18 November 2014

Race Report: 2014 Bonk Hard Castlewood 8hr AR

If anything, 2014 will be known as the Year of the Mash-Up for me. I've participated in 12 different adventure races with 6 distinct team configurations and 13 different teammates. As you probably know, Jeff and David have been my main teammates since 2013, and when we need a fourth we call on our good buddy Doug to complete team Alpine Shop.  That was the plan for the 2014 running of the Bonk Hard Castlewood 8hr Adventure Race, the St. Louis area's largest adventure race. That is, until Doug's girlfriend Sunny (of WHOA! fame) started kicking serious UCI cyclocross boo-tay and needed Doug's crewing skills at Jingle Cross...on the same weekend as CW8. Finding a replacement for Doug isn't easy, and we had a tense few days calling around to different folks. Finally, we convinced Erl (of GearJunkie/WEDALI fame) to make the long trip south to race with us. 

I've raced with Erl a few times before, and each experience is a highlight of my short AR career. There are very few people who know how to support and foster teamwork the way Erl does, and I was so excited for Jeff and David to get to experience that. We've been able to hang out a bunch this fall in conjunction with other races (Berryman and Perfect 10) and each time I've gained more and more appreciation for Erl's experience and perspective on adventure racing. So, basically, I was super excited to see him again!

Erl rolled in to the Alpine Shop around 4pm just as the place was starting to bustle with friends and family and adventure racers. We got all checked in with Bonk Hard and then picked up my traditional pre-race meal of Dewey's pizza before heading to David's workshop to prep maps. However, we didn't have any CPs to plot and only information on the first 2ish hours of the race. The biggest decision we had to make was which shoes to wear for the start...trekking or biking? Trekking shoes would be faster on the opening 2mi run, but would take longer to change after the paddle. Biking shoes would be a bit slower at first but then faster in TA. We hemmed and hawed and eventually (much to my relief) decided on trekking shoes. Then we ate a ton of pizza (seriously...the four of us polished off two 17" pies) and toured David's shop.

Then Erl and I went back to my apartment and piddled with gears, a classic Alpine Shop habit. I took some time to look at the race area on Google maps and noticed there were two parks on the south side of the Meramec River (West Tyson and South Castlewood) that had orienteering maps. I guessed that maybe we would be given a surprise map sometime early in the race, and texted Jeff and David to let them know. Thankfully, we had already planned to wear trekking shoes so it wouldn't be a big deal either way.
Jeff, Erl and I at the bike drop on race morning. Photo by Stacey Hagen.
Race morning was early and cold. Erl and I met Jeff at the bike drop in Castlewood at 0630 and it was in the low 20s. We dropped off our bikes and biking gear at the beach, and then drove over to Race HQ at La Salle Middle School. The school had its doors and bathrooms open for us, and it was so nice to have a warm place to get ready. About 10 minutes before the race started, Jeff noticed his passport pocket (custom-made of course) was attached in the wrong direction on the shoulder strap of his pack. To most people, this would not be a big deal, but in a sprint race where every second counts, we were worried. Thankfully, we just needed scissors and 2 new zipties to fix it, so we sprinted across the parking lot to Jeff's van, perform some lightning-fast pack surgery, and sprint back to the start line with a few minutes to spare. 

TREK 1, 2mi, CP 1-3, 0:15

Team Alpine Shop among the top 5 teams at the start! Photo by Mary Welter.
We take off in a herd of racers...172 to be exact...and immediately I'm so glad we chose to wear trekking shoes on the paved path. We let other teams set the pace and are quite content to sit somewhere in the top 10 overall. Jeff punches the CP1 cleanly and we take off to CP2. Here, the path turns to gravel and we start to encounter some Saturday morning dog-walkers who are a bit confused to see a mass of pack-wearing people barreling down on them. We pass them as politely as we can on the out-and-back run to CP2. I love out-and-backs early in races because they let us cheer for a lot of teams, and today is no exception. I actually get super out of breath from yelling "good job!" so much so I try to hide behind David to recover. We reach the end of the trek and tumble down the hill where all of the boats are staged. 
Jeff, Erl, and not-a-serial-killer David running to CP3 with Nathan from Toporadicals. I'm just out of the picture. Photo b y Patrick & Donovan Feder. 
It's basically mass chaos, but somehow we manage to collect 4 (short) paddles, 4 PFDs, 2 canoes, and 1 punch of CP3. Oh, and....SURPRISE! The volunteer hands us a bonus map which adds an unannounced trekking section to the middle of the paddle. Unfazed, we put in with minimal fuss and get paddling.

