Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Twelve Hours of WAU-Some!

Sitting here sore, bruised and exhausted, it's hard not to think about what an awesome time we had this weekend at our first Wausau 24 mountain bike race.  As enduro-virgins, Jay and I both opted to do the 2 person-12 hour races.  Thank heavens we did... the couple night laps I did were enough to show me I didn't want to go all night... on the bike, that is.

My friend and fellow Girl Fiend, Amanda "H&K", asked me to join her as a women's 2-person 12 hour team and Jay jumped in with 29nSngl dynamo Pete "Peaches" to tackle the men's 2 person 12 hr challenge on single speeds.  We were regaled with stories of camping and partyin' and ridin' for hours and just couldn't say No.

We arrived early on Friday to inspect the course and set up base camp at the park.  With the whole 29nSngl crew en route, we worked with Lindsay to find the biggest and best spot in the lot.  We circled all the wagons, parked the cars, set up our pop-up tents, tables, chairs, and fire pit and settled in for the fun and schenanigans.

With the race starting early on Saturday, we kept the party low-key on Friday night, enjoying some tasty vittles by the fire, tossing back a few beers, and spending a few minutes planning for the race in between great stories and belly laughs.  

Jay and I were both on board to kick off the first lap of each of our races, prepping for a 300 yd sprint at the start to where our bikes laid in the field in a LeMond start.  As the race began, we were immediately enveloped in a sea of racers and swinging arms.  Within the first 100 yds, my quads were screaming at me "what are you doing?!  we don't run!"  Ha!  But, I had strategically placed my new LaMere 29'er hardtail (aka the "Sparkle Pony") at the farthest point I could so, once I mounted the Sparkle Pony, I was already clear of the bikes littering the field.  

 My first lap was tough, getting caught early in a massive bottle neck as we entered the single track.  Although the slow pace early helped me recover from the run, it hindered my balance and momentum and the first 4 miles got the best of me... throwing me from my bike and onto the rocks 3 times and badly bruising my confidence and body alike.  When I returned to the transition area to switch with H&K an hour later, I was seriously questioning my ability to continue for 11 more hours.  H&K headed out and Jay and fellow Girl Fiend Janna got me to calm down and led me off to the camper to recover.  I ate, discovered zero broken bones, and tried to psych myself up for the next round.

Back in the transition area, H&K came in a few minutes faster than me and high-5'd me for good luck.  My lap was much smoother with reduced congestion on the trail and I took 3 min. off my time.  H&K went out again, throwing down awesome laps on her single speed, and returned to send me off for a 2 lap / 2 hour stint so she could eat, sleep and recover.  My laps stayed consistent, although my brain and body wondered on me occassionally.  Feeling clumsy in the challenging rock gardens, I had to remind myself that I was doing something I couldn't have remotely done a year ago.  And when my back screamed profanities at me, I used the single track to relax and focus on my technical skills, and then attacked the jeep trail as if it were a time trial.

When my 2 hour break came, I took time to get some more protein in my system and enjoyed a quick siesta in the Scamp.  As I headed back to the transition area I found out that we were sitting in a solid 2nd place, now with 8 laps done in 8 hours, and only 2 laps each left to complete.  It was all that I needed to gather up a second win and forget all the second-guessing just hours before.  It was 6:00pm and getting dark in the thick tree cover, so I had my headlamp on for the whole lap.  I played it smart in the rock gardens and was happy when I had gotten to my favorite flow section unscathed.

The trail was tight and rooted and winded around young trees and saplings.  With only a split-second's realization of what was about to happen, the right side of my bars nailed a tree and stopped me cold, throwing me hard onto the ground on the opposite side of the trail.  Pinned beneath my bike with my left foot still stuck in my pedal, I struggled to release myself and catch my breath.  It must've looked gnarly, cuz the man riding behind me gasped and stopped to ensure I was okay..  I was...  my leg warmer was torn at the knee and slowly darkening with blood and mud... it didn't want to bend when I got back on my bike, but luckily I had some time before the next climb.

I fought through the pain and the darkness for the rest of the lap and limped in a few minutes slower than my previous laps.  I must have looked rough because H&K just looked at me and said "Hard lap?" as she ventured off into the twilight.  On time as usual, she arrived to send me off for my last lap as darkness settled in for the night.  I went WAY easy in the rock gardens this time, even choosing to walk through the darkest one as my light illuminated the white painted boulders.

The silence then overwhelmed me as I realized I was all alone... in the dark woods... far from home.   As the fear of being mauled by a bear overtook me, I started singing Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz" in a breathy, slightly panicked voice as loud as I could muster as I rode solo for the next 20 minutes.  For the last 2 miles, I began seeing headlights on the trail behind me and began to relax.  Two miles to go... leave it out on the course!  I clicked it into a harder gear and forced myself to ride faster and get H&K out on the course for her last lap.

Fatigue was settling in, by H&K was in high spirits as she headed out, demanding I be "half in the bag" when she crossed the line.  I headed back to camp and got out of my chamois for the first time in 12 hours and bundled up against the cold air that surrounded us.  Just after 10pm, H&K crossed the line grinning ear to ear, sealing up our second place finish with 12 laps under our belts!

Jay crossed the finish line with lights off and his single speed held high above his head as they won the 12 hour OVERALL with 15 laps!  He was exhausted and quickly retreated to the camper to hide under the covers and rest before joining us by the fire.  With all the work over and glory to bask in, we sat by the fire and had a blast as guitars, stories, and farts filled the air and beer, moonshine, and Rumchata-cha filled our bellies.  By 3:00am I was toast, so I headed off to bed to catch some zzz's before returning to the course to cheer on the 24-hour challengers and wait for the awards ceremony.

H&K and Me taking home the glory

Looking back on it, I am more and more proud of our accomplishment.  We didn't 'train' for it, we didn't obsess over each detail, we just did it... and we ROCKED IT!  Add in camping and great friends and you have a perfect weekend!

H&K, Me, and Janna showing off our bling and banged up knees

Huge thanks to 29nSngl for inviting us along for the party - it was awesome!  Thanks to Podiumwear for making some durable cycling apparel that can withstand my multiple impacts with the earth, rocks, and trees.  Thanks to Wausau for putting on an awesome event!  Thanks to Buzzy at LaMere Cycles for letting me rip it up on the 29'er!  And more than anything and always, a huge thank you to my hubby Jay and Hollywood Cycles for getting me geared up and ready for the ride, and being there to support me as a person as I took on a big challenge.

Bruised and feeling Bad A$$, 
Kristy Kreme