Thank god that there are still some things that I can claim “virgin” on…
…and up until Saturday, The Burnin’ at the Bluffs was one such thing.
(I will not name the others because mystery is good and also I don’t want to make my mom cry/faint.)
The Burnin’ at the Bluffs is an endurance MTB race that I have been in awe of since I first hopped on the saddle of my cute little 26’er hard-tail back in the quite recent 2008.
Traci Berry (Mesa Cycles) took pity on me and introduced me to trails beyond the flats of Castlewood and with the patience of a saint, taught me how to breathe and how not to endo.
I mean, technically I had my very first endo with Traci, but that is when she told me how not to do that…and made me re-ride that log until I didn’t endo. The fact that I still endo from time to time has more to do with the fact that I sometimes ignore good advice and other times I am just a skills midget.
I soon bought a 29’er because I told myself it would be better for someone of my limited talent. I tell myself a lot of things…
After Traci introduced me to the trails, she also introduced me to some really fine MTB ladies. Two of whom would become dirty little idols of mine…and remain that way.
These two ladies, Karen and Lo, were endurance freaks. They did long ass races the likes of which I had never imagined.
6-hr, 12-hr, 24-hr races…
What the hell? I struggled riding a MTB bike for 15 minutes before feeling like I was going to die, but 6 (SIX!) hours…or more…straight?
One weekend, I met Traci out at Castlewood to cheer on Lo and Karen in a 3-hr race. I watched the start, where they ran (RAN!) to their bikes and then headed straight up a ginormous climb.
That climb (Lone Wolf) still makes me feel like death and I have now ridden it more than a few times…and raced it. Rename it “Death Wolf” I always say. Ugh.
Over and over, I watched Lo and Karen climb it and I am pretty sure I felt myself shrink in the shadow of their badassery.
Many months later I had an opportunity to ride with them and a great group of ladies from Team Rev at Lost Valley. It was my first time there.
I felt so amazing riding with them and thought maybe there was hope for me on the bike. Then, while feeling awesome that I was not lost or dead, I clipped a tree with my handlebars on a fastish descent and wrecked hard. HARD!
I was a bloody mess and everything hurt.
I had a wedding to attend in a few hours and was humiliated about sucking at yet another discipline on the bike.
I licked my wounds and acted like a sad baby and was amazed at the patience Karen and Lo demonstrated with such a pouty newb. I was a mess.
I felt like I could never ride with them again because I didn’t want to ruin rides with my blood and falling. Basically, I resigned myself to being a huge pussssay and hung up my MTB bike. Just like that.
That was Feb 2009 and I sold my 29’er a few months later…to someone who regularly kicks my ass on it.
(See? It’s not about the bike.)
Anyhoo, after the big wreck of 2009, I stayed on my cx bike and just rode that on the trails.
For some reason, I felt more comfy on that than the MTB and for some reason, I became very (VERY) daring on my sweet Cannondale cx bike.
I took that bike down descents that scared the crap out of me on the MTB and I still have no idea why I did these things.
I endo’ed a few more times, because…HELLO!
CX bike ridden by graceless freakshow!
Gawd…I LOVED it!
As luck/fate would have it, in 2010 I was ready to race a road race (circuit race) called The Babler Xtreme!
(Sounds badass, right? Like you want to make a growling sound right now? Go ahead; I just did and I am alone in a room with a keyboard.)
It feels good!
The Babler Xtreme is/was a badass race that is/was cursed.
God hates that race because God bitch-slapped that race with crappy weather for years and now everyone just sort of gave up on it.
In 2010 though, it was an “A” race for me, which is funny because…
- bike race on the road in a circle
- bike race on the road on a road bike
- bike race
Also, HILLS! (Yay!)
God said, “NO!” and rained down baby kittens and spiders and made the park sad and the ranger canceled the race the day before…which pissed me off because I was there that day and pre-rode the course and felt really good about things…for once.
However, Awesome Mesa Cycles was having their own race. They were having a race in the dirt at the location of my last MTB wreck…Lost Valley.
So, I did what any other idiot would do and rented a bike from Awesome Mesa Cycles and signed right up.
I wrecked. I bled. I came in 2nd.
I was HOOKED!
I had so much fun hurting and bleeding that I couldn’t wait until the next race!
Sadly, I was broke and could not buy another bike so I sat the rest of the MTB season out and focused on cx.
In 2011, Mesa made my dreams come true and made it possible for me to ride and race MTB on the most beautiful bike I had ever seen.
I signed right up for my first 3-hr race, because that is what you do. You race one 60-minute race and 6 months later you sign up for a 3-hr race on a bike you have had for 5 minutes. Don’t act like that is weird. It isn’t.
I had a lot to learn in those 3-hr races, but as I lined up for my 2nd 3-hr race, Karen (who was also racing it) calmed me and gave me great advice and immediately I knew I would be alright.
I was so thrilled to be finally racing in the same race with her that I spent the first few laps smacking myself. I mean, she was gone and I never saw her again until the finish, but still…I was THERE!
This year at the same race, Lo was there as a spectator and cheering us on and each lap that she called my name, I felt immensely proud that I could race longer than 15 minutes and hoped I had acquired at least a little dirt cred. A little.
This year, I lined up at The Burnin’. To me, this was the biggest race on Planet Cory…if only because it was a mythical beast of a fantasy that I used to listen to Lo and Karen talk about.
I dreamed of racing The Burnin’ and even as I have had a pretty decent year doing the marathons, I had genuine fears about tackling a 6-hr solo race on a course I had never ridden.
That fear increased when a bunch of people I knew were able to go ride the course the weekend prior to the race and I was not.