PADDLE 1, 4.2mi, CP 4-5
At the put-in. Steamy. Photo by Patrick and Donovan Feder.
We're in the mix of the top 5 teams as we start paddling downstream on the Meramec. We're in our planned pairs, me in the back with Jeff and Erl in the back with David. I'm using my super-warm ski mittens to avoid the frozen hands like last year and so far they're working great, even as the spray from the paddle starts to freeze on the gunwhales and thwarts. It's really a beautiful morning to be on the river, and I use all my concentration to keep the boat on the most efficient line. Jeff and I can't even enjoy our usual chit-chat because everytime I try to talk, the boat starts drifting one way or the other, so I just keep quiet and focus. We don't pass many boats, and a few others creep up into our loose pack, and I try not to get frustrated and just stay smooth. We punch CP4 at Sherman Beach and get back out into the main channel. Pretty soon, we start seeing the boats in front of us land at CP5. We get there quickly and do the same. Both Jeff's and my packs are soaking wet, but for some reason I don't even feel the chill when I throw it back on.

TREK 2, 2mi, CP 38-42
This is the map we were handed at CP3. I added the orange arrows showing our route. Also ignore the red scribbles, that was from later in the race.
We negotiate our way up the steep earthen bank with 5-6 other teams and take off on a clockwise loop for the five surprise/bonus trekking CPs. David's decided to route us 39-41-42-40-38, and we join a pack of teams on the trail run to 39. This entire map is a flat flood plain with only a few mapped vegetation features and basically one contour line to navigate off of. It's like a big group run until we get close to the CP, and then everyone fans out to try and spot the flag first. We're a little discombobulated attacking CP39, but as we leave the circle, Erl organizes us into "formation" and the rest of the CPs are much better. We don't gain much of a gap on any team, but we're moving well through the vegetation. Once we've punched all 5 bonus CPs, we run across a field of tall, dead grass, take a group pee-break, and hop back in the canoes. Somehow, even though we've been running with about 5 other teams, we get onto the water in the lead!
Our friends on Team Virtus running through the field on Trek 2. Photo by Bob "Lifeskillz" Jenkins.
PADDLE 2, 2mi, CP 6, 1:45 total for paddle-trek-paddle
Jeff and I finishing out the paddling section. Photo by Patrick and Donovan Feder.
Just because we're leading for a moment, doesn't mean it's easy to stay there. Jeff and I make it a little harder on ourselves because we accidentally picked a different boat than PADDLE 1. It wouldn't be a huge deal, but one of the paddles is extra-long so Jeff takes it, but has a hard time keeping high cadence. "It's like paddling in the big ring!" he says, but gets it done anyway. Stud! We have 2 other boats for company through the first little congested section but I focus really hard on keeping my line and no-one dumps, although David and Erl tell us later that they came scarily close. This paddle is shorter than the first, so I work really hard to keep the boat moving as fast as possible. Finally, the Castlewood beach appears and we take-out with about a 30-second lead on Team CRX and AMTZ, and Toporadicals, 36 Down, and Extreme Electrical not far behind! CP6 has a gear check which is more mass chaos, but the volunteers do a great job at managing everything. A lot of teams opted to do this race with flat pedals, but we all take a bit of extra time to change shoes, hoping that our feet will appreciate being dry and warm after the paddle.
At the take-out, with AMTZ hot on our sterns. Photo by Stacy Hagen.
BIKE 1, 6mi, CP 7-14, 0:40
Getting ready to start riding, I'm helping Erl put on his glove. Photo by Donovan and Patric Feder.
We've got a loop of Castlewood singletrack, and the route is pretty much the best-case scenario for me (keeping the most technical bits on the uphills instead of the downhills). We roll out, now firmly committed to our formation, but no idea if any other teams made it through the gear check more quickly than we did. We can't see anyone ahead of us, but that doesn't mean anything with the quality of the teams we're racing today. We get to work climbing Grotpeter, motor through Roller Coaster, and descend smoothly down Love. The trails are starting to thaw and get greasy as we hit the short out-and-back on the dirt crit loop, but we all keep the rubber side down as we knock out the last CPs on this leg. Then it's into TA where we will be given maps for the rest of the course! 

