And then it was all the usual business of pooping, kitting up and anxiously sitting on the starting line questioning all the decisions I've ever made, like if I brought enough food, or did I really need the arm warmers.
One of the coolest features of BWR (besides the waffles) is the massive mass start, but being the dorky mountain biker that I am, the start of these things always scares the pants off me. So I did what I do best at the beginning of stupidly long races, I went to the front (hey, it's safe there!) and rubbed elbows with a bunch of guys who are supposed to be like really famous but I don't know who they are (sorry, I only follow pro female mountain biking). See photo below for proof.
|IT ME! With the big boys! I stole this photo from Velonews.com btw|
|See my little backside hiding in there. Also stolen from Velonews...|
When the first long dirt segment of the ride ended a selection had been made, and I was at the very tail end of it, chasing my little guts out to stick to the back. THIS was the first major highlight of the day! Making this selection most likely contributed a good amount to my win, but even better than that I proved to myself that I have some badass road bike in dirt handling skills (well, it's mostly my amazing Felt VR) to be able to stay with such a talented and strong group of dudes. Ok, enough bragging, they dropped me like a rock on Black Canyon so the gloating didn't last long.
Before we got to the longest dirt climb of the day though, there was QOM #1, Highland rd. Last year I went bananas on this climb because I was chasing back from an early flat. This time around I was letting the dudes dictate the pace as it made no sense to ride away from them. It was stressful feeling like we weren't going hard, since I knew the other women could easily climb faster than we were going, and I desperately wanted the QOM jersey, which I wouldn't earn if we didn't charge every climb. BUT I had to keep my cool and focus on doing what it takes to retain the most important jersey, the overall win. THIS is another highlight of the race for me, I used MY BRAIN over brawn for like the second time ever in my life. And it probably paid off given how shelled I was at the end (I would have DIED if I had gone hard on Highland). To distract myself from wanting to go all out ape shit hard I took selfies...
|These dudes don't all know who I am, they were prob confused who the strange, cell phone carrying chick was who somehow kept up through all that hammering in the dirt.|
|A guy I caught and passed on Black Canyon|
Eventually two crushers caught me and then a few more and soon we were a group of 7, ripping along at man speed and things were exciting and fun and terrifying again! I was stoked to see Herbalife team member Blake Anton in the group, despite the fact that he was making fun of me for 'getting a free ride' (hey, if I went to the front the group would get slowed down, those guys can put out mad power), as well as a rad mountain biker who I rode with for part of True Grit.
As we approached Sutherland damn I got nervous again about being behind dudes who have no regard for their lives and might bomb the rugged, pothole studded death trap of a descent we were facing, so I went to the front of the group (they were soft pedaling/eating...) and somehow accidentally dropped everyone but Blake and one rando dude. I guess I don't suck at descending as much as I thought. The problem was that Blake and rando descended like road bike ninjas and dropped the shit out of me, so I was again alone, when it was smart to always be with others. I decided to climb out of the canyon at my own pace and let the group catch me on the road again. This turned out to be a great idea, since a wasp flew into my helmet on the descent, so all the time I wasted trying to kill it, almost dying, getting stung, trying to kill it, screaming 'DIE you ASSHOLE' trying again to kill it didn't cause me to get dropped and left behind (far worst than being ahead).
Soon enough the boys were with me again, and then we were on dirt and then we were crushing mtb style around Lake Hodges with was freaking rad. When we hit Del Dios Hwy again, this time in the opposite direction, things started to go south for me mentally. My feet started to hurt really bad, my toes were cramping, and my mind wanted to sit down on the side of the road and quit. The only thought going through my head was 'If Neil Shirley can do it, you can do it' and that got me all the way to the Oasis aid station. At this point I was starting to worry that I wouldn't make it to the final climb, Double Peak, which is heinously steep and long for mile 125, so I didn't hesitate when a nice man thrust a tray full of bacon in my face. I grabbed a fist full of the greasy, salty, fatty meat and literally shoved it all in my mouth at once. It was the height of class.
|This is the guy who saved the day! I stole this picture as well. (cyclingtips.com)|
After the bacon I decided to finish the ride at my own pace. Trying to stay with the boys, while once easy enough, was getting very hard, especially with the pain my feet were in. Also my hands and forearms were starting to cramp, so I was freaked out that my legs were next! I slowed down a little and instantly started to feel better. Then, miraculously, double peak was around the corner, and suddenly I was tacking my way up the infamous climb and could see the light at the end of the tunnel, er Clif banner at the top of the climb!
At this point I was reasonably sure I had the W in the bag, so it was nice to relax, enjoy the agony, descend some dirt, hit a surprise climb they snuck in right at the very end, and then roll into the Lost Abby Brewery parking lot all salt and cramps and relief to have done a thing.
|Stolen from Cyclingtips.com|
All in all it was a fabulous day, one where I drug my body into the depths of suffering, where I wanted so badly to give in to the pain, but pushed through, and where I surprised myself with what my little muscles are capable of. When the adrenaline wore off I spent a good hour feeling like death, and there may be some photos of my laying on the ground wanting to cease to exist, but after some more waffles topped with ice cream all was right with the world, and the count down to next year already begun.
|Maybe THIS is why I'm more famous for this race than winning Leadville... there was so much interview-ing going on, I felt like a rock star :) |
Stolen from cyclingtips.com