for a second and you can go back in a few minutes, you don't have to go right now." And then she said the golden words, "Do you want a cookie?" Yes, YES!! COOKIE! And to top it off, it was a sugar cookie. An unbelievable soft and oh-so-sugary sweet homemade sugar cookie. So I ate my cookie and drank my cytomax while the crew tended to my bike. I told them I would do another lap but I might be crying when I finish. That's how hard the last lap had been for me. Hernando said he'd have a beer to put in my hand when I finished, so fine. I'll go do the damn lap.
Shockingly, lap 7 was not so bad. Maybe because I knew I was absolutely done at the end of this lap because there wasn't time to do another one. Or maybe the after taste of the sugar cookie for the first part of the lap just made me happy. Or maybe because the crew had totally rallied me to get out there and do it. I sucked it up on the climbs and let go of the brakes on the downhills and just decided to have fun with it. My hammys didn't hurt as much any more and I finally had all the fast lines figured out. I made it almost to the very tip-top of the last climb and heard a familiar voice behind me, "Hey Wellie, can I get by?" Yay! Tash was finally lapping me...I knew she was really close to the chic just ahead of her in the expert category, so I was so excited to see her go flying by me and start down the final descent! She rode so hard and was absolutely crushing it for 8 straight hours! Unbelievable. She wound up finishing 3rd in the solo expert category, just 20 seconds behind 2nd place after 8 hours of racing. Awesome!
I cruised down the last little bit of singletrack, pretty tired, relieved to know I was almost done, and going faster than I'd ever ridden that section. That made me happy because improving my downhilling ability has been a slow and frustrating process. I'm still pretty slow at it, but I'm getting faster, and more importantly, more confident with speed in technical sections. I think my final lap ended up being faster than laps 4 thru 6, so I can't complain about that. And I was able to finish with a smile on my face. I did the same number of laps as last year but I think I finished those 7 laps at least 45 minutes sooner than I had the year before. I ended up 2nd in the solo sport category, well behind 1st place, but happy to have survived.
So that was it, last race in NorCal. I'm glad it was a fun one and that I got to share it with some great friends. And extra thanks to Terry for putting up with this whole cycling thing. He's out there at nearly every race, always supporting and helping and cheering and pinning numbers and manning the feed zones and keeping track of water bottles and taking some sweet pictures...and he doesn't even like riding a bike. I'm pretty darn lucky!