All night at Sutton bluff we saw lightning in the distance, and I was convinced we would be waking up in a downpour. Luckily that didn’t happen, and 4:15 rolled around and we hopped out of bed. Here begins the saga of Caroline taking care of me… in my excitement (ok, panic) about the weekend, I’d perfected my food plan for the race. But I had really only considered food for the race. So breakfast wasn’t really on the menu. I did bring some oatmeal (my typical camp breakfast), but Caroline had brought eggs and avocado and cheese for breakfast burritos. She also brought yogurt and granola. She’s also super-awesome, and let me join her for a deluxe breakfast (of all said things).
Thus also begins the weekend definition of Caroline as my wife for the weekend (WFW). Throughout the day, Caroline found herself hanging out with many other wives watching and crewing for their husbands… while she was stuck with me. I think she had a pretty good time chatting with them, though. I also heard from many people after the race that “she reaaaaallly loves you” so she totally qualifies as wife. Thanks dear!
Start to CP1: Crash it out
After a somewhat neutral roll-out about ½ mile down a forest service road, we dipped into the trees and the race was on! The pace started pretty conservative, and I camped out on the back of a long train of people. My friend Anatoly gave me some great advice when we were discussing endurance events – basically, the first half of the race is a warmup. I decided that in the context of the OT (and knowing what the last few miles hold), the “halfway” mark would be checkpoint 3 at 66 miles. Still, I found myself a little antsy. I was able to keep everything in check and was relieved to see that at the front of the train was none other than Emily (EK)! I knew she had a ton of experience from NUE races and is an endurance expert. I figured her pace would be great… if I could hold on all day (100 miles of singletrack makes for a loooong day). Getting close to the Sutton Bluff water stop (16 miles in) there were a few significant uphills, and I think I passed EK, owing to my singlespeed status. There were also some pretty sketchy cliffs that I rode. Coming down off one of these, I took a steep switchback a little too hard and crashed out, tearing my shorts. I now consider myself a legit mountain biker.
After the water stop, I was excited to be in a good position (relative to the other lady racers) and felt good, so I rolled up the paved road to dip into the singletrack. I promptly lost my mind. Somewhere in the 12 miles between the water stop and checkpoint 1, I probably crashed 5 or 6 times. I stopped keeping track. There were a few of my trademark keel-over-while-clipped-in falls, but also a few legit ones. Highlights include:
- Hitting my face on some rocks
- Impaling myself on a stick (not really, but it felt like it)
The log-to-the-chest was the final straw – I had stopped to take a few breaths and calm down a few miles prior, but managed to crash anyways. I was pretty bruised already, and not even ¼ of the way done! I sat in the middle of the trail for a few minutes and debated how shitty it would feel to check out at CP1. Picking my pride back up off the ground, I decided on a few mantras for the day: 1. Stay happy, 2. Stay aggressive, 3. Stay confident. The last two don’t exactly seem to follow from my little breakdown, but I need reminders that I CAN, in fact, ride my bike sometimes. And I CAN, in fact, ride over a lot of stuff (yay 29ers…). So I decided to chill out, be stoked on riding my bike on some awesome new trails, and forget about any expectations.
CP1 to CP2: I stopped crashing so much
In fact, I didn’t crash at all! I’m sure I put some feet down, and definitely walked a bit, but I just did what I had decided and enjoyed the ride. The OT is pretty awesome… I have to give a ton of credit to Jim and Wendy Davis for taking the pie-in-the-sky idea of a 100 mile singletrack point to point race and making it a glorious reality.
Also, I was stoked that I was basically sticking to my food and water plan – I even needed a pit stop at the water stop at barton fen! Note to self – burn the bib shorts. They’re so great…until they’re not.
CP2 to CP3? Time gets wonky in here, I really don’t know when things happened
I was surprised to find that, even after deciding to rein it in and chill out, I would eventually catch back up to Emily on the climbs! She’d lose me on flats and descents (as I get better at the rigid system and dial in my brakes and whatnot, hopefully I can improve descents, on the flats I’ve pretty much resigned myself to spinning out in one gear) but the beauty of singlespeed is that you have no options – if the trail goes up, up you go! I added to my internal monologue – ride light (aka, don’t flat, ride smart), and keep contact. Mostly, keep contact with the ground. Rubber side down. But also… I started entertaining the idea of keeping contact with Emily. Still doing my own thing, mostly trying to just survive, but… it never hurts to know you’re not that far behind!
In fact, somewhere along the way, I wound up in the lead? Wut? I rolled into CP3 ready to begin race mode… I’d survived the warmup! I’d also like to pause for a moment to comment on just how awesome all the volunteers were. All day, there were people out helping racers at the water stops and checkpoints handing out food and water and cheer, and also helping fix and minor (or major) bike issues. Case in point, I rolled into checkpoint 3, and immediately someone grabbed my bike to wipe down the dust and re-lube my chain, while I was offered pickles (yes!), hammer gels (yes!), and SPAGHETTI! In the middle of the woods! Unfortunately, my stomach was having none of that. But, they made pasta! In the middle of nowhere! Seriously. The volunteers were the best.
Next up: I suck at transitions. Apparently. Because I rolled into CP3, left my bike, ate a few pickles, and sat down to change my socks. While hanging out and re-grouping, Emily came in, got whatever she needed from her drop bags, and left. I really didn’t think I was going too slow… but I am not anywhere near as dialed as she is. It’s nuts. So, back to the back of the train I went. I also make a plan with Caroline to keep the stop at CP4 quick – I would just need new bottles and my lights (I abandoned the sock change idea and went straight to my superior socks for the remainder of the race).
CP3 to CP4: I didn’t see Emily
After leaving a few minutes (ok, a few too many?) after EK, I kept waiting to see her. I also got a little freaked out after not seeing OT trail blazes for a while – I knew Maria had gone off course, had I done the same? I stopped to check the map just to make sure. I’d much rather spend a few minutes making sure I didn’t make a wrong turn than to ride an extra few miles (yeah, sometimes I’m lazy, even in the middle of a 100 mile race). Luckily, I was still on course and quickly hit the Highway 32/DD crossing that I was supposed to. And the OT blazes returned. Yay!
On a less exciting note, I still hadn’t seen EK. I kept on chugging, but started to mentally prepare myself for a finish instead of a win. Yeah, I do sometimes get a little competitive (remember how I was always just going for a finish? Like after I crashed? Yeah, look how that worked out). I also was feeling my excellent drinking skills and was ready for another pit stop. Even more exciting, I hadn’t cramped yet! All other long races I’ve done (ok, so, cedar cross and gravel worlds) I’ve cramped pretty much exactly at the halfway mark. It’s totally not cool. But, it does make for an easy way to measure distance/pain? Here I was officially past the halfway mark, in race territory, and the legs were mostly cooperating. Already, I was counting my blessings, and planning to stop and chill at CP4 for a real bathroom break and food binge before the final push.