So what that I hadn't ridden a mountain bike since the 2007 XTERRA World Championships in Maui, that I'd NEVER ridden a mountain bike at night, or that the bike I rode in the race (my new Intense Spider FRO) was built for me the just the day before the race (on the fly by B + L Bikes thanks SO much!) I was stoked when Intense Cycles asked me to be on their team of 4 for 12 Hours of Temecula. It's all part of the adventure right? Ya...fingers and toes were crossed.
OVERSLEPT: The day started by me oversleeping two hours. Literally. What? I didn't hear my alarm and I had one of those look-out-the-window-and-its-light-outside-already-what-the-HECK-time-is-it-oh-my-gosh-i'm-afraid-to-look-please-let-it-still-be-early-but-ya-right-i'm-screwed moments. The ONLY reason it ended up being ok was that my friend had thought the races started an hour earlier than it did, which meant I was only (only?) one hour late, and since it was a relay, I wasn't racing til the second leg (about 50min into the race.) I still ended up there 20min prior to the actual race start. And of course, the atmosphere at the race is the farthest thing from being anything but TOTALLY kick back and cool so...no worries there. Didn't take me long to dig most everything about the race and that was even before I got to ride.
OTHER OVERSLEEPS: Reminds me of two others I've had. One was making it to the border of Mexico for a race in Tijuana only to realize I'd left my bike shoes at my house. I (SOMEHOW) had given myself enough time to get back to my house and be back in time to start (and win!) the race. And the other was when I was co-race director for an Elite Racing events, the Arturo Barrios 10K. I awoke to a phone call. ALL staff was already hard at work at the race site, and I was still a 40min drive away, still in bed. I thanked God that there was no I in TEAM that day...
THE RACE: The course was perfect. Nothing too extreme that I could kill myself, but definitely some challenging parts that I had to walk through which made me realize what skills I'd need to learn. I did four loops in all. They took 52:00, 51:40, 52:00 and 1 hour (night loop.) I say those times, because I was surprised at how consistent they were since each loop felt SO different to me. Since I hadn't been riding much my learning curve was huge (about the bike, the terrain, everything.) So although 4 hrs of mountain biking seems like a lot, being able to ride the same loop over and over let me try and feel different things instead of having days or weeks in between rides to try something again. I did crash 3 times. Once on each of the second, third and fourth loops. But nothing major, just finding limits...
INSTINCTS: The first loop I was feeling it out. Going hard when I could but cautious a lot of times, except of course the one time when I came upon the one pretty steep all-rocky section and before i knew it i was in for-sure-i'm-going-to-crash mode. Luckily my butt came completely off the back of the saddle instinctively (so much so that the saddle was basically in my stomach.) Somehow I regained control of the bike after which I heard an encouraging "Don't go crashing in front of me..." comment. Which made me think (but not say aloud): "Sure next time I'll be sure to decide NOT to crash...haha..." Really everyone was super cool out there which I was thankful for. And a side note: I don't believe it's a coincidence that I have that instinct/coordination even for a new skill like that. I attribute it a lot to my performance training which of course includes body awareness and coordination among so many other things that get thought of as secondary to endurance training but are very much the absolute foundation of all performance regardless of activity or sport. (There I go again...!!)
RECOVERY + REGEN: Yes, it was mountain biking cool culture, but I wasn't afraid to lay out my towel, with my stretch rope, TP Quadballer and The Stick and do some stretching and massage in between loops unlike anyone else there, but that's typical of anywhere I suppose. One day my dream is to see everyone rockin the regen pre/post races!
STRENGTHS/WEAKNESSES: The second loop I felt like I was flying on a lot more of the course. Yet I did what I knew I would do: when it came to the steep rocky section again, I thought too much about it, and didn't get half way down before I got off the bike and walked it the rest of the way. Bummer! That loop I also started to know where my strengths and weaknesses were. I was putting time into and passing a lot of people on the long, steady, flat incline section, but was losing time on the technical uphills and downhills. Of course that makes sense. I have the conditioning, but need skillz. I finished that loop feeling like I'd ridden about 5 minutes faster...but was only 20 seconds faster. Hmmm.
BEST LOOP: The third loop I made it down the steep, rocky section no sweat. And although my body was definitely feeling more fatigued and worked at this point, I still finished in the same time. Told me my conditioning was there. Cool.
NIGHT LOOP: I was worried, I'll admit. Got loaned lights from Nite Rider for both my helmet and my bike. I needed all the help I could get. Enough people had told me that it's not so bad and even super fun that I was up for it, but I just kept thinking, "I hope I get done with this loop thinking the same thing they're saying." And it was true. It was awesome. I even got up one trouble section (narrow steep switchbacky) better than I ever had in the daytime. They say that's because you get to focus only on what's directly in front of you. Seems true. I did crash, pretty hard, but it was because there was a super steep hill that I decided to try one last time to get up giving it everything I had. Well, the saying "If you believe its true than it is..." isn't ALWAYS applicable. I gunned it, and about half way up I just started rolling back down the hill, backpedalling at some point til I picked up too much speed then had to dive off, shoulder first it seemed, since my right scapula seemed to displace over my spine, but somehow nothing snapped. At that point I realized I was amazed at myself that I tried. What was I thinking?! The darkness definitely helped with the 'trying' but not the 'accomplishing' in this situation. All good. Riding the final bit back to the finish, under the stars, in the quiet, I realized I didn't want it to end. It was a great feeling to know I'd be back for more...
And that was that. MTB Race #1 under my belt. Thanks again Intense for my Spider FRO and the experience. Hope to do it again sometime!