Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Whiskey 50 Race Report

Do One Thing A Day That Scares You-CHECK!

When I registered for the Whiskey 50 several weeks ago, I significantly underestimated the challenge ahead. As someone who spends 90% of their riding time on pavement and skinny tires, 50 miles didn’t faze me. After more research I discovered the course includes over 7700ft of climbing, but again I remained oblivious as I lOVE to climb. I heard there was a good mix of single track, rocky jeep roads etc, but it never really donned on me that what goes up, must come down, and single track/rocky steep descents is not my strong suit.

With no opportunity for a course preview, I had to rely on stories from others and those comforting words from the race director during our pre-race meeting..."BE careful, don't ride outside your abilities etc..."
At 7:30am, the start gun blasted and we were off. Morning temps registered in the 30's, but it quickly warmed up. I didn't have any way to drop clothes at the start, and midway through the 10 mile climb out of town, it was obvious I had significantly overdressed (long sleeve thick jersey, vest and knickers).

The hard top climb out of town was great. It provided plenty of opportunity to get a decent position in the crowd before dropping into single track. The course was a lot of fun with plenty of stream crossings (there was snow in the mtns the day before) and fun technical stuff. I was in great position at the top of the first big climb, and there was a fun section of 2.5 foot drops as we started down the mountain. That stuff is great, but once we hit the rocky jeep roads, it was a different story. That just scares the crap out of me. You’re flying down so darn fast, but the terrain is completely loose and rutty. You hit the brakes and you're out of control, but if you don’t you’ll be even more out of control…yup-GREAT choices there. After working my way up through the pack on the climb, I could feel the fast guys just barreling down on me on the descent. Eventually, I just pulled over and let people go by, but once you stop, there’s a long string of folks bombing the decent, and it’s impossible to get back in. I saw 3 women pass me at that point, but I didn’t care-This was about surviving and it was still very early in the race.

After that monster decent we climbed again…this was about the 11-13 mile mark, and the low point of the day for me. I felt so defeated from watching 30+ people pass me on the descent, or maybe it was the uncertainty of what kind of terrain I would face in the miles ahead. The first aid station was at mile 14. I was overheating in my long sleeve jersey, but knowing we had a 12 mile fast (therefore chilly) descent ahead, I opted to keep the jersey on until I hit the turnaround at the bottom. This descent was much more enjoyable-These were actual dirt roads. Not in great shape, but at least I could ride without fearing for my life. I used this time to catch up with my calories and hydration. I had my bento box filled with Power gels, and my camelback loaded with 100oz of water (with Nuun). This was the first out and back section, so it was fun to check in on the leaders. Those guys/and gals can ride. It’s amazing that this little race in AZ attracted such great riders.

At the turnaround in Skull Valley, I decided to shed the long sleeve jersey. Although the 'Vest only' look is not my style, at this point I didn't have much choice. I checked on my fluid levels and figured I had enough left for the 12 mile climb back back up to 6900ft. I certainly didn’t want to add any additional weight for the climb.

As people started fading around me at the 35(ish) mile mark (4hour mark), I was feeling my best. My altimeter said I was at 7000ft, so I knew we had a lot of descending left to get back to town (5500ft). Most people would be trilled with that reality, but I was pretty anxious, knowing full well there would be a few hairy descents ahead. The vista views were spectacular, so I had to stop and take a few photos along the way (actually I was just letting the fast guys get by me).

I was having fun weaving through the single track/downhill roller coaster section, but again, the rocky jeep roads were brutal for me... I had managed to stay upright and on my bike for most of the ride until we hit a nasty stream crossing with less than a mile of single track remaining. I was riding too close to the dude in front of me, and once he went down midstream, I was forced to veer left into a pile of slippery boulders. My bike slid out and I smashed my elbow and hip on the rocks. I remember these guys who were watching say something about how much my elbow would hurt the next day, but at that point, I was just trying to get myself unclipped and out of the water. I was able to get myself rolling again, but my riding was significantly impacted... I’m grateful the crash happened at the end of the race, because my confidence in the technical stuff went to pot. Once I hit the pavement and the comfort of predictable terrain a new source of energy found its way to my legs. I peddled hard to the finish, and passed at least 5 people in the final 4 miles. It was great to see that finish line (and great to break the 5 hr mark). I finished 4:56:XX, and 9th female overall, behind several big name pro's (2009 Leadville Women's Champion was 4th).

We all had our share of unique experiences and challenges on the course, but before too long, we were all together at the finish area listening to music and enjoying great food. We spent the night checking out the Cowboy bars on Whiskey row, and even managed to take down the obligatory Whiskey shot to commemorate the day’s accomplishments.