Friday, January 23, 2009

"I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent;

"...curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism have brought me to my ideas."

Jason's recent post got me thinking and provided this quick response:

I guess my first (and second) events weren't "races" per se. They're on national forest land, so can only be timed events, not actual races. Counting Coup in 07 and its big brother Vision Quest in 2008.

The Coup started Mar 3, 2007 at 5:30 am. In the dark with only the lights of other riders I tried to hold my husband's wheel, got separated and as I went to ride through 2 riders (spaced about 10 yards apart) one of them turned into me and we went down on broken gravel. I was 50 yards from the start, total yardsale, and dead last. I had no idea how badly I was cut up, but everything hurt.

Hubby said, "Quit now or finish." I guess that really started it all. I hate giving up. I had trained for months (ha, "trained") and wanted a feather, so I hopped on my bike and pedaled.

As the sun rose in the east and pinked the sky I was able to tell I had cuts on my left wrist (nice scars today), both elbows, and my entire left leg screamed in agony. Abrasions on my outer shin, and as I later saw, my left hip was covered in deep road rash. Not to mention I had a massive dent in the top tube of my newest bike (only 5 months old - my first Dos Niner frame).

I held on, taking 2 Aleve about 12 miles in because everytime I hit a bump massive pain shot through my arms through the tender and exposed nerve endings.

I made both of the cut offs and finished, and even went back for the longer, more difficult version the next year.

Oddly enough in 2008 I crashed on the initial climb (fell in a rut in the dark) breaking my Garmin off my bar which led to me not eating as much as I should have, and having massive paranoia about the time cut off (I had no idea what time it was all day). Made the final cut off with hubby and a good friend and broke out in tears of joy. I hammered all the way to the finish line after 50 miles and was soo happy to finish. Said I wouldn't do it again in 09, and I didn't lie.

Since then I've done two 12 hour races (they keep getting harder, but oh how I love them). Doing #3 tomorrow. It's low on my race priority and I'm mid-base for XC racing, so gonna try to take it easy. haha! Good luck with that one, eh?


Upon further reflection, this in particular stands out to me: Hubby said, "Quit now or finish." I guess that really started it all. I hate giving up. I had trained for months (ha, "trained") and wanted a feather, so I hopped on my bike and pedaled.

My husband has a strong character. He doesn't like to quit or give up. He likes to push himself, and has high expectations of himself, and also of those around him.

He would've been okay with me quitting, seeing my injuries and my bike that day. He would've accepted it. The thing is, I wasn't going to let myself quit.

I've done many things throughout my life that I tried for a short time and didn't really get into them, so I quit. Girl Scouts, softball, basketball, guitar, jet skiing. The list is probably much longer if you ask my parents. I tried those things and they were okay, but I'd just go back to reading, writing stories, watching TV. Nothing really grabbed me and changed my life.

I'll admit, the first time I hopped on a real mountain bike on a real trail in Jan 03 or 04 it didn't catch my attention, either. Except of my sitbones for 2 weeks after the 6~ mile ride. It started with a climb, and the remainder was rocky singletrack. It made me nervous and I was sooo out of shape.

I've always been more of a couch potato than anything else. In college I started lifting a little and did about 45 minutes of cardio a week. I was at my heighest weight ever.

We raced r/c cars and had a lot of fun with the racing, travel, people, and I was writing articles and taking pics for a magazine.

But, we were also getting more and more unhealthy all the time. I decided in early 2005 I was going to start exercising, so I did. I'd start out with running or swimming and then lift. We did karate for awhile.

Justin likes to get outside, so none of this really was that cool for him. We turned on the Tour de France in 2005 and watched Lance ride to his 7th and final (er, at the time) victory. I decided I wanted to get a bike. Naturally, I wanted the sleek and fast road bike. Justin, however, had been hit a few times while riding on the road, and thoroughly refused to get road bikes. His heart was in the dirt (it always was - we never even raced r/c cars on the road).

