I'm sitting here watching the trailers to True Grit, catching up on my friends blogs and thinking back to Mt. Hood, it all melds really well together! Again, an encyclopedia worth of life has passed since the last Mt. Hood climb but that last stage remains an amazing event.
I have found some awesome write-ups on Clara's blog about why we train and race and leading through her experiences training for the 2012 Olympics. If you have a chance, check them out HERE.
My day began by receiving a really endearing text from my boy Brian: "Harden up and earn your crust today!!" That's my boy! In fact perfect words to give me the swift kick in the bibs I needed to start the race.
Elated to have made it to the final stage of yet another stage race, I was primed and ready to go. I had studied the maps and route and knew where the tough spots would be. As I waited for the race to begin I felt the Northwestern Hospitality at it's best with massive bugs, flying things and critters crawling on me, flying into my helmet or my mouth. Ew! I would take a desert tarantula any day!
This stage was rad! I was able to stay with the bunch and with Clara way longer than expected and do slight moments of "help". When the road turned right onto a graded road covered with dirt and asphalt pebbles, I saw Clara go to the front with Peanut Butter so I jumped into the dirt and pedalled on up to flank Clara. I said "I like to ride in the Dirt!" She said "Ya, your a dirty girl!" It's the simple things you know. We, Clara excluded, were no match for the stronger teams heading into the mountains and as we blew past the 60 minute mark I plead with myself to just stay till 1:30, make it to the QOM! Time ticked by, I was with the group and I saw the 5k to QOM Almost "there"! The pace cranked up and the shuffle began, sifting out the strong, and at 1:28, I joined half the peloton, in the back.
As we rode up through the QOM, we were chaperoned by tall walls of snow on either side of the jeep-wide forest service road. The temps were in the 80's with high humidity, covering us all in sweat and splatter from the snow run-off which was cascading down the center of the road, which in fact was covered with moss. Awesome!!! We rode through gravel, dirt, switchbacks and freshly cut pines which smelled like Christmas Eve! Lost Lake lingered close by and the base of Mt. Hood seemed to be right around the corner.
Beyond the grandeur of the scenery, I was so pumped to in fact still be racing at 40 miles in. I was with a group of 5 leading into a screaming descent where I promptly got dropped, the caravan squeezed by and the chase began. I rode so hard my cheeks were streaming with non-tears, I was seeing black spots and going cross-eyed. The group of 4 was just beyond the caravan and in order to get past the caravan I had to ride the mossy shoulder with a rock covered drop off on my hip. With the group we gathered momentum and picked up 3 more, then 5 more and finally we were rolling steady and fast with 18-20 racers! I was in fact still RACING my bicycle. Rad.
With said group, however, there was of course the standard in-fighting and 5 out of the 18 were actually working. Of course since I am silly, I was working and promptly sat up to take inventory. It's these scenarios when you assess the competition. Who will draw the short straw and get dropped first? Who would be next? Whose gonna win the sprint? The thing that sucked the most is that the short straw came up in my hand. It was only a matter of moments.
At approximately 101 K of 110 K, I cracked. Nothing like the Gila crack where I was able to ride after. A crack that begins in your belly, heads to the quads, and fixates in the head with cramping, aches, shaking, and dizziness. The ironic fact was that I am a Sherpa by nature, carrying bars, gels, squishies and bottles. Yet, I take care of everyone else and HELLO!!!! I had consumed a ton but immediately remembered my breakfast sucked. Good job Joy Joy.
As I fell out of the pack, right next to the "Oregon Illegal Feed Zone" (Signs read "1 finger: Water; 2 Fingers Coke; 3 Fingers Gatorade- just awesome. but they were out of coke!) I realized I was riding to survive not for a placing today. Entertainment came from watching the rest of the group implode on the climb and the bets I had placed on the next riders to crack rang true - I would expect nothing less from a PE teacher, we can read through the most stalwart of bluffs.
Heading into the last turn, where the grade would peak at 16% on a gravely surface of shale and dirt I started to truly struggle. The zig and the zag began and oddly I found my front wheel diving into the left ditch. Oops. I stopped. Straddled my bike and put my elbows on the bars, head in my hands. WITH 1K TO GO! Wow, how can that happen? I went big and dug a Gu out of my jersey pocket and slammed it. Again, with a K to go. Befuddled I got back on the saddle, in the nick of time at that! The Peanut Butter entourage came around the corner in sync with my first pedal stroke. Phew, that would have been awkward!
As I crossed the line, Michael grabbed my bike and said "Every pedal stroke counts!" And that it does! With bloodshot eyes, shaking arms, unzipped jersey covered in salt, we had completed yet another one. "SoCal you look like crap" is something I remember hearing as well as the belly-laughs when I confessed to my Gu shot at the 1 K mark.
Always learning with eyes wide open, doing my best to Harden Up and Earn my Crust with the steady reminder that Every Pedal Stroke Counts. Great combo.
HERE you can find photos of the amazing racing, especially the 4th stage! I HIGHLY recommend this event to everyone especially if you are looking for a little taste of adventure, amazing food, and a great opportunity to Harden Up.