As we approach the shelter, we spot AMTZ already there, so we know we're a few minutes down in second place. We punch CP14 and the volunteer hands us a map with instructions for 8 trekking CPs, 3 of which we have to plot ourselves. This isn't a big deal, until David digs around in his pack for our plotter and discovers it fell out at the gear check! We allow ourselves about 5 seconds of panic, and then Jeff tells me to make a plotter out of paper like we did at the Berryman 16hr. I rip off a piece of the map and use the printed scale to make a rudimentary plotter. David calls UTM coordinates and we slowly get the 3 CPs transferred onto the trekking map. I'm not even sure if they're right, but we have to leave NOW if we're going to have a chance of catching AMTZ. 

TREK 3, 3.5mi, CP 15-22, 0:45
The map for Trek 3. We ripped the bottom of the map off and used it to plot 17, 18, and 19.
We storm out of TA on a mission, but I'm really, really scared about the 3 CPs we just half-assedly (is that a word?) plotted on the map. As we attack CP18, I'm expecting the worst, but to my relief Jeff spots the flag quickly. 1 down! We climb the spur to CP19 and descend into the reentrant, looking everywhere for the flag. Nothing. I yell that we need to re-check the plot right away, but at the last second, David spots the flag and gets the punch. 2 down! I'm feeling slightly more optimistic on the way to CP17, and sure enough, the David leads us straight to the shallow depression. 3 down! I'm SO RELIEVED that we've got these out of the way, and now only have the pre-plotted CPs left. We hit CP15 next, overrunning the side reentrant slightly, and as we descend back down after punching, we spot AMTZ approaching. Erl and I try to adjust our route to not give away the correct reentrant, but it doesn't really do any good. We cross back over Ries Rd (legal to cross but illegal to run along), climb up to CP16, and then run back down to CP20. We catch up with AMTZ here because they took a slightly different order (17-16-15-20) and we all meet up at the creek crossing. David, sensing an opportunity, leads us straight through a knee-deep section of the creek while AMTZ chooses a slightly longer and dryer route. Our feet are now soaking wet but we're in the lead! 
Here is a different team crossing the creek at CP20. We had crossed earlier in a deeper section, and then crossed here as well. We were not this careful. Photo by Patrick and Donovan Feder.
We all know this could be a make-or-break moment and I have a flashback to the 2013 MNOC Tune-Up where I was in a similar situation, racing with Biz. In that race, he gave me an awesome (-o-possum) pep talk that inspired me to dig deep, so I try to do the same for my team today. "Guys, we have a gap, we have to push it super hard up this hill and make it stick!" We charge up the backside of Lone Wolf, everyone red-lining in an effort to gain the lead. In between gasping breaths, I try to encourage as much as possible, and we make it to the top of the hill having opened up a slight advantage over AMTZ. We crash down the other side, David picks the correct reentrant for CP21, Jeff punches, and we race back to TA with about a minute's lead.

Back at the shelter, the volunteer hands us an entire packet of maps for the remainder of the race. It contants four 8.5x11 maps, double-sided, with 12 CPs scattered among them. It's really confusing to make sense of everything and plan a route to the finish line. David and I work together to get everything sorted, reading the clue sheet again and again to make sure we're doing everything according to the rules. Meanwhile, Erl and Jeff complete their TA and then help change David's and my shoes so we can leave faster. Finally, we think we've got it all figured out and hop on bikes, leaving in 1st place!

