Monday, August 25, 2008

Queen For A Day

A valuable lesson was learned this weekend; Royalty looks better than it feels!

Cartecay Mike and crew had cooked up an epic race that is surely to become the new ride tradition. Dubbed The Drama Queen ride, it would cover the Pinhoti trails, Windy Gap, Milma, Tibbs, Bear Creek, and even some paved road climbing for good measure. I know everyone of these trails by heart, and reading the description made my palms sweat. 53 miles, 7,000' climbing. Yea, whatever. I ain't doing that.

Three guesses as to what Raja declared our ride for the wkd would be, and the first 2 guesses do not count. That's right. He wanted to do the Drama Queen. "Oh, you've got to be kidding!" "They have a 30 mile option," he said. We can do that. Alright. Now you're talking some sense.

For over 10 years, we have been doing a similar ridiculous feat called The Firewater50. When we were in racing shape, this was a challenge, but it did not bring us to the edge of death like it does nowadays. If you read my post from last year's FW50, you will see I clearly stated, "So for the record, "I'm not doing this next year!"

There was not a whole lot of difference between the Drama Queen route and FW50 route. However, with FW, you start the most brutal part of the race straight off; climbing Windy Gap and Tibbs. That's how the Drama would come into play with the DQ race. You do not hit Windy & Tibbs until almost mile 30. If you have had any encounter at all with these climbs, then you know how wrong and twisted that is. I was going to have nothing to do with it. We could do the 30 and let the wackos play all drama-like.

My week had not been a good one in regards to riding. Every ride I started was cut short because my legs felt like cement bags. Sweetwater joined me for a ride at Blankets on Friday, and I tried hard to hide my pain.

With only 4 1/2 hrs of riding for 6 days, I had to do something on Saturday. Raja wanted to join the gang for 40 miles early Saturday morning. When the 6am wakeup nudge came, I defiantly said, "I'm not going, I'm sleeping in." phooey. I could already tell I was going to feel like crap, and I'm sick and tired of getting up at 0:darkhundred. He left me to my drama and I slept in another hour. whoopee.

My plan was to spin around for a couple hours from the house. My 2 hour ride was quickly reduced to one hour. This is ridiculous. Drastic action was needed if I was going to do 30 miles tomorrow. This calls for an ice bath. The drama was in full swing, and the Drama Queen ride was still a day away!

Sunday morning we rolled up to 90B behind Terry, Kevin, and Mary. In full dramatic fashion, we were the first of the contenders to arrive. Then I saw it. The crown.
Dramatic thoughts rushed through my brain. OOooooo, that crown is so purdy. So pink and majestic. I would definitely feel like a queen if I could wear that on my head. "Raja, I want that crown."
Mary manned the registration table that was lined with shiny medals, crowns, and a big official looking time clock. "Are ya'll doing the 30 or the 55?" she asked.
"We're doing the 55," I stated. How else would I get my hands on that crown? Raja muttered something about signing up for the 55, but we would decide when we got to the sag stop. I had already decided. That crown had my name on it.

The final call of this dramatic play was made when the race numbers came out. Not just any ole numbers, but official Number Plates.

I had officially retired my racing number years ago at the Carters Lake race in March of 2000. Bam-bam suckered me into racing in the GA Singlespeed Championships in March of 2007. I came out of retirement. It was very dramatic. Put the dang race number away, please!

Something happens when you put a Race Number on my bike. I become a moron. Normal brain functions disappear. A vicious mean devious creature in me emerges, and I have no control over myself. My evil twin takes over. I could feel it begin to happen even as I held the #1 Number Plate in my hand. Once I put it on my bike, I knew it would all be over. The metamorphosis would take place and there would be no turning back.

