Thursday, August 21, 2014

12 Hours at Wausau

After the Lumberjack 100, I knew I wanted to work towards doing a 12 hour endurance race, so I signed up for the 12 hour solo race at the Wausau24. Wausau was a little over a month after the Lumberjack, and I figured I could use that month to train to prepare for it. Plus, my bike-racer-travel bff Danielle told me that Wausau was a blast, so I just had to check it out!

SHE WAS TOTALLY RIGHT!

Danielle, myself, and our friend Steve set out Friday morning to pre-ride the course. The trail was pretty dry in spots and I must have stopped a million times to let more air out of the tires on my Foundry Tomahawk. I made a mental note to let more air out of the tires that I had on my Beargrease; I had put Velocity Dually's and the 29+ Surly Knards on my fat bike to make it faster and a little lighter so I could use it as my back-up bike. (sidenote: Dually's on that Beargrease are SUUUUUPER fun!)

So many rocks!
I'm really lucky that I was able to pre-ride Nine Mile with two experienced mountain bikers who had ridden the trail before. We stopped in a few areas so that they could show me the best lines to take through rocky areas. There were some pretty gnarly areas that were unlike anything I had ridden before. Like I said, I was really lucky that both Danielle and Steve were showing me the ropes in those areas! Midway through our pre-ride it started to rain, so we didn't get to spend as much time getting through the last of the rocky areas. I still felt confident about race day, though, and we rode the rest of the way to the car with huge smiles on our faces.
Before getting caught in the rain.
After our pre-ride, we stopped by the Niterider van to say hello. It was really cool to meet Tommy from Niterider, and even cooler to check out the inside of the van! There was a charging station in the back of it that could charge 300 lights at a time AND it used less energy than a mini fridge. Tommy also let Danielle and I play inside of the van for a little while and that was pretty cool, too. We roped off a spot for the Twin Six tent and headed off to explore Wausau.
We love driving giant vans!
Our team spot saving tactics are spot on.
On our way to stop and get some food at Red Eye Brewing Co. downtown, we noticed there was a tattoo parlor right next door.... My best friend, Emily, surprised me with a "best friend" tattoo of  my face on her butt back in May. Since then, I had been walking around with a sketch of a tattoo to reciprocate the gesture. The day before my first 12 hour solo mountain bike race seemed like the perfect time!!
My new good luck charm!
After hanging out with the most interesting tattoo artists in Wausau and eating take-out from Red Eye inside of the tattoo parlor, we headed back to the hotel to clean the bikes and to shower up before meeting up with some friends at Red Eye for some more food. What a crazy day leading in to the longest race I've ever done. I couldn't stop laughing at how ridiculous the whole day was. Sometimes I can't tell if I love traveling to races and seeing friends more than the actual race.

We called it a night pretty early on and the next morning got up early enough to eat and to drink some coffee before the race start. Wausau24 has a mass Le Man's start for each category, whether you were racing the 6, 12, or 24 hour races solo or on teams. I had tried jogging a teeny, tiny bit a few weeks before the race in order to prepare my body for it (I haven't jogged since before my knee injury!) and suffered shin splints for four days after... It was actually really hilarious lining up with so many cyclists on foot. Cyclists look really funny running in cycling gear!
Photo by Cori Pepelnjak
I hopped on my bike and started spinning off towards the woods. I wanted to get a good spot in to the single track towards the front because I knew there would be a long line of cyclists and I knew it would slow down at the first rocky segment. Luckily I got in behind some good riders and we had a pretty good pace going.

The first lap was pretty steady and I was able to get through all the rocky areas that I had practiced the day before. Ho Chi Minn is a climb at Nine Mile that is both full of rocks, roots, and one pesky log area. The day before I had taken the line to the left over the log and had eaten it. I practiced, and was able to hit it before we had finished our pre-ride. On lap #1 I ate it. Lap #2 I ate it. By time I rolled around for lap #3 I chose the line to the right and I nailed it. I immediately started laughing at how easy it was to nail from that side and mentally decided to always take that line for the next 9 hours. I think one of the coolest things about racing for 12 hours on an 11 mile loop is that you start navigating the trail as if you've been riding it all summer. By time I was out on lap #5 I started feeling really good, and when I came around through our team tent area I heard the first place girl was about 5 minutes ahead of me. My biggest mistake in trying to catch her was that I zoomed out for another lap without enough water. By time I passed through the aid station, I was out of water and starting to bonk. Luckily I was able to get my bottle filled and finished out the rest of the lap without any sloppy crashes or anything like that. By time I got to our tent I was feeling really weird and asked Danielle a million questions. She was super patient with me and when I asked if it was okay if I ran to the bathroom she said, "Yes - but hurry!" I started running off towards the porta-john and tripped mid-stride. WHAM! My biggest crash of the race! I totally took myself out and had a pretty embarrassing tumble. Lesson learned: don't forget to grab another water bottle when trying to chase down the person in front of you.. you'll trip over your own two feet and the person behind you will pass you!

