Author: Rheannon Rua

Events

School Buses, Bikes and Beer


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There are two weekends in every year that are the first to be marked on the family calendar. These special weekends are occupied by the one and only Mountain Bike Oregon, aka MBO. MBO is like a summer camp for adults. It is a full 3 days of riding bikes in Oakridge, OR. All rides are shuttled and guided, coffee and breakfast are ready when you wake up and the endless beer garden opens at 4 pm. What could be better?

All signs point to fun in OROR!
All signs point to fun in OROR!

This year was my 4th year “working” as a guide and August was my 7th MBO. I am pretty sure that it gets better every year. As a guide, a simplified version breaks down something like this:

  1. You get the invite for the year
  2. You rate your love and knowledge for the trails
  3. You anxiously await for the guide master to assign your weekend rides
  4. You rock out another MBO

Guides don’t get paid. We come because we love it. We love the experience of guiding people from all walks of life on some of our favorite trails in the world. There is something special about sharing Oakridge with the world. There isn’t a bad trail on the list and 3 days isn’t even enough time to hit them all. Every MBO weekend is unique. Hell, every ride at MBO is unique. It is a special blend of trail conditions, weather and most importantly, people.

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Shuttles for days!

As usual, home base took a little love and care to set up. My husband had already done the bulk of the unpacking when Skyler and I arrived. Home base is getting a little more elaborate each year. We love to set up by the river with plenty of space for our tent, a seating area with our camp kitchen and a riverside hammock space. This year I think that we perfected the triple hammock hangout- complete with a cooler for our LaCroix.

Hauling in all the gear
Hauling in all the gear
LaCroix Cooler
LaCroix Cooler

I had a great line up for the weekend (although I don’t think there is a bad one). I started Friday off with one of my favorite rides – Lost Creek. Lost Creek is what I call an adventure ride. You get a little bit of everything with some hike-a-bike thrown in to make it interesting. I played sweep for the first two-thirds of the ride and enjoyed the company. As I become a better rider, I frequently get pushed to the front of the pack. This weekend was full of fast guides who were willing to hammer, so I took a back seat and chatted it up with a few riders, other guides, and a random rider who stumbled upon us. And if that wasn’t enough, I hit up one of the “bonus” shuttles at the end of the day and went up to Dead Mountain/Flat Creek.

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The view from Devil’s Backbone above Dead Mountain trail

On Saturday, I got to do the double – Lawler and Hardesty. This is a double shuttle ride that offers enough root and rock filled descending to make you forget any climbing. I followed it up with a special visit to vender row. Jim had taken out a Guerrilla Gravity the night before and I had to check them out. I was able to snag a demo Megatrail to hit up Dead Mountain for the second day in a row. Oh boy! It was AMAZING! I rocked out the new school flow sections in gravity mode and then switched over to trail mode for the second half. It was pretty unbelievable. It was like I was on a completely different bike. It is such a cool design. I can’t wait to check them out more.

It's not MBO without a hand-dipped bar from Dink's
It’s not MBO without a hand-dipped bar from Dink’s

We wrapped up Saturday by watching the mini-bike races in the beer garden over ice cream bars. The races are a guaranteed good time between the actual race and Randy’s nicknames for the riders.

Entertainment provided
The race track

I wrapped up my weekend with a little Moon Point. Getting to the trail head is a pretty good trek from Oakridge, so I am always happy to get this ride during MBO so I don’t have to worry about pedaling or driving up myself. Everyone is always so worn out and happy by the time Sunday rolls around. The climbs are always a little slower and the rests a little longer. Moon Point is a good way to end the weekend. It offers a screaming fast descent with wonderful views and then finishes on a river trail. Our ride had a few flats (Moon Point frequently does) and we opted to miss out on some river trail. I promise that I didn’t plan that.

Waiting at a road crossing
Waiting at a road crossing
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Rope swing under the bridge

This year, like every year, was a blast. I spent the weekend with inspiring people that know how to prioritize the important stuff — enjoying life while it’s here. I hope to see you all next year!

