Six hours of Warrior Creek. This was the six hours of riding that I was waiting for until the last 6 hours of Warrior Creek. Last year’s race was just a tune up for this years for me. Goal this year. 4 Laps, 60+ miles and a lot of berms.
Last year’s race my kids were only 6 months old at this time. That meant for the past 6 months prior to the race, my time was spent warming bottles, changing diapers, and planning how to feed the little hyenas for the next 3 hours. Needless to say, I didn’t have a lot of free time to ride a bike.
In fact, I don’t remember a whole lot about it, except that I only completed 3 laps. In retrospect 3 laps isn’t horrible considering the circumstances of limited ride time. I do remember suffering for all 3 of them, and then coming into the finish line, just a few minutes past the last cut off time. That was ok with me. I was done after 3 and my butt hurt from riding.
Thank you Little Miss Sunshine for the action shots
With the kids being a little bit older and a little more self-sufficient I didn’t feel guilty leaving occasionally to go for a ride while the Burrower watched them on the weekend. I even woke up early in January and February to go for a road ride when it was 25 degrees out. I only did that twice. That was enough for me. Factor in a hour ride on the road bike on Saturday, 2 hours on Sunday on the mountain bike when I could fit it in, a half day off work, and too much time on the trainer and I was as ready as I could have been.
I got to the course right at 9 am. Time enough to drop off my gear, park the car, get changed and make it to the racers meeting at 9:30. The race started on time and I rolled through the start line at 10 a.m. With 300 racers, I took my spot near the back of the pack to let the other people get a shot at getting into the woods first. I know where I fall when it comes to speed. After about 2 miles of pavement to thin out the group and a little bunch up right where everyone entered the woods, it was time to hit the trail.
Usually in these types of races there are a lot of people who try to get up too far up front, and then forget that they are going to be racing for 6 hours and end up slowing everyone down when they finally realize that all important piece of information. Surprisingly, not this year. After about 4 miles of riding in a train and a few passes later, the trails were wide open. Legs and lungs felt good and I found my rhythm for what I thought would be a pace in which I could keep for a while.
About 10 miles into the first lap I tried to make a turn and noticed something. Or better yet, the lack of something. My front tire ended up popping so I had to pull off to the side of the trail to fix it. I haven’t had a flat tire in a few years while on the trail so I was hoping that my spare tube and CO2 cartridge were still in working order considering they haven’t been removed in that time frame. Somehow, I managed to switch out the tube relatively quickly and put air in it and get rolling. I was proud of myself considering that I haven’t done a trail side repair in a long time and didn’t fail. The rest of the first lap I spent trying to make up time and picking people that caught up to me when I was on the side of the trail.
It was a unique experience actually passing people. Usually I am on the other end of that equation. With 4 laps on my mind and the fact that I missed the cut off by minutes last year, I had to make up time, at least in my head.
As I pulled into the pits after the first lap, I grabbed food, and two new bottles and went out quickly. I don’t remember a whole lot of details about the 2nd lap, except that it was my fastest and probably most fun because I kept on passing people on the trail. I worked hard to catch the person in front of me, I would then rest for a bit behind them, and when the trail opened up, passed them to repeat the cycle all over again. I pulled into the pits after the 2nd lap, a little more tired but still in good spirits. I ate a little bit of food and new bottled and headed out.
Around mile marker 9 on the third lap, I ended up being about 4 hours in of constant riding. That is also when I realized that I was hungry and didn’t want to eat. I rolled into the pits after my 3rd lap, feeling exhausted, hungry, and tired. Good news is that I hadn’t cramped yet, bad news is that nothing I had to eat looked good. Against my better judgment I only grabbed one thing to eat and headed out for my 4th lap. I had plenty of time coming in 40 minutes before the cut off. My goal was almost complete, barring any other unfortunate circumstances.
By the time I hit the 5 hour mark on the bike, I was drained physically, and it almost wasn’t fun anymore. I was zoning out, and coming so close to my legs cramping. As a precaution I did end up walking through one of the rock gardens, and one of the uphill switchbacks. Those are usually the worst times that you fall over and can’t move your legs, because the leaders usually want by you when you’re sprawled out in pain on the trail. It is just Murphy’s law.
Hour 6 came around and I still wasn’t done. With the toughest section of trail behind me I looked forward to the finish. One mile left to go and I recognized the last few switchback climbs towards the finish. Looking down at my Garmin, I was over 6 hours and 30 minutes when I finally crossed the finish line. I went back to my pit and found my chair and just sat down, trying to drink a coke between coughing fits. The fits lasted about 10 minutes while my body adjusted to having a soft chair to sit on instead of a hard bike seat.
I listened to a webcast one time of an endurance athlete and he said, “at a certain point everyone’s body breaks down, it’s the mental that gets you through it.” I have to agree. My breaking point was a little before 5 hours. After that it was just me struggling through it physically, telling myself that it was almost over. I made it though. I got through my goal of 4 laps. 60+ miles singletrack, and 6 hours and 30 minutes of being on the bike.
I think I am just going to take a break for a week while my tailbone heals.