Monday, June 9, 2008

Granite Man

Every race comes with some lessons learned. Granite man was my first off-road multisport event. Here is some of the wisdom I picked up from the experience:

1. I need some serious work on my mountain biking skills. This will mostly involve actually RIDING my mountain bike. I had been on single track once this spring and wasn't able to "race" the bike section of the race because my fitness level is about eight levels above my technical skills.

2. Nutritional and hydration strategy has to be totally different when you really can't be taking your hands off of the handlebars at any point during the bike section of the race.

3. A lightweight bike with a fully functional seat post would have been pretty awesome. My land yacht Gary Fisher (think 1973 Buick station wagon with a suspension fork) with the seat post that drops down every 15 minutes was not the optimal racing machine.

4. Off-road events are more mentally fatiguing than on-road, as you have to concentrate on your surroundings and the trail conditions at all times. Lapses in concentration often result in face plants into the side of a mountain.

5. Off road events are the BOMB.

Part One: Escape from Portland

The adventure officially began at 2:30pm on Friday when I picked up Emily. After a short pit stop at Burgerville for turkey burgers and some SE Powell Boulevard culture ("you want some fries with that shake"), we headed south. Into a monsoon that lasted until just north of Salem. Is it ever going to be summer around here?

Other than an incident with a window-washing transient at the Roseburg rest area, the trip was pretty uneventful. Probably because Emily had the directions to Jacksonville in her hand the minute we left Multnomah County and didn't put them down for the next four hours. Because we didn't want to miss the exit that was coming up in 240 miles.

Part Two: Jacksonville is a Cute Town, Good Flea Markets.

Jacksonville, Oregon is a former mining community located between Medford and Ashland. It is tiny and cute and hosts a great music festival later in the summer. After dinner, we stopped by a local church that was setting up for a flea market the next morning. Emily bought a floor length gray wool skirt with a bull embroidered into it. For only $1. I was pretty jealous. But I did find a "Don't Mess with Texas" coaster for Mo. I thought about buying a three-disk DVD set on the Armageddon, but decided against it when I realized that I already knew everything I needed know about the coming Apocalypse from watching two seasons of Rock of Love.

When we got back to the hotel we ran into two ladies about our age who were going to do their first triathlon out at Granite Man and needed some help with a flat tire. Turned out that the tire had been exposed to something so hot that the tire and tube had actually melted together. Yikes. I think they ended up driving to the all night Wal-Mart in Medford to pick up a replacement tire and tube.

We fell asleep during a Dog Whisperer marathon and I dreamed about my ex-boyfriend's dog eating my mountain bike.

Part Three: The Part Where Spending the Day Drunk in an Innertube Seems Like a Much Better Idea.

Woke up to perfectly blue skies on Saturday morning. It was a bit chilly outside, but it wasn't raining, so who's complaining. Loaded up the car and headed down to Applegate Lake. Drive was gorgeous and we scouted out a couple of single-wide summer homes along the way. I was partial to one that had its wheels removed and a llama chained up by the front door. Those folks must be well-off...a good guard llama is hard to find.

Granite Man is a point-to-point race, so after picking up our packets at the start/finish area and informing the race folks for the second time that I was switching races (remember this bit of foreshadowing), we headed to the bike/run transition area. A couple of the campers at the transition area were already out in their lawn chairs drinking 40s of Old E and fishing.

Watching people get set up for the triathlon made me a bit melancholy. The water was a bit cold, but it was clean and clear and you could see fish jumping not far from the shore. It was beautiful.

The duathlon started about 15 minutes before the triathlon. The race directors had us line up and started everyone about 30 seconds apart. I let a couple of people that were reeking of aggressive "I can't get stuck behind anyone" panic start in front of me. Then, it started.

Part Four: That's Funny, The Map Doesn't Show an Restroom on the Trail.

The first thing that I managed to do was get lost. Three minutes into the race. We rode through a boat ramp area and I took the trail that lead back up to the parking lot rather than the one that continued around the lake. I climbed up and up and up only to finish the climb at the start area restrooms. Sigh.

Once I made it back down onto the right trail, everyone that had started in the back of the line on their CostCo mountain bikes had made it onto the trail ahead of me and it got a little congested. I actually stopped once just to let some angry people get around me, just so that they could get stuck behind someone else. We spent about a mile on the trail, then hopped up to paved road for about a 1/2 mile and riders spread out a bit. Once we ended up back on the trail, it was all single-track for the next 10 miles.

