Sunday, August 30, 2009

24 hours at Afton on Team NewMart

My confidence exceeds my ability. That is my personal lesson for this weekend as I did my first mountain bike race. 

Friday afternoon I headed over to Afton Ski Area with my training partner, Guy, to meet up with the rest of our team and get our campsite/ pit area set up and staged. We found Chuck (our team captain and a customer of mine - he owns a couple convenience stores called NewMart, and one of my account managers is his Coke rep) and Kraig already set up. So we set up our tent next to theirs on the hard gravel. The weather was cool and it felt more like a fall weekend than a late summer weekend. I was a little nervous because I only learned how to mountain bike 6 or 8 weeks ago. I later learned from the other mountain bikers that this is one of, if not THE, toughest mountain bike course in the whole state.
The race started at 5pm and I rode the first loop. Basically, each team (or solo rider) does as many loops of a nine-mile course as you can in 24 hours; the one who does the most loops wins.
It's at the ski area, so you pedal up and down the mountain along the single track bush-whacking trails, and traverse across the ski runs. Up and down and over; up and down and over; up and down and over. The switchbacks are very tight and steep. Taking them too fast scares the living daylights out of you because you can see how steep the fall is at the immediate edge of the track you are trying to ride in. But if you take them too slow, you tip over and then you have to push your bike up. If you take them way too slow, you tip over and tumble down the mountain.. Thankfully, there are lots of bushes and saplings to break most of your fall, so I never fell more than 20 or so feet down. But I fell down repeatedly. I actually cried at one point.
I should describe the fall because it's kind of interesting. It starts out in really slow motion. You definitely have time to pray. But the impact(s) come much faster and your bike falls over and over with you. Eventually you realize that one of the crash landings has forced your feet to clip out of your pedals and at some point you stop moving. You assess the damage to your limbs and butt and if they're all still there you thank God; now you just have to find your bike. Which is tricky at night if your headlamp comes unplugged during the fall and you can't figure out how to plug it back in because it's DARK out. Then you climb back up through through the brush, dragging your bike, and relocate the trail. Then you push your bike up the mountain, along the the very track that was so steep you fell off of it, to a place level enough to remount. You might have to straighten your saddle and handlebars, but you're good to go.
When you make it back to the bottom, you tag off with a teammate and then you can rest for 3 hours. And so it goes all night and all the next day.
Our team ended up finishing in 3rd place (out of 4 teams), so we did collect some nice schwag.

This morning I got up feeling like I've been beat up by the roller derby team. I have bruises everywhere: my triceps, hips, quads, kneecaps, shins, shoulders... even my coolie took a beating when I was bombing down a hill, couldn't get clipped back in, and so my legs were flying and I was bouncing off my saddle. Seriously. This is what I assume it feels like the day after for boxers, only it's all-over. I don't do contact sports! I didn't even play basketball or volleyball! But there is something alluring about these trails and I WILL go back out again.
I didn't bring a camera, but I think my teammates have some pics. If I get them I'll share them.
I was looking for the next challenge after marathon and Ironman and I definitely think I found it!

It's ultra trail running and mountain biking. Both of these are pushing me where I have never, ever, ever  been.  I have had to dig deeper. If I don't, there is no sag wagon on the side of the road; there is no cell service; there is no hollering for help; there is no biking over to the gas station for Powerade or other fuel. It is JUST YOU out there.

It's my new passion, and my first step in my attempt to master it is to change my name to SingletrackJenny. Ya like it?