May 7, 2013

Breathless Agony 2013-Race Report

Scott, Joseph, me, Sochin, Danny, Mike at the start

5:30am: Mike is already up; bikes in car and jumping like a bunny ready to go. Me? "Can't I just sleep for 5 more minutes?"

6:30am: Our crew: Sochin, Danny, Scott, Joseph, Mike and I are at the start signing in. I ask Mike one last time if he remembers anything, please anything about the route to help me prepare. "The secret bathrooms are over there...."

6:40-6:50am: We were told to look out for a fast train to start with, and we look around for 5-10 minutes before realizing that WE were the fast guys. Everyone was looking at us to start. BRING IT!!! And we were off... all but Mike of course, who was actually waiting for the really fast group. Whatever. Sleepily traveling through town, our pace was initially slow. I actually had no idea where to go and needed to follow or I would have been out front. I think we were all waiting for someone else to have the balls and lead out. ‘Nuf said, there goes Joseph!  "Please don't drop me, please don't drop me..."

I'm able to keep up through town and as we hit the first little climb and I'm still behind Scott who is trailing Joseph. I know I need to hang on...  I need to hang on, but Jeeze!! Who am I kidding? B-bye! Damn, on my own again. Several people pass me up the climb, and I'm able to pass ONE man who looks like Santa with a Camelback. Oh joy, I beat Santa. I guess I'll look forward to coal in my stocking this Christmas.

Several miles into the long straight-away, before Jack Rabbit Trail, "Big Tri-Guy in Cut-Off Sleeves" passes me and I'm able to latch on. He's pulling at the perfect pace for me; it's a hard effort but I'm able to stay on. And there's a head wind. Thanks Sleeveless Tri Guy! I'd say I'm behind him for 5-7 miles. This is the only time in during the entire 74.4 miles that I'm able to really draft and get help from anyone. Here I go again...  

Here I go again...  (1min20secs )

Here I go again on my own
goin' down the only road I've ever known.
Like a hobo I was born to bike alone....  

So I make the left turn onto Jack Rabbit Trail. This was the one section that I had really been dreading. Totally off base on that one. The dreadful climb was to come at the end. Anyway… I've never been on a mountain bike, done cyclo-cross or any sort of off-road biking so I really didn't know what to expect. The road itself was actually much better than I had imagined. It was just an ordinary, neglected road like the ones in my own neighborhood of Hollywood. Still, I had memories of my near total wipeout during Mulholland Challenge so every little lip in the pavement scared the crap out of me. As we all know.... I'm pretty badass on my downhill descents! In other words: my nickname might as well be Granny Bolt. Santa was on my tail the entire way, and I'm pretty sure the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and my 86 year old mother all passed me. Whatever. I loved it! I loved the cheeky moments the event hosts put into this section playing the Mountain Music, the old mattresses with the sign "This Is Not a Rest Stop" and the "Don't Forget To Look At The View" signs. Because I was forgetting to look at the views, and the views were amazing! I felt a little bit like I was living the Rapha experience, but without the $800 Coco Chanel bespoke cycling suit (aka: kit) and the $20,000 video production. And later I heard through the pipeline that the g1+2 jersey was getting a few compliments along the way. Way to go us! Back to the trail: I had been hoping the vibrations were going to help my knee (you know, blood flow and all that), but it didn't help at all. By the end, it's hurting to a level 4 pain.

Okay, now at first stop #1. On hindsight, it's the only time I feel I made a mistake. Only because I'm a good girl and I always do as I'm told (Right, hubby?) I pull in, give the guys my name to check in and then they tell me to get off my bike and go rack it... so I go do it!!! After all of the advice by EVERYONE, "to hit-it-and-quit-it" I get off, rack the bike and look around for what I'm supposed to do. Get water, PB&J and M&Ms I guess. But then I see Scooter, and he is beaming with happiness like an 11 year old boy who just punched his first wheelie. Gosh, does he ever have the best energy! And boy did he love Jack Rabbit! So the stop was worth it for that, and he was the only other gentleman besides “Tri-guy” to ever give me a pull. Unfortunately I was only able to hang on for maybe a mile. He was a man on a mission… Joseph! Joseph! Joseph! I also got a glimpse of Sochin and Danny as they pulled in and right out again. But a glimpse might be overstating what I saw of them. A shadow perhaps. They were in and out like lightening. Coach Vance would have been proud. The other highlight was seeing Hig race in and out. In my joy I gave him a cup full of peanut M&Ms. Apparently that cost him the race. I now know: peanuts no good...

Next is the Oak Glen climb. 1,690 ft in 4.8 miles at an average grade of 6.7%, max 11.4%. That was just mean. It really is pretty out there in the hills of Redlands and this makes this climb deceiving. Like a chocolate coated habanero. Not at all like the stark harshness of Stunt on a hot day where you see what you are getting yourself into. I hit a "flat" spots going 7mph. "Why so slow here? It's flat!" I look down at the Garmin to discover that it was 6% grade, which means I had been doing 9-11% for a while and not aware of it. Probably also why my knee pain was hitting a 6/7 pain, but I'm still pretty happy at this point. Anyone I pass or who passes me I say hello and "ask how's it going?" But no one wants to chat. Meanines. This also where I'd pass the Grim Reaper who is taking pictures. I smile and wave and I now see my photo: Shrek on a Christmas bike. Those Vittoria Open Pave Green Tires?  320 tpi, yes. Looking badass? No-so-much.

