After being "blamed" by a friend for "planting the seed" to do the endurance race over the XC, I knew the Iron Hill Challenge was gonna be a little more painful then normal.
Having ridden the course a few laps the week before I knew five laps was my target.....with timing for a sixth to be very close. The course was a little over seven miles long, 90% single track with three main climbs, lots of roots/rocks and a couple of "bowl" drop-ins........fast, dry and fun.
With 75ish riders lined up for the endurance race I knew I wanted to get into the single track in the lead group.....little did I know we'd be chasing a little white rabbit up the road once the starting gun went off.....
Most who read this blog know this man already, and just how many riders legs his have ripped off (whether on a mountain, cross or road bike.) Now he was here to take out the "blame" on us helpless little enduro riders. If you're the one person in the world that may not know this destroyer of legs we'll call him the other, other "White Meat" to protect the innocent...and just because I'm hungry.
Once the gun went off White Meat drilled it up the gravel road.....crap! A few of us very unhappily gave chase knowing he'd back off in a minute....except he didn't. A minute later we headed into the pit area "tent city" as a group of 6-7 riders before heading out on our first lap. After a couple of tight corners boxed us back up White Meat gave up the lead just before we entered the single track. Luckily the twists and turns slowed things down a little before I started to count the stars that were already forming in the corners of my eyes.
By the time we peaked the second climb I was riding 7th (anchor) along with Ben A. and White Meat, with 2 thru 4 in a pack just ahead....1st was never to be seen by us again. The three of us rode well together for the next 10-15 minutes, but shortly after we topped the third climb Ben came around White Meat and then it happened.
Just after dropping into "slime hill" (a short steep descent) Ben went down in what sounded like a train wreck. When I came over the top Ben was wrapped inside his bike still sliding down the hill. As we stopped White Meat told Ben not to move, and then again. As White Meat helped Ben out of his bike I started to run back up the trail to find the course marshal we'd just seen and warn oncoming riders. After finding someone to walk Ben out we headed back to our bikes, losing maybe fifteen minutes or so.
Now being at the tail end of the field we knew we had our work cut out for us. To steal a line from White Meat "you gotta dance with the lady you bring to the dance" and I was the fat girl in the corner with the painted toes nails....yes, really.
As we came into the pit, Lady White Meat yelled at him "what are doing back here, stop screwing around".....as laughter ensued we rolled on. The second lap we made up alot of time, with WM leading the pace we were like a hot knife cutting thru bacon fat (yes, I used the term bacon fat....now let's move along.) At an intersection just before the end of our second lap WM yelled over to his wife for a Swedish Fish "hand up" as we came in the pit....that didn't happen. As we rolled up/and on right by she was calmly snacking away on the beloved fish, WM yelled back "how do those fish taste" as out for lap three we went....fishless and mildly heartbroken.
Lap three was more of the same, me being a tick on WM's wheel as he set the pace and cleared the seas in front of us. As we ended the third lap we saw the first waves of Sport racers being launched....not where we wanted to be, but we both knew we need to pit. After a quick refuel and a short pause to let a thundering herd of Sport riders charge by out we headed again.
The next lap was less than pleasurable making our way thru the waves of riders, but I was shocked at how calmly WM took it.....even after a couple of near misses. At the end of our forth lap I was starting to fade a little and WM yelled ahead as we entered the pit to hand me a Coke. It definitely helped, or atleast delayed my wheels from totally coming off. But as we headed back out WM says "you know we've got two more laps in us right?" I'm not even sure if I replied anything at that point, but I knew he was right.....and all I could think was crap.
WM started giving me a countdown of the number of hills we had to climb, "6" I heard as we started the first...midway up I started to feel slight cramping in my left hamstring. A few passed riders later (and spots picked up) I hear "5" and then "4" with a little more cramping. At this point I start finding climbs that did not seem to be there on the first few laps and I start counting 3.9, 3.8 in my head....equally mixed on if that was the number of climbs we had left or the minutes until I detonated.
As we started our sixth lap I finally started to feel a little better. "Three" I heard, then "two." Then WM spots another enduro racer ahead, "see that guy... we can catch him." I'd already mentally flipped from what was left of my pursuit mode and into survival mode....changing back hurt, it really hurt. But on hill 1.5 we got by and passed him, then finally I hear "one." As great as it was to peak the "last climb" seeing yet another enduro rider just ahead of us was bitter sweet. I knew we had to surge again but was not sure if I could. We never had to find out, he caught a pedal on a short rocky climb and we got by without a fight.
Minutes later we headed into the tent city for the last couple of hundred yards to the finish. After a little gamesmanship I went.......
I was fueled by the smell of hotdogs and beer in the air...and knowing I was about to eat Swedish Fish and drink cold beer...not to mention I knew the last rider we past was a main competitor of mine in the endurance series (he too sadly was having a bad day....four flats.) Somehow I came across the line ahead of WM, but without a doubt I'd never have made it there without him. A HUGE thanks to both He and His wife.
In the end we ended up being 12th and 13th and we both more then happy with the result. What we thought was gonna be a five lap day turned into six, and we only missed the cut off for a seventh by minutes......not that I would have lived thru it.
Also want to say thanks to Dennis Smith....
for the best Iron Hill course in years and to everyone that helped but on the race itself, was a horribly great time.