Race Report

24 Hours of Awesome


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The Oregon 24 is a very special race for me. In 2012, when it went by the name of High Cascades 24, it was my very first mountain bike race. I hadn’t been mountain biking for long, but my enthusiastic friends and husband had somehow convinced me that a 6-person team would be a lot of fun. I was a ball of nerves leading to the race and I was was convinced that I would be slow and in everyone’s way.  However, my fears did not come true and by the end of the lap I couldn’t stop smiling. My night lap was a little more of a challenge and the only way I got through it was by staring at the glow sticks adorning my bike and repeating “This is fun. I do this for fun” to myself until I almost started to believe it. At the end of the 24 hours, it felt so good to survive it that I actually did believe it was fun. So much fun that I decided that maybe, just maybe, I could be a mountain bike racer.

The race that started it all.
The race that started it all.

This year was my third Oregon 24. I missed 2013 because after a year of training for the CCP I had filled my sufferfest quota for the year. I believe that this was the best year yet. I raced on the best 5-person women’s team in history! No Apologies! represented with myself, Soso, ZimZam, and guest racers Bridget and Clarinda. We started out by setting up our home base in style. We had two onsite bike mechanics/personal cooks, a crazy friend riding a solo 12 hour, three dogs, a homemade banner made from beer boxes, mood lighting, multiple tents, two double eno hammocks, endless amount of food, fresh brewed coffee, adult beverages, lots of spirit and endless excitement. We were living like kings and we were ready to rock. After an obscene amount of pancakes with various fillings and flare, we made our plan of attack while our mechanic (my husband) dutifully tuned our bikes.

Our master-plan for world domination
Our master-plan for world domination

We were sending out Zimzam for the first shift and each of us would (if up for it) complete two lap shifts. Once Zimzam placed her bike at the startline and meandered to the beginning of the Le Mans start, it was on!

Skittles and ZimZam looking pumped for that run
Skittles and ZimZam looking pumped for that run

It took us a few rounds to really fine tune our off time, but eventually we got it together and heckler’s corner was born. Heckler’s corner was close to camp and allowed us a view of the incoming racers as they made their descent into the transition area. We could clock our riders’ times and heckle all those who passed!

Damn it feels good to be a heckler!
Damn it feels good to be a heckler!

Lap times were impressive and were much faster than we had initially thought. It was clear that we were going to do a lot better than we had planned for. Although there were 4 other 5-person women’s teams, we were blind to our competitions’ progress because of a timing booth hiccup. However, it didn’t matter. We were feeding of each other and pushing hard. We were determined to make this our best 24 hour yet!

Night Lap Fun
Night Lap Fun

My reaction to our better than expected lap times was a mix of excitement and fear. Once we got going, it was clear that this would not be a relaxed attack. We were going to give it our all and get as many laps as possible. Excitement was so high that when Soso went to take over she almost started riding through the transition zone (a big no no with a 30 minute time penalty). By the time I went on my first lap, the sun was setting and we were about to enter the hardest part of the race. After ZimZam’s second round of two laps, Bridget was ready to attack with the dreaded late/early shift: that 1:30 am time period when no respectable person should be on their bike. She handled it well and barely lost time even when her lights failed her on her way back in. She had to desperately creep behind racers to use their light. Later, I heard a racer describing a lap at night where she was convinced she was being stalked by an animal. I only smiled and imagined Bridget creeping behind her grasping for any stray light she could get.

The welcoming glow of camp
The welcoming glow of camp

We were barely gaining time on our laps and rocked it out for the rest of the race. We were stoked to finish with 20 laps! That was about 5 more than we expected (we will have to address our sandbagging problems later). Since the results were still a mess, we had to ask our neighboring team, the Dirt Divas, how many laps they had done. We had just gotten in at 24 hours and 15 minutes and they still had a rider out finishing their 21st lap. Damn! So close! We only hope that the Dirt Divas are willing for a rematch in 2016 and that we can have another full field for 5-person lady teams. All of the teams were really close and we all killed it out there! So, if you are reading this, start getting your team together and meet us out there! We might even share our pancakes and heckles.

