Upon arriving in Sedona we were immediately in heaven! Every morning we would step outside our door and only one word would come out, “Wow!” Seriously, every morning I would say it again. You couldn’t help but be in awe of the beauty around. The land throws out such amazing colors and rock formations that it doesn’t even feel real. We had the whole week to explore, with no plans, no schedules, no rush. I can’t lie, it felt REALLY GOOD. There is something about Sedona, maybe the vortex’s around, but there is just a sense of peace there. Carlos and I really try to have this in our own home, but living in such a densely populated city, this feeling is slowly lost when you step out into the chaos. This is where mountain biking comes in to save the day!
Tuesday we rode out from our cute little apartment to the other side of town in search of some sweet single track. I was in charge of the map and so of course when we were in the middle of the canyon with no civilization in sight, and on a trail that a bike didn’t seem to fit on anymore, it was all my fault! Hehe. Oops! Getting lost is part of the adventure, right?!? So, 4.5 hours and about 5,000 pictures later, we had a heck of a good time and finally found our way home.
Wednesday we drove out to Prescott to pre ride the 25 mile portion of the race course. Having never been there before we were trying to figure out where we wanted to park and where the trail started. We drove the four mile start of the course from downtown UP to the campgrounds where the trail starts. Yes, I did type “up” in all caps on purpose, because it was ALL up, and very steep at that. The last mile was near an average grade of 18%. So we found a spot to park and started climbing. The first five miles of single track are also up hill. Most of it super fun until you start to really feel your legs and have to pop your wheel over some pretty good size water bars (basically just really big logs lying straight across the trail.) No joke, there had to have been at least fifteen of these. One was even after the apex of the turn on a switch back. It was tough!
Once reaching the peak we got to descend for about fifteen minutes with some super rocky sections and scary ledges that could send you flying off the cliff. It was so hard not to have a death grip! Once the fun was over then what else was there to do then to go right back up again. Hehe This time we were climbing about two miles to the 25/50 proof split, and since we were riding the 25, the trail continued uphill for three more miles and topping out at an altitude of 7,136 ft.
At this point we were just so excited to start descending again that we missed a turn somewhere and just continued down the jeep road until we finally stopped to check the map. Apparently we should have been on single track by then. So we continued down until we found a section of single track next to the road that we could jump on. By the time we got back to the car we ended up with 25 miles! Sweet!
After our ride we knew that this race was really going to be a booger! The portion of the trail that we skipped was an additional 9.3 mile descent down Skull Valley where you make a quick u-turn at the bottom to climb straight back up, then continue the three more miles after the 25/50 split to the top. Ouch! Thursday we decided to spin our legs on some trails that started right behind our building. We didn’t really find exactly what we were looking for and ended up riding very sandy dry riverbeds. It wasn’t really the type of “spin” I was hoping for, but hey, it was still beautiful Sedona!
Our relaxing week was coming to an end and it was soon to be “GO time!” Friday we had to get an early start on the day to drive out to Prescott for the Pro pre-race meeting at noon. So we packed a cooler with lunch and snacks and hit the road. After the meeting we had quite a bit of down time before I had to start warming up for the fat tire crit. We walked around, visited a local bike shop, and just hung out around cute little downtown.
The fat tire crit was right there on Whiskey Row. The course was set up with two climbs that I knew were going to hurt! The start was supposed to be a neutral roll out until the first turn into the climb, but it didn’t feel like that really happened. I don’t think mountain bikers are really wired for “neutral” starts the way roadies are. Unfortunately I got caught in the back of the group and that’s never good in a crit. I was forced to brake in the corners and the second hill was too long to play catch up for me. Everyone around me, including myself, was gasping for air and there was a lot of suffering in the four laps I got in before I got pulled with several of the others. Those were seriously the hardest twelve minutes of my life but so much fun all at the same time! The crowds and the atmosphere were just as on fire as my lungs. They hurt so bad for the next two days that I almost thought I was even getting sick!
After the crit we drove back to Sedona to start getting everything prepared for Carlos’ race the next morning. He had an early start at 7:30 am which meant we would have to be up by 4:15 am to be there with enough time for him to calmly get ready. We had heard that it’s best not to start in the back of the pack because once hitting single track it’s like hitting a road block as the trail gets bottlenecked. There were over a thousand people racing between the 50 Proof and the 25 Proof so there were people everywhere! Once Carlos was off I drove to aid station #1/#3 which is where the 25 & 50 split. The volunteers were just amazing and everyone was so helpful!
