As usual, I’m back to slacking on posting things. You might assume that, because I haven’t posted things, I haven’t been doing too many things. You would be correct. I also feel really guilty about both not finishing my thesis and not riding my bike, so mostly this post is excuses. Oops.
The month post-OT100, I began to panic. Why? The big race was over! And it all ended well and stuff, and my legs survived 100 miles of singlespeed, and my arms survived 100 miles of rigid, and my brain survived 100 miles of riding, mostly alone (yuh, it’s a scary place). So why panic? Because… I’m still in grad school. Of the 8+ years I’ve lived in St. Louis, over 7 of them have been spent in school. And I’m ready to be done. Except, that requires this thing called… a THESIS! aaaaaaaaagh! So, after OT I figured I’d back off the riding for a while and focus on writing. This meant a lot of late nights, fueled by potato chips and mass amounts of coffee. This also meant, I didn’t get to ride my bike too much.
I did pretend to be a normal human for a bit and went on an AWESOME century ride (Elizabeth hadn’t ever ridden a century, so we made sure it was the best century EVER, with not 1, not 2, but 3 FERRIES!!! I love ferries).Around the beginning of October (my self-imposed deadline for a complete draft of my thesis sadly passed as I was wallowing in not-really-writing land) I realized I had signed up for a 12 hour race called burnin’. “Oh well, I raced OT for 13 hours, it won’t be that bad” I said to myself. Sometimes I am dumb. I did, however, plan to ride council bluff (the race course) the weekend before the race, including a little bit of night riding since I still haven’t done much of it. I went down Friday, did a lap starting near the dusk hour, then managed to ride 2 laps and run 1 lap Saturday. Bringing my grand total of mtb rides since OT to 2. Woooo procrastinating.
Before I knew it, I was picking up Peat for the drive down Friday night, and generally panicking about things (standard). I did make sure to bring some real food this time, as Caroline was taking a trip to Idaho and thus could not continue her wifely duties. Saturday brought a quick race meeting, then a lemans style start (running up through the campsite then around the grassy finish area to pick up bikes) through smoke bombs, then bombing down the first hill to the singletrack.
Lap 1 was fairly uneventful – 12 hours is still a long race, and I know I’m not the fastest. But I’m pretty stubborn. I tried to just stay consistent and smart. There were a few tricky spots on the course that I’d worked through the weekend before, namely the tricky root wads after the boat ramp and the rock garden. Lap 1: the rood wads won, and I walked. Also the rock garden won, I had a little endo. Nothing too bad, since I’m never moving very fast through there, but a little spill. The final climb up to the campground was hard but I cleaned the tricky right switchback (my nemesis) and rolled through at 1:28 (I’m assuming including the start?) which was my goal time!
*Sidenote – Peat had mentioned that the women’s record was set in 2010 with Jen getting 8 laps. This year the timing was a little different, so while she would have had to finish 7 laps before the 12 hour mark and could then head out on a final lap, this year (2014) we had to complete all laps by 9:30. My goal was to get 8 laps within the 12 hour period, so that there would be no doubt I could have gone for a 9th lap if the timing was the same. As with most of my goals, I realized throughout the day that was a little ambitious. But we’ll get there.
Lap 2 – with my goal of 8 laps in 12 hours, I needed to maintain a pace just under 1:30/lap. I know that I need a few minutes in the pit pretty regularly (I drink a TON of water in order to prevent cramps and ugliness). So 1:28 was awesome! What was not awesome: starting LAP 2 (seriously) my forearms started to cramp. WTF. Apparently doing council bluff on a rigid bike is hard and I was working more than usual to stay upright. Ugh. I tried to eat and drink more, but there were still the warning pre-cramp twinges. My stellar mental math figured out that I’d need to finish lap 2 by 2:56, and I rolled in right on time (note, I cleaned the root wads and most of the rock garden lap 2 – woo!). I had planned to stop every 2 laps, and spent about 3.5 minutes refilling camelbak, food, and gatorade bottles to roll out for lap 3 at right around 3 hours.
Lap 3 – I was stoked to be on time, and excited to see Emily finishing the end of the campground climb as I refilled my camelbak and was rolling out. I knew after OT that she’d be back, and strong! I reminded myself to keep going my pace – since it was working 🙂 Around this lap, I started my mantra of how many hills to the finish – around the CB lake there are 3 big climbs: 1 just before the boat ramp, 1 in the middle-ish of the loop, and the killer climb back up to the campground. Every hill I would sing to myself something along the lines of “15 more f*cking huge hills left to climb, 15 more huge f*cking hills, spin around, stare at the ground, you still have 15 huge f*cking hills left to climb” (to the tune of 99 beers on the wall… and because I’d start thinking at the base of the hill, and have plenty of time to repeat before actually climbing the hill). I cleaned the first root wad, but was pretty close to another dude who fumbled a little on the second one – I was secretly happy to have an excuse to stop, and quickly hopped over the second little section. Finally, I endo-d in the rock garden again. Boo. Somehow I still don’t get my weight back far enough, and the rigid fork is pretty unforgiving. One day, I will learn. Until then, I will crash. I actually had more momentum going down than I thought and ended up doing a super awesome commando roll. Somewhere in the process I smoked my left knee on some rocks – but I was still wearing leg warmers, and when I went to look at it I just saw a little mud. It hurt, but since nothing looked wrong, I hopped back up on my bike and kept on chugging!