ZimZam: Always prepared!
ZimZam: Always prepared!
Personal

Back in the Game


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My early summer was struck down by injury. I was off the bike for almost 7 weeks. Completely off– I didn’t ride around town, the block, anything. For an average American, this doesn’t sound like a big deal. To me, it was a major life disruption. It made me realize how amazing my life is on a day to day basis; how thankful I am to have the opportunity for adventure every day of my life. I know that a big part of it is me, my husband and my community. We put a lot of energy into building a life of adventure, wonder and sheer bliss. I struggle with anxiety and adventure is the best medication I have found. It just has to happen- bike or no bike. And it did. There were sunsets and waterfalls all around, but I have to say, there is nothing like mountain biking. I sometimes feel like we have been let in on the best secret in the world. I don’t understand why everyone isn’t spending all their waking hours (and more) on a bike.

The best views
The best views…

After 7 weeks off, I am reminded of another reason why mountain biking is the best sport ever (p-value = 0.000000007). It is such a mental sport! It takes me to a place in my head where I have to meet some of my deepest fears and one of my biggest critics. It is a constant dance with yourself and with your limits. Last week, I did my first real trail rides since the injury. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it, even though my injury wasn’t from a big crash (I literally fell over sideways from a standstill and dislocated my shoulder), I was still feeling timid. This has a fair basis in reality since the odds of dislocating it are much greater right now, but I was surprised at how timid I was.

...and the best friends.
…the best friends…

My first lap down the beautiful steep, rooty mess that is Cummins Creek introduced me to one of the biggest problems with fear: sometimes it makes you do stupid stuff. I had to find the line between being too timid and too brave. Even though I roll my eyes whenever my husband says it, sometimes you just need speed AND you just need to go for it. You are either in or out, but being in between often throws you over the bars, into the corner or on your butt. This is the line I was playing with. It’s the line that I am always playing with, but it is heightened when returning from a crash or injury. I have to both trust myself and know my limits.

...and the happiest dogs.
…and the happiest dogs.

The second lap was pure joy. I opened it up. I played well on that line. I loved every second of it. This is why I love mountain biking. If you are able to examine your fears, your trust issues, and your own criticism, it will reward you one hundred fold. It’s a bonus if you can apply these lessons to your daily life as well, OR perhaps I am overthinking it. Either way, I love it and I am so happy to be back at it!

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Goal Reset


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I dislocated my shoulder 5 weeks ago. I have been dedicating myself to dealing with this injury as gracefully as possible. I vowed not to have any major meltdowns or sink into depression. Injury is integrated with the sport that I love and I have to learn how to deal with it. I prefer to keep it to a minimum, but it is an unstated risk that we take every time we get on the bike. I won’t say that I have been 100% successful with cultivating grace, but like any challenge, sometimes it takes a few tries. I might say it is a little like that skinny that you keep riding off of. You don’t fall, you just kind of ride off the side. You keep doing this until you listen to yourself and look ahead and relax. Nothing to it after a few tries. So, that is where I am. I keep riding off the side of my injury skinny, then I shake it off, relax and look ahead.

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And the good news? This shoulder dislocation isn’t as bad as it could have been. I have a mild Hill-Sachs impaction and a minor tear in my inferior glenohumeral ligament. It will take time, but it won’t require surgery and likely won’t take as much time to heal as the other bad things that can happen when you dislocate your shoulder. I am trying to be good and listen to my physical therapist even when he dodges all questions about timelines involving the bike. I guess we will know when I am ready. I just have to be patient.

MRI
Not too bad!

In the meantime I have been finding ways to stay busy. I gave my PhD proposal seminar. I have have been camping and hiking with friends. I am taking advantage of not having wheels by hiking in wilderness areas and with some of my very best friends who don’t ride bikes (I still love them). I have been playing the role of the supportive shuttler; when you can’t ride it is important to enable your friends to have as much fun as possible. And of course, I have been doing PT exercises and spending a lot more time on stationary recumbent bikes at the gym.

