Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Little Something Different - TBF MTB 50 Miler Team Relay

So a week prior to the TBF 50 Miler, Jen and I were hiking with our friends Peter and Allyson.  Peter and I were out front and as we were talking we thought it would be fun to do the race as a 4 person team with the girls.  We knew Allyson would be up for it, but how would we convince Jen?  Her awesome staff would be able to handle the timing while she does one lap so that wouldn't be the problem.  She has only ever done one race, a triathlon about three years ago, and she hasn't ridden her mountain bike in nearly two years since before she broke her foot.

Me: "Hey Jen!  Are you in for something fun?"
Jen: "No!"
Dang... too smart for us guys...
Peter: "Allyson's doing it too!"
Allyson: "I am?"
Jen: "No!"
Peter: "We're all doing it together and it'll be fun!  Plus there's drink's and food afterward!"
Jen: "Does this involve bikes?  What are we doing?"
Me: "Each doing one lap of the MTB 50 course (insert puppy-dog smile face).  It's only 12.5 miles."
...long pause...
Jen: "I'll have to check with Bill and Mark..."
Me: "Sweet!  That's not 'no'!"

I don't think we tricked her... we're not that smart.  But some serious peer pressure and puppy dog eyes were employed :-).  She worried and stressed herself out about it all week but eventually just left it up to me to make sure her bike was ready to go and I would tell her when to fuel and with what so she didn't have to worry about that too.

Race morning came and we were out there way before Sunrise setting up.  It was a bit colder than we would have liked, but then again it is the end of October!  We were rewarded however with a beautiful sunrise over Folsom Lake.

Allyson would lead us off for the first lap and she did fantastic on her Santa Cruz Juliana.  She laid down a lap time of 1 hour and 12 minutes before handing it off to Jen for lap two.

I set off to intersect Jen at various parts of the course to make sure she was doing ok and to take some photos.  But I'll leave the recap to her, in her words...

Yep... Clint's summary of how I was talked (bamboozled?!) into doing the MTB 50 Mile race is actually pretty accurate! (I'm always on my guard when Clint and Peter have been plotting.) It's been almost two years since I've even ridden my mountain bike, and I've barely had time to ride my road bike; I don't even have a "base" fitness level at this point. (See babe, I read your posts about training and "base" fitness!) I spend most of my weekends being with athletes, not being an athlete.  
I coordinate all aspects of registration and timing for TBF; I oversee a fantastic team of ~12 ladies who get our athletes signed in, and help gather split/finish times. I absolutely love what I do, and I love the team I work with. So to be honest, I was struggling to leave my "happy place" in the timing tent, and put myself out there to compete as a bona fide participant!  

But peer pressure prevailed, and after getting the race started with my timing team... I found myself in bike shorts and a jersey, freezing cold, eating a Hammer Gel, and waiting for Allyson to come across the line for the tag.

She came tearing around the corner, we did an air-high-five, and after failing to get clipped in quickly (so much for race-pace), I was off!

Thankfully I had very little traffic because the 4-person teams had started last. This helped me get comfortable with my bike, and remember which levers switched which gears. :-P  

I know Clint can recall every line, every berm and and every rock he comes across during a race... but to be honest, I was just trying to survive! Clint went out to different points on the course to take pictures, and make sure I was still alive. I tried to pretend like I could actually ride my bicycle, and not spend toooo much time walking.

The race leaders lapped me around mile 7, and I was so paranoid about holding up someone who actually knew what he was doing, that I pulled over early and often to let guys pass. I also figured it was good karma for all the times my hubby passes people out on the course. :-)

When I'm outside my comfort zone, I compensate with wisecracks and jokes, so I worked my way through the miles by yelling things at my TBF road-safety friends. Quips included "are you freakin' kidding me, I'm only at mile 3?!", "I can't believe we use our perfectly good income to pay for you to do this sort of nonsense!" (when I saw Clint), and "I have a new way to diagnose insanity... anyone who does this race as a solo rider." But in all honesty, I re-gained so much admiration for everyone who is willing to go out, and be in a situation where they stretch themselves to do their best. TBF emphasizes helping people live an active lifestyle, and being out on the course made me enjoy my normal support role in whole new way.

I finally got through the technical sections, across the levy, and to the fire road climb to the top of the water tower hill. I definitely walked up part of that hill, and I was really starting to get tired. But I pushed on for the greater good of "Team Kicking & Screaming" and after coming back from the turnaround I was dumped onto the pavement. My one true moment of "racing" (as opposed to "surviving") came at this point. There was a guy on a flat-pedal bike (I'm sure Clint could tell you the manufacturer/model for said bike, as well as every type of component it had... but I don't have a clue!). We were on a straightaway and I knew I was getting close to the finish line, so I put my hands on the handlebar aero-style, put my head down, shifted up a couple gears, and passed him. Yep, my one moment of glory. :-) 
A few more turns, and I FINALLY came around the last corner to see my timing staff cheering for me, and Clint waiting for the tag with the world's biggest smile on his face. I was too tired to fist-bump, so after an exclamation of "great job buddy!"... he was gone. It had taken me 1:35 to do my lap. (Spoiler alert: As I had predicted, Clint's lap time was less than half of my lap time. Yes, less than half. I'm going to chalk it up to the fact that he has a carbon bike and I don't. :-P Yep. That was definitely it!) 
It was fun to compete with my close friends, and my best friend... but I wouldn't exactly say I'm hooked! (Sorry babe!) There's room for only one professional athlete in our family, and I love volunteering and cheering so much that I think I'll stick with that calling. 
So on that note... racer-Jen out... and I'll see you at the finish line with cowbell in hand. 

