Reluctant roadie plays in the dirt

Yesterday was another “first” for me in my athletic career. I participated in my first mountain bike race and survived, with minimal damage. The 2016 “12 Hours of Fury (THOF)” is now but a distant, slightly painful memory and resulted in a surprise 3rd place showing by my 4-girl team!

Earlier in the summer, I decided to register for the THOF and thought that that would inspire me to ride more. Well, between day job and night job, there wasn’t much time for anything else, let alone mountain biking. I managed to pre-ride the race course twice this past week….which ended up being my “training” for the actual race. The objective of THOF is to ride as many loops as possible within 12 hours. The race started at 10am and ended at 10pm. Each loop is 15 miles long [N.B. Locals, THOF was at McDowell Mountain Regional Park and the loop is made up of sections of the Shallmo, Pemberton, Granite, Lariat, and Escondido trails. Click on this link for more race details.] There were different categories: solo, duo, quad (4 person team), solo single-speed (SS), duo SS, etc. The course itself isn’t difficult, as it is relatively smooth single track and does not feature excessive climbing. Miles 1-6 were a steady, gentle uphill that gave way to a fast, flowy downhill section between miles 6-9, followed by a roller coaster up and down section between miles 9-15. My team completed 7 laps to secure 3rd place. All of us were first-time racers and 1 of us had never ridden at night before, so this race was a milestone for everyone.

I was the first on my team to ride, so I got to experience the “mass start.”

(Left: just before the start of the race; Right: my race number!)

All competitors gathered at the start and on the word “go,” started pedaling. It was pretty slow at the beginning because there were so many people; the first mile was like one long bike caravan. All those bikers and no recent rain resulted in a very dusty day. Pretty soon, riders started to spread out according to speed and I started to hear some words that became somewhat familiar over the rest of my first lap: “on your left….when it’s safe, I’d like to pass.” [Those words were my indication that I was not the fastest rider on the trail.] About 2/3 of the way into my first lap, I fell. I misjudged a corner, skidded on some sand, and landed on my right arm and right hip. [N.B. When I called my SAT after I finished my first lap to tell him about my fall, the first thing he asked was “did you hurt your bike?” Uh, thanks for asking how I’m doing. For you newer readers, “SAT” stands for “self-appointed trainer,” aka husband.] I now have some impressive bruises and road rash. If it weren’t for my fall, I would have earned myself a PR (personal record) for doing the 15 mile loop. (I had ridden the course twice in the past week, and was aiming to beat the time I set on my second pre-race ride.)

When I was done my first lap, I had a long time to hang out before riding my second lap, as the rest of my team had to do their respective first laps. Here’s a picture of my team during the rubber ducky handoff between our 2nd and 3rd riders (all duo and quad teams had to pass a rubber ducky from the finishing rider to the next rider):

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(From left to right: Meg, Hailey, me, Alana. Meg, our 3rd rider, had just finished her first lap and was handing the rubber ducky to Hailey, our 4th rider.)

So, what do riders do in between their laps? In no particular order, hang out, eat, and drink beer. The whole atmosphere was like a festival, with lots of people, high spirits, and frequent updates via PA system regarding which rider was approaching the finish line. There were also a handful of vendors onsite that riders could visit, such as a coffee bar, energy bar stand, and hot dog stand. I got to chat with some other riders on our collective team, San Tan Racers, as well as hydrate and eat some junk food (I worked hard for that privilege!). I’d also check on the status of our other San Tan riders. Eventually, it was time for my 2nd lap. Because sunset was around 5:30pm and because I knew I would be starting my 2nd lap around 4:30pm, based on what I knew about Hailey’s average speed, I got my bike lights attached to my bike and helmet, drank more water, and ate more food. My goals for my 2nd lap were: 1) don’t fall, and 2) beat my 1st lap time. Despite the darkness for the last 5 miles, I achieved both goals. Hooray!

As mentioned at the beginning of the post, the biggest surprise was the news that we got third place in our category (women’s quad team). Not only did we get to stand on the podium, we all won special race beer glasses! That beer glass is probably my most valuable piece of kitchenware in terms of expended effort, aka blood, sweat, and tears. Here we are on the podium:

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And here is a pic of my hard-earned glass:

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A lot of people elected to camp onsite this weekend, but I didn’t want to bother with packing camping gear AND biking gear, so I chose to drive home after the awards ceremony. As a result, I didn’t get home until close to midnight, tired, dusty, sweaty, and triumphant. Just kidding. I’m glad I survived. I would say that my first bike race was positive and that it was a good experience. Would I do another one? I’m not sure. If you were to ask my SAT, he would say “yes, most definitely.” But then again, this is MY blog, so I get the last word. 🙂