I went in to this race without any real expectations of myself other than doing what I could to have a good first “long” race of the season (now that I think about it, it was my longest ride of 2014 as well). So, while my base is strong and top-end fitness is still building, I really wanted to focus on pacing, fueling, and paying attention to keeping my head up and bike handling fast/accurate as fatigue started to set in. I knew that this race tends to draw some regional horsepower (lots of familiar names on previous years’ results), but, being in the mindset of “just go and have a good race and let the results happen,” I didn’t even look for a list of registered riders. I did, however, see Carey Lowery (always one to chase) post (on facebook) an “enlightening” photo of her bike and herself on the scales the day before the race.
I’d never ridden the Warrior Creek course before, but I heard that it was a lot of fun. A Friday afternoon preride would reveal that I would not be disappointed. Berms. Berms everywhere. Most of them amazing.
(side note- When you put 598 berms into almost 14 miles of trail, not all of them are gonna be winners)
I was stoked to race. Saturday morning, the race started at 10:00am (love that… racing the NUE series for 2 years in a row left me with soooooo much hate for early morning starts). It made a “parade loop” of sorts around the park before diving in to the last piece of singletrack before the start of the official first piece of singletrack. I thought I’d noticed one or two women ahead of me at that point, but figured that if I successfully carried out my plan that they’d come back at some point in the next 6 hours (I’d later figure out that both were in the duo competition). I hadn’t noticed Carey ahead of me and figured that the speed of the start loop had put her (riding a singlespeed) into the singletrack a little further back in the group.
Somewhere as I settled in to the first lap, Matt caught up to me and said he was having a bad time riding singlespeed. He stuck with me for the remainder of the lap. When I stopped at the pit, I said something to a nearby support person about waiting for Carey to come by me, and she informed me that Carey was racing as a duo. Interesting…
I grabbed bottles, ate some Gu Chomps, and got back on my bike. At the start of the second lap, I had a frustrating/satisfying run-in with a guy on a Krampus. The story is a Just Riding Along exclusive, though. So, you’ll have to listen to the show on Mountain Bike Radio to hear it.
On the second lap, I mostly followed a guy who had a great pace and seemed to know the trail well. It was very helpful to follow his lines and he wasn’t going either too slow or too fast up any of the climbs. Carey also caught up to me somewhere along there. She confirmed that she was, indeed riding in the duo competition, and, when I asked what solo women were ahead of me, she replied, “Just you!”
I felt pretty good and was already well on my way to executing my plan of 5 laps in the allotted amount of time. The thing about following your race plan to the letter is that other than saying you did it, there’s not a lot to write about. Fueling boiled down to downing 1.5 bottles of weakly-mixed Gu Roctane per lap (I’d scouted “drinking spots” during my preride and always watched for other opportunities), taking a large hit from my gel flask (filled with Roctane gel) at a non-wooded, straight piece of trail about halfway through each lap, and eating at least half a pack of Gu Chomps and sometimes another gel (Gu Salted Caramel) as I rolled through the timing/pit area.
I did have a little back and fourth with the two women’s teams that finished behind Carey and her teammate. Not that I was necessarily racing the duo ladies, but one of them caught up to me early on the last lap, and I didn’t recognize her as a duo woman, though I was 99% sure she said she was (she definitely looked like she was) when she asked to get around me. I caught back up to her in the last couple of miles, and asked her a couple of times, explaining (as well as you can when you’re riding behind someone) that I believed her, but that I was very wary of being burned by someone not being honest about their race category. She laughed it off and let me by at the final pavement as we exited the woods to the finish line.
I definitely felt like it was the longest/hardest ride of the year. Luckily, I’d had the wherewithal to make the hotel reservation through Saturday night, allowing us to go back, shower, and lay around with our feet up rather than checking out before the race and getting on the road immediately after. If you do it right, the “run over by a truck” feeling is there whether you win or lose.