The course was a fast, seven-mile loop that shared part of the Xterra course from the day before. The first third of the course was along sandy double track, rolling hills and short punchy climbs. The second third was fast, sweeping single track through thin stands of trees. The final third was the same as the Xterra course – narrow, twisty and rooty single track through thick trees. The laps were running about 30-40 minutes for the men and 35-50 minutes for the women, meaning that in eight hours, there was the potential for plenty of miles. I never got tired of the course, but it was nice that the laps were short. It was also fun watching the shadows change as the hours passed.
Between the eight-hour and four hour racers, there were plenty of people on the starting line. We did an on-bike start in one of the large parking lots instead of the standard LeMans start. When the races get bigger, I think that good Le Mans would be the way to go. The race director fired his “North Idaho Starter’s Pistol” (a 12 gauge shotgun) and we were off. I was quickly swallowed up by the rest of field and found myself in the back of the pack. That was just fine. I had no plans of riding fast – I just wanted to survive the eight hours.
As is the case with endurance races, everyone quickly settled into their rhythm and the field spread out along the course. I noticed right away that my legs were trashed from the race the day before. Climbs that I was able to stand and power over in the big ring during the Xterra I had to sit and spin through. The good news was I was able to do more sight seeing! There were things that I missed during the Xterra, such as a deer-proof garden along the course. The trails were also starting to get a little wash-boarded in places from riders cramming on the brakes.
My plan was to just ride my own pace and maintain consistent lap times. I had everything I thought I would need staged at the pit area – fresh clothes, new camelback, some food and some GU Chomps. There was also water, Gatorade and GU at the pit area courtesy of the race. One of the local bike shops had also set up a tent for neutral mechanic support, complete with a small demo fleet of bikes. That was impressive – most races don’t have that kind of support. Most of the eight hour racers had coolers with drinks and ice sitting on the sidelines, but everyone was taking advantage of the cold water available.
For the first five laps, I was fine. My legs were tired, but I was still riding smart and riding safely. My lap times were right about where I wanted, including a stop to change clothes. Things were about to change in a hurry. At the start of my sixth lap, I was dragging. I changed camelbacks, thinking that the bladder was empty and headed back out. Even a packet of Chomps and a bottle of ensure didn’t revive the flagging spirits. By halfway on the seventh lap, I didn’t even want to ride anymore. It was five hours into the race and at that moment, I wanted to make that eight lap take three hours to finish.
So I took a break. I got a hamburger from the Bayview Community Association and sat down in the shade to watch the race go by. I was really planning on taking three hours for one lap. After inhaling the hamburger, I changed clothes again and laid down for a few minutes. By now, I was starting to get antsy. My legs were still achy and twitchy, but I was feeling stronger. I had two hours left on the clock and decided it was time to head out again.
It must have been a magic hamburger. I started riding and all of a sudden, everything felt fine again. I wasn’t struggling up the punchy hills and felt like I was flying through the tree. I came thorough in about 40 minutes for the lap and decided that I had time, energy and desire to ride three more. I was focused again and the riding was fun again. I’m sure everyone thought I was nuts – going from not wanted to ride anymore to just hammering the course. I squeezed out for my 11th lap with five minutes to spare then promptly slowed down and enjoyed the last 40 minutes of the ride. I finished second of the solo women, down about 38 minutes on the winner. I also had a hamburger inspired fastest lap.
This was a fun eight-hour race. Long enough to be challenging but short enough to be a good entry point into endurance mountain bike racing. The course was fun, even after 11 laps. The race venue was also outstanding. The organization for the race was top-notch, from the quality of the course markings to the volunteers flagging traffic on the main highway. I think in a few years this will be a very popular race and I will be happy that I was able to compete in the inaugural event.
If you were waiting until after the event to make a donation or if you know someone who was, please either mail in the donation forms or visit http://teamorsilverman09.kintera.org/tracythelen
Thank you to everyone who has already supported me and this worthwhile cause.