The core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences.

I went, I rode, I made it!  I had a damn good time doing it as well.

The two 6-hour Solo Masher Women- post race smiles of insanity!

The two 6-hour Solo Masher Women- Kristi and myself (standing) - post race smiles of insanity!

I was excited and a bit anxious with nerves- OK, a lot anxious with nerves on the ride out to the camp site on Friday.  We got there, set up camp, set my alarms (I have to have 2 for things like this), and got in our sleeping bags.

It was nice to be back at Bluff Creek Ranch.  No matter what type of day or week I had, once we started to see the trees and landscape of that area, my body felt happy and comfortable.  There’s just something about being outside, camping, nature that makes me feel real and thankful.  The temperature was nice, the moon was spectacular, and I was ready to start my adventure the next morning.

The morning brought a weird calm to my head- I wasn’t nervous, I wasn’t scared, I was just ready for an adventure.  I knew it was going to be hard but I also knew that I’d learn a whole hell of a lot throughout the 6-hours I’d be in the saddle.  Greg (aka Caveman) helped me check some things then I helped him get his lights ready for his 12-hour race.  I tried to keep my mind busy while I loaded up my bottles of half water and half RockStar Sugar Free Energy drink (more on that all later).

I did a quick check of my bike- pedals, wheels, air pressure, saddle bag, shifters- all seemed alright; rechecked myself- NRC/PM kit, glasses, gloves, shammy butter, tunes- all seemed right so rolled over to the bike staging area.  The race start was Le Mans style, meaning you put your bikes on the ground at point B and run in your bike shoes from point A to point B, snag your machines, and pedal hard. I had 6 hours to work in the saddle so there was no reason my short legs should expend excess energy to get to my bike quickly.

Lap one went by in a pretty congested state. I did include a small but spectacular endo over a root I had been over many times without problem.  I just picked a wrong line.  the crash was much more interesting looking than it actually was and the crash turned out to be a huge benefit for my race.  The little flip over the bike introduced my left brake to the dirt and rotated it down a little.  This caused me to actually think a bit about using my break more because I had to reach a little.  Being a beginner I have the tendency to have a freak out at times and grab both brakes- NOT something you want to do when going down a super big incline like Gas Pass (see picture below).  It broke my tendency and I don’t think my fingers even put pressure on the front tire once during the whole race.

The rest of the first half of the first lap went well, though slowly-I was getting passed by people all over the place- but I didn’t let it get me down. Most of the riders on the course were doing the race as a team so they had to explode all of their energy each lap.  I kept reminding myself that I had many more laps of this left and there was no reason to get tapped out physically or emotionally early on.

The first part of the course is a bunch of twisty windy parts with only a few little drops and some quick ups but nothing scary.  The second half is almost like a completely different course.  This made it fun because by the time I was 3/4 of the way through the first section, I was hating the loops&turns and back&forths and wanted the hard stuff.  Same can be said in the opposite direction- I began to crave the  somewhat mind resting beginning section as I was almost done with the second half.

Gas Pass- from the top

Gas Pass- from the top

Gas Pass is what gave me the most fear leading up to the race.  I had ridden the course the week before however every single time I came to Gas Pass and its seemly evil relative, Mule Trace, I put on the breaks and hopped off my horse.  Once I hit the long, open stretch leading up to the Pass, I knew that if I didn’t tighten my abs and get my ass down it on the first lap, I’d walk it every time.  What was I scared of?  Falling?  No- I’ve done that many times and know how that feels.  I was just scared but Greg told me how to ride it, my teammate Amy told me how she rode it, and I decided to give it a go.  I ground my teeth (chewing gum is one of the most important race day item for me because of this grinding habit), took a deep breath, said a kind word to Mary and all of the saints, and held on to my rear break for dear life.  Slowly my wheels slid down the concrete-dirt mix and quickly a big ol’smile came on my face.  THIS WAS FUN!!!  I could do this, I WAS doing this.  “Oh Holy Sh…!!!” became my exalted prayer, a bit different from my pre-descend prayer but it was really a prayer of thanks.

