Monday, June 25, 2012

"Planning in Advance" - Sun up to Sundown MTB race...

I imagine that I'm experiencing the sort of feelings throughout my body that I'll be feeling when I'm old and wrinkled with white hair.  Fortunately, I know this total body-ache will be gone in a few days, and the fatigue will fade into the past along with the memory of the pain.  And then, I will sign up for another 12 hour race and try to push myself even further.

Last weekend was a relaxing non-race weekend spent with the boyfriend and our daughters up at Kingdom Trails.  We rode slow and showed the girls some of the more tame trails while Mike and I ducked out on some more challenging stuff here and there.  On the way home, I was looking at the race schedule for the upcoming weekend, and I had originally planned on doing the Root 66 race in VT, but there was this 12 hour race in CT that kept drawing my attention in.  I had a score to settle with the 12 hour endurance type of event, and that score was with my own ego.  I called it quits after only 9.5 hours at Bradbury last year; in my mind, that's quitting.  So I had a goal this year of completing a 12 hour race.  What better race than one only an hour and twenty minutes from home on the weekend with the most daylight!?  So with only a small amount of haggling, I signed up.  (Shout out to Dan Biscup, haggling is for chumps... the NH100 awaits your registration fee).

So, on Saturday after work, I went home, packed up, and headed out.  I crafted a sweet bed in the back of the mini-cooper.  Unfortunately, I neglected to take a picture, but Alby (who had also signed up spur of the moment as a "business decision") can vouch that I was quite proud of myself.  I got to the venue just in time to check-in and get myself acquainted with my surroundings before heading down to the sweetest boy scout mess hall ever.  There was a salad bar to accompany our pasta dinner, and the obliging man of the kitchen kindly cooked up a special dish of meatless sauce for myself and another rider.  With a full belly, I decided I may as well pre-ride the course, and on my way to the car, I made two new friends, Chris and John, who allowed me to tag-along on their pre-ride.  As it turns out, this would be their first mountain bike race ever, and they were a two-person team.  It seems that this "first bike race ever" idea was a theme for the weekend.  As we made our way around the course, I quickly noted some unusual things: 1) there was a side loop on the first part of every lap that we had to remember to do before looping back into a part where we'd already been and then passing it again later, 2) there was a very grassy field that hadn't been cut very short, 3) there wasn't much single track, and 4) the loops were pretty short.  That being said, the course was not exactly easy, and nor was it boring.

The venue was Mattatuck Boy Scout Camp, and that place is the shizzle.  I'd love to be a boy scout.  As it turns out, I'm a girl, and I'm too old now...  there's always reincarnation.  So, after the pre-ride, there was some consuming of [soda] accompanied by bike/race talk, and we turned in shortly after 10pm.  The snooze in my car wasn't so bad, but it took me awhile to fall asleep because someone was setting off fireworks nearby.  I woke up before my alarm shortly before 5:30, and slowly got my stuff together before the race.

By 6:50, people were finally working their way over to the starting area.  This being the first time this race was put on, there were only a small number of participants, but the promoters and the people who turned out were fantastic.  We got off to our official start at around 7:03 by my watch, and Alby warned me to keep to set the pace and make it comfortable.  Shortly thereafter, he was out of sight.

I'm not going to do a lap by lap explanation of how things went down, because they are all jumble together, and there were 22 of them.  Basically, I went hard for the first 6 hours and managed to complete two laps per hour pretty comfortably while still stopping for calories and water once an hour or so.  It was around the halfway-point when I notice that it was getting warm out and that was making me feel kind of awful.  I quickly dialed back my pace and made an extra effort to drink more water and locate water to dump over my head.  After about two hours of laps with cool-down stops, I started to feel good again.  I also ate some almonds and took my longest break of about 5 minutes.  The last four hours were spent in counting down the hours in my mind.  John Tarbox and I were back and forth throughout the race.  I stayed out there going steady, while he took breaks but rode at a faster speed than I did, and we both seemed to be encouraging one another most of the race.