Shredding it in the gym
Shredding it in the gym

Now that I have a plan and an end in sight, I am starting to look ahead and think about how to adjust my goals accordingly. I really love goal setting. As cheesy as it can be, it is a system that works well for me. My goals pre-injury were to finish the Cascade CreamPuff  and my first enduro, climb 500,000 feet for the year, improve my downhill skills, and learn how to manual. I don’t have a date I will be back on the bike and I don’t know how slow the progression will be. However, I can think it is safe to say that my planned enduro and the CreamPuff are out. I still have my fingers crossed for the Fritter (the half CreamPuff). I will have to wait and see if that will be possible, but a girl can dream. What does that mean for my future with the CreamPuff? Will I tackle it for 2016? Well, I wouldn’t want to give any spoilers. What about my climbing goals? Missing two months when you are trying to climb half a million feet in one year is a pretty good setback. I can’t imagine being able to make up for that AND make progress on my PhD. I will say that IF my return goes well, I will have to shoot for 417,000 ft. That means I will have to come back strong with my climbing, but I am going to be optimistic with that. Downhill skills? Well, that was a loose goal anyway. I just wanted to go out and practice. I can do that when I am free to do the fun stuff. Manual? Yep, I can still work on that towards the end of the year!

A lot of blank days...
A lot of blank days…

I am extremely stubborn, so I hope that these will be realistic adjustments to the year. It is possible that I will have to readjust as I go farther down the road to recovery, but that is part of the process. Goal setting is a process of getting to know yourself. It is about learning where to put the end point for maximum growth. It isn’t about hard and fast rules. It is about setting yourself up for accomplishing things that are just out of reach. It is about learning from failures and setbacks. This injury is just a setback. I hope to learn how to let go of some of my stubbornness and be kind and patient with myself. Dealing with downtime can be just as important as pushing performance. It can also serve as a reminder to appreciate everyday that I am a well enough to spend hours on the bike doing what I love most.
Do you have any suggestions for dealing with setback? How do you deal with injury?

Gear Review

The Journey and the Jersey


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I have to admit something. I have never even been on a cycling team before. I was searching for a team that I could feel proud of. I wanted to be on a team with like-minded, kick-ass individuals who were passionate about cycling the same way that I was. I wanted a team that was about more than performance. So, when I realized that there weren’t enough teams that fit this profile, I decided that we would just have to make one!

A team that I could count on when storming the castle!
You have to find the right team that will help you storm the castle when you can’t even stand up.

The thing about creating a team when you have never been on one before is that it can take time to figure things out. However, one thing that I knew from the start is that we needed jerseys. We needed cute and cozy jerseys that we would be stoked to wear. So, we started the search. For a small team in the sunrise of their career, it can be a daunting task. We struggled to find options that wouldn’t break the bank and would be able to support a small order size. We also struggled with the diversity of our team; as not everyone would want a tight fitted cross country style jersey.

That is when it was time to step out of the box a bit. Why not find a company that would fit our values AND our style needs and print them ourselves? Enter  Ashley Rankin, founder of Shredly. From the beginning, Ashley was super supportive and helpful. She dealt with my questions about screen printing, order logistics, timelines AND she was still happy to support our fledgling team.

So many colorful options!
So many colorful options!

We knew that supporting a US clothing company that designs gear for and by a lady shredder was a no brainer, but we had never had the Shredly experience. There are not enough stores that carry Shredly. I hope that will change in the future, but for now, perhaps our experiences can help inform your decision to go Shredly.

Once we got the gear in our grubby little hands, we knew it would be magic. It was REALLY hard not to wear the jersey before getting it printed! A quick try on gave me my first impression. All I could think was: Stupid Sexy Flanders! I was dancing around the house repeating: “It’s like wearing nothing at all!” Seriously cozy.

I couldn’t resist getting a pair of the Louise MTB shorts and yogachams to go with the jersey.  Neither of these disappoint. The chamois sit a little shorter then I expected. At first a felt a little startled, but in performance, it allows it to sit better when worn with knee pads. The chamois itself was has been super comfortable on every ride. The shorts, besides have a great print, are made with a light weight fabric that I will continue to praise as the summer continues.

