Echo Valley Race Report

I wasn’t planning on writing another race report until August, for our only local MTB race- the Palos Meltdown.  I’ve pretty much scrapped my summer racing plans in favor of Eric’s training and quite honestly, I’m Ok with that.  I’m just not excited about riding here.  The local trail (Palos) was closed for most of May due to rain, and our schedule doesn’t always allow for driving up to Wisconsin (2 hr drive one way) or all the way down to Brown County, Indiana (~4-5 hrs one way depending on traffic). I’ve only mountain biked in the tri-state area maybe 5x since we moved here…the only other time I get out is when I’m in Michigan and my parents can watch AKA.  Or when I visit Seattle apparently 🙂

In the weeks leading up to our Chelan visit my plan changed from hiking (minimal gear required) to riding to “racing casually”. I put out a request to the Facecbook universe asking if anyone had a spare bike of any kind to loan. As it turned out, the only viable options were of the mountain variety. Option #1 was a new, unfamiliar bike that looked too big. Option #2 was a friend’s trail bike that fit pretty well. What I didn’t know is that it weighted 30lbs (more on that later). Option #3 was my old Santa Cruz Blur (needs serious work). I chose bachelor #2 since I knew it would at least be comfortable.

I took the bike for a quick spin on around Issaquah on Friday morning.  The fit was decent apart from the super-short stem and a seat that felt like a 2×4. But the weight…yikes! About 9lbs heavier than my Scott. It’s better than nothing I suppose.

The morning of the race was pretty chill- chasing around AKA while trying to remember what I used to carry during a longer race. The bike frame was too small for a water bottle cage so I had to carry a pack, which I proceeded to stuff with several packages of Honey Stinger chews, gels, chapstick and a travel-sized tube of sunblock. Surely I’d have time to stop mid-race and re-apply, right? I figured I’d be on the course for a few hours so I decided on Hammer Perpetuem instead of Nuun.  One sip of that chalky-tasting drink sent me down a race version of memory lane. I have consumed waaaaayyyy to much of that stuff over the years!

The women’s race started at 10:10 and the sun was already getting hot. I could feel sweat trickling down my back…and I haven’t even started riding yet! I was mentally preparing for my “casual race” when Race Director Jerry said something about getting ahead of the pack on the short road climb so you’re not stuck behind slow people on the singletrack. Well shoot, that just messed up my whole plan. Now I can’t go slow (at least at the start)!  The bell rang and I rode as hard as I dared to at the start of a 30-mile race. Not too fast but not putzing either.  After a seemingly long 6/10 of a mile I turned onto the singletrack and found myself wondering why I signed up for this.  The climb wasn’t terribly steep but I just haven’t ridden anything like it in a year. Oh, and my bike just wouldn’t go. It just wouldn’t accelerate like I’m used to.  Once I got going I could keep a decent pace but it just took a while to get there, kinda like a semi truck going up a hill.

The first third of the race was simply about survival and the second third was all about settling into a comfortable pace (especially after I noticed that all of my suspension had been locked out for like 15 miles). I found myself riding with a small group of ladies but then I stopped for a gel and never saw them again. Oh well, I was running out of gas anyway. The last third of the race kinda sucked though. I came through the last aid station and groaned when I saw the trail heading up again. Dammit, we don’t have hills in Chicago!  I noticed a racer descending to my left, yet the trail I was riding kept bearing right… I wasn’t sure what was going on and then it dawned on me that the trail went around the peak/hill/whatever you want to call it.  Ugh. I bumbled my way around the hilltop and was SO HAPPY to start the descent. My heavy bike stepped up to the challenge and I enjoyed a nice, cushy ride down. I could see the finish line in the valley below and found my second wind.  And then I came upon that dumb climb to the finish line which may have resulted in a swear word or two. Haha.

And then it was over. Yay!

I’m really happy that I had a good time and didn’t crash, bonk, cry or DNF. Every five miles or so I told myself “Stop making excuses!” as to why I was riding so slow. But the reality is, I don’t ride like I used to.  I have to keep reminding myself that things are different now. So with that in mind I am, *gulp*…proud of myself for basically doing an off-the-couch race and not sucking too badly (according my expectations, that is).

Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t borrow a bike. I was too worried about scratching the shiny new paintjob and definitely did not ride as aggressively as I would have liked. Plus the fit wasn’t that great and my knee hurt. And my backside was sore after an hour of riding an unfamiliar saddle.
  2. Train more. Duh!
  3. Keep essentials accessible. I tucked the hydration bladder tube into my pack strap and could barely get a drink. Of course I didn’t want to stop to fix it either. And I thought I was brilliant for keeping loose Honey Stinger chews in my pack’s hip pocket, until half of them fell out on the first attempt at retrieving them. Of course the others were stashed deep in the main compartment of my bag. And let me tell you, those Sport Legs capsules really did a lot good…sitting in the bottom of my pack.

The race was just one tiny part of an amazing long weekend filled with friends and fun. We can’t wait to come back next year! With my own bike, of course 🙂

Here we go...

Here we go…

Pre-race family shot.

Pre-race family shot.

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