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At food stop #2 and I try and be good. I know I need to get in and out like I've been told, but come on people!!!! This is the fun part. Seriously. There is not much fun to be had at a race like this and I like this part. So sue me. I get my Coke, I get my peanut M&Ms and I get my PB&J sandwich. “And?” “And” nothing. It was heaven. Screw you guys. This is my race, my pain, and I love this place. The volunteers here are amazing and so are all my fellow comrades in their Team Performance jerseys who are happily eating their crap too. God love us, life is good. Once again I see Sochin and Danny come in and out like Cancellara and Vanmarcke. Sochin is able to muster up some profound words of wisdom: "Dis-harh" she says. (Pain to English translation: "This is hard") I pop a few Skittles (aka: ibuprofen) and go!

Now I'm heading up to Stop #3 towards Angelus Oaks along Damnation Alley. It's only an 11 mile climb and 3,000’ of climbing. Yeah! But it's Eleven Miles of straight up climbing; average 5.2%, max 11%. I don't mind this so much and I mistakenly have a surge of confidence. I have a decent cadence and at some point I pass Danny. Yes, I crush that Angry Orange Man. It's like the heavens have opened up and warm rays of glorious divine light shine down upon me. Do I care that he's actually stopped on the side of the road just for the fun of it? That he stands there just to watch the pain in our eyes? Hannibal Lecter he is. Then he begins to bike up the mountain backwards, in his big chain ring, only using one leg. As he passes me he calls out in that maniacal, head thrown back laugh "Hi Frankie, Nice job." Whatever. I had my moment in the sun and I freaking' crushed him. Oh! Did I mention the sun? It was so damn hot that day. Then I reach Sochin and there we were: Turtle A and Turtle B competing at the Turtle Races, Brennan's Pub on Lincoln Blvd in Marina del Rey. You can find us there every Thursday night between 9-10pm.

OKAY, I make it to Stop #3 and here I really did need to stop. Every single part of my body hurt. My knee wasn't so bad, thankfully. I think the lower grade climbs and the Skittles must have helped. But my ass was not so good. Since I've acquired my new ride, I've not been able to find the right saddle/chamois combination. Also, to rest my knee I've been putting in fewer miles the past 2 weeks. Not the best way to start out a 114 mile, 12,000' ride, but it was my only option. And I still had that misplaced confidence found in Damnation Alley. I had made it to this stop in less than 5 hours and my goal of reaching the summit in less than 7 hours seemed easily attainable. Ha! The summit was less than 20 miles away and only about 2,600'. Average grade a measly 4.4%, max 10%. I can do that in less than 2 hours. Right? Heck! I might even do 6:38! I don't see my miscalculation and taking extra time here as a mistake; it was my first time doing this ride and I didn't realize what totally fatigued legs and biking at higher elevation can do to a girl. Next time I’ll know. (Oh shit. Did I say, “next time”?) So I got off my bike, grabbed a Mountain Dew, a Gatorade and a chocolate chip cookie. Wait. Yes, Ms. Smartypants, you reading this now see the grave mistake I’m making, but to a light-headed girl coming off a 9,000' climb the Mountain Dew/Gatorade combination seemed like a smart idea. Never-ever-do-this-again. Never ever! Neither of those is any good on the stomach, and in combination they are even worse. Anyway, I thought I had plenty of time so I got in the shade and stretched a bit. That cookie was damn good!

I don't need to go into detail about those last 20 miles to Onyx Summit (8,443 above sea level). Those who have been there know. For those who haven’t, you should do it in a car. They were probably the hardest 20 miles I've ever done. For sure, those last 4.4 miles were terrible. Along the way I had cramping on the insides of both quads. So bad I thought I might have to stop. The arches of my feet also cramped up. There was an uphill section into a nasty headwind and, per usual; I was out there alone. So alone in fact, I thought I might be on the wrong road. Seriously, I was looking around for Highway 38 signs for about 2 miles worried I had taken a wrong turn. (Note: there are no turns on this road) And my butt has never been in so much pain. 'Nuff said. I did come across "Big Tri-Guy in Cut-Off Sleeves" again. Dropped him but I wanted to stop several times. At those times, I would look down at my HTFU finger nail polish and Hello Kitty told me to keep going. One. Pedal. Stroke. At. A. Time. I'm afraid to look at my pathetic Garmin report, but those last 20 miles took me over 2 hours. Youdothemathasshole. Not pretty going that slowly in the hot sun.

And then, guess what? I made it!!!! The Grim Reaper waved me in. And can you believe it? Mike, Scott and Joseph were ALL there cheering me on! OMG, I LOVE those guys!!!!! I think my time was 7hrs 8min and they had literally waited HOURS for me to ride up. It felt so good to finish! And then just a little bit later, Sochin and Danny roll in. Sochin with her badass battle scars had to one-up us all! No, it was seriously good to see everyone and have a Coke and a smile. 

The second best thing to actually finishing the race was biking back the last 42 miles with my amazing husband. I really am lucky to be able to do this. 114 miles and 12,000ft of climbing: DONE! Now on to Heartbreak 100; at only 8,500' seems easy at this point. I hope this isn't more of my misplaced confidence…

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