Tuesday, November 8, 2011

25 Hours in Frog Hollow Race Recap: 3rd Place

To start, I'm unsure if I'll ever be able to verbalize my gratitude for those that were critical toward my success at the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow, nor will I be able to express every lesson learned. But, I will try.

Sometimes half the battle is getting to the start line. And in that battle is where you find the strength to finish what you started. I facebooked this idea after rogue waves of adversity tested my patience and resilience in the week leading up to the race. Days before, I encountered mechanicals with my chronically ill and only mountain bike. Exhibit A: a taco'd rear wheel from a Moab trip had visited two bike shops before the hub body was dubbed the sole survivor and replaced with all new internals and laced to a new rim. B: the midnight before the Davis RV camper left for Virgin, Utah, the rear shock made noises I've never heard before. My fear was that my race was over before it started. I took it into Golden Bike Shop just hours prior to leaving Denver where Russ and Dane swiftly diagnosed and made the repair. In asking what was wrong, Russ stated that there was "almost no oil left in the shock." Hilarious and a classic move on my part. I refrained from telling them that my fork felt like peanut butter since I think it would've sent them over the edge! C: before realizing that my tire had a poorly constructed bead, I had stans'd up and seated it, placed it in the back seat of my car before it exploded off the rim. Stan's everywhere. Twice.
Just hours later, I met up with the Davis family for what came to be one of my favorite weekends of the year. Traveling and living in an RV for the weekend spoiled me beyond belief and set a new standard for race weekends, not only for the luxury but also for a family setting and support. After picking up Eszter Horanyi and Chris Miller in Grand Junction, we arrived the following day under a gorgeous sky and surroundings of Virgin, Utah, home of 25 Hours in Frog Hollow. I was in awe at the Zion National Park backdrop, which was most gorgeous at sunrise come Sunday. This race is where Eszter and Jonathan would compete in the duo category, I in the solo category, and Tanner, Jonathan and Kathy's son, would race solo as well. Keep in mind that Tanner is eleven years old and completed 8 laps for 102.5 miles. Insanity! My first hundo ever on a mountain bike was last year at the Breck 100 to add a little perspective. And, for more adversity, later that evening I rolled and sprained my inner ankle on the rutted out clayish terra before the course recon. I then got some RICE in, and not the kind that a Filipino mother force fed her son all throughout his youth :).

Weather wise, the following day was a different story. It was fairly chilly to start the race (see Garmin screenshots below), but a blanket of clouds and light precipitation passed, followed by a clear sky. The race began at 10am. Although, since it is considered the longest single day bike race in the world, the clocks were changed back an hour immediately after the Le Mans start to satisfy daylight savings.

The first three laps were spent at a much higher pace than anticipated. I continued lapping through the tent complaining that I was going out too fast yet I wouldn't slow down. In the middle of the fourth lap is when I had an unfortunate mechanical. Without much force to the rear derailleur, the spring snapped and rendered my shifter useless. No spring meant no counter tension to the derailleur cable, and no counter tension meant I was short on luck. On the return to the pit, I was spun out the entire time and made a poor attempt to regroup and instead, contemplated where to draw the line in adversity.
Chris shows no mercy.
We asked around for another spring or rear derailleur but to no avail. Lynda Wallenfels would bring another derailleur but that was hours away. We, more like Chris, tried everything but the best we could muster was manually placing the chain on the fourth largest cog and basically running a "triplespeed" or 3X1 drivetrain. There were times while I was riding where I had to give the derailleur a heel kick or pull to have the right gear. Joy. Not only did I have to manage mashing on pedals for the next three laps, but also deal with ghost shifting plus or minus two cogs for the next four hours until the derailleur showed up. For those three laps, my flow was disrupted, mentally I was breaking and visiting that "dark place" I had hoped for in my last blog post. I guess you can't pick and choose which dark place you're asking for! A terrible moment for me was when Bill Martin, eventual winner of the race with 20 laps, passed me only six-ish laps into the race. He steadily climbed while I felt like I was going in reverse. It crushed me and was a mental blow. I thought it was over. I wanted to compete and here I was displaying my amateur status and being passed this early in the race.

Where to draw the line was another riddle I had contemplated daily leading up to the race. How much money, time, patience, and resilience do I commit to even start this race before I pull the plug? It seemed like what could go wrong, did. More and more I engage in these experiences as if they are merely a test of my courage. I had contemplated where one draws the line when it's time to surrender to adversity. I'm not sure if Chris saw it on my face or if I had told him, but the image of him having a second and suitable rear derailleur in his hand made it easier to breathe. I had so many thoughts at that moment. I thought less about quitting and more about surging back up the ranks. But most of all, the thought that underscored everything, was hope. It felt like the first time in a while that something went more right than wrong. Granted, the "new" derailleur from Dave Harris was tweaked so I couldn't use the two large cogs of a 32 tooth cassette for the remainder of the race. This forced me to keep track of which gear I was in at all times and at every cog shift, I whispered what numbered cog I was pedaling for the remaining 15+ hours. Chris saved me, it wasn't the first time that weekend and it wasn't the last. Another time was when it was in the "witching hours" before sunrise. 13 hours is a long time of darkness no matter how you cut it. At one of the pits, I complained of having no energy, my legs were fine, but my nutrition was sinking and I couldn't tell why. Again, Chris was ahead of the game and had been frying the ultimate race superfood during my previous lap. Bacon. Topped with cheese and wrapped in a tortilla was another image of hope out of Chris's hand. I thought, "how could I ever stop with this much support?" Also, how could I ever stop with Lynda Wallenfels cheering me on and giving me advice along the way. I later had to tell Jonathan that a leading motivator was to have Lynda there in the pits. Just having her present by the campfire was plenty inspiration for me. I was determined that if I wanted Lynda to be my coach someday, then I didn't have a choice. I not only couldn't quit, I couldn't afford to give anything less than everything I had.

