In an attempt to beat traffic into the mountains on Friday I left work early and we headed out around 1PM. With only a semi-irritating amount of cars on the road we were able to get to the race site around 4:30PM and had enough time to pre-ride the bike course.
|Whatever wanted to come with.|
Before I go on I want to describe the course and the situation. This is the first year this race is being held at the venue, private land in El Jebel, CO (Aspen Valley). Signing up for the first year of a race has pros and cons. It is sort of like buying the first year model of a new car. You have the shiny new car, but all the kinks haven't really been worked out yet. This course was no different. When the press release about a new XTERRA was happening in Aspen it was described as beginner to intermediate course. That is really all we knew about it. I would consider myself a beginner mountain biker, with the ability to probably push myself on some intermediate terrain while always knowing I could get off my bike and walk it. So Patrick and I signed up, not knowing much more than what was released in January. As time went on we found out more and more about the course and the website was still saying it was a beginner to intermediate course up until about last month, and the course description was released:
Well, this may not have been the most accurate description of the course.
As we were driving to the venue, I was texting with Gaby, who works for the race production company, and she told me there had been some "mixed reviews" of the bike course. My ears perked up. And when we got there I understood why some people were upset. To be perfectly frank, the course was advanced, and there were a lot of people who signed up for this event because it had been advertised as a beginner course. I heard one guy say "it isn't supposed to be easy"....which I would agree with in most circumstances, but when you label something as beginner it literally is supposed to be easy.
I want to give the race director the benefit of the doubt, mostly due to the fact the course was on private property and nobody had ever ridden it before. He must have had to take the word of people who clearly have a different scale of what the word "beginner" means.
Patrick and I hopped on our bikes and had a great first mile through the trees on packed dirt, I was really really happy with the terrain and thought I had a great chance for doing well. Then we hit the first major uphill and I was off my bike. I pushed and huffed my way to the top where it was more rolling packed dirt and still very doable. I was reasonably nervous at this point. Soon after that my pedal hit a rock in the course and I toppled over, creating a funny, clip shaped bruise on my left shin. I started to cry. Not from pain, but from knowing I was in over my head. I was starting to doubt myself and we were barely 2 miles in. Then we got to the motocross course. I think this seems cooler than it was. Everyone was really struggling to get their bikes to the top of the jumps (there were tons of people out there) and I was hearing a LOT of negative feedback about everything. One woman was swearing and calling the race director every name in the book for "LYING TO ALL OF US". And on the other side of things, I saw some people who looked like they were having the time of their lives...dicks. :-)
After the motocross course we found ourselves somewhat close to the start line again before the course headed up to the more technical bridge section. At that point I knew it was going to be too hard for me. I told Patrick to keep going and that I was out, I wasn't going to race. He didn't give me too much of a hard time, which I know to mean that he knew that I was making the right choice.
|Technical bridge descent w/more banked turns.|
I guess there is a benefit to having the lake be so blue with the algae not forming at the bottom because the sun cannot hit that far down into the water. I learn something new everyday. I also feverishly tried to see if anyone wanted a swimmer and to do a relay. I felt like a drug dealer as I went up to people and quietly said "Hey, you need a swimmer?"....nobody wanted to give up the whole thing.
I was feeling pretty down and wondering what I should do. The event was capped at 250 people and sold out. I was one of the lucky few to get a spot, but I felt like it would have taken me about 6 days to complete that bike course. I found out that no matter what happened, if you didn't start or if you didn't finish it was still a DQ, no differentiation. And due to my low morale at that point I said to myself, why start if I am not going to finish. So I created my own plan of running from our campsite to the race site (about 10 miles, all downhill and at altitude) and just watching Patrick. And that is exactly what I did.
I was able to get in a great run and when I got to the venue it was about a half hour till the race started. Feeling inspired by my run, I grabbed my cap and goggled, put on my suit and decided to do the swim, if anything, to cool off. I got to see Patrick finish his wave (they were about 10 minutes apart and ranked by mtn bike ability, or inability in my case) and he won!
|Real men wear pink.|
After the swim I went into transition, wasting about a minute outside of transition because I was explaining to them that I wasn't going to bike, so my time reflects about a minute difference. So I dropped my chip at Patrick's transition area and got changed and walked over to the bike course to see my man riding. Both times I saw him he was tired, but determined. I was so proud.
When he finished his bike we had the plan to do the run together. The first quarter mile was over a marsh on a rickety old bridge. You could see the beating the bridge had taken due to all the pounding from the faster waves and I took my time. Running on a bridge where you had no choice but to fall into the drink is not something I wanted to mess around with. We them went onto the bike course that I recognized from the prior day's ride. We did the fun rolling hills in the forest part and then took a different course over to the motocross track and had to "run" the motocross track. Talk about brutal. The hills were just plain torture. I could feel that I had pushed my 10 mile run earlier and even more I felt the fact that I had been in the sun for about 6 hours. Patrick was in even worse shape and was just pushing with everything to get through the hills till we finally got to the downhill and crossed the finish line together.
As always, the race crew, the volunteers and the spectators were great. You couldn't ask for a more cheerful and positive group of people to see during a hard effort. And.....
My guy got 3rd place in the Clydesdale category! He got a bronze medal and made the podium.
After the race we packed up our stuff and headed to Snowmass Village where we spent the night and slept for 12 hours. And even though we had big plans to mountain bike the next day, the thought of putting on those bike clothes and taking the bikes off the roof seemed like way to much work. Instead we found some hikes off of the highway (The Grotto, in Aspen) and got out at Independence Pass to admire what was around us.