I am no stranger to riding in the cold, so there is no way I'd bail on any race for that. Cold and rain, maybe, but cold and wind, not a chance. Ideas of which clothing I should pack to wear for the day were all over the place. I didn't want to be too cold, but overheating in a race really can mess you up too. So I packed everything in my duffel bag, including 4 different weights of gloves, a wind breaker, a polar fleece vest, several base layers, wool socks, knickers, wind proof tights and two "turtle fur" neck gaiters. Not sure why I packed two neck warmers, but for some reason I felt I needed a backup in case one of them spontaneously disintegrated in my bag ....I am sure it has been known to happen....somewhere. Not everything gets posted on the internet you know.
When I woke up, I checked the weather one last time before I got dressed. I decided to wear all the layers I'd brought and choose a jacket when I arrived there. The problem with getting dressed in a warm house is that quite quickly, you start second guessing your well considered choices as you are already sweating just putting on all your layers. That wavering quickly dissipated as soon as I stepped outside though. Man, it was a cold one. About 3/4 of the way to the race, I realized I'd left my race snack back at the house. My plan was to bring a frozen Snickers and use that for fuel alongside my hard as a rock, left out in the car, and now frozen Cliff Blok gels. I was bummed. I didn't have any food now in my camelbak. The good thing about using everyday candy as your endurance race snack is that they can be picked up and replaced at just about any convenience store. We passed a gas station and my husband jumped out and came back with not one but two Snickers. (I think he secretly wanted one for himself). I was back in action.
Upon arrival at the race, it seemed like a light turnout, but in true mountain biker fashion, most racers were just fashionably late. By the time the race started, 91 of the 100 participants showed up to brave the cold miles which is a very impressive turnout. After the racer pep talk and the warning to be courteous to all trail users since it was an open course, they sent us off in the usual waves, Expert, Sport and finally Beginner. I chose Beginner so I was the last wave to start.
|Pavement Slog Start|
I had been to this place a few years back and was humbled by the "fire road" difficulty so I went in with a little more respect this time. I rushed into the single track and tried to keep my "race pace" forgetting that this was an endurance event. Not long in, I passed a stopped racer who proclaimed he was going to quit because his hands were just too cold. About 6 miles into the course, my own gloves were warming up my hands so much and I couldn't take the sweating anymore so I removed them and rode bare-handed which generated a few raised brows. I rode the entire remainder of the race with no gloves at all and I was amazed at how that small clothing shed was enough to regulate my temperature for the whole race.
The course markings on the fire roads were just white painted arrows on the ground and easy to miss. I missed a few and had to turn around to back track my pedal strokes and get back on course. About halfway through the fire road portion, I made the mistake of looking at my odometer. Not only was I not even half way through this race, but there were no other participants in sight. Somehow, I was too slow to keep up with the front of the pack, but too fast to be with the back. I waved at all the runners/walkers I saw and just kept my head down and pedaled trying not to concentrate too much on how many miles I still had to complete. I don't like to pre-ride race courses because for me there is something cool about not knowing what is coming up around the next bend that appeals to me. If I know there is a monster climb up ahead, it is easy for that to play havoc in my head and psyche my will out. So I just kept riding and pedaling and waving at the other trail users trying to have a good time in the process. They must have thought I was crazy because it didn't occur to me until the 4th or 5th odd look I got, that I was in fact wearing a race number which clearly indicated I was in an actual race. I forgot about that. I am pretty sure racers don't use valuable energy to wave at other users in general while in an event, but that's my style. While I like to race and push myself, I don't have that killer instinct. Technically, I am racing, but I still want to have fun in the end. I always want to have a smile on my face and if it comes a time when racing and smiling can't be on the same team, then I just won't race anymore.
|Water Crossing in Winter....Brrrr.|
Since I didn't know anything about the course as far as where we had to go and was just blindly following painted arrows, I started to get a little apprehensive when I saw riders wearing race numbers coming toward me in the opposite direction. Either I was going the wrong way or we had to double back the same way we came. I really should have paid attention to the map. Uggh, that meant we had to do the water crossing, again. I kept riding and passed a turnoff. One of the other racer women came riding toward me and shared that I just missed the turn. She proceeded to tell me that not only did she miss it too, but she had gone 10 minutes up the road past it already before she got back to me and that time lost meant that her own race was over. I could tell that she was frustrated and we rode together for a couple minutes chatting while we headed back toward the correct turn off. She said that just once she would like to do a race and not get lost and I totally understood. I asked her if she was in the Sport class and said yes, but that she should have signed up for Beginner class. For a minute I realized that now I was actually keeping up with someone from the Sport class and would have someone to ride with to the end. Well, that didn't last long. As soon as the climb started again, she pulled away from me like she had an engine on her bike. And then she was gone. Beginner class, my arse.
|I am almost done.|
I was somewhat delirious and could not remember where the heck I started the race though. I started riding down the road which was seeming only vaguely familiar to me. I was convinced that I was going the wrong way again and must have missed yet another turn. I just wanted this race to end already and now hunger was creeping into my thoughts. So instead of just going with the simple instruction they gave me upon exiting the single track, I over thought it. I kept turning into every parking lot I came to only to have to u-turn out of it and keep going to the next one. I started to get frustrated and then started furiously pedaling down the road figuring it had to be the one place I didn't think to go first.
|Please tell me this is the Finish Line.|
A big thank you to those wonderful volunteers who donated their time to stand in the cold to help the racers who chose to race in these conditions. I am sure there are many things that they'd rather do on a freezing cold Sunday morning. And, of course, a huge thank you to my loving husband who always supports my own racing endeavors, keeps my bike running smoothly, and takes his own time out to photograph these events for either myself and/or the other racers. I couldn't do it without him.