Monday, July 30, 2007

Suffering on my SS

I do a lot of endurance events that are pretty darn tough. I’ve even suffered a fair bit, but nothing like the suffering I experienced at this past weekend’s Laramie Enduro. The race encompasses about 8,000 feet of climbing over 70 miles of single track, double track and jeep/gravel road. Last year I did the race on my geared bike and broke my derailleur (the device that allows you to shift gears). This year I rode my single speed to avoid that problem.

I knew the race would be tough with only one gear and no rear suspension. My goal was to go out hard and ride a fast race and not pace myself too slow. I was prepared to suffer.

The single speed riders started with the front group of professional riders, ahead of the sport racers. I took off and had to ride hard, as the start is uphill for awhile. Last year, I was passed pretty quickly by the sport group that was started five minutes later. This year, I kept riding and riding and riding. No sport riders. Hmmm… I reached the first section of single track; still no sport riders. Last year I was bogged down in this section with gobs of sport riders who couldn’t ride single track. This year, I was practically alone, with the pros and men’s single speed racers ahead and none of the sport riders up with me yet. I figured they must have started the sport riders at least half an hour after the pros/single speeders!

Finally, after about 45 minutes of racing, the first of the sport guys caught me. I later found out that they had started 5 minutes after us afterall. Sweet - I was riding hard! I arrived at the first Aid Station still well fed and hydrated, so I only took a nature break and then, after 1 ½ minutes, I was back on my bike. I continued to ride hard up to Aid Station 2, where I took a longer, 6 minute break. The volunteers at this race are second to none. They fill up your hydration bladder and offer you a wonderful array of different foods, gels and sports drinks. Fueled up with boiled potatoes, bananas and few bites of a bagel with peanut butter, I took off for Aid Station 3 at about the 40 mile mark.

I was still feeling really good. I found myself within a group of sport guys on geared bikes. I would pass them on the climbs, since I have to either ride uphill fast or get off and walk. I hate walking! Some of these guys would pass me on the downhills, since they had more weight and a bigger gears. Surprisingly, I was faster than a few of these guys on the downhills, not wanting to touch my brakes and slow down my Mo, but they would get me on the flats where I would spin out with my 32x20 gearing. Then we would repeat the whole thing over again at the next climb with me passing them again. I caught a second wind and lost a few of them, making Aid Station 3 feeling awesome. I took a short 3 minute break before heading off again.

Over halfway done, I rode the 12 miles from Aid Station 3 to Aid Staion 4 with no problems and only recall that I was having a blast. The weather was beautiful, a surprise after all the rain Laramie had been getting. At Aid Staion 4, I took a longer break to refill my hydration bladder and eat . I ran into my friend Tom, with whom I had been jockeying back and forth with before I caught my second wind. He was feeling whooped and not looking forward to the 10 mile section between Aid Staion 4 and Aid Station 5. Right after you leave Aid Staion 4 at mile 52, the trail hits a series of steep climbs. Next year I think I'll make Aid Staion 3 my big eating stop, because I almost lost my lunch on the first steep ascent after Aid Station 4.

At about mile 50, another long 5 mile climb ensued. I hit my low point here. My legs were smoked and for the first time in the race, I had to walk. A lot. I was suffering! Walking was painful and when I could ride, after every peddle stroke I was sure I wouldn't be able to turn the crank around one more time. But somehow I did. I was relieved to get to another big downhill only to encounter another steep climb before I reached the last Aid Station more gassed than I ever remember being at a race. A volunteer told me there were only 7 miles more to go, music to my ears. I made it a short stop and got back on my bike to finish the race.

The trail went downhil for a bit before coming to the dreaded Headquarters Trail. This trail goes up stupid steep before hitting an up and down section for a couple of miles. Then the whole thing blessedly goes mostly downhill on a wondeful swoopy trail through forest and rocky singletrack to a gravel road that takes you to the end. I walked a lot of the steep part up Headquarters Trail, although most of the geared riders around me did the same. I hit another low point partway up and had to pull off the trail, rest and eat a gel. When I got past the really steep part, I recovered a bit and was able to painfully ride most of the up and down section. Although I was suffering, I must have been going at a decent clip because I was never passed by a couple of the geared guys I had been riding/walking up Headquarter Trail with. Finally, I got to the fun swoopy part of the trail that mostly went downhill. Despite being completely smoked, I had a total blast on this section. I knew the race was almost over. Besides, it was a really fun section of singletrack!

I whizzed down to the finish so fast I never even saw Jesper, who had finished 40 minutes before me. He drove right past me in the Durango to get our dogs from the hotel. I finished in 8:02 (darn those 2 minutes). I'd like to beat the 8 hour mark, however I am very pleased with my finish time. I won my class, although I must say there was only one other female single speeder. I don't have the final stats, but I beat a lot of other riders on geared bikes, both men and women. Most importantly, I pushed myself really hard in this race. It was truly a sufferfest, but I enjoyed it.


trainwreck said...

that's just kwazy!

wilderness101 this weekend. you should come down and ride with us mere mortals!

redstone said...

Great job, Jen. Glad you had a good time up there. That's one of my favorite races, too. Maybe I will hit it again with you after I've had time to get out on my bike...

blacksheep said...

great job Jen! that's a super fast time on a SS.

are you sure that was harder than KTR?? ;)