My goal for the 2012 Whiskey Off Road was to shave 30 minutes from my 2011 time. I managed to finish the Whiskey Off Road 2011 in just over 4 and a half hours. 4 Hours seemed a lofty goal at the time, but I knew I could manage. I would be back to the best race in the USA- Epic Rides’ Whiskey Off Road. An event that draws almost 1800 riders and racers to sip sweet singletrack for 15, 25 or 50 miles. In addition to the incredible riding, Todd Sadow, race promoter, managed to secure $30,000 in CASH for the Pro field. And he even decided to pay evenly for men and women. I know, it sounds surreal. Perhaps a Disney movie, a Cinderella story. And then you wake up. But no, this is for real. Todd opened his mouth and money came out.
And the Pros came hungry to feed on the spoils, including me.
As you know by now, I raced for a few years back in the early 2000s. Sounds strange when I put it that way, but it’s true. I decided to pick up and start racing marathons because I enjoy riding my bike on great trails, not in 5k circles. Marathons, typically 100k or 50 miles, have grown in popularity along with stage races (multi-day races). If 20 Pro women show up to a USA Cycling Pro XCT cross country race, that’s a generous field, sadly. Although the 50 miles proves to be a tough race, more women are showing up to the Whiskey than to most Pro cross country races.
I digress. We’ll talk more about what Todd is doing for mountain biking later. Just to give you an idea, he has already been nominated for the 2012 induction into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
About the adventurous weekend!
Alex Boone, my partner in crime, and I left Altadena Thursday afternoon ahead of the great rain storm. As we escaped the black clouds, the sun began to settle and the desert presented itself to us in all of its peaceful glory. We drove into the stars, away from civilization and into the Wild West of Prescott, Arizona. Prescott is nestled in the valley below Thumb Butte high above the desert and just south of the glowing red rocks of Sedona and presents itself as a rough and tumble cowboy town, which it is. The Mayor is your friend (and he rides a bike once a year to work during the Mayorial Ride), the men open carry pistols on their side, and Whiskey pours down the throats of many a weary traveler.
A beautiful night was spent in our cabin in the bedroom, or shall I say cabin community of Groom Creek. Nestled amongst pines and surrounded by creeks and squirrels, the Groom Creek community offers a great getaway from the bustling metropolis of Prescott. (It is a bustling metropolis if you’re from Altadena, California.)
With fire in the wood burning stove and stars to gaze upon, we had a cozy evening to settle in. Friday morning saw us performing all of the pre-race chores. Race number pick ups, Pro race meeting, grocery shopping and generally orienting. Upon our return to the cabin, behold a set of boxes awaited, and my new Easton EC90 29er wheels were ready to go, along with a new Grio Aeon, Giro Sica women’s mtb shoes and some beautiful gloves. I was ready to look good!
Once Alex had the wheels on the 29er, we were set to go downtown for the Fat Tire Crit. I warmed up with Sue Butler, catching up on her season, and lined up early. The effort was violent, and I sat up after a hard lap to mitigate the exercise induced asthma fits that would ensue. Alex would race the 25 Proof Singelspeed race in the morning. To ensure he was properly prepared and ready to rock on his singlespeed, we took off and relaxed at home.
After the 25 Proof took off to blazing cowboy guns, I watched Alex zoom past and headed back to the cabin. I was waylaid on my way by a Scooter than caught my eye. A beautiful blue Stella. I shot a photo and walked in to the Scooter & Auto Source office to meet the owner, Mark Tetreau. The man has a mustache the size of Texas, and it’s a real cowboy stache, I tell you what! He was the kindest man, and his passion for scooters and motorcycles poured over into my waterbottle, surely, for I was ready to scoot away with a handful or two of scooters. While the Harley scooter was something to behold, the rear drive tandem bicycle was absolutely the coolest tandem I have ever seen. And not only is it rear drive, it’s rear steer! Amazing piece of work. The woman was supposed to ride on the front, but I know a few Pro women who would prefer not to!
Mark delivers to LA and beyond, so hit the guy up for your next Ural motorcycle or Stella Scooter. He even has Vespa. Call him, he’ll get you what you seek. And if you have vintage mountain bikes, he’s in the market!