Once the 3X1 was turned into a 3X7, it was on. I asked Kathy if she could check the standings to see what I needed to do to get back to 3rd place. I then set off into the night with a bike, body, and spirits that felt brand new. When I returned, I was in seventh and smiling since power in my legs returned. Another lap or two and I was in sixth, then fifth. Towards the later part of the race, I was so brain dead that I couldn't tell how much time I had left to race or when I'd first see the sunrise. By then, it was the "witching hour" and I didn't believe that the darkness had an end. Eventually, I was proved wrong by the greatest sunrise of my entire life. I truly can't imagine a time where I was more happy to see the sun. Whether it's due to the disrupted circadian rhythms or not, I immediately found a new sense of energy and pushed hard for the remaining laps, so despite the fluctuating time in the pits, the last four laps had consecutively negative time splits down to a 1:12:17 split on the last lap. I was in position to return to the timing tent before the 25 hour mark which meant I had the opportunity to go for another lap and secure my placing. I missed it by one minute. Although, in the end I realized that I still would've placed 3rd despite the extra lap.

Bill Martin in 1st, Dave Byers in 2nd, and myself in 3rd.
At the time of the finish, I had raced 18 laps equal to 231 miles, 19,375 feet of climbing in 25 hours and 1 minute, good enough for 3rd place in the solo geared category and good enough for my first podium finish ever!

So, where do I draw the line? After this experience, I've learned that I'm even more uncertain. Maybe that's because the line is that much further away.

Here's a killer video by Chris Miller of the race...

So many thanks goes out to those who helped me make my first podium finish come alive. Anthony Thornton proactively offered his Radical Lights, not one, but two for this endeavor. Ben Welnak, of Twenty2 Cycles, who let me borrow his wheelset and yet another Radical Light while Amy was very encouraging as always and also donated tons of Halloween junk food calories and to my cause. Nom, nom, nom! Golden Bike Shop for their unwavering efforts to have my bike race ready when I need them most. Brad Keyes at CarboRocket for hooking me up with their fantastic product which was the only liquid carbohydrates I resorted to all race and experienced absolutely no GI Issues. Honey Stinger for their Waffles and Chews which I began and finished the race with. The Davis's for their wonderful family environment and for allowing me a piece of real estate in their RV for this very special trip. It was so motivating and supportive to be amongst the Davis family where Kathy was incredibly helpful in the pits, Berkley organizing the chaos in the timing tent, getting a high five of energy from Tanner out on course and Jonathan's advice before, during, and after the race. Eszter Horanyi for her racing wisdom and to travel with such a badass mountain biker was truly exciting. I also feel inclined to thank Dave Byers and Bill Martin for making their way down to Virgin, Utah despite the weather forecasts and pushing the pace so high. Without them, I wouldn't have learned what I did this weekend. I heard that Bill had an unfortunate fall so I hope he's ok. Given that he's one of the toughest enduro junkies around, I have no doubts that he's not letting this slow him down. I hope to race with and against these guys next year for another battle in the desert. Thanks to Lynda for her support and advice to get back on the bike when I'd linger in the pits. Also, thanks to Dave Harris for his endless support and for the second derailleur. I'm sure I wouldn't have podiumed with a triplespeed for the remainder of the race, although I would have tried! A big thank you to Cimarron Chacon and the Gro Promotions group and magnificent volunteers who helped organize an amazing 25 hour event. A special thanks goes to Chris Miller, who without his help, I'm not sure finishing what I started would've have been possible. He was clutch when my bike, my emotions, and my nutrition were in disarray. I seriously will never forget how much his help meant to me and made me realize that racing at this level cannot be done without the support of others.

Not only did Jonathan and Eszter win the Coed Duo, they also won the Duo Overall with a little encouragement from Lynda. 
Lynda with her students, Jonathan, Lynda, Eszter, and Dave. Unbelievable job everyone! 
Stoked to win some Ergon GS1's for 3rd place!
The first four breakfast plates were all mine. Nothing stands a chance the morning after a race.

I made the home page for Singletrack.com! 

Tanner's clearly more focused on recovery than I am with his legs elevated.

Weather for the first 17 hours

Weather for the last 7 hours

Singletrack Competitor online news home page

XXC Magazine (pages 38-43)

Singletrack Competitor article

MTB Race News article

25 Hours in Frog Hollow home page

See you out there,