The trail was beautiful and in great condition. The major theme of the ride is that I need to learn to turn right. All of the major switchbacks on the course were right-handed turns and I struggled with most of them. Got off-course twice more when I couldn't make the sharp (right) turn necessary to stay on the race route. Stacked it twice--on right-handed turns.

I notice that when I'm riding cross or mountain biking, I either crash once, twice or three dozen times. There is no middle ground. I think that the second crash always rattles my confidence enough such that I either (1) slow down and ride cautious or (2) just make a conscious decision to eat trail most of the ride. Because of the amount of poison oak along the trail and the condition of my shoulder after the second crash, I opted for (1).

So it became more of a ride than a race. And it was so much fun. After the second crash, I think I became the last duathlete in the pack and I rode alone until the one or two of the triathletes caught up with me in the last mile of the ride. The last two miles of the ride were on forest service road--a 1/2 mile uphill so bumpy and steep that I pushed the Buick uphill for 10 minutes, followed by a 1 1/2 downhill bomb on well-maintained gravel road.

Part Five: This Seems Like a Really Long Five Miles

Transition was a little slow, as removing the camelbak was a bit of a challenge when my shoulder refused to move in the appropriate direction without shooting sparks up into my neck. There were a ton of people cheering for their families and one little girl seemed particularly excited to see a woman racing ("Look Mom! There's a girl racing!"). She obviously hadn't been there long enough to see the slew of women that had already passed through ahead of me, but it was really cute.

First 1.5 miles of the run was on the pavement with a long climb up to the trail head. Once on the trail, we passed through forests and meadows and the lake was so close at some points that you could see the fish swimming. Great scenery, but one of the most challenging runs that I have ever done in a race--I was mentally fatigued, calorically deficient (from not eating on the ride) and very uncomfortable in the shoulder region of my body. It affected my balance a bit and I stumbled and tripped more than normal.

I also hit another milestone in the quest to become a totally self-sufficient triathlete. I peed and ran at the same time. I wore the tritard to race in, which is hard enough to get out of with two functional arms, but with only one shoulder operating at capacity...I really didn't have any other choice.

About 45 minutes in, the "are we done yet-i am so ready to be done" song started to play in my head. Applegate Lake is a really funny shape, with lots of inlets, so it was impossible to see the finish area until the last 1/2 mile of the race. But once I saw that the end was in sight, I was able to pick it up a bit, passed two guys and managed to out run a third in the last 200 meters.

Then, just like that, it was over.

I expected Emily to finish about 25-30 minutes after I was done, so I sat in the ice cold lake for a bit, then started putting some calories into my body. After about 15 minutes, they announced that the female triathlon winner had set a new course record. Then they announced my name.

Oh Jesus, how humiliating. I tromped down the hill while everyone was clapping and told the announcer that I, in fact, could not have set any triathlon course record because I hadn't actually done the triathlon. And, in fact, that I was probably the last woman to finish the duathlon because I am directionally challenged and unable to turn right. I felt like Zoolander ("you gotta lotta talents kid, but hanging a righty isn't one of them").

Emily finished soon after. She finished as the THIRD female overall for the triathlon. It was so awesome. She got a plaque and a bunch of hot dudes congratulating her.

The whole experience was challenging, fun and totally chill. I can't wait until I do it again, but I bet my shoulder, wrists and the black and blue area on the back of my right leg would prefer if I practice the whole mountain biking thing a bit more before then.

Officially results aren't posted yet, but I will edit this entry when that occurs.

Part Six: And the Rest

We spent the rest of the weekend in Ashland shopping, beer-drinking and play-watching. I bought a hot pink vintage cocktail dress and we saw an fantastic modern/disco/early-seventies staging of "A Midsummer's Night Dream." Go see the play IMMEDIATELY so we can discuss the hole in the wall and barking monkeys.


Kristin said...

Great job! Sounds like a blast. That's so hilarious that they said you set a new record...that's how I felt when I came in from my first cross country mtb race. I finished with the pro's because I had only done about 1/2 the course because I got lost. Whoooops.

The Bald One said...

I would never let Buddy eat your bike. He would probably be allergic to it anyway.

(0v0) said...

So amazing and intense.

Plus, peeing and running!

Seriously, I could not do this. Mentally I would wuss out.