I continued on the the new section of the course- the section that Greg and I helped to build the week before with S&S Trail Services.  It was cool knowing that we had worked on the trail and it was awesome ride it.  It was fast, up and down, and fun.

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Mule Trace Beginning

Mule Trace Beginning

The next downhill I had let my mental fears block me from trying previously was Mule Trace.  This turned out to be a whole lot of fun too and each time I went down and around, I yelled out some Napoleon Dynamite type phrase regarding my skills.

I felt pretty good as lap 2 and 3 went on.  Learning from Caveman’s technique, I rolled through each lap, grabbing a new water bottle from my fellow mashers- Amy Hall and Shauna Metcalf.  Having these two women out there in my feed zone was so wonderful and I don’t know if they realize how much they truly helped me.  Hearing them yell, “We’re so proud of you” with every lap gave me tons of strength.  Amy was the one who ran to grab my bike as I finished the race at Rocky Hill with my torn shoulder.  She has had some injuries and knows how hard it is to get the confidence back when you saddle up again.   Thanks so much ya’ll…seriously!

This post will become epically long if I don’t censure myself so I’ll do a quick summary of the last bit.  By hour 4 my legs hated me.  I had started the race with the goal of 5 laps but that went to the wind once my pace put me up for 6 if not 7.  The negotiations began at lap 4- I was going to reach my goal but couldn’t help but feel like I was wussing out for not riding 6 hours when that was the race.  I came in at the end 4 not knowing if I could do it.  The second half of lap 5, sanity went away and my body began to have fun again (I love this endurance stuff).  I was happy.  I came in, had a banana and some drink mix and felt like a new rider.  I seriously could have done another lap after the very end if I had to do it.  I had spent a little extra time in the pit and let one of the other women get by me but the extra few minutes of rest made a big difference.  The end of lap 6 I felt nauseated.  I thought I had passed a competitor and she had a chance of catching up so I put all I had in the petals.  Turns out I lapped her but still- it was fun to kill a bit at the end.

I knew I’d want to do another 6 hour race even when my hip flexors were in so much pain.  It was such a great experience.  Last year there were 4 female solos, this year there 15.  The winning laps last year was 7, this year 8 laps won it with 6 lap’ers staring at place 10.  The course was even slightly longer this year.  The competition was big and hard.  My friend Shelia rocked out with 3rd place.  I’m happy with 13th, completely happy and cant wait until next year’s race.  I had lots of joys throughout the course.  It was great to see so many from the Big Blue Army of NRC/Pedalmasher out there- everyone said hello and if I was stopped (usually to just let people pass around me) they always made sure I was going well.  One of the best moments is when Caveman double lapped me and I was able to tell him I rode down Gas Pass and Mule Trace (kind of one of those, “i did it all by myself” moments).  The first time he passed me I was too out of breath to do much more than cheer him on.  He helped me find so much strength and also has taught me so much, some about racing but most about sticking to your guns and grabbing on to that mental power.

After my race was done I got to be awed by his mental perseverance once again. This is really why I love to watch him race.  When others are tired, when people would normally give up, when some would have throw in the towel, he always finds fire deep inside and pushes like an animal.  It can be the factor that completely annihilates his competitors.  He came in with 3 laps to go, after 9 hours of riding, not knowing if he had 2 more in him (his words).  He was in pain.  He went back out and I was worried.  He found something on that lap, some type of zen and power, that brought him back in different.  He rode back in to the pit, not ready to get off like he had be before, but ready to continue his hunt even harder.  Seriously, it was crazy- he looked fresh and like a machine.  The moonlight gave him something the other competitors had no idea how to harness.  He finished his final lap at just under 12 hours- a lap up on the second place guy.  He took 1st in Expert.  I could go on and on about this but click over to his blog and read his post on the race.

This video of the Warda race is pretty old, from 2003, and a lot has changed since then but this gives you a little idea of the fun!  This was put up by a fellow Pedalmasher.

With that I will end this long post, lacking in many more stories I’d like to tell about the race.  I’ll end it with thanks, praise, and blessings to all and a reflection of how lucky we are all to have these opportunities.

Be well~ride blessed.

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