Two Gears: Hard and Harder

I hadn’t really put together that I had ridden the trails for the Grand Junction Off Road 40 until I pre rode it. I have ridden the trails before a few times but didn’t really put together that it was the same, as I would never willing chose to bring my race bike to these trails for the most part. Thank goodness for the pre-ride. I was with one of Sully’s riders and his girlfriend and they were nice enough to stop and talk lines and talk about the course.

I was still nervous even the morning of knowing what was in front of me, it’s pretty technical and incase you don’t remember I got a brain injury riding down a gravel road. I started right behind a friend from Boulder who was doing it with his dad, which helped. Once the gun went off I took off

This is before everything went south…

into the rhythm of getting to the trail as quickly as possible to avoid the bottleneck that happens on the single track. I followed the flow of people onto the dirt and up to the Widowmaker Hill, which everyone gets off to hike up at this point. One guy on the side of me hoisted his bike onto his shoulder to carry without realizing his front wheel kept taping me in the head, I wondered how many brain cells were dying because of it, briefly, and then jumped back on to continue. Thanks to the pre-ride I knew what was in front of me and what lines to take which helped immensely as most were getting off their bike to run around or crash but allowed me to stay in my rhythm. I had cleared all the technical features on the first half that I was worried about and feeling mildly confident in how I was riding until I took a wrong turn. I didn’t realize it had happened and maintained my flow behind a few other guys, one who was extremely cranky and kept dropping the f-bomb which I thought at first he was mad that a girl was riding behind him and trying to pass and then later realized he knew that we had all taken the wrong turn but decided to keep riding as well and just spew profanities about it. It wasn’t until we all got to the next junction that 30 of us had realized what had happened. Fortunately, instead of having to backtrack we were able to loop around. I took off but most people seemed to mosey on back to the course and since I had no idea where I was going, was at mercy to their pace. We finally reached the first aid station and I got back on track. 

Maybe this should have been a map
After a quick technical descent I kept the momentum going and knew what was coming thanks to my handy-dandy temporary tattoo which was an aid station followed by an uphill slog. I had taken enough time getting lost that I was approaching the hill climb with all the guys on their enduro ready bikes (designed much more for going downhill than up) which helped as I was able to slowly pick them off on the 7 mile double track climb. I would flutter between feeling great and feeling sorry for myself. Which probably correlated to my eating and drinking intake. I was frustrated that I had gotten lost and had assumed that I was in last place but then I would switch modes and be okay with it just being a really good supported training ride. I was grateful when the climb was over and a short descent greeted me to bring me into an aid station. I got off to change the scenery and maybe feel better about things, and I did, briefly until I got back on my bike and continued the next 2 mile slick rock climb up. “Just keep pedaling” I kept repeating. I gained a surge of energy when I saw my friend’s sisters and girlfriend at the next aid station. I had told them about getting lost and was able to ingest as many oranges as possible before leaving, knowing the end was near. 

I was still about 11 miles out but what remained flowed mostly downhill and it put me back on the section that I had pre-ridden. I hit the 2ish mile road section with a group of 4 guys and followed them back into the single track. I was last but soon scooted around two when they got off to walk their bikes on some rocks and then around the next one shortly there after. I was following one into the only technical section I was worried about, he got off and I stalled while he moved out of the way. I proceeded down the line I knew but only to be forsaken at the end. The line I wanted fed back into the trail but I bobbled and turned my wheel away from the trail and down towards the jagged rocks the littered the hillside. I bailed off my bike and it fell onto some rocks and I jumped and landed unscathed. Fortunately the guys who were walking down behind me were there to ask if my bike is okay. “Uhh oh, ha!” I looked to see my right brake level lying in the middle of the trail. Huh, so now I have a front brake left for the rest of this descent. You have got to be kidding me. I got back on and gingerly began pedaling. The next section was a short uphill climb with an exposed ledge on the left. I shifted down but didn’t realize that I broke the shifter so every click to go down was doing the opposite and moving it up to a harder gear. I didn’t even put it together while I was pedaling into a harder gear.  I hopped off to walk up with everyone else and it wasn’t until I was back on that I realized I didn’t have access to the rear shifter and now was stuck in the smallest cog on the back. Great, so now I had two gears left; hard and harder. And only the front brake. This is hilarious. 

Not so funny at the time

I started to get into a grove, and maybe became mildly overconfident with one brake. I gained some speed going down into a left corner that was grooved with rocks. In a panic I locked up my front wheel which skidded my bike straight into a rock. I didn’t even notice the damage at the time but later saw that I had taken off a few layers of paint and exposed the carbon, ooops. I was fine, but my poor bike. I had no advantage to my predicament, I couldn’t get going too fast on the downhills and was stuck in two hard gears for going up hill, so I bounced between riding and running. At least it’s good practice for the hike-a-bike sections in Leadville. I ended up on the pavement that was a 2 mile ride back to the start when I met up with my friend’s dad. One of his cables had broken so he was limited to the gears he was able to use as well. I rode in with him where we talked about the course and what had transpired over our separate journeys. I was never so happy to see a finish line. I ended up 6th for women, which might have been the most disappointing thing, with everything that happened I should have gotten annihilated, but only 9 women were in my category. I’m not sure how to get more women racing but that’s for another blog.

So glad to be done. 

I meant to get this up sooner, but some things transpired at work that took a lot of energy. Since the race, I’ve been riding mountain bikes more, at least when it’s not raining in Boulder. This weekend I’ll be doing the Beti Bike Bash, which at 18 miles is by far the shortest race I’ll do all year! Eeek!

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