Shredding in comfort
Shredding in comfort

The jersey printed like a dream. As Ashley promised, it took the print really well. Even our Honeybones designed Branson looks great on the back of the big jersey pockets. Beyond the print, the lightweight jersey is completely breathable, fits well and provides the perfect amount of coverage. As demonstrated by that stupid sexy Flanders, I frequently forget about it when I am on the bike. This is a wonderful thing. The last thing that you should be thinking about when you are shredding is your jersey. Although highly discouraged, it performs well during shoulder reductions as well.

Can't miss these jerseys on the race field!
These colors don’t hide.

The added bonus is that the jerseys are super easy to spot! It is easy to spot your teammates out on the field!

Still need convincing? Here’s what other No Apologies! have to say:

Stephanie Says: “I love supporting a homegrown company, especially a women’s specific company that shreds.  I mostly like that Shredly has well thought out clothing for the task.  It seems that Shredly has hit the nail on the head.  I have to say the jerseys are very comfortable and flattering, and provide enough coverage on the backside.  The only thing I would request would be deeper pockets with more security.  I also added the Yogacham and a pair of the Kortney MTB Long shorts.  I do agree with Rheannon that the yogasham is a little on the short side, but they keep my butt happy with well thought out padding.  I enjoy that overshorts are a lightweight material, and have adjustable velcro tabs on the sides.  These are not only great for shredding, but I’ve also used them for commuting.  They are the perfect length to keep your knees comfortably warm on chilly mornings and you can pop the zipper vents open on the front if things start to heat up. The side leg pocket is also great because you can put stuff in without it feeling baggy and flopping around.  All in all I am impressed with Shredly threads, I like that you can get down and dirty and look great doing it.  I look forward to adding more Shredly to the bike clothes corral.  Thank you Ashley for creating Shredly!”

Michelle Says: “I love my Shredly jersey – it’s long enough that it doesn’t ride up on my belly, and it’s a true-to-size fit; if you’re a medium, buy a medium. If you’re a large, buy a large! There’s nothing more irritating than purchasing what you think is your size and end up either flapping in the wind or feeling like a stuffed sausage. The fabric does a great job of wicking away moisture, and odor. Comfortable, looks great, stays dry… perfect!”

Sarah Says: “This jersey is like wearing your favorite t-shirt, fitting perfectly without any itchy/flappy/zippy drama. But unlike your favorite tee, it’s super breathable and the mesh panels perform well in this crazy heat.  Style-wise, it strikes a great balance of having a technical fabric with great coverage in the back, while looking pretty sweet  when we’re walking around at an event. I wasn’t so sure about the coral color at first, but it’s unique and the fit is flattering. It has become one of my go-to jerseys I grab for a ride!”

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Accepting Injury with Grace?


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I was hoping that this post would be an encouraging tale of how hard work pays off, about the excitement of taking my first podium, and about the decision to upgrade to Expert. Instead, it will be an introspective post about dealing with injury. As a group, cyclists are no strangers to injury. It is part of the sport. Hopefully it is a minor part, but eventually we all have at least a small brush with it.

Sling time!
Sling time!

After a fun packed day of trail building, I ventured out on a fun ride with my husband Jim and my teammate Soso. It was supposed to be a quick ride packed with some fun roots, a great view and some smooth steep descending. The route is one of my go-to routes when I want something short but engaging. Everything was going along great and I was discussing my goal of a weekly ride on the trail because it plays to my weaknesses but gives back with an extraordinary amount of fun. As we began a wonderfully steep root filled climb, I broke one of the top mountain bike rules: DON’T LOOK WHERE YOU DON’T WANT TO GO! I was passing by a small upturned tree/washout that someone had stuffed full of cut logs and I was pondering the reasoning behind it when suddenly I was in it. Oops.

