|Relentless was how Kevin lived each day.|
As the gun went off at 9am, I charged up the 2.5 mile pavement climb. It wasn't long before I knew I could not hang with the front pack, so I let my legs come around on there own terms. Jen disappeared with the big boys, but I wasn't concerned about how I placed today among my fellow athletes. I just wanted to have a good clean run.
After 10 minutes of hammering up the road, I hit Brush Creek. I was glad for the rain that had settled the dust on the trail, but it had also made the bridges slick as snot. I approached them with extreme caution; bike upright, hands off the brakes. Halfway through Brush Creek, my legs woke up. I was easily able to pick up the pace. I was pleasantly surprised that my heart rate easily soared into the low 160's with a perceived effort of 6-7. I had been unable to attain that HR since getting sick.
Before I knew it, I was flying down Boyd Gap. I had recently installed a dropper on my Niner RKT and was making the most of it. The corners were a little slick, but without my seat getting all up in my butt, I was able to fishtail around them without getting squirrelly. So worth the 0.7 pound weight penalty!
|Loving my rocket ship|
Old Copper Road was a highway as I flew down the trail. I was beginning to feel a hint of sparkle in the legs. I was fearful the feeling would be short-lived and that I would go back to my slump once I hit the climb up Bear Paw. After the creek crossing, Zeke handed me a bottle and told me I was 30 seconds behind Jen. What what?!? Jen is so strong I was sure that she would have been farther up. Beginning the climb up Bear Paw, I ratcheted down a bit, worried that I would feel the dreaded cement legs. But that never came to be. My legs were alive and ready to hammer. Locking out my rear suspension, I began to stand and throw my bike around on the climbs as if it was my single speed.
Feeling great, I gave Henry a fist pump as I rolled through his station. He yelled out that I was 20 seconds behind Jen. As I sailed down the descents and flew up the climbs of Lower Chestnut, I had a feeling that I was not alone. Call me crazy, but Kevin's spirit was with me. I had wings ... and this time not from drinking Red Bull. Towards the end of this section, I began to see glimpses of Jen. By the time I hit Thunder Rock, I was on her wheel. I followed her in awe down this descent. For not having ridden this trail, she was raging it.
On the climb up FS45, I popped off her wheel. I needed to eat and drink and allow the legs to come back around again. As I get older, it takes my body more time to shift from descending mode back to climbing mode. Fenton was at the aid station at the top and cheering me on. That gave me just what I needed to get back to task. Looking at my time, I was en route to a PR.
Climbing up to Quartz, I wanted to reel Jen back in, because I knew that together we could push each other and go harder than if we were each alone. Together we entered the Quartz Loop. I could tell she was a bit unfamiliar with the terrain. She also mentioned that she had been riding quite a bit in Pisgah on her big bike and that she felt a little discombobulated on her shorter travel Lust. I know that sometimes it can be hard to transition from one bike to another; been there done that.
As we approached Bypass, I took the lead, hoping that this might help our little train get down the mountain quicker. It seemed to work as I was feeling very comfortable pushing my bike to its limit on the descents. Together we made short work of Riverview. As we approached the last climb out of Riverview, I was passed by a racer. Feeling competitive, I hopped on his wheel and followed him down 1331 and BearPaw. 1331 was really washed out and I had to hop a couple of ditches that came up super fast; definitely a couple of "Oh Shit!" moments. At one point, I looked behind me and realized that I had dropped Jen. I could have swore she was right behind me. You know, the sound of sticks breaking, rocks getting strewn about, brake squeals. No one ... but me. That was eerie!
Coming back across the Olympic Bridge, I was cautioned by spectators to take it slow. I'm glad they did that, as I was feeling so good I just wanted to GO! Grabbing my last bottle from Zeke, I headed back up Old Copper Road to the finish. I was lucky enough to tuck in behind two racers all the way to the pavement.
Headed back up Boyd Gap, I remembered past races when I was on my single speed ... and how I had to get off and HAB up two short sections. The challenge today was to not dab. Some poor soul behind me was riding a bike making all sorts of pitiful noises. It sounded like it belonged on the Island of MisFit toys. He told me his shock or maybe his fork was blown. He was indeed struggling. I let him pass on a flatter section so that he could get some speed up to try and make it up one of the punchy parts. He hit it hard but that poor bike was not cooperating and he was bucked off. I managed to make it around him, gassed it, and dropped him.
Entering Brush Creek I had only 7 miles to go. I tried to imagine this as a 20 minute L4 interval. I started out good, but forgot about that first bridge, was carrying too much speed going into it, and kissed it HARD. My left shoulder and hip made contact first and I heard a pop in my low back. I immediately jumped up and swiveled my bars back around. In my mind, the quicker I get back on my feet, the better my chances of avoiding a race ending injury. Although I could tell I was "out of alignment," it did not hurt too bad. I just figured I would out race my pain.
The first few miles, I had adrenaline fueling me. The last few miles, the pain was catching back up to me. I fought hard to keep my speed up, but after 3 hours and 15 minutes, I was about spent. I did not want my PR to slip out of my grasp. I locked out my suspension, stood, and mashed the pedals in fury for the last 1/4 mile. I could feel a twinge in my left inner quad, but pushed on ... relentless. I wanted Kevin's approval for fighting for every inch of trail! I crossed the finish line in 3:24, first woman.
I managed to get off the bike, but it took about 5 minutes before I could straighten out my back. Brad Cobb handed me an ice cold coke which I quickly chugged. Slowly but surely I started coming back around. Zeke was kind enough to drive me back down to the start.
Every racer got a hoodie. I got a first place mug and some Tifosi's, which I will wear. Although I think that in the future they ought to award the Masters' winners with a pair of Tifosi readers! Part of the draw to the race is the fantastic schwag that Scott's Bikes has. And the number plates are defintely wall worthy.
|Lisa managed 2nd despite racing on very tired legs.|
While cleaning up, I reminisced about the past 3 1/2 hours. I couldn't explain my "chainless" day. It could have simply been my coach's training plan and the fact that I was getting ready to peak for my "A" race. It could have been the easy week leading up to this race, especially since I wasn't feeling well and had backed off the training plan a bit. But I BELIEVE it was Kevin's spirit that touched my soul and propelled me forward.
Every time I race, at some point the "pain cave" appears. It can be a very dark and self destructive place. It is when the legs are burning, the breathing is ragged, and focusing becomes difficult. This is where the mental games take place. You must know what you want and no matter how difficult and perhaps unreachable you may think your goal may be, you must conquer those inner demons.
Well today, I would take Kevin's motto and turn it into my Power Phrase. I must have said "Be Relentless" a hundred times as I tackled the climbs and the steep grunts. And it worked! I threw everything I had at the course today.
Unfortunately I missed my PR by a few minutes. But I was ok with that, because it still felt like the ride of my life. And that is how Kevin treated each and every one of his cancer filled and cancer free days. I will miss him. But every ride from here on out, I will carry a piece of him.