Monday, May 2, 2011

tough enough

Two years ago... on a little old cannondale with a headshock that had seen better days... I tackled my first Michaux race.  In the rain. 40 couple degrees.  I was not a happy camper.  At all.  Shea won his division.  I took over 2 1/2 hours to ride 10 miles.  Sloppy mud.  Wet, rocky climbs.  I wanted to put my bike on the side of the trail, leave it there, and never ride it again.

Yesterday - I rode my ass off to get a chance to ride those same 10 miles - they would be the last 10 of the 40 mile race.  A field of 9 women started, and with the advertised cut-off of 2pm, I knew I'd be close.  We started at 9:15 - that gave me 4:45 to ride 31 miles.  Sounds easy, right?  Ha, then you've never raced at Michaux.

We started in the middle of last year's 20 - a fire road climb then a rideable rock garden climb and descent.  I was feeling really good on the bike.  Got behind a BBC rider who was a bit slower on the downhill, but it worked ok to keep me riding in control.  Through a preview of the mud to come.  Sloshy Michaux mud.  Last year, I learned that at Michaux, it's always better to ride in the running water than the peanut butter glop on the sides.  The water runs on rock or clay.  Wet feet.  Wool socks were smart.

Up up up a fireroad climb.  I passed a woman who mentioned I was cooking along - yeah, but I have a healthy respect for Michaux and putting the hammer down on the fire roads could make up for the hike-a-biking I was sure to do later.  I didn't see her again.  And hike-a-bike I did.  Somewhere, probably mile 8-10, but maybe it was mile 16ish, maybe both... a contour line trail that was a bit off-camber and strewn with large rocks, angled logs, mini rock gardens.  I'd hike thirty yards, get back on the bike, and be back off of it very shortly later.  There were a couple tough climbs, too, but I've come to expect that. 

I wound up chanting to myself to trust myself on the bike.  It worked, and I got a bit of flow back.  Then I dismounted for a totally rideable rock drop-off.  I commented that it was rideable, to which the guy nearby who was fixing a flat said, "Yeah, but I've seen 3 people crash there, including me".  I felt better. 

I'd been warned by teammates about two downhill sections - one of them I'm sure I knew what they were talking about.  There were pretty substantial boulders, and so many leaves that you couldn't really distinguish the rocks underneath.  I scrambled down it very carefully.

I waded through the deeper streams.  They washed off the mud on my legs, so I was clean mid-calf down.  For a while, anyway.

I knew I had to pull out of the 23 mile aid station by 1pm to make the cut.  As my GPS counted up to 23 miles and a bit beyond (they have a special way of measuring at Michaux), I still wasn't there and 1pm came and past.  Shortly thereafter, I was handing my camelback to an awesome volunteer to fill, scrabbling through my drop bag for a cookie, and back on the bike.  I had 7 miles (it would add up to 8 according to my math) and not enough time.  I decided to put the hammer down and go for it.  Either I'd get pulled having finished strong, or I'd make the cut.  Helped by some of the flowiest sections, I was on track, then we started climbing and I wasn't.  It started raining lightly.

But I made it - this is probably the first negative split I've ever managed in a race.  They were pulling the tape across when me and the PVC guy I'd climbed the fire road with came up to it.  They let us through to the last 10 miles as the last ones through.  He didn't finish - not sure what happened.  Then, predictably, I bonked and it took me nearly 2 hours to finish in a cold, persistent rain.

I have not many words for those last 7 miles.  I got cold.  Stopped to put on my shoved-in-the-pack-at-the-last-minute-jacket.  I rode some stuff okay.  I crashed.  I found the mental drag that always comes at some point in a long race - flashed back to 2 years ago and laughed at myself.  No quitting now.  I hiked.  Through the mud.  Uphill.  Special Michaux mud.  I worried about my brakes, which weren't working great, had a ton of grit in them, and were squealing loudly.  I smiled at the moto guys, who were pulling arrows and waiting for me.  I almost crashed on the wet roots coming into the finish.  But when I pulled into the tent, everyone stopped race cleanup for a minute and cheered.

Shea handed me a towel.  Someone handed me a bottle of homemade coffee liquor.  Love Michaux - one sip and I was buzzed within about 30 seconds.  A huge quantity of french fries appeared.  I shoveled my bike off to Shea then discovered he'd prewarmed the car for my muddy disrobing.

This year, one of my written goals was to finish a Michaux 40 miler.  I did.

1 comment:

  1. nice job, Becky! I don't think I've ridden more than a 25 miler at Michaux (not sure I want to!)...yep, you're killing it :)