Friday, April 30, 2010

Shock and Awe

The title sums up Lynda and Dave's trip to my neck of the woods.  This past weekend at the Cohutta, I played the role of supporter.  I think I picked a pretty good year to sit this one out (making a motion of wiping sweat from my brow).  My coach, Lynda Wallenfels, and her man, Dave Harris, were racing.  I was excited to be working for them.

They flew in Wednesday night and made Zeke's house their base.  Thanks, Zeke!  I came over on Thursday and along with Kim and Mark, rode the first 20 miles of single track with them.  Not having seen Lynda since TransRockies '08, I was stoked to be their "guide."

Lynda was excited to see so much green.  She especially loved the dogwoods, in full bloom.  Today was all about stopping to "smell the roses."  Thunderock got their attention.  They were all giggles as they smoked that descent.  I don't believe I have ever seen someone pre-ride a trail so friggin' fast!

On Friday, we met up again and along with Zeke, rode the last 10 miles of single track, hitting Thunderock for a second time.  That evening, after installing mudfenders on the desert rats' rigs, we enjoyed a pre-race meal at Goodfella's:  the Odea's, Sandefurs, JJ and Co., Danielle, Lynda, Dave, Monte, and I.

It was good to be on the other side and not have the pre-race jitters, although I think a couple butterflies were swarming around in my stomach for Lynda.

I spent the night at Zeke's.  Just when I thought I had hundies dialed in, I watched Lynda's prep and learned even more.  She has got it down to a science.  As I settled in for the night, the rains settled in on the Cohuttas.

Fortunately, the start was warm and dry.  Unfortunately, Lynda took the mudfender I had given her off; it was rattling against her down tube.  Dave left his on and had a happy face for the duration of the race.  As I looked across the first few rows of competitors, the race faces were ON!  The "she-testerone," as Zeke calls it, was so thick it was intoxicating.  I managed to get a smile from Lynda, but only for a second.

After the race started, Zeke and I drove up to Boyd Gap to watch them come through.  I saw Amanda come through first and almost missed Lynda, tucked in right behind her.  After 10 miles, they were only a minute off the lead group of guys.

From there, we drove over to Watson Gap where we set up our pit on Zeke's tailgate.  On Lynda's race day plan, she expected to arrive there at 3h 2min.  By golly, at 10 am she rolled up with fire in her eyes.  She was looking great.  Dave warned me not to ask her any questions at the pit stops as she tended to talk in tongue.  Our exchange was silent and we got her out of there in less than 30 seconds.  Amanda and AnnaJean pulled in right behind Lynda, but took a bit longer to get rolling again as they were self-supported at this aid station.

We also supported Eddie; I handed him off a bottle, in a most professionally quick and efficient way.  He was looking strong as well.  We got worried when we did not see Todd.  About 30 minutes after Lynda, he came limping in, obviously frustrated.  His race was done.  Apparently, in order to avoid running over a rider on Brush Creek who bit it on a bridge, he hyper-extended his knee.  He was pretty bummed as this was an "A" race.

From there, we went up to Aid Station 6 to prepare for the next series of hand offs.  When we got there, we had just missed Danielle, who went in to the single track in first place in the Big Frog 65 and who would go on to win.  Not too far behind was Namrita who was looking incredibly strong.  Ursula, who I think actually cracked a smile, entered the single track in third place.

With time to kill awaiting the arrival of our racers, I taught the Civil Air Patrol cadets a class on how to prepare aid station food.

At about noon, the heavens let loose with thunder, lightning, and sideways rain.  Once again, I was happy to be where I was versus descending FS17 dodging lightning bolts.

Just before 2 pm, Zeke and I took up our post a few feet away from the West Fork Trail.  We expected Lynda at any time.  When we saw Amanda come through looking strong, my heart sunk a little.  I began counting the minutes.  When 1 turned to 5 to 10 minutes, I began to worry.  We could hear the racers before we would see them and each time I expected it to be her.  Dave kinda caught us off guard.  His mojo finally caught up to him and he was feeling rather frisky.

I cannot remember where he passed her, but said she wasn't looking too sparkly.  That must have been hard for him.  We gave him his wings (can of Red Bull), swapped out bottles, and sent him on his way.

Lynda was not too far behind.  At this point she was in fourth, some 20 minutes behind Amanda.  As soon as I saw her face, I knew she was done.  She had that 100 yard stare.  She said she couldn't go on and when I asked why, she mumbled something about a lightning bolt, crashing, and feeling all tingly.

WHOA!  Oh ... my ... God.  Here is my coach, riding in my back yard and almost becomes a fatality.  That gave me the heebie-jeebies.

We got her loaded into the truck and drove her back down to the Start/Finish.  Once she got cleaned up, warmed up, and fueled up, she gave us the lowdown on her experience with lightning.

At one of the highest points along the course, just after Potato Patch and before the FS17 descent, she was racing along when suddenly her vision went white.  The next thing she knew, she was laying on the ground beside her bike.  Another rider some 30 yards ahead was also down.  All the hairs on her body were standing up straight and her whole body was tingling.  She managed to get back on the bike, but had no coordination.  It was a struggle to just turn the pedals over.  And she had to ride another 25 miles before she got to us.  The other rider managed to get back on his bike as well.

Although it took her until about 8 pm Saturday night to feel normal again, i was just so thankful that she was alive.  I am not sure how many more crazy near death experiences this wild woman has had, but I am pretty sure she is a few lives short of 9 now.

It has got to be hard to call it quits, especially after completing 89 miles.  The only DNF I have had was at an XC race years ago when I double-flatted.  What I learned from coach this day was that a DNF is nothing when compared to what you have awaiting you beyond the finish line ... your family.

Coach did the right thing and if I am ever in a situation similar to hers, I will let my ego go and do the right thing.

BTW, she felt good enough the next day to hammer me on Bear Creek, P1, P2, and P3.  30 fast miles later, I was "pooped."  Now, that's some crack!

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