Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Back on April 14th I started concentrating on my body and what I could do to make myself healthier, stronger, more At that time I started running and getting back on my bike. I was doing well and then, on May 30th, I got an email from Subaru (they sent them to local Subie owners I believe) offering to pay the first $50 of the registration fee for the 2008 Fat Tire Classic. Needing to act fast I quickly looked at the info and registered. Ahead of me sat $145 of fund raising to fulfill the obligation and two days of mountain biking. I'd been on my bike but I'd been road riding on the mountain bike with slick tires and had nearly no true mountain biking experience. And, I only had 1 month to prepare!

Over the last month of I've ridden harder than I've ever ridden before, gaining lovely bruises, lots of muscle and confidence. Loosing 15lbs along the way (well combined with earlier efforts there). Last week I was scared. I didn't feel ready after a mountain bike trek last weekend that required way too much technical and ended up with me pushing my bike up and down a number of areas.

But I had no choice now, my family had donated $345 in support of my efforts and friends and family were all cheering me on. On Friday I drove up to Winter Park and checked in at the race. Number 295. I walked away with maps of the routes in hand and my precious event t-shirt. I got checked in at the hostel I was staying at (which, btw, is really a great place, if you're looking for a cheap place to stay in Grand County, I highly recommend!) and relaxed for a bit before deciding that I'd see how much of the route I could drive since according to the maps at least some of it followed County Hwy 72 which was right where my hostel was. I turned onto the highway and just a couple hundred feet ahead it was dirt, kind of fire road style. Next thing I knew I picked up the arrows for the ride and started following. I was delighted to find that the majority of the Saturday ride would be dirt fire road with "challenge" options heading into more technical stuff. There were two main routes to choose from, one listed at 17 miles and one at 21. After driving the route I still wasn't sure which I would choose and I didn't need to decide until Saturday morning at the split but I was feeling much more confident as I headed to dinner.

Saturday morning I was up early to get ready and head to the resort for the catered breakfast and to get started. The ride opened the starting line at 7am and you could start at any time up to 10am. After breakfast I started off, crossing the starting line at 8:19am. I sent a text message off to a few dear friends and family and their messages back to me along the route were treasured.

The beginning of the ride headed down the Fraser Valley Trail, a paved path along the river which was COLD! My fingers were numb by the time we finally hit sun. At the end of the trail was the first aid station, oddly right across the street from my hostel. I snacked on a few grapes and an orange section and topped off my water bottle with some gatorade. And off I went. I didn't want to stay long at this aid station, I really needed to into the tough parts of the ride. At the moment of the split for the routes I had a tough time. I was feeling good so part of me wanted to head down the harder route but fear of getting a few miles from the end and not being able to finish made me decide to head for the easier option. Of course, it felt harder at the very moment since the Cruiser option headed up a steep hill at that moment while the Classic option wandered off into a flatter area.

As I started to climb, and climb and climb I had to stop, walk my bike a few times or just take a moment to catch my breath but all the while I knew I was doing something I wouldn't have tried just a few years prior. The total climb was around 1200 feet of vertical topping out at about 9600 ft. At 8.9 miles I was feeling pretty good after finally catching and passing a couple of other women (hey, I needed an ego boost!) and stopped to snap this photo with my phone.

Coming upon the second aid station was good timing for sure. I needed to take a break and snacked again on more grapes and topped of the water bottle with more gatorade (I had plain water in the camelback and was alternating). The women I passed rolled in right as I was headed out. Finally, I came to a nice descent and got to sit back and enjoy a bit as I rolled down only to get to the bottom and have to go back up another steep one. I had to stop and walk for a bit here and this is where the only casualty occurred, I busted the arm on my sunglasses. I need shades due to dirt in the eyes and such so I was wondering what I was going to do when a lovely SAG vehicle approached. I snagged some medical tape from them and did a temporary fix and off I went.

Then, came the scary event. I was on a fairly steep descent when I squeezed my rear brake and found I had NOTHING. None, nada, zip. Fortunately, I had front brake so I sat WAY back on the bike and eased on the front brake until it flattened out and I was able to get stopped. Got off the bike and looked to find that the rear brake had loosened enough to slide down the slot thingy (yeah, I know, technical terms here). Thankfully, I've done some brake adjustments in the past and had my multi tool with me so I got myself fixed up and off I went.

At 12.77 miles I stopped at this creek and took a few more photos.

I finally reached the third and final aid station decorated with a tropical theme. Here I decided I could eat a bit more and had some cookies and bandaged a developing blister. Oh, and snapped one more photo of me with my bike.

As I left the people at the aid station said "It's mostly downhill from here!" Yeah, I'm never believing another aid station worker again! I started off and next thing I know I'm climbing again. Unfortunately I had an asthma attack here but got it under control with the inhaler and walked for a bit but then got riding again. This area had lots of really pretty yellow wildflowers to look at as I rode. And then, finally, I started down for good. I was pretty emotional at this point, I'd done it. I crossed the finish line having ridden (or walked the bike) for 2 hours 12 minutes taking a total of around 3 hours with stops. 17.66 miles. It's both the longest distance and longest time on my bike ever, either riding on roads or trails.

A friend met me at the finish and having someone there to relax with and enjoy the festivities was wonderful. And the swag we got was great!

Alright, day two! On day 1 I bought myself a Fat Tire Classic Jersey so I dressed in it which gave me pockets and enough room to bring my real camera. Today was scheduled to be shorter, just over 10 miles for the Cruiser option. Again, I was up early and headed for breakfast. I took off for the route which went up the mountains on the other side of the valley. I met up with a group early on and did most of the uphill (it was an out and back route) with 2 guys from the group. This was a long slow uphill burn gaining around 700 ft in elevation over 3.5 miles. I'm not sure which is worse the long slow uphill or the steep climbs although the long slow was easier on my asthma. Something moved me though and I motored up, taking only one rest, when the guys I had met stopped in front of me. This road was a bit more technical and torn up and at one point I said to the guys "Enough with the potholes already!" Oy!

We reached to top of the climb and were greeted by today's one and only aid station. I had planned on turning around here but was convinced that one challenge option was flat and went out to some beautiful views so I decided I'd give it a try. It was only another mile out. Off I went to a really rocky road, keeping me on my toes watching for rocks and tire placement but I was significantly rewarded with a beautiful rushing stream and pond at the turn around.

Riding down was interesting. A bone rattler for sure with washboard galore and dodging those d*mn potholes again. I stopped and took a couple of pictures of views along the way.

I finished the day with 12.75 miles in about 90 minutes. Afterwards I was treated to a free Thai massage which helped loosen me up and then I headed to the car and to drive home.

The emotion I feel this evening is almost overwhelming. It's pure pride in myself, excitement at who I've become and anticipation of the person I'm still becoming. Friday, I'm scheduled for a near half century ride. Most of my friends would never have guessed this for me 4 years ago but today, it is me. And I am proud of me.

Thank you all for reading this far. Please know that each of you, in your own way, whether I've told you so individually or not has been an inspiration to me. I heard your "voices" along the way describing your adventures, giving encouragement and support and at the times when I was getting discouraged those helped me fight through it. And to those who gave me those last minute cheers and notes of encouragement, my gratitude cannot be measured. Thank you.

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