BIKE 2, 23mi, CP 23-34, 1:46
We know AMTZ is stacked with really strong bikers, so we organize into a towing paceline and hustle out of Castlewood State Park. The first three CPs (23-24-25) must be found in order, and David guides us smoothly to each one. Then we have a bit of a route choice, and, after further analyzing the map as we're riding, David decides to change his original plan and go 27-28-29-30-26, and then head into the west side of Castlewood for 31-32-33. We ride across Ridge Rd and descend down the paved Rock Hollow trail to CPs 28 and 29. On the way down, we actually see CP30 hanging in the woods, but race rules say we must bike to it (no bike-whacking allowed on this land) so we ride down to the Zombie trail head (CP29) and then take the singletrack uphill to the flag. This singletrack is newly-built by GORC and it's a really fun ride. We get the punch, ride the trail back down, and then take the Al Foster path to CP26 and continue into the west side of Castlewood.

The three controls on the west side of Castlewood are really fun. The singletrack is straightforward and fast, and we're all still feeling decent. David guides us smoothly to each CP and we're out of there in a flash. Once we're back on the Al Foster, we know we just have a mile to the CP34 and the finish line. Time to empty the tanks! The boys each take turns pulling while we absolutely fly down the path. Pretty soon, we spot the iconic orange and white Bonk Hard Racing inflatable arch signifying the finish line. We ease the pace just slightly to make sure everyone's together and cross the finish line with huge smiles.

FINISH 5:11:46
Big smiles at the finish line. Photo by Mary Welter.
It is incredibly satisfying to finish 1st at the Bonk Hard Castlewood 8hr AR. Sprint races are so stressful for me, since one mistake or mechanical can derail an entire race, where as in the 24hr races you have more opportunity to recover. We did make a few mistakes out there, we always do, but each one was small and we were able to recover quickly. That's the value of racing with three highly experienced teammates. Even though all of our transitions were chaotic, we were always communicating and trying to help the team as a whole. We were constantly checking on each other, making sure that no one was getting too cold or hungry or blown-up. When we had the opportunity to grab the lead, we all recognized it and had the legs to make it happen. 

It is so great to see a huge field in an adventure race, and we enjoyed the intense competition from several speedy teams. Everyone was so positive and encouraging, even when we were trying to rip each others' legs off.  That is the spirit of adventure racing! Something else pretty cool happened, a group of students from Mizzou was at the race, filming and photographing and later interviewing racers for an article on the sport. I'll post the link to that as soon as I have it, and hopefully we can draw even more athletes into our AR community! If you are a beginner racer and have questions, please use the Contact button at the top of the page to get in touch with me. I love talking to new racers!

Official results/splits: http://bonkhardracing.com/castlewood-8-hr/castlewood-8-hr-results.php
Photos: http://bonkhardracing.com/castlewood-8-hr/castlewood-8-hr-photos-.php
Ludicrous Speed gps track: http://www.strava.com/activities/219665728
Toporadicals gps track: http://www.strava.com/activities/219662739
Team Fusion/Kuat gps track: http://www.strava.com/activities/219958260

Pin It

12 November 2014

Race Report: 2014 BT Epic

For the past 2 years, I have arrived at the starting line of the BT Epic an exhausted shell of a mountain bike racer, bargaining with my legs and my mojo for "one last solid effort" to close out a hard summer of racing. Fortunately, the BT Epic is so soaked in stoke that it hasn't been hard to go to the well on one of my favorite trails of all time, for two of the most energetic race directors of all time. 

This year, for some reason, was different. Despite logging more race hours in 2014 than ever before, despite racing (hard!) for 3 consecutive weekends in October, I was feeling ready. I was actually EXCITED to race and treating it more like an actual competitive event than I ever have. (I have my theories on the difference this year...) That being said, it's still just a mountain bike race, so there's no need to freak out with spreadsheets and such. Oh wait, do you know who's writing this? Of course I had a spreadsheet. With split times. It's just who I am.
Instead of getting a (really rather expensive) cabin this year, Maria and I just loaded all of our crap into my car at 0500 Saturday morning and drove down to Bass. We got there in plenty of time for Bass to go all Ceasar Augustus on our poor souls. Seriously, can we just get the BS "day use fee" included in the race entry and be done with it?! We all know that Bass only charges it for big events, if you show up on any normal weekend there is no issue with parking and "day using". But on BT Epic weekend, oh no, we must be nickled-and-dimed (or, in this case, eight-dollared-PER-PERSON) to no end. That's my one and only complaint about the entire race. Rant over.

