There is just something about Bike Monkey's annual 8-hour romp through the Boggs Demonstration Forest up north of Calistoga, CA that I love. The singletrack there is so much fun and the trails are very well maintained. The Bike Monkey crew does a fantastic job of organizing the event, and for some reason, I keep signing up for this 8 hours of suffering on a mountain bike. This was my 3rd Boggs, and oh boy, it was completely different than my two previous experiences! Before I get into the details, I have a few obligatory shout-outs. First off I have to thank Bike Station Aptos. JT and Courtney have been incredibly supportive, and mechanic Trey worked some serious magic to get my bike back up and running after last weekend's rather destructive wet sand race. The new brake pads (there was no more "pad" left on my brakes after last week...just metal on metal!) and new drive train worked great. Thanks guys! I also have to thank Honey Stinger for fueling me through the race. I had a regimen of gels (gold, strawberry, and banana flavors), cherry blossom organic energy chews, and a peanut butter-honey energy bar that got me through the day. Finally, and most importantly, huge thanks to Terry. He's getting pretty good at supporting me during these endurance races. He set up a little feed area for me with bottles laid out and food at the ready. Most laps he was there to make me eat or give me what I needed, some laps he was off playing with Massey, but he prepped the everything before he left. I always had what I needed when I needed it. And he took all the photos you see here. He's awesome!
Now, as for the race. I was excited to arrive at the venue to some sunshine and relatively mild temperatures for 7 am. After a week of warm temps, I assumed the trails had dried out pretty well. It was going to be a great day! But during the pre-race announcements, we got the bad news. We've had a pretty soggy few weeks here in California, and when more than 2" of rain has fallen within 2 weeks, all events at Boggs are supposed to be cancelled. Luckily the race organizers and forest guys got together and we still got to race--but instead of an awesome 8 or 9 mi singletrack loop o' fun, the course was a 5-mi loop entirely on fire roads. And since the conditions were a little icky and the course was so short, the race was shortened to 7 hours. I figured the fire roads would be relatively dry, so no big deal, right? I would quickly learn otherwise!
I lined up for the mass start alongside about 600 riders. I had no idea who I was racing against...solo racers were mixed in with the 2-person and 4-person relay teams, and race numbers didn't correlate to category. I wasn't too concerned about a result as I wasn't expecting to podium in the women's expert division. I was using the race more as training for Leadville anyway (and the fire road change was actually more realistic training for that event).
So off we went, a good steady climb for the start, then a crazy fast descent. I have a mild fear of fire road descending after crashing really hard when I was 10-years-old out in Crested Butte, CO on some lose gravel at the bottom of a hill. I don't like cornering on gravel while going 30 mph. Fortunately I had 7 hours to get over that fear. Everything was great until we got to the first left turn and then I saw it...MUD. Sloppy, slippery mud that went on for about 1/4 mile. Then another section with a big puddle. Then more puddles. Then little mini-streams. There was no way around the muck, only through it. I vividly remembered thinking "Two weeks of this in a row? Are you kidding me??" as I hit one puddle and thick muddy water splattered all the way up my shin. I mud-sprayed and everything from the waist down was pretty well soaked 1/2 way through the first lap. Ugh. But what can you do? So, I pedaled on, knowing it would be a long day. At least it was nice out and hell, I was riding my mountain bike...it really wasn't so bad.
It took me about 2 laps to get settled as my legs felt a little heavy at the start, then the next 4 or 5 laps went by fairly easily. The conditions weren't great, but they weren't horrible, and the short laps were mentally very easy to tackle. My goal at the beginning of the day was to get 60 mi in, so I had to do 12 laps. Around the 9th lap I was starting to feel it a bit. Sections of the course were starting to dry up, which meant all those soft spots that easily rutted in the morning were now hard, dry ruts. I felt like I was taking a beating. My bike was getting heavier from the mud. My feet were soaked. This photo was around lap 10 I think...you can't tell where my knee warmers end and my skin starts!
Fortunately I finally started to see some familiar faces around the course at this point. My BSA teammate Malia was there racing on a 2-person women's team (and they won!!), our good friends Heather and Justin were there camping (they smartly decided to go play on the singletrack rather than deal with the fire road muck), and I could hear a few voices cheering for me as I rolled through the staging area each time. I pushed out my 12th lap and found Terry...who of course, as he does every single year at Boggs, told me to do one more lap. I was actually feeling *relatively* good, so I headed out for one more...lucky 13...and was done. I was really happy with my effort and how I felt throughout the day. And I was so happy to be done. I technically still had time for 1 more lap, but at that point my hands were sore, my legs were tired, and my girly parts weren't really excited about sitting on the saddle anymore. So I called it a day.
Back at the car we took stock of the mess. I have no idea how I was seeing the trail through those glasses, and I'm so glad I didn't wear my new SIDIs. I had mud was in my hair, in my ears, in my teeth, everywhere.
I slowly got out of all my gross clothing and tried to clean up as best I could. Then it was off to get beer and a burrito! I was fairly certain that I hadn't placed, but was curious to see the results before we headed home. They said they would post them shortly, so we waited. And waited. And waited. At least we had the dog to play with while we waited. She even got her first taste of beer.
Finally the results were posted...but only the top 3 in each category. Since we'd waited that long, I at least wanted to see which teams the top ladies were racing for to see if I could remember them blowing by me out on the course. And then to my surprise, there was my name! In second place! Holy crap! So we had to wait a little longer for the podium. And classy me, I only have one jersey for my new team, so there I was, on the podium, in my muddy, stinky jersey. Oh well. Glad we stuck around.
Of course, after all that fun, there's always the clean up. Here's the aftermath of 6:45 minutes and 65 miles in the mud. It all got the hose.
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!