24 hours of Vail Lake Race Report
When we arrived at Vail Lake on Saturday it was already extremely hot, probably high 80's or low 90's before the race even started. Thankfully the run was short and it seemed as though I was the first female to hit the trail. We started on a sandy bit, then hit a dirt road which would climb for 3 miles. This was the dam climb, or the damn climb as I like to call it. The climb is steady but there are a few long steep pitches. I rode most, if not all, if it on my first lap but being with a single gear I opted to walk some of the steeps on the subsequent laps. Anyway, I was passed early on one of the flat sections by Terry and Liz. I wasn't concerned as I was able to catch up quickly once the road turned upward. They were climbing smart and steady, but as you know with a SS there is really no smart or steady :) After the dam climb there is a bit of tech ridgeline singletrack that rolls through some rocky stuff and has two steeeep loose powder sand descents. These were fine during the day but really sketch at night. I found out later most (if not all) the other women were walking these. Thankfully I rode it through each lap with almost 100% success because that increased my lead every lap. On the first lap, this is where I lost the other women for good. After that, there is some more somewhat tech ridgeline steep ups and downs...soooo fast it can get scary if you are not on it. The exposure here was wild...when approaching some of the drops it looked like you were flying off the edge of the earth into the sky. It was super cool. After some rocky/ledgy descents it was more flat road to another section of singletrack. Most of this trail was rolling, with some steep tech whoops thrown in for more fun. These made me smile :) I loved the last few miles of this course minus the steep hike a bike at the end.
I was so cooked and getting a little nervous after my first lap that I wouldn't be able to handle the heat. It was now mid to high 90's but I was not sweating. I didn't feel like I was able to cool myself at all so I decided to drop the pace so I was not killing myself in the heat. I also stopped for a few minutes at the pit after each lap to hose myself down and drink an entire bottle of water. In addition, I was consuming two whole bottles while I was on the course. My lap times were pretty steady and I was able to stay in first for the rest of the day. I didn't hammer at all and instead played it smart with my pacing and my nutrition and that worked out just fine.
On my 2nd night lap, one of my lights died. This made the lap quite scary to ride as I couldn't see any of the sand or ruts. I crashed 3 times on this lap! It was slow but I tried walking one of the downhills and that was scarier than just riding it out. Luckily I made it back in one piece and was able to get another fresh battery. On one of my crashes, I lost my RFID card which I needed to make my laps official. I didn't realize it until I had already come in from my lap and they wouldn't let me go out without paying $5. My support crew took care of that ASAP and I was on my way again...except I got lost at the start/finish and rode around in circles between some yellow caution tape until I finally found the trail. DUH!! The sky was incredible, you could see all the stars and I took a few breaks up on the ridgeline at night just to take it all in. I would sit down with a pop-tart and just stare at the sky for a few minutes. I really was enjoying myself..not like other 24 hour solos in the past.
Even with the minor mishaps, everything was functioning fine..the bike, my body, and I was in a pretty good mental state (other than on the lap with only one light). I knew I was 3 laps up on the field so I decided to skip the last night lap in favor of a nap. I ate a nice meal of Doritos, turkey sandwich, a burnt potato, and some ruffles. Mmmm..salt. I tried to sleep in the tent but couldn't make it happen. Then, Eddie came in around 5am complaining that his knee was bothering him. I decided to get dressed and on the bike again to ride the sunrise lap with him. However, his knee was hurting so bad that he couldn't put any pressure on it and had to walk all the climbs. Again, the desert beauty did not disappoint. I wish I had pictures it was so incredible at sunrise. I ended up riding that lap out, plus one more. At this point in the morning, the winds had picked up and the ridge riding was so sketchy! I had to ride on the extreme left side of the road/trail at the top to avoid getting blown off ot the right (which did happen once, luckily I didn't get hurt). At 8:45 am I rolled up to the pit with 11 laps and they said I could stop because I was still 3 laps up and no one could possibly catch me. I was fine what that decision and turned in my card with 11 laps down. I didn't wear myself out like normal at this one..don't get me wrong, it was definitely extremely hard because of the heat and the climbs, but I did about the same mileage as I normally would in a 12 hour race, not a 24 hour. Still, mission was accomplished: A great training ride and a podium spot..the top podium spot was icing on the cake!
Kris and Mike were awesome with packing everything up so we could get to the airport to catch the redeye home. Orion showed up with pizza, as promised, even though it was only about 12 hours late ;) Thanks, guys. I honestly think the flight was more painful than the race itself. I will not ever do that again..but unfortunately I had to get to class the next day as it is Finals week at school.
Thanks, again to all my sponsors for their support:
BURN Energy Drink
Georgia Sports Chiropractic and Georgia Sports Massage
Next up is 24 hours of Conyers, also in the Granny Gear 24 hour Points Series!