Yesterday was Leadville Winter Race #1, thus ushering in the 2009 race season... like a herd of turtles.
Early morning ski traffic left us wondering if we'd even make the race. With some skillful driving by Chris, we did make it -- with five minutes to spare. I quickly scanned the scene to see if any girls were there this time (last year, I was the only girl to race the one that I did). I was happy to see one other girl, complete with pink helmet and gears. At least I had someone to worry about during the race, which is totally necessary when one is slogging through the snow pushing a bike.
Before we knew it, someone said "go" and we were off.
I let most of the pack of boys go first, as I'd lined up at the back and knew my single speed would limit my ability to push up the gigantic hill at the very start. I quickly passed the other girl and headed up the hill, leading another guy on a single speed and a guy with gears. Pretty soon we all hopped off around a soft corner and started pushing. At this point the single speed guy hiked past me, the guy with gears started cursing the creaking noises coming from his cranks, and I couldn't see the girl any more behind me. I hiked a few feet and hopped back on the bike to wind through a trail leading to the massive 3.5 mile climb up a snowy road. I was happy to stay at a steady distance behind the single speed guy the whole climb, as we quickly dropped anyone behind us. I was breathing hard, but overall felt pretty good climbing the hill. The cold air and being at 10,000+ feet was making my lungs burn and feel like they were cramping. That wasn't a good feeling. I finally convinced myself that lungs probably can't actually cramp, and that I was most likely fine. We were climbing up to around 11,000 feet and the scenery was well worth the burn. Chris had tried to convince me to take the camera along to capture some of the beauty, but with as many times as I could foresee myself falling into massive snow drifts, I didn't think I'd risk ruining our one remaining portable camera.
Pretty soon the road turned onto a great trail, and I had to get off to hike -- losing sight of the other single speed guy. Being at the back of a pack of 30 riders leaves a nasty chopped up trail on any type of climb. I was fine with walking some of it, and kept a solid 2.5-3 mph hiking pace to keep me going. I'd hop on and ride anytime I could find a solid line, but I hiked A LOT of the middle section of the course. I kept glancing behind me to see if the other girl or gear guy were catching me, but I couldn't see anyone behind me or ahead of me. Finally, at some point, I stopped to pee and took a nice look around at the scenery. There were beautiful hills draped with clear, untracked snow, and I thought of a fancy wedding cake with fondant on top. I believe it was at this point that I realized just how hungry I was, and everything soon resembled food. This made me laugh. A lot.
The race was fairly non-eventful for me. I walked and pushed my bike a lot, and I rode most of the downhills. Often I would do a nice little left-foot-dabbing-skateboard-style-push down the hills just to keep my bike moving in the chopped up snow. There were a few downhills that were fast and sweet to ride on. I tried to let go of the brakes, as those just caused some serious fishtail action, but I never could get into much of a fast groove. I never did fall into the snowbanks, which was good and also a bit disappointing :)
Around mile 8 (of the supposed 12 mile course), I was getting ready to be done. I was pretty tired, hungry, and had a massive snow clown foot going in my bootie (I forgot to wear the booties that don't have holes cut into them for my cleats -- as I rode flat pedals yesterday -- so the snow built up in that hole, shoved on top of my toes, and made me look like I had clown shoes on). The clown foot was funny looking and I really wanted to ride it in to the finish to get a picture; however, one steep uphill hike left my toes numb when my shoes shoved through the cleat hole and had some serious circulation issues like that. I took a few minutes, sat down, and cleared out the booties before heading to the finish.
I still didn't see anyone behind me, and a quick cheer from Chris at the final road crossing left me motivated to keep moving... until I hit a downhill that I had to walk because of the choppy, soft snow. Walking downhill is a bit aggravating. The final downhill to the finish was fun and rideable (yay!) and I was soon across the finish line.
I couldn't wait to hear how Chris had done, and I had been kicking myself for the final few miles that I didn't ask as I passed by him on the road. Turns out he won! I am very proud of him for sticking out the race and working hard to beat some very fast guys.
It might not have been super speedy, but I won too. The other girl and the gear guy came through the finish line a few minutes after me. Good thing I didn't piddle away more time than I already did between the peeing, sight seeing, and bootie cleaning. For my first single speed race, and only my second snow race/ride, I'm pretty pleased with my results, and very pleased to beat a girl that had gears. My goal was ride the course in 2 hours, and I ended up coming in around 2:20, so I probably could've and should've gone faster. I rode 99% of the uphills on the road, without too much trouble on the single speed, so I'm happy about that. The trails were difficult when they were soft, but fun nonetheless. The location for this race is unbeatable. The peaceful feeling that comes along with the silent snow-covered mountains was much needed. I got to get away from everything, everyone, all stresses, worries, disappointments for a few hours. My mind needed the release, silence, and solitude.
We had a great time before and after the race with Brett, Bill, and a few new friends.
I spent the rest of the night trying my hardest to stay awake past 6:00.
I'm so excited for race #2 -- the night race -- coming up in a few weeks. That'll be a chilly one!!!
(Hubby has his own race report up, full of great pictures -- check it out!)