Monday, April 16, 2018

BWR Numero Dos (Defending my Title)

I woke up before my alarm Sunday morning, from a dream about waffles covered in caramel and pecans (I'm not making this shit up, seriously), after one of those restless nights that result from anxious excitement about doing something epic the following day. Fortunately it was a two minute walk from our van to the Gear Grinder Grill's waffle buffet, and in no time at all I was sitting down to the moment I waited the past 364 days for, the start of the 2018 Belgian Waffle Ride. Stage one is clearly consuming as many waffles as possible, so you know I ate three (probably one too many) waffles covered in butter, syrup and strawberries.

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
Things really got exciting when we descended Del Dios Hwy at what felt like 60 mph and I nearly fainted from fear. But then we turned onto the first dirt sector of the day and my fear was replaced by glee, something I was familiar with! Amanda Nauman had snuck by me on the road and I decided to bridge that gap ASAP, which resulted in much dude passing, and putting my new DT Swiss wheels straight to the test (I was pretty rough on them but they proved bomb proof at the end of the day). This year I came prepared with Orange Seal in my tubeless 32mm road tires, and it became clear after the first hour of pummeling rocks and drifting through sand that this was JUST like mountain biking, the only thing missing was a dropper post.
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
So then we get to Black Canyon and the guys actually do start going hard and I have to settle into my own pace and pray there are dudes from the lead group around me at the top so I don't have to ride the remaining 70 miles alone. About halfway up I found myself with a little group which included the best draft in cycling history, Ryan Steers. Then I accidentally dropped all of them and had to bridge to a few other dudes who got popped off the lead group of monsters. After accidentally dropping those guys as well I found myself in exactly the predicament I DIDN'T want to be in for a second year in a row, alone on Mesa Grande, the windy, winding, rural road that leads riders to the town of Santa Ysabel and then back towards San Marcos. It was clear I needed to work with the dudes behind me rather than burning matches alone in the wind, so I settled into a nice steady pace and ate some Clif snacks while I waited for them to catch up. 
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
Honest to God I did not think I could pull off the win two years in a row. I mean winning last year was a surprise to me, but with teaching and coaching and house re-modeling I've been feeling especially worn down lately, and I haven't done many 100+ mile rides in the past month or so. I also felt like the times I set on the different segments last year were bonkers fast, and that I could never ride that well again in my life, but crazily enough I bested many of my times from last year! 
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
 Yes, I want to give an in-depth overview of my VR build and the bells and whistles that made it the perfect BWR rig, but that has to wait till tomorrow because sleep and work and marathon nationals is on the horizon so Imma be a good kid.















3 comments:

  1. I was the course marshall hollering "Watch out for the post!" after you came out from under the freeway just before aid station 1. You do know you smile all the time, right? Well done out there!

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  3. I suppose that you you were able to defend your title properly! Thanks a lot for sharing the story!

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