I shook it off, grabbed a new Hydrapak filled with Carborocket's 333 Half Evil Endurance mix, took a handful of Endurolytes, and hopped back on my bike. By time I came around for the next lap, Steve had finished his 6 hour race and was getting my Beargrease ready. I was going to do a lap on that bike set up as 29+ while he put lights on my Tomahawk.

The lap on my Beargrease was my "angry" lap. Danielle told me that I might experience one of these. Basically, it's a lap where you get mad at something and you obsess over it for the entire lap. I cursed a lot this lap, stumbled a bunch of times, and couldn't nail some of the rocky areas that I was nailing on the other laps. I really didn't have anyone to blame but myself. I had forgotten to let more air out of the tires and I was starting to get fatigued and sloppy. Being cranky definitely didn't help me ride smart. By time I finished that lap I was so, so happy to roll through the tent to hop back on my Tomahawk. I asked Steve if he could grab me a can of coca cola next time I came through and I pedaled off...
This next lap was my "happy" lap. Danielle also said I would have one of these. Basically, it's a lap where everything is awesome and perfect and you can't stop smiling and laughing. I was incredibly happy this lap. Two thoughts that kept running through my head were, "I LOVE THIS BIKE!" and "I CAN'T WAIT FOR THAT SODA!" I nailed every section and did the lap 8 minutes faster than I did the lap before. It's so funny to me that my mood had done such a weird swap like that. One of the biggest obstacles for endurance racing is the mental aspect of it, and I'm happy that 90% of my 12 hour race was spent laughing and smiling. Next race I'm going to try really hard to eliminate any of my own self-induced negativity.

Steve had that soda waiting for me when I came through for the next lap and I chugged it and rolled off. Coca cola is like crack for cyclists! It was starting to get dark and the lights on my bike lit up the trail and I could see everything better out in the woods than I had in the daylight. The lights lit up everything so well that there weren't any shadows and even though I knew I was rolling through a rocky area, there weren't any shadows and everything looked relatively flat. Good thing I had done 8 laps before nightfall... I had my lines figured out pretty well and could roll through areas on memory.

I LOVED riding trail at night. I thought it was hilarious that you couldn't tell who was behind you and that there were huge beams of light splashing through the woods. Lucky for me there was another can of coca cola waiting as I headed out for my 10th lap. I knew I would have enough time for one more lap after that one and couldn't believe I was already so close to the end. When I came through to head out for my last lap, Steve started yelling that the second place female had just headed out for her last lap! I had enough water and nutrition and flew past our tent to catch her!

I passed one girl and wasn't sure if she was the second place female or not, but started booking it once I got past her. If it was her, I wanted to put as much of a distance between us as possible. If it wasn't her, I wanted to catch the second place female! I had thought it was cool that there were beams of lights everywhere, but once I was fighting for second place I hated the lights because I couldn't tell who was who. Who was coming up behind me? Was it that girl? I heard one girl's voice behind me and was so relieved when it was my friend Megan, who was racing on a 24 hour team. Counting down the last hour's worth of my first 12 hour race went by so quickly. I came up to the finish line and had come in as the second female, sixth overall in the 12 hour solo category. Despite being covered in dirt and sweat and having given it my all out on the single track, I was smiling ear to ear and so stoked to be done!!
12 hours was already up?
After the race, we went to Rose Bud road to cheer on the 24 hour racers. I brought some roman candles, there was beer, a bonfire, and tiki torches out in the woods. Honestly an amazing end to my longest race of the season. I cannot wait for Wausau next year! Big congrats to Danielle and Brent who raced the 12 hour duo category and won 2nd place, to Martha, Joel, Ben and James who took 3rd in the 24 hour co-ed team, and to Megan, Cori, Heidi, and Nicole who killed it in the 24 hour women's team category and took 1st place!! What a stellar weekend for Twin Six's Metal Team! I'm seriously so proud to race with such awesome people.

Speaking of awesome people.. Skirts in the Dirt is this Sunday and I am beyond excited for Michigan's first women only mountain bike race!!! Seeing Skirts in the Dirt move from an idea to the real thing has been the most exciting part of my summer, by far. I cannot wait for race day and I cannot wait to see so many women out on mountain bikes! EEEEEEEeeeeeeee!!!!
Guerrilla marketing in Wausau ;)
My new favorite tee!