So, we started looking at mountain bikes. While we've never had much money, what little we do have has always gone to hobbies. We overspend on hobbies. Not to play keeping up with the Jones's, but just to have nice stuff. So, we got nice bikes in August 2005. It'd ensure a bit of guilt if we let them sit and collect dust, and it'd also make the rides nicer with better suspension and shifty bits.

I remember my first ride on the bike. I didn't know how to do anything. Rocks, hills (up and more specifically down) scared me, I couldn't climb, couldn't go over anything, and he made me go right into clipless pedals, so I'd fall over a lot. It was a short 4.5miles or so, and the next week we went out to a place a bit further away with a TON of climbing. Mostly fire roads. It was still really warm out in August, and since I didn't know much about bikes, I just climbed in the middle ring. I'd pull quickly away from hubby, who sat in his granny gear keeping his body in check, and then I'd stop, overheated and red faced, gasping for air and feeling faint.

Once he showed me the small ring I never looked back. Mostly because I was always the last one to the top of any hill.

2 weeks later we had a trip planned for Phoenix to visit family and I suggested taking our bikes and riding in Sedona. That pretty much started it all. I sucked thoroughly on the bike, fell a bunch, had bad bruises on both hips, walked a ton, but I loved seeing the scenery on the bikes, the trails, and taking pictures.

We started driving to more trails, like up in Idyllwild.

And we even went on a Columbus Day 3-day weekend trip to Bootleg Canyon and Gooseberry Mesa based on pictures I'd seen on mtbr.

We followed up that trip by craving more slickrock, and heading back to Gooseberry and JEM over MLK weekend in 2006. It's been a favorite stop-in locale of ours ever since.

Despite the fact that I'd only been riding for 4 months by December of 05, I already wanted a SS. I still love the idea of a single-speed, but have never been a strong enough rider to pull it off full time. Not with hubby wanting all day epics with a ton of singletrack and climbing! But, in January of 06 we put together a fairly budget SS, and thus started our obsession with bikes of all kinds...

Everytime I rode the Surly I had a blast. I just wasn't strong enough to rock it for an entire day. I remember seeing a woman once blazin' up San Juan Trail on a Surly and I thought "man, I wish I could do that. I'll never be that strong."

Well, for about a year and a half I had a random goal of SSing San Juan. So one day I posted up a SS Sufferfest on our local board and had 25 people show up (about 19-20 on SS's).

The only photos I have of that outing of myself are my seriously scraped leg (fell down a switchback right onto an exposed newly cut tree) and my scraped up elbow from another crash. My third crash landed me on my head after an OTB that smashed my first Garmin 305. I guess I wasn't used to riding rigid!

Found I preferred carbon to steel...

I sold the bike not long after. Not because I didn't enjoy it, just because I wanted a fully 29er.

Wow, I skipped a bunch there.

Sometime in early-mid 2006 I decided I wanted to do Counting Coup and get a feather for finishing. We spent the entire winter training in the local mountains, riding and re-riding the trails. We knew we'd make the cutoffs, but not by much. It was a huge challenge, and really gave us something to ride for. We were riding ALMOST EVERY WEEKEND! It seemed like a lot of riding.

So, we went out and raced the Coup, as you read above. The following weekend we did our first races. We both did XC and DH at Southridge USA. I was racing the SS, crashed on my first lap and had crooked bars and a scraped chin. I walked a lot. A LOT. We went back 2 weeks later.

We did a lot of basic riding that year, and that fall did 3 races, and I was talked into racing EXPERT at the local DH race. I'd been doing a ton of DH in 2007 (including multiple trips to Mammoth, and topping it off with a KILLER trip to Whistler). My DHing was on fire. I came in 2nd in Expert and was stoked. Then it was back to business in late 2007 to train for VQ.

OMG how painful was the difference. It's easy to go fast downhill. It's not so easy to go fast up hill. My body had forgotten the endless pedaling, the ceaseless hills, the almost overwhelming pain of 4+ hours in the saddle and an 8 hour day.

