A Note from Fatty: Now, just when you thought I was done with 6 Hours in Frog Hollow stories…The Hammer’s writeup!
6 hours in Frog Hollow…well, maybe it should have been called 6 Hours in Rabbit Hollow — seems like their were a lot of bunnies on the course!
The first race of the season…..do I race, or do I have fun (‘cuz race and fun are not the same)? What should my goal be? Should I race singlespeed or geared? Do we need a crew for a six-hour event, and if so, who can we get? Am I ready? Will I be faster than last year? How will my new bike work?
So many questions.
Even with all those questions, though, I was pretty excited about the race. I really liked the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow. The course was awesome–a little bit of everything!
The rumor was that the course had changed a little. They had removed some of the technical parts and replaced them with flowier singletrack. I was a little disappointed; I like the challenge of the technical rock section, and am probably better at that than I am on fast singletrack. But I looked forward to trying out the new course.
After a lot of contemplation I decided: I would race, but with my goal being to get five laps in; I wasn’t going to worry about who I beat or who beat me.
And also, I would go with my new geared bike: my Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper 29” hardtail, built up with top-end SRAM parts I got because we hit (and crushed) the WBR Grand Slam 5 fundraising goal! (Thank you!)
I figured that since I am going to be racing the Leadville Trail 100 (my tenth) with gears this year. “I may as well get in some practice,” I told myself.
The field for solo women was huge compared to the very few women I would have been racing against if I had chosen Singlespeed Solo. About 28 women had signed up to do solo–with a few pros in the mix. Looking at previous years’ results, I could see that my goal of five laps which could potentially get me a top-five finish.
And Elden somehow convinced me that taking top five in a field of 28 riders would be more prestigious than winning singlespeed with a field of 2. I don’t know if he really practices what he preaches, seeing how he always races with a smaller group in the singlespeed division!
My darling daughter had volunteered to crew for us. The weather forecast was to be for the low 70’s. It looked like it was going to be a perfect day for racing.
We arrived Friday afternoon, set up our crewing spot next to Heather and Kenny and went out on a pre-ride of the course. My first impression was…that I love my new bike! For some reason I am able to descend a lot more confidently on it then on my singlespeed.
The five mile climb at the beginning of the course was awesome. I would easily rocket up it on my geared bike! However, the eight-mile descent that follows would potentially be my downfall. And I also concluded that the change in course did not really suit my riding style. The new trail was soft. I could easily picture myself plowing my front wheel into the soft dirt in a corner and having the bike wash out from under me.
“I guess tomorrow will be my day of reckoning,” I thought to myself.
Let the Race Begin!
We arrived at the venue the next morning, well-fed (???) on Days Inn waffles and McDonalds coffee. You can’t ask for a better breakfast…can you?
I dressed myself in full Easter Rabbit attire, since the race promoter had announced that the theme for the race was Easter. Hey, I was gonna have fun at this race!
Oh yeah, I was coming to race, not have fun. I forgot for a moment.
Oh well, at least I would have an excuse when I didn’t make my five-lap goal: I could always blame the ears! I had lost my aero advantage because of my ears!
As I lined up for the Le Mans-style start, I looked around at the competition. Like it always does, at every starting line, that was when the self-doubt started.
“Everyone else is so fit. Why am I here? I’m no good. I suck. My downhill skills are pathetic. People will be yelling at me all day to get out of the way. What am I even doing here?”
The horn blew; my mind turned off and the animal was released.
I wanted to get to my bike before Elden did. I wanted to get off to a good start. I didn’t want to get caught behind someone slow on the ascending single track.
I grabbed my bike from Melisa and was off.
As I was clipping into my pedals I noticed a small blonde girl in a Plan7 Kit starting to pull away. I tagged her as my number one competition. I had no idea who she was…or if she was even riding solo. But she looked fast, and I wanted to beat her.
Up We Go
The climb started out good. I followed a guy with dreadlocks onto the singletrack. He was moving slightly slower than I would have — which was good, because I was able to take the opportunity to catch my breath. There was no one behind me and we made good time up the singletrack. As soon as the road opened up, it turned downhill and the guy with dreads flew away.
It was on the next climb that I heard my honey. Elden came rolling past me with a friendly “l love you.” I was slightly surprised that it had taken him so long to pass me. He stayed in my sight until the top of the climb; he then turned downhill and was gone.
As the climb continued, l eventually caught “Mr. Dreadlocks” (as I had mentally named him) and passed him with a friendly “Hey.” But I was also passed by the girl in the Plan7 Kit (I mentally named her “Plan7”)…with not so much as a “Hello!”
“Maybe she isn’t my competition,” I thought. “Maybe she’s way out of my league!”
At just past five miles on the course, the climb tops out and turns downhill. The first part is truly like a roller coaster. Even I — someone who does not like to descend — love the JEM Trail.