The pit of doom
The pit of doom

It was one of those classic low speed falls, but the landing was so awkward. I knew right away what had happened. Jim and Soso asked if I was okay and I calmly responded, “I dislocated my shoulder.” There was no mistaking it. I couldn’t move it. I couldn’t put weight on it to get myself out of the pit. Jim held me upright as Soso carefully extracted my bike from under me. My training as a wilderness first responder only put one thing in my head: relocation was gonna hurt. Soso pulled out her handy wilderness first aid book and it told us about a magical technique for reduction. Below the scene of the fall was a log over a small creek. It was the perfect locations for the Stimson technique. I wandered down there and hung my arm over the edge. Without weight it went right back in. It was such a relief that I didn’t even think before lifting my arm up in celebration. Oops again. It went right back out. After an extra minute and some weight, it was back in for the second time. This time I carefully cradled the arm and started the hike out while Jim and Soso struggled with the extra bike. When we got to the road, I carefully propped my arm on my knee and rolled out on the bike. After a few phone calls, ice and ibuprofen, the realization of what happened started to sink in. I certainly would not be racing the Coast Hills Classic the following day, and my plans for upcoming months started shifting in my mind.

Perfect location for the Stimson technique
Perfect location for the Stimson technique

I am still waiting to get the full picture of my recovery. The x-ray showed that nothing was broken and that our reduction was successful. I am in a sling for the week and waiting for a more detailed exam once the swelling goes down. The next step will either be physical therapy or an MRI to see if anything was torn. But for now I wait.

A better kind of pit to fall into
A better kind of pit to fall into

I use cycling to keep me sane. I tend to think of it as a healthy addiction; but like any addiction, coming down is hell. My calendar was bursting with weekend plans and training rides. I was going to seek my revenge on the Cream Puff. My social life is integrated with cycling. Now what? I have enough work from my PhD program to fill the time, but what I need is something to balance that out. I need something equally as demanding to give me an outlet.

Fungi can be demanding
Fungi can be demanding

I am trying to find the grace to accept this injury. I am trying not to dwell on lost training, social rides or races. I am trying to accept this as I would accept any cycling challenge. I am trying to see this as nothing more than another technical feature, that with time, courage and the right approach I will master. After I master it I will be stronger, better and more confident to master the next challenge. So I am making my own skills clinic of how to accept injury. Please wish me the patience to see it though so I don’t get impatient and dislocate it again! Here’s to a full recovery and a quick return to the bike!

To recovery!
To recovery!
Personal

Failed Goal = Lifestyle change


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Part Three: The aftermath

For the following months I felt pretty frustrated and disappointed. I felt that I could have finished if I would have trained harder, pushed myself more, started earlier etc. I found endless alternate versions of reality where I was able to finish the race. That is when the big question started to appear: would I try again? The answer went back and forth. I knew that I need a break. Training kind of sucked. I wasn’t able to go on fun rides with my friends. I needed to put it behind me.

Time to relax and have fun!
Time to relax and have fun!

However, I am thankful that I didn’t leave everything behind. After a month off (mostly due to a terrible flu and moving), Jim and I started to get out on the bike again. After all the misery was cleansed from our psyche, we found that we were still riding close to training volume minus a few misery quests. It was like our bodies had been reset and we now operated at a higher level. I started my PhD that Fall and at first it was a challenge to get rides in. I was teaching, researching and taking classes. To counteract this, I sold my road bike and bought a cross bike so that I could make my commute into a longer ride. We invented the dimple commute, which changed the trek to the university from a flat 6 miles in town to 1,400 feet and about 14 miles on mostly trail and gravel road. It was amazing. It allowed me to get more riding in and experience more sunrises and sunsets. Both are good things.

Early Morning on Dimple
Early Morning on Dimple
Early Evening on McCullough
Early Evening on Skillings

The following year (last year) Jim and I both logged greater mileage and elevation than our year of training. It felt amazing. No training (see TOE image from part 1 as evidence that sometimes it is good to train for things), lots of fun and more riding. Training for the Puff had unknowingly caused a major lifestyle change. It took such a large goal to create such a dramatic change. Looking back, I feel a little crazy for choosing that goal, but I am better for it.

IMG_0517This spring I was addressed again with that nagging question and I answered yes. Actually to be honest, I momentarily went crazy and when I came to I was holding a free Cream Puff entry in my hand. What happens at ACM should stay at ACM, but it won’t. Instead it opened up a new year of training, misery and challenge. What a good year for it too!