The masses were arriving and the drama was rising. Shredders like Shane, Scott, Flatfender, and Duckman showed up to register. This was going to be a showdown. Kit was ready for us. Her task as the sag-troller would not be an easy one with this overly dramatic crowd. Yea, arm yourself, Kit. Hmmmm, maybe I could use that gun myself. I thought of a way to wrestle it away from her.
Tension rose, tempers flared, tantrums were pitched. The theatrical contestants tried to calm the dramatic madonnas.With the crowd getting antsy, and the clock ticking close to 10:30, I hollered for Mike. "Hey, let's roll!" I was ready for business.
So, at 10:30, we were off with a bang. Like race horses out of the gate, we sped down the gravel 90B road skidding all over the place like on an ice rink. Shane quickly laid down the gauntlet and no one was afraid to take chase. We had not even reached FSR90 and I was fighting for position. Oh dear, this is going to be a long drama filled day.
For a brief moment, my competition had been forgotten in my mind. All I could focus on was my spiking heart rate and the pack pulling away from me. When it comes to racing, the only way you can do it well is to....well.....race. Duh. So why am I surprised that I'm having a hard time keeping their pace when they're all racers and I am not? Because I used to be a racer, dang it. Doesn't that count for something? Can I not withdraw from my old race account? "Yes, I'd like to withdraw 5 hours of anaerobic threshold effort please, and could you give me that in large numbers?" "But mam, your account has been frozen due to inactivity."

I told that stupid teller to buzz off. In my anger, I sprinted for the imaginary preem on Gates Chapel Road before they left me in their dust going up Bear Creek Camp Road. Watch your back, boys. I'm going to hunt you all down! Yea, right.

Instead, every few seconds a rider would slip by me as we climbed up to Bear Creek. I made a quick check to make sure they were at least guys. If a girl passes me, then somethin' has to give. Two guys were just ahead of me as we popped into the singletrack and headed to Pinhoti 1. I was quite disgusted with my lack of strength and speed. I should be able to take these guys, but could only watch as they pulled away on the climb of P1.

Not far into the climb, I sensed a rider back. Going around a switchback, I made a quick check down the trail below me. Shoot fire, it's Mary. Sweet, lovable, my dearest friend, Mary. The evil twin in me wanted to annihilate her. I breathed a deep sigh. Realizing this was not going to be an easy fight, I tried to gather my wits and formulate a plan.

Mary is a strong climber. In fact, the last time I rode with her, she pretty much annihilated me on the climb up Springer Mountain. Maybe she was suffering from the flu today. Though, she looked awful chipper at registration. I'm going to have to pull some tricks out my camelbak in order to stay her off. Maybe on the downhill. That was my only hope.

We got to the first downhill pitch of P1 and I kicked it in high gear. In a parsec, I was on the tail of the guy in front of me. Hello, evil twin here. You're going to have to get out of my way. Without wasting time, I made sure he knew of my presence ON his back wheel. Fortunately, he didn't suffer from much racing-induced drama, and asked if I wanted to pass. Uh, yea.

Zoom! I zipped by him like a roach darts cross the kitchen floor. Flying as fast as I could, I reached the next climb. Mr. Drama Free racer was quickly closing in as we climbed, but I was not about to let him pass me. Not wanting to dig into my redline, I watched my heartrate climb to 150. "Gotta get to the top of the rise before Mary comes into view. Must start the descent ASAP."

Again, I flew down P1 with wild abandon. Right at the bottom I could see a rider in front of me. Hmmm, he must not be a good descender for me to come on him this fast. I do NOT want to be behind him for the P2 descent. Strategize.

He solved that problem for me as he quickly pulled away from me as we climbed out of P2. I could see Larry ahead on the climb. Surely I will gain on Larry, and we can work together. Wrong. They both pulled away. This was making me angrier by the second. Why am I so lame? No time to pitch a fit. I had to keep ahead of Mary.

P1 was over, and the gravel road climb up to P2 began. Any minute now, Mary would be on my heels. What am I going to do with that girl? Staying on task, I tried to keep my heartrate in check while giving it my best effort. She was back there, but how fast was she closing in on me? I could not tell and did not want to waste time looking.

Another rider came into view ahead of me on the climb. That's always good to have a carrot ahead. It gave me something on which to focus and I put it in a higher gear. Maybe I could crack Mary a little bit. As I topped out at the top of P2, I think I had managed to keep some distance. Now for the afterburners. There better not be any guys in my way.