Lap 4 – true to the plan, I quickly rolled through the start/finish, stopping only to ditch my leg warmers that had been falling down (memory fails me, but I’m pretty sure it was close to 4:28… ’cause I continued to think I was on track). All the pedaling meant lots of movement of the skin over my knee… and subsequently lots of blood. Turns out I had slashed it really deep, so it just kept re-opening and bleeding. Oops. While still singing my way up the climbs, I was really excited to be on-pace! Even with the extra 30 minutes, I figured there was no way I wouldn’t get 8 laps. Oh, how optimistic I can be… on the final climb up to the campground, I slashed my tire on a little bump. NOOOOO! I’ve had great luck this season with no mechanicals, so I suppose it had to happen sometime. The big hisssss sound from my tire, and stans-splosion everywhere, confirmed that I would indeed have to fix things. Channeling peat (just chill out, eat some food, take your time, fix it right the first time) I hopped off my bike and found the puncture (not so hard as it was coated in a huge blob of stans). I fumbled a bit getting all my tools out, but luckily was able to just put a plug in it (I was not looking forward to putting a tube in my lovely tubeless tires. Plus that would take forever). I also got to use the CO2 inflator for the second time in my life – so fast! In fact, I over-inflated at first, then let out too much air, then re-did it… I’m pretty indecisive, so it took a while. Emily passed while I was putzing, making sure I had everything I needed. I still figured I had one other woman in the 12 hour female division (turns out she wasn’t actually there, but I thought she was), so I did my best to be efficient.
Lap 5 – like the air from my tire, the wind was somewhat taken from my sails. I started to realize just how little I’d trained for this race… but it was a beautiful day, and I was riding my mountain bike in near-perfect conditions, through the gorgeous ozarks in fall. I continued to take my time, but had lost a good 6 or 7 minutes changing my tire, putting me a bit off schedule. Losing steam, I figured I’d just enjoy the ride.
Lap 6 – I pushed through the lap 5/6 transition without stopping, still sticking to the plan but starting to hope to be cutoff at 7 laps. Council bluff is hard, potato chips are not the ideal endurance-race diet, and I was struggling. Still enjoying myself, but not particularly pushing it. Some days you go, some days you don’t. I suppose I hadn’t really set myself up to push this one. But I DO really like riding my bike, so it was awesome. I remember less about the specifics, but I know I still cleaned the root wads and most of the rock garden, so total success. It was also fun just seeing other people on the course, riding together for a while, then breaking away (either me or them…but let’s be real, mostly them).
Lap 7 – What is burnin’ good for if you don’t at least get one night lap?! It was still reasonably light when I started, but I promised myself I’d at least get in one lap. Buuut, I didn’t even want to come close to finishing at the 8:00 time cutoff I’d established for myself at the beginning of the race. While I didn’t think I had a 1:30 lap left (or even a 1:40 lap…particularly at night, and after a full day of racing) I wouldn’t be able to turn down another lap if Emily was still there, or if she’d just left. So… I took my time. It’s funny how a chill, easy spin through the woods turns into a sorta creepy ride at night after many hours of racing. There were a few times I thought I saw people in the woods, only to turn (yay helmet-mounted lights) and find a burned-out tree. It was super cool to see a bunch of other lights twinkling out across the lake. Also to be passed by people still out crushing it after 10.5 hours or so.
I finished officially at 11:15 hours (8:15 PM) – meaning I’d need a 1:15 lap to make the cutoff. Since I’ve never done a lap in under 1:28 (yay race day records, haha) I was happily FINISHED with burnin! I survived another long race on the singlespeed and made some awesome new friends throughout the course of the day. We celebrated, drank too much beer, and lit some haybales on fire. As the second place in a 2-woman division, I wound up last. But it was a pretty awesome last place (plus, I still wound up middle of the pack in the men’s open division, without gears or suspension, so I’ll take it. Did I mention I’m going to make excuses?). Despite my intuition that I would immediately pass out huddled in my sleeping bag, I wound up chillin with people until the wee hours of the morning, finally getting some food (mmmm chicken thighs) around 4AM under a light drizzle and beer blanket. Burnin’ was awesome, and I’m so jealous of the belt buckle won by Emily (and Peat in the men’s 12 hour solo) – you can bet I’ll be back!
Finally, because this post isn’t long enough yet, I’d like to emphasize just how stoked I was during my laps 6 and 7. I was pretty confident I wasn’t going to win anything. I wasn’t moving particularly fast. But I remember last year. Bootlegger’s burnin happened with only a 6 hour race, and camping at the boat ramp due to the government shutdown. And I rode it. On my 1×9 hardtail, with little training (it’s sorta my thing), and I struggled, seriously struggled, to finish 2 laps. TWO! They each took me over 2 hours, with a long break between where I just didn’t know what to do. This year, I got 7, and it turns out, actually broke Jen’s record (she only got 7 laps, and both Emily and I destroyed her time! So, Emily’s the new record holder… what what?! 😀 ).
I can’t emphasize enough how much you can improve when surrounded by the right company, and I have Peat and his Team Noah teammates, and awesome Alpine Shop friends (Carrie and Jeff) to thank for helping me step up, letting me crash group rides, and generally talking about biking ALL THE TIME and inspiring me. You guys push the boundaries of what’s possible, and it makes me want to join you. So thanks for an awesome season, and go crush BTEpic!! You guys are the best.