Coverage Photography: BT Epic - 2014 &emdash;

To ease some of the sting of dishing out cash at 0700 on a Saturday morning, we find ourselves parked next to some of the finest jerks in all the land, and get started with our respective pre-race routines. I've honestly got things pretty dialed by now, except the one item I forgot was some duct tape to write my goal splits on and stick to my top tube. Why is this so important? Well, first of all, my splits came from my beloved spreadsheet so of course I treasure them greatly. And secondly, the women's field is THIRTY DEEP and I don't really know where I'll shake out in this pool of talented riders, so racing against my goal splits is a better way to stay motivated than trying to keep track of all the girls. So I can't find any tape, but I DO find a Sharpie, so I just jot a few notes down on my arm for reference during the race. Problem solved. I ride over to the start line and find that EK has an open spot next to him in the crowd! Huzzah! I honestly have no business being as close to the front as we are (anyone sense a theme here...) but when you can you pass up the chance for an EK-EK line-up? Never, that's when. Scott counts us down and pretty soon 300 riders are streaming out of Bass. Whoop!
Coverage Photography: BT Epic - 2014 &emdash;
EK-EK! far left.
Bass to Brazil = 1:03 (1:11) (1:17)
Almost immediately I am being passed by what seems like hundreds of riders. It's just a fact of life, I am not fast off the line to begin with, plus I have a healthy fear of miles 37-39 (aka "Triple Trouble") so I'm setting a conservative pace early on. I just settle into my 5hr effort and let it shake out watever speed that gets me. 

That works for about ten minutes, when I am passed by Matt Struckman. He's a former Pfoodman teammate of mine and also a really great technical rider. I am not a really great technical rider. I know if I can follow his wheel in the singletrack, it will help me ride more smoothly and ultimately faster. So I lift my pace to match his speed and we motor on through the remaining gravel miles. Once onto the OT, I'm rewarded with a fantastic carrot to chase down into Harmon Spring. I pre-rode these miles with Erl and Andrei last weekend so I know what to expect - mostly gradually swooping downhills but some gnarly bits in there as well. There are several people on my wheel as I accidentally lead them through a horrible line of downhill babyheads. I can hear their exclamations of dismay behind me...sorry guys! 

Once we get onto the Berryman Trail proper, Struckman charges ahead and disappears. It's no big deal since I know this trail pretty well. Except the OTA recently held a Mega-Workday and a lot of the curves have been "touched up"...i.e. leveled off on the outside/downhill edge. I'm sure the changes are good for the longevity of the trail, but today they make it harder (for me) to carry speed through the turn. I'm already sketched out by loose turns, so with the new trailwork in place, I ride cautiously. The rest of the trail into Brazil goes pretty much to plan, no surprises, just riding as hard as I dare. As I descend into Brazil Creek, I get to warn a few riders behind me of the super-sharp right-hander which helps us all stay rubber-side down. Crossing Highway W, I spot Struckman apparently waiting for me. 

Coverage Photography: BT Epic - 2014 &emdash;
I think this was taken approaching Berryman Campground?
Brazil to Berryman = 1:03 (1:07) (1:10)
As we cross Highway W, I glance down at my watch and exclaim outloud, "HOLY CRAP STRUCKMAN!" and proceed to tell him that we made it to Brazil Creek 8 minutes faster than I did last year. We both concur that one of two things will happen: we'll either have a great ride, or we'll explode and be miserable for the rest of the race. Only trail will tell. I continue to chase Struckman as we ride south, but eventually lose him and pick up a trail of other guys on my wheel. I try to make passing for them as painless as possible, slowing down and scooting to the side whenever someone needs to get by. It's not a hard thing to do and makes everyone's day a little better. The 10 miles between Brazil and Berryman pass relatively quickly - I've ridden this section several times before and know the punches it throws. I tick off landmarks as we ride along: the waterbar switchbacks, fast bottoms, the tricky stub after the creek, the mushroom patch, Dwayne's root wad, the last 5 climbs, the duathlon rootwad, and finally I roll into Berryman campround, again ahead of my projected split and grinning from ear to ear. Volunteers help me find my drop bag, where all I need to do is grab another water bottle, and I'm outta there!

