Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Race Day Adventures: Decorah Time Trials 2016

April 30th...the last Saturday of the month which means Decorah Time Trials!

Last year was my first time trial event, which I did surprisingly well at. The weather had cooperated and brought a good number of participants. This year it looked like it would be a "traditional" time trial event: cooler with wet weather. 

I'll admit that during the week I had been going through all of my "phases" of nervousness. By race day I'm mentally closed off until I hit dirt.

I suppose worrying is a trait of mine (yup!) and the fact I'm not highly competitive makes it worse- my desire to do well is high, yet I'm fearful of not skilled enough, but not so scared to avoid trying.

Last year I did surprisingly well, so I had been feeling additional pressure during the week. I had one good fitness loop ride which I was proud of, but I had never been able to legitimately pre-ride the course. The evening Travis and I intended to, the back tire on my Beargrease was having issues holding air. A small hole in the sidewall that the sealant wasn't sealing; a trip to the bike shop remedied the situation and we continued a shorter version of the second half of the course. I feel I'm going into the TT blind.
Travis planned to ride with me again, and we might switch off here and there with leading depending on where we're at on the course. I have the general concerns of how to pace myself, not blow up, etc.

We drove to registration and light rain was coming down. We discussed on how we'd warm up- spin on the trainers upstairs for a bit? Ride around our neighborhood (close to the start)...questions yet to be answered.

Travis was pleasantly surprised on how many people were showing up, he seemed excited. I started going into nervous "shut down" mode. I was excited to see women attending- yeah! Worst part? We registered as soon as we got there, which put Travis at 11th and me at 12th for starting. That was the best move made as we would be getting out  before the all-afternoon rain. Not so good for me who felt that I should be strictly mid-pack and fully aware that I'm in a position which will have passers.

I've ridden in greasy conditions, but I've not raced in them. DTT will be a challenge for me on many levels for sure.
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We got dressed, I decided to layer socks to cover the skin exposed from the knicker-length Shebeest tights. For added protection/coverage I wore the Boardrider Capris. Smart move. Upper body I would most definitely be wearing my Race Face Scout Jacket over my jersey and base layer. I would rather be too warm than not warm enough- damp cold is much more cruel to me than dry cold. I picked gloves with some wind-front protection, but not so thick as my Deflect gloves. Five Ten Contact shoes were the choice for footwear. A half Buff under my helmet would be the only coverage other than the hood of the Scout jacket. I decided to not bother with sunglasses (with clear lenses) due to my not wanting to deal with looking thru water. Chancy on my end, but if it was bothersome I'd put them on.

At home is the only time you would see my race number. I had never been at an event with so much moisture. I never thought about my number falling off until we were at the Pre-Race meeting. Chewey had mentioned that riders should memorize their numbers since many were already falling off. Oh no! I haven't memorized numbers since I worked at the Co-Op- would my ability to remember PLUs prevail? Only time would tell. 677 was not an awful sequence to memorize.

Pedaling towards the start. I stood up here and there to get my blood flowing. Early time for us meant we didn't get much opportunity for a pre-ride warm up. I stood in the rain, smiled at a couple people. Watched O'Gara's boy whip Deadpool with a plastic sword. (Haha!) 

Travis was next in line. I followed suit. Under the canopy it was much dryer. Spinner and I chatted a wee bit. I'm not much of a talker pre-race...I internalize my emotions. I focus on keeping myself calm- which the closer I get to the start the more numb I am- I guess it's desensitizing myself to the worry and anxious feelings I experienced up until those final moments. It was go time. I pedaled towards the entrance of the Luge and hoped I wouldn't wipe out on the rocks and root at the start.

My legs felt like led. Each pedal stroke felt rough. Oh crap. This is going to be a rough day. I kept telling myself that the first trail or two of the race were going to be the hardest- because I needed more time to warm up.

I made it out of the Luge and headed to Rocky Road, smiling as the small crew of Death Valley watchers hooted and hollered at me passing. I met up with Travis before the 2nd bridge at Rocky Road and we made our way uphill. We were cautious to take our time and now blow ourselves up at the get go. I hiked my bike up the hill to lower Little Big Horn, knowing I didn't have enough room to make the corner. I took off pretty quick, and kept myself going at a nice clip. Not too fast, but fast enough to truck along. We eventually came to the hill called "Tombstone" and I gave it my best shot. I kept going, my tires dug in, I did my sit/squat, and made my way up that climb as if it wasn't greasy at all. Travis was super impressed and I figured that if there was anything that would make this race complete- it was that. Soon after that I was giving myself a mudslide down the switchbacks to Horsey.

The Time Trial course covered all of the trails in Van Peenen- which was quite enjoyable. I worked on taking in fuel on the go- managing to eat some Clif Bloks while riding one-handed. An impressive feat for someone who isn't keen on moving her hands off the handlebars.

When we hit East Pines I picked up the pace- Travis warned me about using too much energy but I justified the decision by it being the easiest place to pick up spare seconds. Which I felt I needed. Down Gunnar was fast- hitting North 40 felt grueling, but I made the climb a-okay. Up the fire road to West Pines, I picked it up again. Gunnar (the man whom the Gunnar trail is named after) was coming up on us by the time we hit the prairie. I stayed off to the right to let him pass; I felt like riding in prairie grass wasn't so devastating like it was last Saturday. Not sure if the rain had anything to do with it, or I was that jazzed up it didn't matter.

