I finished the race yesterday, not in the form I'd hoped for.
I haven't gained back all of my fitness. My body wasn't ready to race that distance. I haven't raced or ridden in mud since my wreck and I was sketched anytime I saw mud.
Here is the long story:
The day started out very interestingly. While we were driving to the race at 5:30 AM there was the most epic lightning storm. It was truly spectacular, but rain was dumping at the same time and we began to wonder what the day was going to bring. The race was postponed an hour and we skipped the first 10 miles of Round Valley. RV is clay and would have been a sloppy, slippery mess after all of that rain.
2 miles in, as soon as we hit Skid Row it was a mud-fest. I started getting chain suck and assumed it was all because of the mud. When it got so bad I couldn't roll anymore, I stopped and discovered my rear skewer wasn't tight. Luckily, John rolled up right then and helped me fix it. We had to stop again a few minutes later because of more chain suck, this time due to excessive mud, I dumped an entire water bottle on the drive train and that solved it! John, Chris and I all rolled into the Silver Lake Feed Zone at the same time, Dallas got a picture of that. To me, the photo looks like we are doing a strange dance, Johnis doing a cyclocross dismount and looks like he is floating in the air since I'm hiding his bike. I shall call it the feed zone dance. Carl was my support and was on it 110%. He had everything organized, laid out and grabbed my bike to clean and lube the chain and switch bottles. He was awesome!
At that point I knew I was no longer in contention for the podium. However, I was hoping to make up time, so started to push a little more. That was when my leg muscles began to cramp. They essentially never stopped cramping for the next 5 hours. Since I've had this before I knew that stopping doesn't really help, so I just kept pedaling. The cramping would begin in my inner thigh, then move to my calf then to my shin. Usually it was just one leg or the other. By the end it was dominantly in my right leg and knee. I swore to myself right then I would finish the race no matter what. I didn't care if I was the last to roll over the line, I HAD to finish. My knee pain worsened throughout the race and on the last climb I stood up and only used my left leg. But, here's the rest of the story.
John caught me again while riding through John's Trail. As we were riding he said "Erica, stop", I knew something was up, because he knows I don't stop. There was a Bull Moose sitting RIGHT next to the trail. Just chillin, he must have been keeping tabs on all the racers!
The Steps and Apex climb was really painful. But I had John with me to talk to and complain to. The climb up to Shadow Lake hurt as well, but it gets so incredibly beautiful that I wasn't thinking as much about the pain anymore. The descent after Shadow Lake was such a relief. It was in perfect shape, I remembered to smile and really enjoy how beautiful it was.
The PCMR feed zone was smooth and that was the last time I saw anyone for close to an hour. I passed Drew I. on Spiro then it was a solo ride all the way up HAM, Armstong, Mid-mountain and then with 1 mile before Red Pine Lodge, John caught me again. It was strange to be alone for such a long amount of time during a race. Usually I'll have a minute here or there, but this was eery. There were low clouds and it started to rain. I was talking to myself a lot at this point. "Pedal and Flow, Pedal and Flow" or talking to my muscles, asking them to relax. Yes, it was good to see humans again so I could stop that brain chatter!
Of course the section through the Canyons seemed to take forever. It does every year. You even hear the music at the bottom for a few minutes then you have to climb AGAIN. It's the worst trick! I rolled over the line in 8th place. Kind of in a daze. Walked to the table with orange wedges, leaned on the water cooler and ate oranges for 10 minutes.
So, I survived. It hurt, really bad. It felt nothing like last year, or even 2010. However, I can't wait to do it again next year. Next year, will feel better no matter what because I'm NOT taking anytime off next summer!
|Feed Zone Dance (Carl, Erica, John, Chris)|