Yeah, so about that 12-hour race thing….I guess the Cowbell is now not a 12-hour race, right?? Hope everyone got that…before they showed up to race, that is. Two years ago, I raced the Cowbell Challenge for the final year it was held at the National Whitewater Center, formally known as Catawba, a place where you get to park for free and ride your bike on some pretty alright city-not-quite-city trails. It was fun, and the climbs hurt badly enough that a 12 hour race felt like a good effort. Last year, the same 12-hour was held in Davidson, NC, and although I did not get to make the trip for it, I heard many things about the course---mostly rooty things. Pre-riding the course, I was surprised, but pleasantly so. From all I’d heard, I pictured rolling-flat, fast, un-technical singletrack; the equivalent of a boring, “fitness” course. However, for each of the six 8-mile laps, there was about 800 feet of climbing, some twisty, fun singletrack, and enough awkwardly placed obstacles to make good handling skills an advantage, even if it only gained seconds each time. I felt good about it.
Waking up on Marathon morning, however, I did not feel so great about it. We’d been staying up in the mountains for almost a month, resting from the Mohican/Italy, training, and generally avoiding the onset of summer heat. Unlike my courier friends, I am totally de-acclimated to humidity and high temps these days. By 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, the heat was already sweltering, and the humidity was rising to the 100% level!! I knew we were in for it, and that this race was, again, going to be as much about surviving, pacing and smart strategy as it was about bike riding. It was like the opposite, but equally evil twin of DSG, (aka mudsling 09).
The race began with a 6.5 mile road stage from town to the start of the singletrack, where we were to complete 6 laps of the 8 mile course. My start was indicative of my overall fitness/feeling on a bike lately- horrible!! The 2 weeks prior to the Cowbell found me in or near tears on every ride I took. So I wasn’t at all surprised that it took me 2 hours to start feeling anywhere close to good on this day. I think I may still be feeling the effects of the solo effort in Italy…..it was just under 4 weeks before the Cowbell and I remember last year feeling the same sort of funk for the same amount of time. Anyway, the start sucked big, but I knew in the back of my mind that starting slow was a better way to handle the heat in the long run.
My terrible start had put me near the back of the open field and I pushed a little to get past 6 or so racers before the singletrack. I am so NOT a road racer (see where I need some work?) but I am a pretty good mountain biker, and I was inevitably stuck behind slower bike handlers many times during the first lap. Two hours into the race, I felt my funky freak starting to come out a bit. I watched the 4th place girl explode (it looked like the heat got her) right in front of me and caught up with 3rd (Beth Frye) around this time. Beth and I rode together for a lap, closing the gap on 2nd and feeling good. I passed Beth somewhere during lap 5 and was seeing Rebecca Rusch (2nd) within a minute or two ahead of me. I guess she saw me too, and didn’t want to give it up that easily. On lap 6 I picked up the pace and she must have too, because she finished a couple of minutes ahead of me.
I think it got hotter on that last lap, because I finished the race ticked off. I wasn’t really mad at getting 3rd or having a wanky race, but I was just generally pissed. I went over to our tent and got doused with ice water, stuck a handful of ice in my sports bra and took a seat in the shade. Things started improving.
Tyler from Bikerumor.com came over and asked if I wanted to do a run down of my bike for the website. Ha!! Sure, I said, but looking back, I sure do wish I’d at least fixed my hair so it didn’t look like I had a sweet comb-over. And why do I always sound like Napolean Dynamite on these things??
Fuzzy got 4th to Harlan Price and Dejay took the win in the Single Speed category. The next day, Dejay and I did the Kenda Cup XC, getting 1st places in the much cooler temperatures, and feeling surprisingly good. Sunday was the first day I was able to hammer on my bike and I felt good the entire time. Except for when I came off my bike behind another rider and got stuck on a muddy embankment slip-n-slide!!
Thanks to Taylor Sullivan for making the weekend a success!! He ran a great event and made it possible for many people from far away to come and participate. Plus, he made sure to give equal payout for men and women. The Cowbell will definitely be on my calendar for as long as possible!!