This little raffle item sent me on a crazy eyed mission
This little raffle item sent me on a crazy eyed mission

I have more base miles, better routines, an amazing team and the best race support (since Jim says he will never try again he has made it his mission to make sure that I cross this finish line). I will even have Bridget out there with me again! So here it goes. I have officially started my homebrewed training plan. Wish me luck and if you feel like you can force me to actually do training stuff (what are intervals?) or just want to have some fun please come ride with me! Or if you feel up to it, join me out there in August!

Wanna see this in August?
Wanna see this in August?
Race Report

Failed Goal = Lifestyle change


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Part Two: Race Day

The day of: After a night of poor sleep, I awoke to my knee wound still aching from the crash, sleepy and nervous about how the day would unfold. I was anxious to get on my bike and start riding. I was bursting with anticipation as we lined up at the start line. After a short delay we started down the road for our neutral start.

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The office: where it all begins. Image stolen from Truss Love.

As the race officially began, we all filed into a short section of river trail. It was madness. Everyone was clustered together in a tight, impatient line, waiting to get up the hike-a-bike sections. If I pushed past someone, my heart rate skyrocketed. If I stayed behind someone, I got delayed even longer. I cursed the pile up and made another tally mark on my mental checklist of reasons why I dislike river trails. Eventually we started to spread out and we hit the gravel road. I was already frazzled, but the miles of climbing started to melt the frustration away. I was in the back of the group, but I started to catch people along the gravel road climb. I found my friend (and hopefully future No Apologies! member) Bridget. We leap frogged back and forth as we began the descent. Her single speeder legs destroyed me on the climbs as I would sit down and spin. Then I would catch her on the downhill.

Chasing Bridget
Chasing Bridget

I love the Cream Puff course (seriously, sign up for the 50 miler). It is on one of my all time favorite routes and I kept getting caught up in it. It was hard not to enjoy the wonderful views in the open meadows. I wanted to stop and hang out but I had to keep going. I felt good. Or at least I did until I rounded up to the last big climb of the first lap. Once we hit the newly built singletrack climb, the day started to catch up with me. But somehow, like magic, the last downhill portion of that lap erased it all, and I found myself at the lap point, ecstatic from the descent. I looked at my time and thought: I can do this! I hit the river trail again with all my might. That is when it all started to fall apart. As I mentioned earlier, I kind of hate river trails. I think they are beautiful, but I’ve never gotten used to the constant ups and downs. The rolling terrain really takes it out of me. I would much rather tuck my head down for a brutal climb than deal with the constant undulation of a river trail. I tried to ignore the pain and enjoy the sound of the water. I focused a little too much on that sound and I started to think it was calling to me. I imagined stopping there and taking a swim. It was a hot day and nothing sounded better than jumping in that cold water. But somehow I kept going. I hit the gravel road climb for the second time, put my head down and started spinning. I kept spotting Bridget in the distance, but she was pulling away from me. I became keenly aware of my declining speed. I looked at the time. It started to sink in that there was no possible way for me to make the final cut off. I could make the first cut off but probably not the second, and definitely not the final one. This realization really took the wind out of my sails. How far would I keep going? Would I wait for them to pull me off?

The end.
The end.

I watched as more and more people passed me going the wrong way on the road. They had officially pulled out of the race and were headed back to the staging area. It was hard to keep my spirits up as I watched my fellow racers give up. When I was nearing the next aid station, I found my Jim limping along the road. He looked worse than I felt. I knew then that we were done. It was time to call it. One of the sweeps started circling us like a vulture, waiting for our bodies to drop to the ground. We alternated between walking and riding to the next aid station. When we rolled in, our friends confirmed our decision to stop. Bridget had decided to keep pushing until she was pulled (at her next pass of this aid station). We asked about our other friends who were still in the fight (one of them eventually made it across the finish line). But we were done. We gave it everything and we didn’t make it. As we waited for the shuttle to take us back down, I didn’t even have the energy or mental capacity to feel bad yet. It was over.

So tired.
So tired.

Have you ever pulled out of a race? How did you feel about it later? Tell us about it! I will share more about my experience in part 3: the aftermath.