Fred's trail was next. I was nervous and excited- I haven't been on that trail when it's been super wet since the first season I started mountain biking. We had come to the rocky/rooty turns that lead you to a steep downhill hairpin. I had mentioned to Travis during the ride that if my Scout jacket didn't come clean, I wanted to purchase a second one. I said "If I make this corner, I get a new coat." Guess what? I made it.
"I get a new coat!" 
Travis laughed.

The downhill from there past Death Valley was filled with hoots, hollers, and good cheer. I kept going, even tho a beer would've been nice- I had to keep going. Stopping would be the death of me.

The only other thought in my head was "My butt feels SO squishy" (mud.)

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The second half of the race featured a good majority of the trails found in Dunnings. As always, there isn't really any good way to get to the top, but the route of Lower Randy's up was welcomed vs. the traditional death march that is Old Randy's.

Heading up Backside was when it became apparent that my energy levels were depleting. I slid out on myself when I was making my way to Cross Country (Upper Randy's). I became a little frustrated because it seemed I couldn't keep myself on the bike. I finally got my "sea legs" back and continued onward. Cross Country can be a challenge both ways, but with greasy conditions it's multiplied. I did well until the last switchback- I chose a poor line and spun out. 

Onward to the turn at the Ice Cave sign. Fatigued, I made a very poor attempt at getting over a log- my tire slipped and I landed square on my butt. Travis worried I might've hurt my tailbone, but thankfully the only thing that hurt was my pride and my ankle (which both feelings went away after getting back on the bike.)

Mother's Day was uneventful, tho I will admit that I was quite reserved going down Middle Mother's Day. There is a section that is fun to blast down, but given the conditions I reigned it in- then you make the climb to Glory Hole up Lower Mother's Day. I poked it- slow and controlled was the only way for me to go. I had a sigh of relief once we hit the top of Boa. YES! Almost DONE!

I booked it.

Then New Backside thwarted me. I took it easy and felt confident that I would successfully get down the trail. Nope. My front tire gave way and I toppled over the side. This is when my top tube got scuffed. I was starting to feel a bit banged up on my legs. We waited for another rider to come down and let him go by- he's a fast fellow and Rattlesnake Cave isn't a ripper trail for me. I made the tough climb but bumbled on the rocks. The downhill from that was done in "Clunker" style and the hairpin into River was jogged. I can say that I did make the hill on River Trail- I questioned if that would be the case, but determination and encouragement kept me pedaling.

I rode River Trail as fast as I could, but it's a lower-lying trail and gets a bit sloppy/greasy. You can't really charge the turns and lean in without sliding so you have to figure out how to go fast successfully. Only one mechanical mishap on my end- a dropped chain, which Travis rapidly put back into place and shooed me off.

The part where I could really turn it on was towards the end on the straightaway. I hammered. Water splashed in my face and it was all I could do to hopefully not get grit in my eyes! I was asked for my number: "677!"

I had my "racer cough" going on. Happy and exhausted, I forgot all about the mud on my gloves and got even more on my face! Travis was continuing on with compliments about how proud and impressed he was of me over what I was able to ride. We met up with the fellow that passed us after New Backside and went to the shop to rinse off our bikes. We had an hour before T-Bock's (beer, food and awards!)...realistically after the fact we had longer than an hour, but we hustled anyway.
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The ride home was actually the worst part of the day- headwind and rain splattering me in my face. 
A warm shower was the best thing to ever happen. I did take time to rinse off my clothes in the shower with me- I was a mess! After Travis showered, I took a handful of clothes and threw them in the wash. Time would tell how my jacket would turn out. (Wouldn't you know, it came clean?! So no new jacket for me. Good product right there! Look for a review, soon.)


Beer at T-Bock's was recovery fuel for me. We socialized with Gunnar, his wife, and Mr. Kester for a bit before going upstairs. After we were upstairs I snagged my second beverage and we got our plates of food. Real food tasted amazing

Slowly but surely, more people started showing up- at one point it was hinted that I was first place female. I made myself take it with a grain of salt, because I'm one of those "I'll believe it when I see it" and I felt there was NO way I could've came out on top. Not with how I rode. I mean, I did put forth a good effort, but I still fell a bit and walked some. 

Then...results were posted.
Travis ushered me to go look. I'm shorter and with taller guys around I could sneak my way in.
I saw my name at the top. My eyes got wide, my smile almost fell off my face- WHAT?! ME?!!!
"Travis! Come see!
My finishing time: 1:40:58:65 
I did have to have to alert the fellows to correct my age group category, I might not look over 30, but I sure am. 

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Time Trials is the one event where I felt like it would be realistic to have as a "maybe in 5 years I'll be first female" for there are some very talented women who ride the Time Trials- and I certainly didn't put myself in that category. I apparently need to reconsider.

It was said to have been of the wettest, most sloppy Time Trials (so I've heard) so if anyone started later, they experienced some very poor trail conditions. As a friend said "Only the true believers were out there." I went out and did the best I could do which resulted in impressing Travis as well as showing myself that I do have some solid handling skills. (Even if I fall!
Time Trials 2016 is truly an event I will never forget. 
My boundaries were pushed, my determination tested, and my skills were challenged- this is what mountain biking is all about!

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