Wildflowers are in full bloom. Tis the season for Wildflower and Spring racing.
Sadly Tim and I could not make it to Wildflower. We desperately wanted celebrate and have a mini reunion with the rest of Team Neuschwander. It was not be. Wildflower has a special place in our hearts and..... maybe even a special place on one's fence.
A heartfelt thanks to my San Diego pals who offered Tim and I help in anyway to get to Wildflower. That's why I love sport. It makes the world a smaller and friendlier place.
Call me pompous but I knew in my heart of hearts by skipping Wildflower I could help scheme up a whole barrel of fun (physical inebriation) for Tim and I. Now I know you are all reading this thinking "She's worried he'll have fun without her?"
Lucky for me I don't just have a plan B. I have an alphabet of options for when things don't go as planned. I had a little time to come up with plan B. If only we could do something as fun as last Sunday's mountain bike race. If only!!!
And maybe something a little wild.
Actually maybe we could. Well Tim certainly could. There was a race at Idyllwild we heard about. It was a 2 hour drive with a start time of 9 a.m. Perfect, Tim could round on his patients first. I knew Tim would love it. However, I wasn't sure I was ready. I heard it was "technical and hard" but I couldn't look an opportunity in the face and stay home.
I googled the course and it had the best course descriptions "down the exfoliator up the demoralizer past rage in the sage." A course people love enough to name each sections. It doesn't get any better.
We got to Idyllwild. It felt like a million miles from San Diego. It was really georgous and a tad cold since we were at 6,000ft. Neither of us knew much about the race. I had to get a licence. Apparently this was a "real mountain bike race with Cats." Silly me, I thought cats were the mountain lions who would eat me if I went too slow. Tim and I both raced Category 2 as that was the highest cat/longest distance we could ride without racing in a prior Cat race.
There was a good energy about the race area and a great deal of promotion for women's racing. In fact they were offering the women's novice race for me. I mean for free. That was a slip. Probably the division I should be racing. They were having a little course talk for women put on by a former pro, Dorothy Wong. She took Tim and I through the start and the first part of the single track. She was absolutely lovely and gave some sound advice. We were riding it slow. It seemed really hard. I didn't know how I would manage to manuver the course with people around.
I thought I might get sick. I thought I might cry. This could be a long day. Oh Boy! I didn't want to ruin the day for Tim, who is soooooo happy to race no matter how painful the course. Time to put on my big girl pants.
Tim mentioned the course was sandy and that I liked sand. We met another San Diegan we recognized from the last race. He was smiling. Grinning from ear to ear with this overflowing enthusiasm. He asked us if we had ridden the course before. When we said no he responded "Well you are in for a real treat then." Then he said they had added more single track then prior years. Hold on a minute. In four years of triathloning I have never heard anybody say "You are in for a real treat. "
With that we headed to the start and I lined up with the other Cat 2 women. The field is pretty small. I recognized one of the girls and we started chatting and soon we were rolling. We whipped through the first section of the course and at race pace it was so much easier. In fact it was soooo much fun! Soon I was smiling and having fun. Not long after we entered a muddy section I did not anticipate. Wrong gear, wrong line and I was off the bike and pushing. Mile two and heart rate max. It was going to be a long hard fought day. I also got to hear the phrase "on your left" several times. After that there was some climbing and then a single track that rolled like a roller coaster. I was behind a woman, not in my age, who knew the course well. She didn't brake at all, so neither did I. It was probably the most fun I have ever had on a bike. I would like to ride that section a 100 times over. Later she got a flat and I was sorry. It was so much more fun to follow her line.
All to soon there was a sign for the "KOM". It was a long climb up with these little steps I proudly cleared. A the top we went right and kept climbing. I thought we were done climbing but it the hard part was just starting. Just like Wildflower there were big men walking in front of us gals. As if the trail is not hard enough to navigate ;) It was rocky and I could no longer ride all the sections. I was on the bike, off the bike, on the bike, off the bike. Probably should have just stayed off the bike and ran.
Some racers are so cool they can even run over rubble looking good. I ain't so good running in my bike shoes. I resorted to leaning on my bike while doing some sort of run shuffle bobble. I actually used my bike similar to the way an old lady would use a walker for support.
I think that was the hardest mile of my life. Really. Honestly. 100% the truth, the hardest mile. I was struggling. STRUGGLING!!!!!!! I figured so was everybody else so onward.
Finally after a whole lot of klutzy struggling I was back on awesome single track. Zigging and zagging, I found my self smiling and blogging in my head. Bad girl, go harder. No blogging, facebooking, or texting while racing. Problem was I couldn't really go harder. The trail was turning this way and that, going up and down, over and under and in between two large rocks like some kind of joke. Seriously. I thought I lost the trail for a minute. I didn't know where I was going so I ended up braking to be on the safe side. It's a tough call scrub speed braking or literally eat dirt? Like I said it's a tough call.
There were a bunch of obstacles I didn't forsee or have the skill set for, such as log piles. I had to jump off the bike so many times. It was so tiring I found myself riding sections I never would have if not racing because I was done walking that bike! This made me so excited I was in 7th heaven.
With about 4 miles there was a long tortuous uphill. I was out of gas, I tired to take a gel and it seemed like it forced me to breathe out my eyeballs. Getting to the next down hill was like dying and going to heaven. Heaven until my arms about gave out. Going down the long bumpy decent my arms up and went on strike. Seriously, they denied me opportunity to ride the brakes. I figured that would at least get me to the finish faster.
At mile 17, we hit the pavement and a gravel/sandy road. I wanted to kiss the the gravel and sand with relief! I could see the finish. I thought the course was short or my Garmin was wrong. I started sprinting as hard as I could and then we made a right hand turn. We headed back on a trail and headed up a section of the course called the demoralizer. Get it....the demoralizer. Hah, Hah. Hardy, har, har. I fell for that one. At least, I knew there was only one mile left. I refused to let the "big strong men" walking up the hill in front of me influence me. I had made it this far I'm not going to be a course carcass now I thought.
After the climb we were rewarded with a fast undulating decent and then headed towards the finish. I was so happy to be done. That was an effort worth celebrating.
I soon found Tim. I swear there were tears coming out of my eyes. Not an emotional cry, a wierd breathe out my eyeballs cry. Tim claimed to dry heave across the finish line. We were so happy. In fact we were thrilled. Guess we are a bit off. Just a smidge.
We figured out that Tim and I both won our divisions. Tim raced on his single speed. Woo Hoo to that! I didn't win over all ....got beat by some girls on single speeds.-Studettes. Yikes. However, they were really nice and told me I had "27 wrong gears to be in." I was tickled with my effort because I think I rode well for my ability and experience. I couldn't myself for anymore than what I gave.
I asked Tim if he wanted to stay for the awards. He said "Hell yeah. That was the hardest thing I ever did. I'm climbing up on that stump"
I love how moutain bikers have so much enthusiasm for their events. It is mandantory to do the "V" with your hands on top of the podium. After watching the awards I say it's a great practice. Then it was my turn to climb on top of the stump. I actually found the stump climb quite challenging. This sport is not for the weak of heart.