Karen, who has done races that continue to impress the shit out of me while simultaneously terrifying me, was going to The Burnin’ this year and I was so excited to be there with so many ladies I have grown to admire…and I didn’t want to be a big baby in front of any of them.
When we gathered for the racer meeting the morning of the race, there they all were…
Karen, Kerri, Mia, Emily, Laura, Mary, Carrie, Heather, Wendy…
Every one of these ladies is a badass and are on my Dirty Idols list.
I had the flu all week and felt like a pansy, but knew it was sink or swim time. If I was there, I had to give it all I had and forget any fears and/or reservations I had.
We lined up and I played it safe at first…completely absorbing the awesomeness that was the event and smacking myself that I was FINALLY doing it!
I rolled up to Chris Ludwig (Mesa Cycles) and let him pace me my first lap. Chris was doing the 12-hr solo and even his 12-hr pace was a lot for me.
Chris is an amazingly patient and consistent rider. He kept me sane on the long climbs and though I did not always take the same lines, he kept me from doing stupid shit that I would have done had he not been in front of me.
When I finished my first lap, I was so tired that I wanted to take a nap. Ego and pride sent me back out.
This time I was without Chris and what I learned about myself was that I am still quite the mental case on a long course.
I talked to myself the entire lap.
At first I tried to pretend Chris was still pacing me, but then I started cramping hard and kept telling myself that everyone was in pain right then and not to freak out.
I kept taking in my hydration but it didn’t seem to be doing its job. I was too dehydrated from the flu and nothing I could do during the race would fix that.
8 miles into the 2nd lap, I got a sharp headache and started to cry a little/lot.
Thankfully, I cried mostly on the inside because just then Dwayne Goscinski, “MTB demi-god” came smiling through the rock garden as if he was being carried by Oompa-Loompas.
Dwayne Goscinski is made of candy and dirt. Dwayne was going the slowest I have ever seen him go and he still passed me as if I was standing still and still had time to be kind and encouraging.
He has a gift for making you feel like a superhero and a lazy lard-ass all at once. That said, he always gets me to suck it up and move my ass.
Who wants to suck in front of Dwayne?
NOT this girl!
The first time I saw him was at this park for Rim Wrecker in 2009 (I was a spectator). He was covered from head to toe in mud and was lapping the field. He shits boulders, that one. He makes people look and feel like they ran the course carrying their bikes. Get a Dwayne poster if you can and tape it to your ceiling over your bed. Thank me later.
I watched him go, drooled on myself a bit, felt inspired and got back at it.
At the end of the notorious/famed rock garden, I promptly fell right the hell off the trail backwards and slammed my back onto a downed tree.
THAT was awesome!
I immediately started laughing because:
- Stover had warned me about what to expect at the rock garden something close to 500 times in the previous 10 days;
- It was my SECOND lap, so I had already been there;
- It was the most stupid fall/wreck ever and it didn’t even come with a cool story. Bloody and painful injuries that do not come with a cool story are like those times your parents got you the coolest electronic toys ever on Christmas and then forgot the batteries and every store was closed and also they did not love you enough to go to that one convenience store on the corner…
Storyless wrecks suck like “batteries not included” on Christmas and in adult toy stores…
The only good thing was that Dwayne and everyone else was everywhere else and no one saw anything.
(Later, Mia and I laughed about it and she told me to make up something cool and that was even funnier.)
I finished my 2nd lap without actual sobs, but took a good long break before the last lap.
I knew I needed a placebo for the pain and took 2 Aleve, ate a sammy, and finally buckled and grabbed the iPod.
Music was my only chance to finish the race and not throw myself in the lake and hope for a kayak rescue.
Well, that and the fact that thanks to triathlon, I now avoid any water that does not come with soap and bubbles. Fuck that lake.
I set out for the third and final lap willing myself to just ride consistently and not backwards.
My inner asshole, who is still developing, was hellbent on the podium.
I had the flu and was taking time away from my daughter to race, so it better be for something.
I mean, I knew (KNEW) the First Place and desired buckle was out, but I would run the whole 13 miles if I had to to make it on that friggin’ podium….and I have to admit, by the 5th hour of the race, I was more than a bit concerned that I would have to do just that.
Darla was behind me and she trains with Karen and Kerri and she was hellbent on killing this race. I fear Darla because she is just calmly confident and so self-assured that I had zero doubt that she would close in on me and gobble me up…nicely and politely and then maybe hug me.
As I saw the sign for the 12 mile marker, my eyes started to burn and my throat started to tighten.
I was almost done.
I knew I had one murderous mile of mostly climbing left and I was hoping Dwayne would come by again and let me hook some tow-rope to his frame to pull me up that monster.
As I crested and hit the flats and could hear the Finish noise closer, I relaxed.
I let it all melt away and complete zen (and drool) took over.
As I crossed the line, there was The Sass and my awesome friends and spectacular cheering strangers…and some guy who said, “I forget your name…but good job!”…and everything was magic.
I took 3rd….and I am amazed/fantastic with that.
I have learned a lot, I have a lot to learn, and even more to do.
As this race closes the book on my 2012 MTB race season, I look back on the fears I have conquered this year and feel excitement about the new ones I will conquer next year.
I will do the 6-hr solo again next year, and the following year I will take a run at the 12-hr solo…but after that, I hope that I am fast enough to give it a real go on the team events.
This weekend truly was inspiring to watch.
I am amazed by my friends and how amazingly awesome they all are.
I am eternally grateful that I have such people to inspire me daily.
Every single person at The Burnin’ is a total badass and I am honored and humbled to have raced/suffered/partied with you.
Thank you for taking my virginity in such a fantastically memorable way.