Namrita was just ahead, but had the sense to move over before I even got near. "Hey, Namrita!" She knows the evil twin syndrome all too well. Two guys were ahead, but they sensed my circle of drama and stood to the side. Continuing to fly with thoughts of "forward, fast, calm, forward" I was closing in on the rider I had seen at the bottom of P1. Yea, this is the one I do not want to be behind. There would be no time wasted being polite. I stated the facts, "Hey, can I come by?" He complied. Ah, this was working out well. Bodies littering the trail between me and Mary. Hahahaha, that'll slow her down.

At the bottom of P2, a handful of riders were gathered. EddieO and friends were hanging out. I thought to tell them to block the trail when Mary came by, but did not want to waste time stopping to blurt it out. A left turn would take me to a paved road on to Hwy 52 for a road climb. I assumed the narrow aerodynamic position and made like a shaver. Time to time trial.

As I turned right onto Hwy 52, multiple glances over my shoulder were made to check for an orange jersey. No Mary to be seen. Good. Now, get far enough up this climb to get out of view. Out of sight, out of mind.

How do you lock out this 140mm Talas fork? Raja had given me instructions, but obviously I paid no attention in class. Is it this lever? No, it's still moving. Forget it, I'll climb squishy and all. Now I feel very blonde and very slow. I should have been picking off some riders at this point, but instead I am lightyears behind the pack. Grrrrrrrrr.

The climb was not bad to me. A middle ring ascent, but it went on for at least 3 miles. Deciding to give another security check, I looked over my shoulder. Bleepity bleep. There's that bloody Mary. I waved my arm at her in a cheery manner, but inside I loathed her presence. Then I decided, "Fine, if you're going to take my rightful crown, then I'm going to make you work hard for it." I was not going down without a fight.

A figure loomed ahead. The jersey colors looked familiar. Could it be a ray of sunshine in my otherwise dreary day? It was! RaceyTracey was climbing ahead of me. She and Tweety had started the 30 miler from Gates Chapel. When I caught up to her, I gave her strict instructions. "When Mary comes by, knock her over or do whatever you need to do, okay?!"

With no time to be all chatty cathy, I proceeded on up the road. EddieO came bolting past me as if I were standing still. Now, why can't I climb like that? "Cause you're too lazy to train for it." Again, I told my evil twin to shut up.

Finally, the sign for P3 could be seen ahead. Two riders were standing there, one fiddling with his bike. It was Raja and Tweety. So insanely driven at this point, I could not muster up anything to say other than, "When Mary comes by, do something to her." Then I sped by them to bomb the downhill.

Full speed ahead, I was locked in on the goal. Gain some time on the downhill. As I continued down the trail, the voices of 2 riders could be heard. They were chatting away as if at a tea party. Who are these jokers? Oh, it's Carebear and PBC. I yelled out to them to announce my soon arrival, "Uh guys, this isn't social hour, it's a race. Stop the chatter."

"Mama, is that you?" Carebear asks. "Yea, it's me, and I'm racing." I can hear PBC saying something and I know it ain't what I want to hear. He's a trickster like me, and he wanted to play a game. Mama don't play games, remember?!

I was on their wheel and no move was being made to let me pass. "No really guys, I'm serious. Let me by." PBC is still kidding around. He should know, you never kid a kidder. Carebear was an innocent bystander in this showdown. I gently nudged him and said, "I'm coming by, Carebear." As I slithered past him on the way-too-narrow-to-pass trail, his front wheel caught the downslope and he began to slide down the trail. "Oh! I'm sorry, Carebear," I said over my shoulder as I continued on, "Are you okay?" I really did not mean harm to him and felt badly.

Now as for PBC. He realized this was a game he would not win, and let me pass. "Thank you, Matt! I gotta keep making time on Mary!"

In the meantime, Raja had taken chase and was closing in on us. Carebear got back on track and jumped on my wheel as we climbed the mid section of P3. We were taking on the dreaded switchbacks and I encouraged Carebear on as we gritted our teeth to make it up the steep pitch. I could tell he had made the turn. "Good job!" I hollered out. "Thanks, that was just what I needed to help me make it," he said. "Well, it's the least I could do after running you off the trail!" Apparently he held no grudge and let my evil twin off the hook.