After pre-riding the course, I'd set myself a high goal of 24 laps for the twelve hour period, but I knew that wasn't going to happen after I started to overheat.  No big deal - the real goal was finishing the 12 hours.  So I kept going.  There were times where I'd feel some negativity creeping in, but somehow, I managed to push those thoughts aside every time they started to surface.  When the cramp in my left shoulder would pop up, I'd tell myself that it was a reminder to practice better posture, and I'd readjust my position.  It was a 12 hour exercise in posture, and it was a hill-repeat workout times twenty-two.  It was an meditation in maintaining a positive outlook while enduring some serious pain in all parts of the body.  I'm proud to say that while I didn't think I'd be able to climb the final hill more than 15 times, I climbed it all 22.

So, I was initially disappointed because I thought I'd only done 95 miles, but I've been informed that I was a few miles over 100.  I can now officially say that I've done a century (I still have yet to do one on the road and could care less).  I finished as the first female, and as it turns out, I was third overall.  In first was Alby (25 laps and a mechanical), and in second was John.  I had no idea that John and I were battling it out for "2nd" the whole time; had I known...  eh, who am I kidding, he was way faster than me! All in all, it was one hell of a good time.  I met some really cool people, and I got to witness some first timers giving it their all on one heck of a tiring course.

In retrospect, I probably should have waited until after the World Cup race weekend to do a 12 hour race, but I am not racing in the actual World Cup race, so it doesn't really matter all that much.  I'm looking forward to what will be a very short race next weekend.

PS - I wish there were some pictures, but I was too busy riding my bike for 12 hours.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

finally feeling it...

While Coyote Hill was a complete debacle, the last two races helped me gain my confidence back, and I was reminded me what it feels like to get into a groove during a race.

Domnarski Farm was 2 X 10 mile laps of hard-core backwoods mountain biking.  That course had some of everything and a whole lot of muddy puddles.  I ended up pulling a third place finish there after finally letting myself start off slow and  easy, just like my legs like.  I tend to feel good after about 45 minutes and drop the hammer then.  If I start off too fast, I spend the rest of the race thinking about how much I want to quit...  not a good state of mind.  Regardless of how well I did, I was left wondering if I'd pushed hard enough; I was still able to run up the basement stairs that night with a load of laundry.

Pat's Peak Cross-Country Race was today, and again, I started off easy.  The course went straight into climbing, and there was nowhere to rest.   I don't remember it being so technical the last time I'd done it a couple years ago, but it's definitely changed for the better.  It was a true mountain bike course: on a mountain with challenging terrain.  I watched as Crystal, Jena, and Mo rode away from me in the beginning, but as the technical single-track wound it's way up the mountain, I maintained sight of Jena and Mo for a while.  Eventually, Mo was completely out of sight, but Jena and I sort of rode together for most of the first lap.  She'd had some issues with her brakes before the start of the race, but the problem resurfaced before we finished the first lap.   I found out later that she wasn't able to finish.

Thinking that I was still chasing Crystal and Mo,  I let myself hope that I'd catch sight of them again after I started gaining momentum in the 2nd and 3rd laps - the 3rd being my best.  I had some good encouragement from the sidelines telling me that I wasn't that far away from Mo, and I kept thinking, cool, but where's Crystal.  I didn't realized until the awards that Crystal didn't finish either.   I ended up in second.  I have no idea what my time was, but I had kept a general watch on my lap times during the race and knew that I had finished the race in well under 3 hours.

I'm not exactly sure what's changed for me in the past two weeks since Coyote Hill, but I'm willing to bet it has to do with the fact that I've actually had time to ride my bike.  I got in one really good 5 hour mountain bike ride this week and a 25 mile ride this past Friday night that I wasn't really recovered from yet.  I did a little bit of yoga and a little bit of technique work.  However,  I think the biggest change I've undergone is a drastic loss of stress.  The school semester is over, and I've only got one class going on right now while I work as many hours as possible, ride my bike a bunch, and spend every minute that I can with my daughter.  I didn't realize how stressed I was over school.

In the upcoming weeks, I'm planning to get in one really long ride every week and add some more commuting to my routine.  Next weekend is a trip to Kingdom Trails with the kids and no racing, and I'm hoping to do a little more relaxing as soon as I'm done with my class on Modern American Grammar.