As ya'll know, my big plans are to do the Race Across the West next year, and then RAAM in 2010. So, this season is my last season of Ultra-Tri for awhile… but, I figured it made good sense to jump into a long bike race now and just make sure that this cycling thing is really what I want to commit to.
So, I entered the Hoodoo 500, a 518 mile bike race on a single lap course through Southern Utah. The past two weeks haven't been ideal lead up conditions, with (my favorite local race ever) the 24 Hours of Triathlon (didn’t write a report on it but it was a really good time and an okay race for me) and then a business trip to NYC where I was putting on my first conference… We drove out to Utah Friday morning, got in with just the right amount of time to set up the car, meet my support crew and coach, spin on the bike for a few minutes, eat dinner, and go to the meeting. To set up the car we needed to put my race number all over it, put two yellow flashing lights atop, add a "Bikers ahead" magnetic sign, and oh yeah organize all the food, supplies, coolers, wheels, etc inside.
My crew consisted of my hubby and best supporter, Drew, and a friend of my coach's from Vegas, Larry. This was my first time meeting Larry and he is just great. I found him to be warm and supportive, funny, awake and alert, and just a really kind man. Drew tells me he had some good stories, and as a couple of Civil Engineers they had some good things to talk about as they whiled away the hours of the race in the car. My coach was there supporting another of her people, a really fast and nice guy Urs who went on to finish 2nd. She kept asking if I had any questions, but I reckon I didn’t know enough to know what to ask… I was just ready to get on with the biking! She provided a lot of good tips, and I think she and Larry talked occasionally throughout the race.
I also picked up my ride-along. The "Bow". There is a group of women cyclists who have this bow made of ribbons that travels around the country and goes on bike rides. A few weeks before the race Deb, the co-RD for Hoodoo, had the bow riding with her at the Tour of Utah which is a week long tour on the same course as the Hoodoo. She asked if I would bring the bow with me on the race, and of course I would never turn down the good luck. The bow was attached to my seat post, an fortunately had seen all the course before because I'm afraid on this ride she got a slow tour looking at my bum.
The race started with a neutral 8 miles Saturday morning. Brian (Deb's hubby and co-RD) rode us out and we had the usual morning chatter. Finally we got to the real start and the fast guys just took off. We there was a slight grade and I settled in and tried not to look back to see if I was last. We hit a road ("Hwy 9") that I thought we were supposed to turn on, but it wasn't really the T intersection I expected. The guy ahead of me went straight, I got stopped by a light, and a guy rolled up next to me. I asked if we should turn or go straight and he said in very accented English "go straight". Okay, light changes, we go. A few miles later the other guy is coming back at us. Drats. I call Drew and ask if we should have turned at 9 and he said yes, so quick Uturn, a reminder to myself that this will be a long day, and back we go. Up and down and then psst… Flat tire. DRATS! I'm still a few miles away from where I can meet my crew so I try calling again, no cell service at their end so I leave a message, take a deep breath and change the tire. Repeat a gain slowly. It's a long day. At least I've got the bad luck out of the way now. It's a long day.
Finally meet up with the crew and we settle into the bike race. They give me a walkie talkie, which is kinda cool because as I go up this 3ish mile climb I hear "You are almost at the top. Looking good". I think I like this thing! (Note to self, make a mount for it on my handlebars for the next long race). Go through Colorado City but I don’t see any interesting people there (I was looking… since the town has been in the news a lot recently). Get a nice long flat downhill, and eventually make it to the first CP. I see one other crew a lot, turns out they are the Finnish guys sisters and he speaks very little English (I wonder what he thought about out little getting lost earlier).
After the CP there's a 5ish mile climb and some kids go by in a convertible and throw cheeto's at me. Made me laugh! Michelle has this thing about eating cheetos in long races and I wondered if it was a sign!
The miles pass. Many climbs, most long (20-30 miles) and gradual. Lots of pee breaks. Bryce canyon, gorgeous. I see some racers on occasion, enough to not feel too isolated. I did the first night downhill alone (pretty steep and fast) and we decided from then on my crew would sit behind me on downhills. Scary stuff going that fast without much light. Somewhere in the middle of the night on a long climb I decided to take a nap. An hour in a sleeping bag on the side of the road. I didn’t sleep, but I did rest and it felt good. In the end I'm sure it didn’t hurt me, but I'm not sure it helped. Finally daylight came again and more of the same.
The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. The miles just passed by. I wasn't moving fast but I was really having fun. It was hard to eat solid food, got my gag reflex up, but we tried to get nibbles into me as often as possible. I thought about everything and nothing. This is the best part of the deal for me. I had flashes of good riding, flashes of laziness, and generally just rolled along. Finally we were at the "last" 30 mile climb before a big drop-off and then 85 miles of "easy to downhill" to the finish. The climb was pretty fun for the first 25 miles but then it was dark and I was tired and it got endless. At some point (Saturday I think) my breathing got all weird, I was breathing rapidly and shallowly. It didn’t seem to bother me, but was just strange. On this climb of climbs I would stop and just hang over my handlebars for a minute, then get back on a pedal some more. The guys were following me in the car and would get out and see if I was alright and I was, just pooped. I'd ride. I'd stop. I'd ride some more. Finally to the top and Larry says the next 6 miles are short steep climbs with downhills between. I think I screeched at him "WHAT, I thought I got to go DOWNhill". (The section wasn't actually that bad). I added all the clothes I could and we headed out and then started down a 20 mile 8% grade into a town. I was shivering so bad my front end was shaking, but I was flying down this hill. A couple of deer came across the road and fortunately I was too tired to react. Instead it was more of "huh, glad I missed them".
I thought about stopping when we hit town, I was cold and tired and ready to be done but Larry bounced out of the car in town and said "Great, it's easy from here, take off some of those clothes and lets get going" so I did. It seemed easy and warm, and then 5 miles later I started climbing again. WHAT? That's not easy! The map showed a slight grade but this was not slight. 30 miles took over 3 hours. The last 5ish were downhill and froze me solid. All I could think about was that it was 2am, I was cold and tired, and we had a 9.5 hour drive back home and no one had slept. Stopped at the next turn and I just was done.
So, I called the race a 471 miles (on my bike computer) and 42:08. I learned a lot and I am really excited about the next two seasons when I focus on this bike racing stuff. I am going to go back to Hoodoo next year I thing, with specific time goals in place for the checkpoints, knowledge of the course, and some decent hill training and I'll see about finishing with a good solid time.
This season still holds Ultraman. So, in two weeks I go to Tampa for some long ocean swim training. Then October is running month (200 miles, one marathon, and one big back to back weekend). The November is Ultraman. Finally the monkey will get off of my back!
Thanks for reading my stories… I'm really looking forward to the journey to Annapolis (where RAAM will end in June, 2010) and if you keep reading, I'll take ya along…
Keep the rubber side down and a smile up,