I made it back to the cabin in time for some yoga before going back to Whiskey Row to pick up Alex. He won the Singlespeed race, and we retired to the cabin for an incredible pre race meal. Grilled Bison Burgers, portabello mushrooms, and broccolini with roasted cauliflower and kale on the side. It was so delicious and delightful.
Race morning. Race nerves. My routine is similar to the past 12 years. I eat, shower, do yoga, mentally prepare and physically prepare. All I want to do is be on course. I’m on the start line and *boom* we go.
I hang with the group for the first couple of road miles. But when the hill steepens, I back off. I think to myself, spare yourself for the rest of the race. This may have been a mistake, for I lost most of the time on the first few miles of the race. I stumbled my way through the first bit of singletrack and I was mostly alone. This is bad in a race, I needed to see someone in front of me. Eventually I began to trust the bike more, with the new EC90 wheels. She flowed so smoothly under me, and the wheels picked up where my mind left off. It was becoming better.
The 260 is a nice long, fast downhill where I finally found a rhythm. Fast descending and dropping into the valley. Rocks flying, screeching turns and blazing fast sums up the 260.
The jeep road climb to the top of Skull Valley drop in was a good place for me and I picked up an extra spot. As I raced down to Skull Valley, I could see glimpses of Sonya Looney ahead. I drove as hard as I could. The Pro Men peloton came whizzing by up the road all together. One by one the Pro women were approaching and I finally hit the turn around. Now to go up this godforsaken hill.
As I picked up the pace I felt the first twinge of cramp in my right leg. Damn. 25 miles to go and I am cramping. If God is so good, then why did he invent cramping? I shift down to relax, and pick it back up again. Click. Ouch. Ok, ok gear down. My heart sinks, I think of Milly, and my heart sinks further. I can’t push the gear I need to be in due to the cramps, which by one mile up Skull Valley, have taken over both legs. I must bide my time.
Relieved, I pedaled past the Skull Valley out and back and up to feed station 3. A kind soul sees my pains and offers me a cold, flat Coke. I cry out in joy! Yes! Thank you! That Coke may have saved my life.
I trudge on, the cramps are on and off, I speed up, I stand up, I sit down I gear down. Like a yo-yo, like a Merry-go-round, I pedal and I cry every few pedal strokes as my legs seize and persist. I cry. I cry. But, oh! the beautiful singletrack!
I see a rider in front of me as I approach the final turn from the long climb. Now I can motivate. I pedal in spite of the cramps. I cry out. “OW!” I pedal. I must not stop. Milly.
At this point, I can’t even stand on the pedals to rest my legs. When I stand, each piece of my quads violently tightens and I almost lose control of the bike. I pedal when I am able. Now my hamstrings are doing it. My fingers, my arms. Every muscle in my body.
Now I come to Cramp Hill. I cramped so badly here last year I had to get off the bike. This year, I barely cramped here, as I had already been cramping for over an hour straight, it hardly mattered. I rode up Cramp Hill and kept trying to catch that next girl in front of me.
When we hit the most technical part of the end singeltrack, I was finally able to sneak by. In spite of the cramps, I rode on. I was dreading the final 2 miles or so of pavement. The pavement meant constant pedaling at full stop. I couldn’t fathom the pain I was going to be in. I cried out loud as I pedaled, but I persisted. This was it. I had to go all in.
As I approached Whiskey Row, I hit the corner hard, almost hitting the fencing, but managed to pull it together for a strong finish. As I slowed my bike and stepped off I anticipated the disabling cramps. They never came. I finished in just over 4 hours, and 30 minutes ahead of my 2011 time. It was a beautiful day to be on the bike, and in spite of the cramps, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I finished 22nd, and I can’t say I was happy about that, but I reached my goal. More goals for 2013.
Congrats to Pua Mata for her win, her second in as many years! Pua is the most positive competitor, and a model for any aspiring Pro.
After the race, we had dinner the Firehouse grill and settled in for a beautiful evening in Groom Creek. We woke in the morning to hit up some of the lesser known local singletrack, meeting a few old locals who gave us the beta. These retirees spend their days winding through the forests of Prescott. A great life if you ask me! The trails are smooth, winding and fast. All pine. It’s a wonderful smell.
The drive back to Altadena was painful at best. The heat of the day, the driving sun and the LA traffic was enough to drive us back to the mountains. Fortunately, we live in the mountains of LA. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be back, Prescott!