Knowing Raja was right behind us, I did my best to downhill as fast as I could without crashing. Then I decided to let him in front in hopes that it would push me even faster. We made it to the bottom with no crashes and coolers of extra water and food waiting. "We have to make this quick, Mary is right behind me."

Duckman was at the sag stop looking rather calm in contrast to my hysteria. "What are ya'll doing, the 30 or 55?" he asked. Still caught in the stronghold of my race number's power, I let Raja know we were doing the 55. He appeared disappointed at my decision and not overly thrilled with this prospect. Duckman was not suffering from racing-induced stupidity and was doing the 30. Carebear was happy just to be along for the ride and wanted to tag along with us. We refueled quickly, said good-bye to Duckman, and carried on down the gravel road towards Windy Gap.

By now, only 2 1/2 hrs had passed. Other than having pathetic weak legs, my body did not feel too bad. I was hoping that would last me a while because the worst had yet to come.

As we pedaled away, I could hear voices of riders coming down the last switchback of P3. One of them was a female's voice. Was it Tracey or was it Mary? My evil twin said it was Mary, so get a move on!

The gravel road to Windy Gap is a good bit downhill, but some climbs and flats are there as well. Raja and Carebear pulled away on the climbs. I needed these 2 at this point. They would be the motivation necessary to keep me consistent and pushing ahead.

Carebear's water bottle dropped out, but I stopped to retrieve it. Wow, my evil twin must be losing its power. I handed it off to him without stopping. Let's get to the paved road.
My heroes pacelined it the few miles to the Windy Gap turnoff. Seeing them with those silly crowns on made me giggle. I am riding like a crazed women with a paper plate on my bike and a gold crown on my helmet. This is too funny. I AM the Drama Queen.

In the meantime, I had to get my drama queen arse up 4 miles of Windy Gap. The first 2 are not so bad and were made in the middle ring. It's the last half that is so dreadful. This is where FW50 usually begins, with fresh legs. I've got 28 miles and 3 hrs in my legs this time. This is so gonna hurt.

I have never climbed so slowly in my life. Inch by inch, I turned over the pedals, climbing the trail lying below 10" of loose dust and dirt. My only consolation was to clean this climb. Convinced Mary was going to be on me at any moment, I had to do something dramatic that no one else would do. The last pitch is wicked steep, and I do not know how I did it. But I cleaned it and felt very much the Queen for my accomplishment.

Carebear and I waited at the turnoff of the Milma Trail for Raja. I lubed my butt up with some awesome cream I've discovered. This stuff is the bomb. Better than anything else I've tried, and I've tried alot. Sorry for the frankness, but if you're a cyclist, there's not much that you don't discuss no matter how personal!

I needed some calming cream for my mind at this juncture. Milma is a mind numbing 4 1/2 mile grind on undulating doubletrack. It gives you alot of time to mull over your impending doom awaiting you at Tibbs.

Carebear and Raja stopped before taking the left up Tibbs. Not me. I had to keep this train moving lest I decide to disembark. I took the hard left and climbed up the rocky wall while picking the worst line possible. Just waiting for my bike to come out from beneath me, I was shocked as it continued on up the trail over boulders. Wow! This MotoLite always amazes me at its climbing prowess. I realized that this was my first attempt at Tibbs on the new steed, and I was encouraged that maybe its supernatural powers would help me make it to the top ahead of Mary.

The climb went ever so slow. Slower than the climb up Windy Gap. Normally, if you climb at 2.5 mph in such loose dirt and rocks, the bike will not follow through. But the MotoLite was a dream, and I was able to literally plod along at a snail's pace. Sometimes my speed would not even register. Having climbed Tibbs a zillion times, I know my usual pace. It's 3-4 mph in the steep stuff and 5 mph in the tamer sections. Today was a new record. Slow record.

I told myself it was okay, because for every pedal stroke I was moving forward. Carebear eventually came by and picked his way through the rocks at the pace I longed to be going. Watching him pull away, I was too delirious to be mad. I was happy for him. All his training was paying off. Perhaps I should take a cue from him and get more serious about my training. After a second I said, Nah.

