The morning was a little chilly, but I was happy about that. I'd rather be racing in the cold than the heat any day. Only two days before the race, that area had gotten 1.4 inches of rain. Surprisingly all reports from those already up there who pre-rode the course the day before were that the trail barely showed any traces at all of that precipitation. More good news!
My race partner showed up the night before to camp and got there early enough to secure a good spot for our pit. Although, the best pit spots were being held for the solos up at the main line. That just so happened to be where you rode through the timing line and also where all the fun hub-bub stuff was happening.
We had to settle for a slightly steep walk up and down the hill each time we wanted to visit our pit area. Not the worst thing in the world because it allowed me to warm up my legs from the several trips up and down it. Plus, it was significantly quieter there and we got our own pit toilets instead of those fancy flushing ones up at the main line. Who needs THAT fluff anyway? Ummm, I DO!!! Lesson learned though. Either next year, I run it solo or I lie and say I am so I can get a better pit spot. I am kidding, of course...I would never stoop so low as to run that race solo. ;-)
When we pulled up into the campground, I noticed that the volunteers all had brown shirts on. Brown. I commented that I was a little disappointed in the choice of color this year. I mean really, nobody looks good in brown. Well except maybe the characters from Firefly, but I digress. So when I got to registration, I was more than pleasantly surprised when I found out that brown was only the color for volunteers. Male racers were getting gray shirts and female...PINK. Score! Yep, sometimes it's all about the swag and the t-shirts. Especially if you have no chance at a medal. Then it's always about the t-shirt!
I left registration with my number plate, and my ankle bracelet thingy with instructions that it had to be worn on the left ankle. I proceeded to ready myself, but since it was still too early, I held off a bit. Even though I was first in my team's duo rotations, I didn't want to be one of those
A little while went by, they held the racer's meeting and I went back to the pits to prepare. Somehow even though, I was there an hour and a half early, I now only had 10 minutes to get myself ready. I rushed around and gathered all my stuff and checked my tire pressure. What?! They felt too squishy. I checked them before I left the house and they were pumped up solid. So I scrambled for a pump and started adding air feeling a little stressed and unprepared. I race to the line and I am at the back. I mean the very back as in the last racer to arrive. There are literally over 300+ racers lined up in front of me. I make a joke to another guy at the back that I really hope that we are going the other way and everyone is facing backwards so we have a better start. We both laugh nervously, secretly knowing our respective pole positions were basically screwed and more screwed.
The start goes off, and it seems like no one is moving. We are all just sitting there clipped into our pedals essentially track standing because this part of the race crowd wasn't going anywhere fast. Apparently, our end of the starting line didn't hear the news that the race started. I guess it takes a while to make it's way down the line. Finally, we started to make some progress. And that's when I realize how amazing this start is amongst all these people. It is literally the largest race start I have ever been in and the sheer coolness of it all just makes me smile. So we head down the road for a pretty smooth warm-up on pavement before we enter the singletrack. And then, there was absolutely no place to pass. It was now just a giant group ride. I could only ride the berms as fast as the girl in front of me. Once I realized this, I just settled in because I am not aggressive enough to really race properly. The girl in front of me was yapping about how she'd never ridden this trail before and was only racing it because it was "bikini" season. The girl behind me was complaining that they'd taken all the roots out of the trail and was calling out all the upcoming trail contours for the clueless girl in front of me since she was slowing us down around every climb. I really wanted to kill both of them, but being that it was a race, I didn't think it was prudent to waste time stopping for that . So I just kept my own pace steady whilst trying not to crash into bikini girl every time she created the accordion effect when slowing way down on the berms.
Finally, a few guys up front pulled off, and I found my chance to pass. I was FREEEE......and then around the next bend....the traffic snarled once again. This got really frustrating after a while, but I just hung in there knowing that it had to open up eventually. And it did. Finally, I got to really appreciate the speed and flow of the berms and just let the bike go. And that's when I looked down. Holy Crap! I had no timing chip on my ankle. In my haste to get ready, I had forgotten to put it on. I also had forgotten my phone. I could not go back to get the chip because traffic was one way. I also could not call my husband to ask him to meet me near the finish line with it. Once again, I found myself screwed and I hadn't even finished one lap yet. Upon realization of this, I let out a stream of obscenities. Enough so that the racer girl behind me asked what was wrong. After I explained my situation in between heavy breathing, she told me not to worry. Just drop my bike before the finish line, run to get it, put it on, remount my bike and then cross the line. But, she warned, whatever I did, absolutely do NOT cross that line without that chip. Brilliant! Now I had a plan.
For the rest of the lap, I was kicking myself knowing I had made such a rookie bone head move and now had to run up and down that damn hill again to get my timing chip. This lap seemed to go on and on and I was getting really tired. I was told it was a 12.5 mile lap, but here I was at 13.25 and I was no where near done. Plus the cumulative markers were not jiving with my computer. The trail markers showed me at only 10 miles. What the heck? I kept riding and I was now seriously thinking I made a wrong turn. The longer I rode, the more weak I became.