Berryman to Harmon = 1:19
Now, we're into flashback country. The last time I was on this section of trail, it was at mile 80 of the OT100MTB. I had just worked really hard to create a gap over SS Kate, but she closed it with a super fast stop at the aid station while I futzed with my lights. We rolled out together and I jumped ahead. We rode together for the next 7 miles, me trying to get away on the downhills and flats, and her trying to get away on the climbs. It was uncomfortable. 

But here, today, now, things are sooooo much better than 6 weeks ago. I'm in a great spot nutritionally, and therefore mentally, and having a wonderful time riding this amazing trail. The only worry is the rising temperatures, and the gurgling sound my Camelbak is making when I try to get water out of it. I'm running low on fluids, and the bottle I picked up at Berryman has CR333 in it, not the plain water I want. I'm stressing about rationing liquids when it dawns on me...Beecher Spring!
Beecher Spring.
Beecher Spring looks like a sketchy Blair Witch bathtub next to the Berryman Trail, but it's actually potable water (if you fill straight from the hose, NOT the tub portion). And the timing is perfect too, there's a train of dudes on my wheel so I pull over, let them by, AND refill on cool clean water at the same time. Total score! I ride off up THE climb, the one that SS Kate ultimately crushed me out on to take the final, decisive lead at OT100MTB, and I'm still in super-happy-mountain-bikey mode. 

I think somewhere after THE climb, I connect with local rider Dave and he starts chatting with me. Normally I'm not very good at riding singletrack and carrying on a conversation, but today I seem to be managing with enough "mm-hmmm"s and "awesome"s to keep Dave talking. I really don't mind the company, it's motivating me to keep pushing the edge of 5hr pace and moving me nicely down the trail. I make it back to Harmon with a split of 2:49 for the full Berryman loop, definitely a PR for me which spurs my trail stoke to new heights as we hop back on the OT.

Harmon to Bass = 1:05
We ride west towards Bass and through the field where I got chiggers so badly in 2012 that I had red welts on my legs for 2 months, I always like revisiting that place and that memory. Then we head up the doubletrack climb to the gravel, the one where I cramped badly last year, and, surprise, cramps are threatening again! I've been more aggressive this year with my electrolyte intake (double nuun in each CR333 bottle PLUS a few e-caps) but the high temperatures and effort are catching up to me. I immediately dial back the pace and have to let Dave ride ahead.

Once I'm up on the ridge, we turn right on the main gravel road and have a few miles to recover. I keep the pace as high as I dare, and also focus on eating a lot. The next section of OT singletrack is likely to be the toughest we face today - three back-to-back climbs, none especially long, but each especially steep. But first, we have a sweet 2-mile downhill that just floats down the edge of the spur and keeps....going...and....going.....these things are rare in Missouri!

Once I hit Triple Trouble, it's all business. These three hills made my life miserable in the dark at the OT100MTB, but this time around I'm prepared for their nastiness. I tackle them in granny-granny, passing a ton of dudes as they stop to stretch out their cramping muscles. Wellllll....maybe like 4 or 5 guys, not technically a ton. But it sure felt like a ton! Finally, I'm spit out onto the scraggly singletrack that leads into the backside of Bass, still reveling in the night-and-day (literally) difference in my attitude between OT100MTB and today. Life is good! One more loop left!