Sometimes on these long rides, I will take pictures to amuse myself. There was nothing amusing about today, and every time I tried to get to my camera I would risk falling down the side of the trail to my doom. This must have been the one tame "smooth" section of trail. It just doesn't look as bad as it feels.I was really hoping that Mary felt worse than I did. I could hear voices, or could I? Glances down the trail revealed nothing but more rocks and dirt. Keep moving, stay ahead, every second counts. At this rate, there would be nothing for me to do to fend Mary off. I had some pepper spray in my camelbak. No, let's not get irrational.

Finally the top! I could see sweet wonderful Kit, and she didn't have her gun pointed at me!

There was Carebear, Larry, and Travis. Larry and Travis took off before I could get off my bike. Trying to choke down some food, I instantly gagged. Trays of M&Ms and other delights were before me, and I was unable to partake. Kit was busy lubing my drivetrain, and I decided to forget refueling. Thanking her profusely, I hopped on my bike in hopes of catching up to Larry.

Now I had a long 7 mile grind on a gravel road to Potato Patch. There were 2 climbs on this road, I knew it well. I thought I would be elated at having conquered Tibbs, but instead tried to mentally prepare myself for these stupid climbs. With Larry as my carrot, I put my head down in an attempt to close the gap.

For 7 miles, Larry dangled ahead of me, taunting me. Bumfuzzeled that I could not catch him, I was very impressed with his riding. Surely I will get him on the downhill. If I can just get to the dang downhill. Maybe if I smile on the outside, I won't feel so miserable on the inside.

I looked at my time. 4 1/2 hrs had passed. If I had known that Shane was crossing the finish line, I probably would have killed myself. Thankfully I did not know that. Where was Mary? That's what I wanted to know. I could not let my defenses down. It ain't over till it's over, and she can catch me at any moment. I stayed focus. Slow, but focused.

"Whoohoo", I hollered to no one in particular as I approached the turn at Potato Patch. Being so utterly fatigued, I could barely hold onto the bike as it hopped over millions of braker bumps. My teeth began to shake loose, and my hands were throbbing in pain. This downhill was not being savored.

Okay, Bear Creek is next. "There are a few little grunts, but you can do this," I told myself. This is the homestretch, hold on to it."

Larry was long gone and I could not accept the fact that he had escaped my grasp. Little did I know Carebear was trying in the same manner to close in on me. I was too worried about Mary. My hands were killing me. Trying not to focus on the pain, I tried to channel my energy. How do you channel bad energy?

Passing hikers on Bear Creek, I was painfully aware of my ridiculous outfit. I grinned sheepishly and zoomed on by them. The Bear Creek Camp gravel road and 90B gravel road were the only things standing between me and my Treasured Crown! I must behave as royalty and finish this with dignity.

Praying that there would not be a sprint finish with Mary coming from behind, I approached FSR90 from Gates Chapel. With number plate and crown intact, I was crash free and cramp free and closing in on 6 hours.I really wanted to break 6 hours. How could I climb 90 and 90B in 10 minutes? Finding some extra strength just from the thought of being so close to the finish, I made my way up the gravel road. Thinking it was going to be torture, it really was not so bad. But would anybody be there to see my Big Royalness come in for victory? Surely they've all given up and gone home by now to feed the cat and walk the dogs.

Some cars were still in sight as I crested the last climb to the parking area. I heard some faint hootin' and hollers! Yea! My friends were still waiting for me and gave me the royal welcome I had fought for the past 6 hours. But wait a dogone minute!!! What the &$!, there's Mary standing there fresh as a rose. You mean.....I've been running from a ghost this whole time!!!!!!!!

Come to find out, Mary had taken a wrong turn after the P3 sag stop and followed the FW50 course. By the time she figured it out, she decided to cut it short and go back to base camp. I think I knew deep in my heart that something had gone amiss. There's no way I could have cracked her. A little deflated at my false victory, I took satisfaction in knowing I did the whole stinkin' thing anyway! I felt more like the Queen Mother than the Drama Queen. At least I was royalty in some form!

