Frog Hollow v2014

We had a very simple plan coming into the 2014 25 Hours in Frog Hollow. Race as hard as we could until midnight, then see how we felt. With a planned vacation to explore the riding around St George, we wanted to be able to trail ride after the race. (Zen Trail! Barrel Rolls! Gooseberry!) So we were planning on pulling the plug early and going to bed, regardless of our standing in the race. We just didn't know when it would happen. But until then, it was game on.
Dark skies to start the morning out
Under cloudy skies and howling winds, Nick lined up for the running start. I stood among the dust devils, waiting for him to appear. There were some fast runners, but Nick was well within the top fifteen on the run. Then off into the dust he vanished. Our plan was to start a little easier this year, but be more consistent with our laps. I dressed for my first lap, hemming and hawing over the light weight rain jacket, gore jacket or mont-bell hooded rain jacket. Dark, wet clouds lurked over Flying Monkey Mesa, inching ever closer with the wind. I smushed the Mont Bell into my jersey pocket. It was a tight smush- those jersey pockets aren't made for a real rain jacket! I wasn't the only one with a rain coat, but I was amazed at the number of people I saw without anything - no tube, tools or pump. Having a mechanical is bad enough - not having anything warm to wear or things to fix it with is just plain silly.
Clouds led to a brilliant sunrise though
Riders soon came streaming in. With a baton system in place this year, the little exchange tent was quickly crowded with riders. I parked my bike and went inside to wait. Nick was right on time and I headed out into the wind. Ugh - and it was a strong wind right in the face up the climb. Part of our plan was to ride a little steadier this year and keep the lap times constant. Since I was on my Camber, that meant keeping an eye on my HR for the climb. Keep it steady, below threshold. At the top of the climb, I glanced behind me - there was one guy, but not close enough to wait. So off I went for the grin inducing descent off Jem. Nice and easy around the drop and then swooping and driving they the wash and into the safe. The guy was on my tail at the start of the drop, but I didn't hear him again until the road. This time I was nice and pulled over, coasting until he was around. Not as smooth as I wanted in the rocky descent up to the aid station, but better then last year.  A clean run across the Rim trail and I was back at the tent.

The puffy coat was already making an appearance... I handed Nick the baton, set him on his way into the building clouds. Ignoring the stares from the euros, I pushed my bike up to the road and pedaled back to camp. It looked down right crappy to the north over Flying Monkey Mesa. Clothing would be important for this lap. One hard but fun part about 25 Hours in Frog Hollow is the short turn around between laps. I would have about 35 minutes on average of down time each lap to eat, change and get warm. Not bad in the start of the race, but gets harder each lap - and harder as the weather got more ominous.  I was trying to avoid looking at the clouds, but they were all around. I was starting to head to the transition tent, light rain jacket in my jersey pocket as it started to pour. Wind driven drops splating hard into the dust, gaining in intensity each minute. Heck with the little jacket! On with knee warmers and arm warmers and my real rain coat. I wasn't gonna suffer in the wet weather. The good news was there was no dust as the rain tamped down the trail just enough. The race photographer got an awesome picture of me riding - a silly huge grin on my face. The trail was nearly perfect with the slight rain - the rocks on Hurricane Rim clean of dust and the trail tacky and fast.

But it was just a hint of what was coming. My next two laps were back into the dust and the wind. I was tired of both, as evidenced by my notes to Nick. Dust and wind - two things I'd fought with for 24 hours earlier in the year. But on my fourth lap, with the sun creeping lower in the sky, the future was written clearly in the sky. Dust wasn't going to be an issue for much longer.
powering down the road
photo - St George New
Nick came back from our 9th lap and sent me into the darkness. With my Exposure Lights Reflex on my bars and Diablo on my helmet, I was more then ready for a fast and fun night lap. I was also wearing my Mont Bell rain jacket - figuring the pit zips would come in handy for the climb. And then the skies opened. This wasn't a light drizzle - it was full fledged downpour! Rain drops reflected in the beams of my lights as I started the Jem descent. The drop was slick and slimy - I wasn't clean, allowing myself to get distracted and stuffing my front tire in a rock crack. Whoops. I spent the rest of the fast descent lecturing myself and getting settled for the rocks. And the rain intensified. If it hadn't been for my rain coat I would have been soaked and freezing. Hurricane Rim was a mess - the rocks were treacherous and mud puddles were forming between them. I was filthy but exhilarated. It was my slowest lap so far - nearly six minutes off my prior pace, but I was still in one piece. It wasn't until after I handed off to Nick that I realized how filthy I was. Another rider made a comment about my bike and I finally looked. Wow. Mud was coating every inch of my bike and my legs. Awesome! 

