This was not an top priority race for me, and it’s a good thing because I did not have ideal preparations coming into this event! My bike training was strong all winter and spring and was still going well right up until Thursday, the day before the Pro “fat tire crit”. The crit is merely done for spectator entertainment as a unique attribute of all the Epic Rides events. It’s mandatory for the pros to participate on Friday night, or else a penalty is added to your time in the 50 mile race on Sunday. Lucky for me, whether or not you actually race the crit is a personal choice. You can drop out early, intentionally get pulled, sit in the pack and just ride it out or whatever other option you may come up with…
So going back a day to Thursday morning- I woke up in the middle of the night was some terrible back pain. I had no idea what it was and it hurt so badly I couldn’t sleep. I got up and tried stretching, e-stim and ice, nothing was helping. So then I started to fear something bad was happening like something wrong with my kidneys, since the pain was in that area. Chris and his medical knowledge helped me rule out kidney stones, but I was still very concerned. In a panic, I called Todd’s Body Shop and they got me in right away. They determined that my QL was extremely tight and did some soft tissue work, as well as rebalanced my pelvis which was way out of line. I left in a little less pain, but still an emotional wreck, fearing the worst that I wouldn’t be able to race that weekend, or the Xterra the following weekend. It still hurt badly enough that couldn’t train that day and continued to worry about the races. On Friday it was feeling a little better, but I went back to Todd’s for more work and decided that I would wing it at the crit that evening- if I had to start and then drop out, thats what I would do.
I kept up with the Aleve through the day and when race time rolled around that evening, I didn’t feel too badly, but then I had some mechanical issues on my bike which cut into my warmup time and I didn’t get to ride much before the start of the crit. I kept trying to convince myself that it didn’t matter and that I should just pull out anyway, but once the race started I wanted to just sit in the group and ride it out. It felt good to ride since I hadn’t ridden for a few days and I knew it was good for me to do. Unfortunately, after a handful of laps, a gap opened in front of the rider in front of me so I got around and worked my way back up to the main pack. Just as I had made contact though someone at the front attacked and the pace lifted, but I couldn’t go since I was already maxed out from bridging the gap and had to just sit up and recover. I rode several laps at tempo effort, trying to decide whether or not to drop out and decided that it was best to keep riding to get my system back into working order in preparation for Sunday. When I didn’t get pulled and got the 3 laps to go sign, I picked up the effort because I didn’t want to get caught by the leaders, simply because that would just be embarrassing at that point. So I rode hard for the final few laps and was happy that my back was just a little tight and sore, but not painful.
I went out and rode mostly easy on Saturday, with a few race effort pickups and my back felt ok, but my legs felt like hell from the lack of training for the past several days, as it was a semi-recovery week and I hadn’t ridden since early in the week.
On Sunday morning, I prepped for the 50 miles with my usual routine of rolling, dynamic stretching and warmup riding. I was nervous for the race because I knew how badly it was going to hurt; we had 7,225ft of climbing in 50 miles, the first third of it was ALL uphill and there were world class riders in the field so it was not going to be a leisurely pace. Thankfully, everyone realized that it was going to be a long day so we kept it under control for the first 2 miles and rode as one big pack. When the road turned to dirt, however the group got itchy to pick it up and thats where the race actually started. The group strung out and people started fighting for a wheel to draft, and I naturally did the same. I was at the top of my max aerobic zone but wanted to stay with the group as long as possible. I figured it would split again and I didn’t want to be dropped off the back in no mans land. I was in the top 10 and after a while I realized that I had to pull back a little so I didn’t destroy myself for the entire day and maybe some others would push too hard for too long and fall back later. Shortly after, I could see the group ahead of me breaking up and I kept my goal of riding steady and worked toward catching a rider ahead of me. As I neared the peak of the climb at Marlette Lake the steepness of the climb was really hurting and I could see 3-4 women just about 20-30 seconds ahead of me so I knew I was holding steady. Once we topped out on the fire road though and began the single track I started losing time. My power to clear the uphill rocky sections on the TRT was poor and I was descending even more poorly as I was washing out in all the sandy corners. Bad time to realize I had made a poor choice on tires! At that point I was in no mans land and trying to keep the effort up. I took a fall on SnapDragon which resulted in riding on a twisted saddle for several miles because I didn’t want to take the time to stop and fix it. Later on, I made another unintentional dismount on a sandy downhill section of the “secret trail” so I quickly gave the saddle a couple smacks to get it closer to straight. I kept pressing on, but got caught on the big descent and then rode her wheel for the final singletrack section. I felt surprisingly good climbing Ash to King’s but there wasn’t really anywhere to pass and I knew she’d catch me on the net descent anyway and if I could stay on her wheel for that, I’d ride it faster than I would on my own. So I sat on her wheel for the climb, but bobbled a corner early on the descent and ended up riding it solo anyway. I finished in 10th place, which is further back than I think I could have done, but again, this was just a “training race” because it was so close to home and while I can learn from the mistakes I made, theres no need to beat myself up over it. Afterall, I had a race in 6 days that I needed to think about!
The beautiful View from the top – photo taken on a pre-ride, not during the race of course!