Redemption Day: August 1, 2015.
Ken Chlouber of Leadville fame gives a pep talk the day before LT100, and there’s a new video making the rounds where he’s talking about how the pain of a race only lasts however many hours the race is, but the pain of a DNF lasts until you can come back and redeem yourself. The Laramie Enduro this year was very much about that… well, it was only about redeeming myself (and perhaps figuring out nutrition for LT100). If there’s one day on the bike that pissed me off the most, it was DNF-ing the Laramie Enduro in 2013.
I won’t lie, it was hard this year. It hurt, sometimes very badly. I’m pretty sure around mile 12 or 14 I was thinking about just stopping. I had a good start, climbed well and faster than it seemed I had before. Racing open women has it’s perks in that the course was really clear so the first section of single track I didn’t have to worry about traffic and racers that couldn’t make the one long steep climb (and the few that walked moved quickly out of the way). I sat in 5th place until shortly after Aid 1. I was getting concerned because my heart rate was never dropping below 175-180bpm, and I knew that was just too much to sustain for this race length, even though it felt like I was pacing myself well and trying to spin easier gears. Then I started to get giddy inside that I was actually going to finish this race and finally be able to throw out this piece of baggage.
I pulled into Aid 2 and a volunteer ran off with my camelback to refill it as I stood there feeling useless – this event has AMAZING volunteers to say the least. She said I had drank 3/4 of the 100oz bladder, which I was happy to hear. I decided to give Tailwind the final trial as my main nutrition source. Overall I consumed about 6 liters of water with 18 scoops of Tailwind, two half banana slices, two slices of watermelon, 3 Endurolyte tablets, and two Honey Stinger gels! Anyways, I was quickly back on my way to enjoy the speedy downhill and tailwind to Aid 3. I crossed the half way point of 35 miles at 3 hours 13 minutes (including stopped time), and I couldn’t believe how fast it was all going by!
I came into Aid 3 and the volunteers told me I was in 4th place. Now mind you, I really had no idea where I was at this point, and I wasn’t “racing” the race. I was actually annoyed they told me, as it changed the dynamic for me from “just finish” to “hmmm, maybe try to do well.” Tim came up to me and told me “Barb is coming for you!” and that added stress. Dammit, do I actually have to race now?! After a quick watermelon slice and dumping some Tailwind into my water I had refilled at Aid 2, I was on my way, determined to not let any other open women catch me.
I came up to the 701GA climb and sternly looked it in the eye and said “701GA, you killed my mojo in 2013. Prepare to die.” Because that’s the only logical thing to say to a rutted out, eroded forest service road, right?! I walked this climb in 2013, and this year I spun my granny gear all the way to the top. I think I was smiling… which I’m sure everyone would shake their head at as nobody likes 701GA. Whatever, I did this year! I also chatted up every cow I saw on course, which was about… several hundred. People commented that they had issues with the cows moving for them, but I just politely asked the cows to move and they did. Not only do I talk to forest service roads and threaten to kill them, I’m also a cow whisperer.
Things continued to go well and soon enough the bits of single track were over and it was time for another never ending grind on double track and primitive roads up to Aid 4. Aid 4… my nemesis. The point where I called my parents to come pick me up in 2013. As long as I moved my bike past Aid 4 I knew my day was complete. I got an amazing surprise as I came up to the road crossing and saw Jim on the side of the road, there to surprise me! I’m not kidding when I say I almost peed my pants in happiness! Few sips of cold water and a hug, and he set me off on my way with a “you’re in 6th or 7th” place! I just lost it. Seeing Aid 4, seeing him, feeling the support, I bawled all the way to the aid station. Goodness endurance mountain biking turns me into a mush ball!
Quick refill of the Camelbak at Aid 4 and I set off. OK, here it goes… 18 miles left! The Laramie Enduro is a mean bitch, though, as she puts all the hardest stuff in the last 18 miles. Because there’s nothing like having to have technical skills at mile 65 of a 68 mile race… The first few miles went OK, but soon stuff turned into long conga line hike-a-bikes up steep hills, and then not so steep hills. It was hot, hovering around 90 degrees with no wind. I actually complained about there not being wind! Also the swear words and name calling of hills began. Aid 4 to Aid 5 on the course is simply mental demoralizing (and for some, physically demoralizing, too). My granny gear became intolerable to turn over and I felt ruined. Nonetheless, I repeated “Keep moving” in my head, whether it was on foot or on bike. I stopped on one rutted out hill that bucked me off course and cried for 10 seconds out of frustration and then ate a gel for a bit of a caffeine boost. It seemed like Aid 5 would never come, and of course you had to climb a bunch to get there.
Jim was waiting for me at Aid 5, and of course I started crying again as he hugged me and gave me more cold water before shooing me back on my bike. Six miles was left… a horrid six miles. Jim drove behind me on Headquarters Rd up to the trailhead for motivation and then I waved goodbye as I turned onto Headquarters Trail. The most frustrating part of the rest of the course is that I’m super familiar with it all. I ride and race on it all the time. I know how fast I can ride each part. Headquarters Climb is a toughy, but I’ve always cleared it. I found myself walking and it was humbling because I know what I normally can do, but with 65 miles under my belt I knew what was suddenly impossible, but it bothered me terribly that it was impossible. I dragged myself and bike up the climb, step after step, finally remounting at the junction with Browns Landing. OK, mostly downhill from here. But technical. Ugh. I felt like I was going so slow, and I really was in all honesty.
I got caught on a root on a small kicker and fell over and just sat in the trail for a minute or two. It felt good to sit. I hadn’t sat all day on something other than a bike seat! But I knew I had to get it over with because it was so close to the finish. I tried to power on as much as I could, and soon I was descending the single track to the trailhead and down the dirt road to the finish line. Funny enough, I had been pushing the granny gear slowly for the past two hours, and yet I was turning the big chain ring and almost my hardest gear sprinting down the finishing straight. Ummm, really?!
7 hours 43 minutes 36 seconds. 6th Place Open Women.
I did it 🙂
I crossed the line and looked around and felt lost. It was all over. A guy who knew me through a friend came over and asked how I did and I started crying. Nice impression I made on him, I’m sure. It was overwhelming but so relieving. That’s it… the DNF Pain of 2013 was gone. I came back and kicked the course’s ass and proved that I could do it – it took me 7 hours to reach Aid 4 in 2013, and 7 hours and 43 minutes to do the whole damn thing this year! Now it was time for staring down food not sure I could eat it (I wasn’t hungry), wondering when I’d finally pee, and to double fist a beer in one hand and a lemonade in another!
Two weeks before what will be the hardest day on a bike for me I squashed the mental demons that taunted me since July 2013. I’m so happy it’s over. I have no plans for another Laramie Enduro because I feel like my work is done for now. I am happy with how the day went, especially since it came at the end of the week of my transition to night shift and a couple of missed workouts and not a single day on a bike over 5 hours all year. It’s been hard to keep my mental drive going this late into the summer, as I’m use to calling it quits after a nationals in mid-July, but this was a good boost and also foreshadowing of what’s to come during the LT100. Goodness, I can’t wait to return to strictly XCO racing next year!