West Loop = 0:52
I make a quick stop at the aid station, ditch my empty CamelBak, and get to the business of climbing Butts Rd. This is not a joke. The climb up Butts (ugh, that sounds so horrible...) is long, but at least it's paved and I ride in the shade whenever possible. Then we hit the ridge road which goes on for much longer than I thought - I've not ridden this section of the course at all so it's all a bit new. But finally I spot the turn-off into the singletrack, negotiate some surprisingly rocky drops, and then...BAM. I'm just about blown off my bike by the beauty of these Missouri woods. The leaves are all shades of orange and yellow, the noonish sun is slanting through them brilliantly, and all I want to do is stop and take a picture (except I don't have a camera so....). THIS is why I am so lucky to live here, within a day trip of the OT, in these marvelous open woods. I try to soak in the autumnal beauty as best I can while maintaining some sort of urgency on the singletrack.
Coverage Photography: BT Epic - 2014 &emdash;
on the West Loop
Surprisingly, my legs are still hanging in there with pep and energy. I can't see anyone in front or behind me, but that's exactly what I'm hoping for in these beautiful woods. Have I mentioned, it's gorgeous? Oh, the trail's not that bad either - exceedingly rideable and very fun. That is, until my wheels are washed out from under me on an uphill switchback. My body slams hard to the ground...THUD....and I'm left blinking in the aftermath. I check the trail, no weird rocks or roots or sticks, I'm just very suddenly lying stationary. And my perpetually-bashed-up left knee has been sliced open again! I shakily get back on my bike, willing my knee to bend properly, and exhale a sigh of relief when I can still put some power through the joint. 

I get back to riding, albeit slightly more conservatively, and try to replay the crash in my mind. How did it happen? I have no idea. And then....yes. It was Noah. Whenever we on Team Noah have strange mechanicals, or weird crashes, we always picture Noah, being his angelic toddler self, giggling while he throws sticks and stones in our way, and laughing even harder when fall over, go boom. The thought of him messing with me, as only a toddler angel can do, strikes a big chord in my heart. Out of nowhere, I'm filled with immense sadness. I know it's Noah's presence combined with the exhaustion that only 4 consecutive weekends of racing can bring, but soon big fat tears are welling up in my eyes. I start sniffling and gasping for breath. I know if I stopped riding, I would melt into a full-on trailside sob-fest, so I blink back the tears as best I can and keep moving. Did you know it's really hard to ride singletrack and cry at the same time?
Coverage Photography: BT Epic - 2014 &emdash;
approaching the finish line.
The remaining three-ish miles are indescribable. I want them to end immediately and I want them to last forever. I want to rejoin my friends and I want to continue by myself. I want to ride crazy hard and I want to soft pedal my way in. There's seemingly no middle ground, but somehow my legs know what to do, and continue to propel me to the finish line. 

TOTAL 5:22
And just like that, it's over. I'm at the finish line 5 minutes faster than I predicted I would be, but in a completely different headspace than when I started. A few friends notice my finish and start to ask about the day, but in my emotional state, I can barely squeak out a "It's so beautiful out there" before wanting to sob all over again. Instead of treating the masses to an EK cry-fest, I flop onto a picnic table with the Scherffinator, put my head down, close my eyes, and just listen as everyone else's race stories swirl around me. This is my favorite part of racing anyway, and helps bring me back to Earth. 

After several minutes, or maybe even an hour, I'm feeling composed enough to grab a shower (thanks Gino for the quarters!) and eat something. I was so overwhelmed at the finish that I didn't even bother to ask my placing, but it turns out I finished 6th overall women - better than I've ever done before! 5th place was my adventure racing friend Britt, only about 90 seconds ahead of me, but I hadn't seen her all day so had no idea it was that close. I stick around for the awards and huge raffle, passing the time by eating ice cream and stealing gummy bears with the jerks, and it's definitely not a bad place to be. 

Strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/211693797
Roxy: http://www.dirtgirldiary.com/2014/10/bt-epic-2014.html
Results: http://www.unitedindirt.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/bte_2014_times_agegroups.pdf
Results: http://www.unitedindirt.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/bte_2014_times_overall.pdf
Photos: http://coverage.zenfolio.com/p418849751 <--- seriously check these photos out. buy some if you have the $$. Patrick does a great job capturing amazing shots!!!

Pin It