However, there is one very technical, scary part on JEM. It involves switchbacks on a cliff. I walked this section of trail seventeen times at the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow. (As a result of this, I have a black toenail that should be falling off any day now.)
It was at this time that I caught up with Plan7. She was walking too! That was a good sign; maybe she struggled with down hilling too?
Still, she was able to get down the switchbacks before me, jumped on her bike and was gone! Maybe I was wrong and she was another Heather (Heather is an amazing downhiller).
Still, descending felt good. My bike was handling well, so I was feeling really cocky as I approached a technical rocky section. I had ridden this section a few times the day before, trying to find the best line. I was confident I would fly through this section. I had a guy hot on my tail as I rolled into the rocky section.
And flew I did…..right over my handle bars and into the bush. My front wheel hit the rock and I was catapulted right over my handle bars!
The guy behind me stopped to help; I assured him I was fine…except for my pride. With a surge of adrenaline, I jumped back on my bike and took off.
Passing…And Getting Passed
It was on the return on the dirt road climb that I caught up with Plan7 Lori. I was quite ecstatic that I had caught her again. As I pedaled up alongside her, I asked her name. She didn’t seem very friendly — I guess she had her game face on. She was probably thinking that it was “no time for jibber jabber.”
She said her name was Lori (but I still called her “Plan7” in my mind), and I told her I was Lisa.
And then I pedaled away.
I quickly passed two “bunnies” (girls with bunny ears like mine mounted on their helmets), complimenting them on their cute ears and extremely fine taste.
Soon the road turned back to single track and the bunnies passed me….as did Plan7. They passed me, but were not putting too much distance between us.
On the ¼ mile stretch to the finish line, I turned it on. As I passed the bunnies, I encouraged them to turn on the gas and catch Lori/Plan7, who was a little ahead.
I guess they didn’t think it was as important as I did, because when I caught up and passed Lori, they were nowhere around. I crossed the line in one 1:00:30. There was no hope for 6 laps for me, and I had a feeling it was gonna a be a battle for time for me to get five laps in.
Let’s Do This Again!
Lori crossed the finish line mere seconds after me. I quickly fueled with some Coke and a Rice Krispie Treat. Melisa did an excellent job of having everything ready! She is the best.
As I headed out, I passed Lori as she was refueling at her tent. I charged past her up the first hill, feeling fantastic. As I excited the single track section I caught up with Mr. Dreadlocks again! I was amazed enough that I introduced myself and complimented him on his downhill skills, seeing how I was just barely catching him again! As I walked the sketchy switchbacks, Dreads came by me again yelling encouragement. I wondered whether I would see him again.
As I remounted my bike, Lori was nowhere to be seen. Yippee! I had a lead on her on the descent.
As I zoomed on down the trail, I noticed my bike was starting to creak.
Ugh! I hoped that this was not a bad sign. After all, the trail was super dusty. My chain was super dusty. Even I was super dusty!. Maybe it was just creaking due to dust.
At one point about two miles before the timing tent, the trail makes a hard right from the singletrack to a road where you start to climb again slightly — essentially, you’re doubling back. It’s a perfect opportunity to look and see who’s right behind you. It was here that I saw Lori; she wasn’t very far behind. I crossed the line in 1:00:57, and Lori was just 2 1/2 minutes behind me.
After I finished refueling and started the climb for the third time, I passed Lori, who was stopped at her tent and refueling again. This time, I was feeling a little less frisky…and my bike was getting louder!
Once again on the final climb I passed Dreads. I also passed a few “Fatty” fans who were very encouraging. Then, as I began the descent, my “climbing friends” — the people I seemed to be passing on each climb — passed me again.
My bike was making so much noise now that I was constantly looking behind me…thinking someone was back there. But it was no one but my chain.
This time as I was descending, things didn’t seem to be going as well. There was something up with my bike. I was really hoping that Kenny—who was racing duo with Heather–would be at the crewing tent, not out on a lap. Maybe he could take a look at my bike!
I crossed the line in 1:07, with Lori still just two minutes behind me.
As I approached our tent I started screaming, “Kenny? Kenny?! Where is KENNY?!”
Melisa ran to the sprinter van, where Kenny would usually be as he got ready for his next lap.
Then, to my relief, Kenny came sprinting across the road! He had heard me! (Really, how could he not?)
I quickly explained the situation, and he grabbed my bike, put it on the stand and started working. He lubed my chain and checked my tire pressure. He was shocked to find it was at only 10psi! No wonder the bike didn’t feel right. He quickly inflated my tires and I was off.
Thanks, Kenny! You are the best!
Catching Up To Do
As I approached the climb for the fourth time, I saw that Lori was now ahead of me! Feeling a little burst of adrenaline in my system, I passed Lori…yelling words of encouragement, of course.