Riding that trail for fun is one thing, but racing it at red line as fast as I can go was a whole different story. I swear the climbs got steeper from only a couple weeks ago. As the miles went on, I was agonizing over my timing chip dilemma. I really didn't want to waste the time and energy to run up and down that hill to get my ankle band. I gauged how pissed my teammate would be if I crossed that line and didn't get credit for my lap. I considered crossing the line and pleading with the organizers to just use the time from my number plate. I mean what do they do when a racer loses their chip on the course? Surely they don't just disqualify them right? So many scenarios ran through my mind. I really didn't want to disappoint my teammate so I accepted the fact I would have to do some running before the finish line. Crap.
I hauled butt out of the trail to the pavement and I saw my husband standing on the sidelines. I yelled out to him: "I CAN'T CROSS THE FINISH LINE, I DON'T HAVE MY CHIP!!!" That's when he raised his hand up, smiled and waved my ankle band and said "Yes you can". I can't tell you how relieved I was. I stopped and grabbed it and started to put it on. He yelled, "No! Don't put it on, just carry it with you over the line!" Duh...of course. I crossed the finish and crisis was averted. Chris asked me, "what took you so long?" I looked down and apparently the 12.5 mile lap "prologue" was extended to 16.25 miles. And evidently starting at the very back of the line adds a lot of time to your lap. Who knew?
Anyway, I did that first lap, changed clothes, waited for my team mate to return from his and tried to tell myself that my 2nd lap had to be better. I was now wearing my chip, had my phone, I had refueled with a PBJ and was ready to go. As I entered my 2nd lap, there was no one in front of me. Now this was what I came for. I got to fly up and down those berms like they were meant to be ridden. This was a blast. No one in front, no one in back. That was until the fast guys caught up with me. Then it was like I was the little smart car on a freeway with 18 wheelers all around buzzing by me. They were flying past me so fast, it was scary. Not just the guys, either, but these girls were super amazingly strong too. These were no amateurs. Clearly they had done this before and I was way out of my league racing against these athletes. My Greensboro legs were no match for their level of fitness. Humbled does not even begin to describe how I felt among this caliber of competitiveness and skill. However, every guy who passed me made sure to offer little words of encouragement on my own ride, which I really thought was awesome. I think that truly makes a racer go from fast to fantastic in my opinion. The fact that they took time to speak to me while hauling arse, now that's sportsmanship. I did have to ignore the fact that it also clearly highlighted that they had enough extra breath to make those comments and I was so pathetically winded that all I could do was grunt back my own "Thanks".
By the time I was coming to the end of my 2nd lap, I was really starting to lose all my energy again. Climbs were getting really hard and I found myself granny gearing it far more than I thought I would. One girl and I were going back and forth with the passing between berms (which I was good at) and climbs (which she was good at). After a few minutes of that little game of hop-scotch, we decided that it was costing us both more energy to pass each other this way and just decided to settle in behind one another since it was getting us no where. I finally exited the singletrack and headed for the last and final time I knew I'd be crossing that finish line. The last time I'd hear the beep. I crossed over and was so elated that I greeted my team mate with a high five and a "I really hate you Scott" send off for encouragement. It was his turn now, and I was done. Literally. I don't think I'd ever been so tired in my life after a race. I was happy that there was no way he'd make the cut off to send me out again.
It was then that I'd realized I'd made the same mistake in one endurance race this year already that I did today. No mid-lap fueling. Apparently I was supposed to be fueling every half hour for this much effort. Since my 2nd lap was about 1.5 hours, I'd missed many a snacks. And, I didn't drink enough water. Next time, I have to be more conscious about that stuff. I get so caught up in the racing that I forget to eat. Another dumb rookie move.
Oh and FYI, pigging out and drinking everything in sight when you are done really is not good racing strategy. Again, who knew? So many rules.
Overall, the course was in AMAZING condition with not one muddy spot anywhere on the trail. It was dry as a bone and the weather could not have been any more ideal for a race. The organizers served Mellow Mushroom pizza for all the racers afterwards and it was the best pizza I'd ever eaten. Quite frankly, they could have put sauce on the box and served it to me and I would have eaten it anyway. That's how hungry I was. Ironically, they served the pizza at the amphitheater at the top of yet another big hill.....Uggghhh...Wilkesboro can be mean.
But, the truth was that even though it was really, really hard for me, I still had a great time and I would in fact do it again. I might do a few things differently next time, but it was a good enough and well run event that I could see myself signing up next year. It was extremely well organized and the vibe and volunteers were all fantastic. BMCC really know how to throw an event.
And while our team didn't podium, (I know! I was surprised too! I can't believe there is no award for 2nd from Last place in your category), I did get my pink shirt. And you can bet your sweet cakes, I will be wearing that one proudly!!!
Here's a little video of the race that my husband compiled from clips throughout the day. Enjoy.
6 Hours of Warrior Creek