When she polished off her lap and handed it to me, I set off in a dead sprint on the 1/4 mile of DG before hitting the trail.  I needed to warm up... even with coffee and a Tropical Hammer Gel (also caffeinated) I couldn't get my heart rate above 68 as I sat in the relay tag box spinning backwards!  I hadn't ridden the Granite Bay trails in a while, but they were still buffed and really, really fast.  I was feeling surprisingly strong and the Highball is always a perfect choice for those trails.  The course took us in the counter-clockwise direction which is reverse from normal so the corners don't quite have the dirt pushed up in the right spots, requiring just a bit more attention.  However the nice thing is that there aren't braking bumps this direction.

After a little course extension over to the Oak Point camping area for no purpose other than to get more mileage  I finally hit the fun stuff that snakes through the trees on sandy hard pack   I was sprinting out of the corners and having a blast but remembering to stay relaxed and just keep the flow.  As I came out of the woods to skirt around the "bench hill" I popped up off a little rock mound to clear the few feet of rocks that lie after it, but slightly miss-timed the boost and flew nose heavy until I landed back on the smooth trail.  It wasn't quite a nose-wheelie-endo-save but it was closer than I would like for just cruising at Granite Bay!  Just a reminder that I still needed to focus.  I pumped the corners on the little descent down to the road crossing and made my way over the sand to Doton's Point.  There I'd get back into the trees and started to catch some more people.  I rode all of the granite rock patches and rutted climbs on this section of the trail without incident and kept on truckin' back through Beeks Bight parking lot and looping towards the bench hill again.  On the last rock feature before the short climb up to the bench, I hit the top rock to jump the whole thing (a trick I learned from my DH skilled buddy Jared Kessler) and in the air noticed I was flying a bit farther than I'd planned on and slightly off line for the left hander coming up.  So I had to land with the bike already in a left-lean and back pedal a quarter turn to get the right pedal down quickly to make the turn onto the double-wide planks (something you don't want to miss!).  No problem... except that backwards pedal while landing caused my chain to come off.  As I rolled on I manipulated it with the derailleur to get it back on just in time to start the climb up the hill, passing two more riders.  On the ridge I caught another rider as I got to the most difficult rocky patch to climb in this direction and I had to take a different line than normal.  I didn't quite make it and had to dab, oh well.  I made the pass shortly after and hammered down the descent, finishing it off with a two wheel drift into the final 'S' turn, banking my rear wheel off the base of the tree in the center and catching the tail of the banking on the exit... FUN!  After that the course took some traversing singletrack, road and fire road transfers to the south and then up the water tower hill... which always hurts.  After the descent from the tower the course went out and back on the fire road and on my way out I saw another Folsom Bike racer Christopher Holmes coming in the opposite direction (can't miss him with that lime green Niner Air 9!).  I was just about to razz him and holler "Don't let me catch you Chris!!!" But as he got closer I saw it in his eyes... Oh he know's what's up... :-).  I made the U-turn with about two miles to go and kept up my nice steady effort until I made the turn onto the open parking lot where I could see that I was closing on Chris up ahead.  He entered the last singletrack about 50 yards up and I couldn't help myself, he looked like he was tired (this was the end of his 4th lap!) and needed the extra motivation to finish strong... "Chris don't let me catch you!!!"  I could see that he threw down some extra effort after that but I still closed right up to him with two corners to go.  We rounded the BBQ party area to cheers and after the 90 degree left into the finish shoot we both sprinted to the line but there just wasn't enough real estate left for me to pass.

Way to finish strong Chris!!!  That was fun!  I was shooting for a lap time between 45 and 50 minutes and I pulled the fastest lap of the day in 46:35.

I handed my "baton" to Peter (actually handed him my spare tube because I only remembered one 29er tube!) and he took off for the final lap aboard my ENVE equipped Tallboy (not bad for a loaner bike eh?).
He turned in a good lap at 55 minutes and had a blast on the bike, commenting that it just pop's up over things effortlessly... yep!

I had a blast just racing for fun and supporting my teammates.  And I'm SO proud of Jen for getting out there and doing her best.

We won the four person coed relay category too!  We were the only coed team but so what?!  Woohoo!!!

Huge thanks to TBF for a super fun event, very well marked course, ordering up some good weather, and for the three kegs of beer to choose from (Racer 5 IPA mmm mmm good!), bbq and awards afterwards!  Hard to beat that!