Some days I’m an optimist, but most days I’m an upbeat realist. I’d rather expect the worst, but hope for the best. For Sunday’s race – aka the Julian Death March and my first race of 2011, hoping for the best was on my side. I had no idea what to expect with my fitness but instead of making excuses I kept repeating a quote I found recently over and over – “It’s not who you think you are are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.” I ride by myself most of the time. I prefer it that way because it’s time for all the thoughts in my brain to dissolve, and when I do ride with people for “training”, I somehow always feel like I fall short of the line or that I’m out of shape. Race day is always a good test to see what’s going on in the fitness bank.
The race was originally supposed to be on Saturday, but due to a lot of extra rain and snow, the race was moved to Sunday. Sunday was the first morning since I arrived in Julian where there wasn’t snow on the ground. It was still a brisk 30F outside and I knew I’d eventually overheat, but I didn’t want to be miserably cold at the start. That’s one of the tricky parts about endurance racing. You race all day, and the temperature can vary as much as 30-40 degrees throughout the day depending how early you start.
I decided to line up at the front and we began our neutral roll-out. It was a very mellow start compared to other endurance races I’ve done where it feels like I’m going to explode within 30 seconds of starting. I was actually in front and Jeff moved in front of me and I took his wheel. I said to myself, “This is just like the stage races we’ve done. Hold the wheel on the opening road section.” The course was rolling in terrain before the anticipated 10 or so mile dirt road descent. I glanced back just once and saw that we had actually gapped off the field and were sitting in 1st and 2nd overall! I normally feel terrible at the starts of these races and it’ll take me several hours to get my legs going, but on this particular Sunday, they wanted to get’a move on! After about 20 minutes, I decided I was going way too hard so I waved the men behind me up indicating I couldn’t hang on any longer. I kept the lead group of 6 or so men in sight for the first 20-25 miles of the race before they disappeared, coinciding with when I started paying for going maybe a little too hard at the start. It wasn’t catastrophic, I just had to back off to a more reasonable pace.
As far as stories of peril, I really don’t have any! (Oh don’t you worry, I’m sure something embarrassing will happen soon that I can tell you about). Anyway, I was spot on with my nutrition and pacing, I didn’t have any “I’m going to puke or die” moments. I’m happy to say that everything went pretty smooth! The course was mostly jeep road with a little bit of singletrack thrown in. The type of effort is different than a race that is mostly singletrack in that it’s a steady power output. The fitness from last year’s Brasil Ride (lots of road and sustained power) and all my climbing dirt roads with a 10-15 lb pack ended up paying off! The climbs were longer and the elevation ranged something like being down as low as 1500′ and as high as 4500′.
I spent most of the day racing the men which was fun! I went back and forth with a few guys, and everyone was really cool. Huge thanks to Scott Holland for helping me get through some of the trickier parts of the course where I otherwise would have been so lost!! It’s hard to mark every corner of a 86 mile race course, and I admit that I had quite a bit of difficulty navigating. There were multiple junctions I’d come to and have no idea which way to go. I would look for tire tracks, but sometimes I wouldn’t see any, or they’d go in all directions. A couple times I found myself waiting for someone else to come along, or riding the course backwards to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I had a paper map, but it shredded to bits from moisture in my pocket. Frustrating? You bet, but it could have been averted if I had a GPS with me. The race website also highly recommended pre-riding the course for exactly this reason, so they definitely gave out fair warning.
Some other fun course obstacles were the equestrians on course. It was completely open so you had to be courteous and on your guard. There ended up being something like 40 horses over the course of the race we ran into. I do not think this was a normal day! I had no problems with the horses. I was fine coming to a very slow speed if not complete stop, and the people on the horses were nice and courteous as well. You just had to be extra cautious and keep your head up. Other fun? Four wheel drive vehicles and some dudes shooting guns.
The most fun part of the course for me was the Oroflame Climb. It was about 4 miles, maybe 1600′ of vertical, rocky, and hot! It was awesome. I don’t know why I like pain so much, but that was my favorite part! There were some sections of snow and mud as well. HUGE thanks to the volunteers for helping at the aide stations and lubing my chain. Thanks!!!!
I was able to finish strong in my typical fashion taking 5th in the men and 1st in the women. 86 miles, 12,000′ or so of elevation gain. There wasn’t a lot of tough competition at this race with the inclement weather and the fact that they held the Vision Quest the weekend before, but it was still really great for training.
It was a good, challenging course to kick off the 2011 race season! Jeff finished 3rd slaying my time by 40 minutes. Yeow!
And then there was eating and rejoicing.
All of my equipment worked swimmingly. I did burp a lot air out of my rear tire on a descent, but that was my own fault. I’m lucky to have everything that I do. Thank you sponsors! I love my new Canyon hardtail. It is super light, stiff, efficient, and FAST!!!!!
This week, we are still in California doing some shop visits and rides, and heading to Sea Otter on Wednesday. I will not be racing. We came out early to get in some quality training with the JDM race, but I will be riding the Grand Fondo for fun on Saturday. I’ll also be helping out with the women’s mountain bike skills clinic going on Sunday morning if anyone is interested!
I’m excited for my upcoming season. My name is on the list to race the Whiskey 50, NUE Series Syllamo’s Revenge 125k, and the Transylvania Epic Stage Race between now and May. (Seriously, sign up for the Transylvania Epic… it’ll be AWESOME) I’ve got my work cut out for me!
Thanks again to the Julian Death March, everyone cheering, taking photos, supporting, and also to the racers for supporting each other. Socal endurance scene = Thumbs up! I hope to see more next year (like maybe the Vision Quest!)
Oofta, it’s waaaay past my bedtime. G’night! P.S. Hotel wifi is sooooo frustrating!!!!!!