The climb was harder this time. I was being chased. Lori was right behind me, and I was feeling the pressure. I caught Dreads again and passed him. I told him we couldn’t have done this if we tried!
And of course, as usual, he passed me again on the switchbacks.
I looked back and was surprised that Lori was not on my tail. My bike was feeling a lot better; it’s amazing what a difference a few pounds of pressure can do for handling.
I bombed down, feeling quite happy with my skill, but more importantly I was having a blast! The trail was fantastic. The weather was perfect! The day was going great!
As I left the singletrack and did the hard right turn, I held my breath and looked back.
I settled into a comfortable pace on the climb, then turned my head a blew a huge snot rocket.
Which is when I found out — to my utter amazement and horror — that Lori was on my tail. My “rocket” probably had landed on her leg!
I apologized profusely.
She said she didn’t mind; after all, she was dirty anyway. What a lady, I like her!
But where had she come from? She must have been so close I didn’t see her. She continued to stay right on my tail until the trail returned to singletrack. At that point, I conceded and told her to take the lead. She gratefully accepted.
I tried by best to stay with her. I was impressed with myself that I was hanging with her. Then we came upon another rider. She yelled to pass. He pulled over, Lori passed…and the guy wrecked in the trail right in front of me! UGH! What an ethical dilemma! Do you yell, “Outta my way! There goes my lead!” Or do you stop and help the guy up?
I stopped and helped him up.
He was pretty dazed, but seemed otherwise OK. So once he was okay, I took off again. I could barely see Lori, but she wasn’t beyond catching. I crossed the line in 1:07; Lori did that lap in 1:06.
After hurriedly fueling up, I pulled back onto the course the same time as Lori. I caught her on the first climb. I yelled–quite seriously— “Let’s finish this off!” and I was off.
I knew I had only one chance. I needed to put enough time on the climb that she would never catch me on the descent. So I stood up and cranked…and then I sat down, utterly exhausted.
“How am I gonna pull this off?” I asked myself.
At that moment I felt a kindly pat on my back and nice big push! I looked up to see Ryan. I work with Ryan, and he is super fast. He was currently kicking some serious butt in the Duo Men’s category. He shouted some words of encouragement and then was gone! But his push renewed my ambition and I was off.
The climbs seemed a lot harder this time as I pedaled. I never saw Dreads on this lap; I guess I actually caught and passed him at the end of lap four — everyone was starting to feel the fatigue.
I was hoping Lori might be feeling that fatigue, too.
I reached the top and zoomed. I never looked back. I was telling myself that Lori was right behind me and I needed to pedal as fast I could. As I made the hard right onto the road, I glanced back. No Lori in sight, but I knew better than to believe it. I just kept pedaling.
Then, as I came around a corner, I saw a bright orange jersey on the horizon! Could that be? No, it couldn’t be…Elden? To my surprise, it was.
I started whooping and hollering. I doubted that he could hear me–the wind had started to pick up. I was so excited to see him. I thought maybe he had conceded his postion and decided to cross the line with me. What a genuine sweetheart. I love that man.
But I was in a conundrum.
I needed to keep my speed up. I couldn’t slow down and chit chat. I needed to pass Elden and keep going. Im sure he would understand, right?
So as I approached, I yelled out, cheerfully, “Hey Mr. Nelson, you need to move over, I’m coming through.”
His response was simple: “I am over.” And then I passed him.
Uh oh. That wasn’t a “happy Elden” voice. Ugh. “Should I stop and see what’s wrong?” I thought. I settled for yelling over my shoulder, ““Are you there? Are you OK?”
“Yes I’m here and I’m fine,” he said, flatly. Which I could tell meant that clearly he was not ok. Crap. Crap. Crap.
I honestly wasn’t sure what to do. I knew he would want me to keep pedaling. He would be mad if I stopped. So, I pedaled — and he stayed with me. I was still scared to turn around. I didn’t want to see Lori there too!
I kept shouting, “Are we alone?” But he couldn’t hear. Finally I turned back and looked. We were alone. We entered the last quarter-mile stretch on the road. Elden pulled up along side me. I quickly explained I had been rallying with a gal the whole race, and I thought I might beat her!
Finish Line And After
Elden and I crossed the finish line together! I hugged him – so grateful to have him with me at the finish line. Lori came in just a minute behind me. I jumped off my bike and embraced her, thanking her for making me ride faster than I’ve ever ridden. She kind of looked at me funny.
I think she thought I was a deranged bunny.
I had taken second in the Solo Female division; Lori had taken third.
Joey — the pro who took first — is obviously not in this picture; she hadn’t arrived at the park in time for our division awards.
Here’s our final times:
Later, Elden recounted his race story to me. I was amazed at our similairities. I guess it follows the old adage. “You win some, you lose some.” This time I pulled out a minute over lori, and Elden lost a minute to Mike.