I had to find Larry to congratulate him on his incredible race! With a time of 6:01, he beat my 6:04 fair and square. There is no where during the day that I could have come up with 3 minutes. Awesome, Larry!!!
I was also beholden to Kit for all her incredible support! She did a fantastic job! Things like this cannot happen without good spirited folks like Kit. Thank you:-)

Carebear came in shortly behind me. Having just done the Fools Gold 50 last wkd, I was so impressed with the ride he pulled out today. I could not have done it without his encouragement and company as well! Well done, Carebear!As I regained consciousness, they told me about Shane and all the other hammerheads times. Shane did 53 miles and 7,000' of climbing in 4 1/2 hrs. What a Freakenstein! Super nice guy, but what a freak! I was so honored to reign along side him as King!!!

Raja rolled in with a sad look on his face. The Fisher HiFi had not passed the stringent BDD test on today's epic. Back to the drawing board.

Where was Ony? Surely he was doing the 30? Well, he's not back yet, so that must mean he decided to do the 53. Oh no!!! Only riding for 11 months, Ony had no idea what Windy Gap and Tibbs could dish out. We had done our best to dissuade him without being condescending. It was not that we didn't think he could do it, we just weren't sure it was the right thing to do at this point in time. So far he had been encouraged in his riding progress and we wanted to keep it that way.

As we fretted and wondered (and ate and laughed), another hour and a half passed. Just when we gave up hope, upon the horizon 2 riders emerged.Here came Ony and Mike grinning from ear to ear. Mike had taken Ony under his wing and seen him through the most incredible ride of his life! What Mike did for Ony was simply awesome. That's what I love about mountain bikers. The camaraderie and encouragement.

We were giddy for Ony! As if he had just taken his first steps, we all fussed over him like the firstborn.
I apologized to Ony for doubting his ability and determination, but he said there was no need to apologize as he trusts our advice.
"Many times I heard Roger's words "If you feel any little bit tired, you don't want to go that way...". Many times I told myself "They told me so!", but I thought that you guys would be very disappointed if I went for the whole thing AND did not finish, so I had to finish."

I no longer felt bad when he wrote, "Seriously, this was the hardest physical thing I've done in my life. I do feel a huge sense of accomplishment for doing it. I could not hide how proud I felt of riding all the way back to the parking lot." He even won an honorary mention medal for completing the ride!

So, if I don't race anymore, why do I do such demanding "races"? I guess it's for a new challenge, to see what lies underneath all the fluff and appearance. I like the way Ony put it, "This was a true test and I passed. I think I only passed because I'm too hardheaded to convince myself that I'm done and should quit, but at the same time, deciding to quit wasn't going to make a difference in the middle of Tibbs, so, as with everything else in life, you just keep going."

I like to hang out with folks that will keep on going! Cyclists that are green behind the ears to seasoned expert racers. It brings out the best in you and others.

Well done to all the Drama Queens and Kings!

So for the rest of 2008, I will reign as The Drama Queen. Having decided that the life of royalty is not as easy as it looks, I will gladly crown a new Queen in 2009. I may have raced to be Queen, but I sure felt like the Court Jester whilst doing it!

To see the pictures from my web album, click here.

Even though I am now royalty, I still like to draw my own bath. After Sunday's drama filled day, my legs were again in dire need of an ice bath. But not before taking a warm bubble bath with another new found favorite product. This drama girl is no longer tired and cranky. I'm a happy camper now, cause I was Queen For A Day!


Ony said...

Reading this now, while I get ready to go to work, all I can think of is "One day I'm going to do this whole ride again, not only without having to walk any part of it, but actually keeping a good pace. Maybe not too far behind chocolate girl". You are so awesome!

Anonymous said...

I was happy to be a source of encouragement. Especially since you did the same for me on this ride. Good company always makes the suffering more sweet!

And no I didn't hold a grudge about being run off the trail. I found it quite funny actually. It added to the "drama"!


Ken said...

What an awesome Blog!!! It is like reading the best action novel and the main characters are your best friends! Way to go all!

regularjoe said...

Whew! What a read. I think I'm going to need an ice bath...

Anonymous said...

Nice writin' mama...