I'd always start out nice and easy. I'd be last, with the training group far ahead and gaining every pedal stroke. But, I stuck to my own pace. Later in the day they would sometimes slow, cramping, hurting, and I'd pedal on, suffering quietly too, but maybe not as much.

Justin commented once that I was as fast the first ten minutes of the ride as I was in the last 30 minutes. Just steady throughout the whole day.

I may not have ever been the first one to the top of a climb, or to the bottom of a descent, but I could ride all day and feel okay throughout. I had endurance.

I feel like since I started riding my bike, and competing, I've some had great accomplishments: hitting 1,000 miles on my mountain bike in less than a year; earning two feathers; racing DH and being competitive; racing XC and being competitive. But, through everything two moments stand out in my mind:

1. Making the last cut-off of Vision Quest in 2008. I had been paranoid the entire climb up from Holy Jim to the cut off that I was late and wouldn't make it. Fast racers blazed down the singletrack at me, not budging an inch, and here I was just fighting for seconds to get there. I had no watch, and rode mostly alone. Justin was somewhere in the distance behind me, as he'd stopped to get oranges and juice at the aid station.

I got to that cut off with Justin; Stephanie just a minute behind us, and as she pulled up, the 3 of making the cutoff and knowing we'd finish it out after 3 long months of hard training. I broke out in tears of joy. It was brief, but uncontainable. A flood of emotions so strong they couldn't be held in. I was in pain, cold, hungry, tired, but so elated that the bottom of West Horsethief wasn't quite as hard as it normally is.

2. Finishing the 12 Hours of Temecula in November, 1st place women's pro/expert solo. I went into that race with no expectations. I hadn't done a long ride in weeks, and hadn't been training endurance what-so-ever. My legs felt like crap on lap one. I somehow found myself in 2nd most of the race, and was resigned to finish that way since the time differential was not changing. I was maxed out for a 12 hour event, and she wasn't slowing down. I held on, though. I wasn't going to give up. Sometimes things happen. Like a flat tire, or a really long bathroom break.

I left the pits around lap 7 or 8 in first place. I learned on going out for 8, I think, that she was determined to do 10. I hadn't even been sure if I'd do NINE, much less TEN! There, unfortunately, was plenty of time for me to finish ten. I thought a lot about it on those last laps. I had first place, did I want to give it up? HELL NO.

I fought through those last 2 laps, holding on as best as I could in the dark. I crashed at least once on my last lap, and was outclimbed by people that I normally beat to the top of the hill (and I was stoked for their energy and enthusiasm). Toward the end of the lap I came across this incredible bout of paranoia that she was right behind me and would take the win. I hammered harder than I had on lap one to the finish line.

There is something so ultimately RAW about endurance racing. You're faced with every demon in your head and body. Everything hurts. You want to stop, but when you tell your legs to keep pedaling they do, and so you continue, questioning in your head why and how.

I learned that race that I'm capable of so much more than I ever gave myself credit for, and found out that I'm actually pretty good at something.

I've gone from being the shy, introverted girl with no coordination what-so-ever, and no self-esteem or confidence to being the shy, reserved racer girl that knows she can do a lot more than she ever thought possible.

I may not win every race, and I hope I don't so I can learn and grow and gain experience as a racer, but I know that I have just as much of a shot as anyone else, and as long as I keep at it the journey is as important as the finish line, no matter how it shakes out.


Justin said...

your best post ever. thanks!

Luke said...

your longest post ever. ;)

Pedal Circles said...

I doubt that. I'm sure I've posted longer.

Ryan Weeger said...

awesome post for sure!

Jason said...

Great stuff. Glad I could motivate you with a quick question. Good luck tomorrow. Hope to read a great race report!


Zippy said...

"I may not win every race, and I hope I don't so I can learn and grow and gain experience as a racer, but I know that I have just as much of a shot as anyone else, and as long as I keep at it the journey is as important as the finish line, no matter how it shakes out."


Jman said...

Awesome post!