I cleaned the important areas of my bike - happy I was running a 1x and had one less thing to worry about failing in the weather. Sheets of rain filled the skies, evident in the powerful lights of the venue. Every rider I saw coming up the hill as I was cleaning my bike looked shell shocked, drenched and miserable. And the rain showed no signs of letting up. I switched to winter clothes, including my Gore knickers and jacket. It wasn't time to quite yet - I needed to be ready to ride. (Although I was secretly hoping Nick would decide to pull the plug early. My bike was a mess.) The next two laps were cold and wet - I was riding carefully, avoiding the worst of the mud on the road and picking good lines everywhere else. The rocks were getting slimier and slicker with each rider and it was clear that many people were opting to walk. Through it all, the volunteer at the top of Jem was there, awake and keeping an eye on us all. He'd ring his cowbell whenever someone riding would make the turn, alerting anyone below. Thank you be out there all night! Each time I finished a lap, I was hoping Nick would call it. But he was always there, ready to rage. 

And then - stars appeared as I was cleaning my bike for our 16th lap (my 8th) - could the weather be clearing? With the clear skies came cold temperatures, so I kept my Gore gear on. When Nick came into the tent, he told me we were finished - he'd be up at the tent. This would be it. Ride safe and finish smart. And that was my plan until I realized how tight the trial was with the ending of the rain. It was beyond fast. And there was no one out there... As I turned off the road, I decided to go for it - fastest night lap. Wouldn't hurt to try. No skimping on light this time - I had both my Diablo and 6-Pack on high even on the road climb. Nothing like that combination for some fast riding! Although it's also fun to see to come up behind someone and click - onto high. The 6-pack truly lights up the night... There was no holding back on the climb for a second lap. I was charging hard and counting the seconds. Once in the singletrack, with the empty trail, I was able to fly. A streak of light on the dark Mesa. Finally picking smooth and fast lines, I powered through the rocks of Hurricane Rim. No looking at my watch - just focusing on the rocks and the trail. I would turn a 1:09:47 for that last lap, putting us at 16 laps in 17:18:22. Not bad. We had about 3 laps on second place when we stopped. 

Not that long after we climbed into the van, the rain started. Not the gentle sheets of the earlier downpour. Rain pounded the roof of the van, an unrelenting assault on the riders still out riding. We went to sleep with the thunder of rain as our lullaby, with an alarm set for 5:00. We would get up, check results and decide what we wanted to do. When the alarm went off, it took me a few minutes to get motivated to crawl out of the warm bed. Results hadn't been posted yet, so I started getting organized. Our neighbors were still rolling - and they were telling tales of peanut butter mud on the road. Ugh. I related the info to Nick. And finally, results. Looked like we were still in the lead, but it was tenuous. Nick started preping to ride and I headed to the timing tent. 

Somehow, I missed the second place team finish their 16th lap and head out for 17. I settled in to watch and volunteer for a while - helping out and keeping an eye on the competition at the same time. Nick and I were having a text conversation - I had enough service to get texts but that was it. Then our competion came through, finishing 17 laps. I texted Nick - he wanted to know if he should ride and restart the race. We had a chance to run them down and both finish 19. My answer was no. We were firmly in vacation mode and would take our second place happily. Congrats to team "Happy 20th Anniversary" they kept pushing until the end, solidifying their win and finishing up with 19 laps at 25:16:55. Third place (Bec Bale and Mike Sharkey) ride a solid 16 laps in 24:55:36 - they were smart and slept through the rain storm. So we didn't live up to our team name of Overtime this year, but 2015 is another shot...
Almost the complete podium for the CO-ED duo!


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