Carlos and I had bought walkie talkies a few months back for a more reliable way to communicate with each other in the trail when we start loosing cell phone signals. We each had one while he was out on the course. Poor guy was suffering on the climb and I was talking to him (and apparently all the other guys around him too) saying, “Good job baby! You’re awesome! I love you! Don’t stop! Pedal! Pedal! Pedal! Keep going! I love you!” He said all the guys looked around like, “what the heck was that, and WHERE did it come from?” Haha He didn’t say anything the FIRST time, and then when I gave him another mushy shpeal he embarrassingly said, “Sorry guys…that’s my wife.” LOL oops!
When he got to aid station #1, I asked him how he was doing. To my surprise he said, “Great!” So many people were hitting that aid station and seriously yelling, “Water! Water!” or “Pickle Juice!” but he quickly switched his bottles out, kissed me goodbye and he was off to descend down Skull Valley. A little after an hour he called me on the radio asking for Elete. He was cramping and had run out of his pocketflask. I was a bad pit girl for leaving the extra bottle in the car which was a few miles from there. So I made sure to save some pickle juice for him before they ran out. Even though he was struggling with his cramps, he had such a good attitude when he finally got back to the aid station. Again, he didn’t stop for more than 30 seconds and continued to the top of the twelve mile climb. Since we accidentally skipped a small portion of the trail in our pre-ride, he totally thought that it was “all downhill from there,” which it was NOT! After descending for about three and a half miles, there is a mile long climb called Cramp Hill. Carlos said there were riders that were cramping and literally falling over still clipped in. There was one girl screaming from the top of her lungs, “NO! NO! NO! NO!” allllll the way up the climb WHILE she was pedalling! He was pulled over to the side of the trail cramping, and looked over at a guy lying on the ground and said, “Hey, it’s obviously working for her! She’s the only one still riding!”
After a long day in the saddle Carlos turned the corner to the finish line in downtown Prescott. As he rolled through they handed him his pint glass for completing his first Whiskey 50! I was so proud of him!!!
We drove back to Sedona to get ready for my race the next morning. Since we would start driving back home right after my race we got everything ready to be loaded up. We had a good nights sleep, arrived early at the venue, and I was excited to experience all that Carlos had the day before! The field was once again stacked, and since the elevation gain and altitude was unlike any race or even trail I had ever ridden, I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to hold the pace of all the other girls. By the time I got to the first feed zone where Carlos was I was pretty much on my own. He must have noticed how much I was already suffering because he didn’t even ask me how I was doing…it was pretty obvious. He was so encouraging as he switched out my bottles and kissed me goodbye.
It was so cool to descend down Skull Valley and see all the Pro Men followed by the leading Pro Women drilling it up the climb. On the way down, Sarka Ruzickova of Cannondale zoomed by me . Once I finally hit the turn around I knew the race with myself had barely begun. I steadily climbed and closed the gap Sarka had put on me. We chit chatted a bit and she was so nice, as this was one of the first times she had even been on her bike this YEAR! She had been doing lots of skiing in CO where she lives. So after our little talk, I continued on my way and put a little bit of time on her. It was getting really hot, and so lonely out there by myself! There were sections that had no air flow what so ever and it felt like I was never going to get back to the feed zone.
My frown quickly turned upside down when Carlos pulled a “Lisa” on Lisa with our walkie talkies! It was a bunch of “I love you’s!” “You’re awesome!” “Don’t quit!” and “Pedal! Pedal! Pedal!” I was really starting to fade and his voice was just what I needed! What seemed like an eternity later, I made it to the feed zone. I was so happy to see not only Carlos, but Richard and Lisa, yelling and cheering for me! Sponsors don’t get any better than that! They didn’t even let me put a foot down. I just rolled on through as they switched out the bottles in my cage, my jersey, my nutrition, and after Carlos poured water on me, Richard followed it up with another cold pour that got me drenched! It felt soooo good!
As I was finishing up the last few miles of the climb, I felt someone creep up on me. I turned around and it was my awesome hubby riding behind me! It’s hilarious because he was speechless after having to climb his tail off to catch me since it took him a little while to gather up everything he had at the feed zone (not to mention he had climbed 7,000 ft just the day before), and I was speechless just because my glycogen tank was pretty much running off of fumes at that point. After he finally caught his breath he blurted out an, “I Love You.” and with no emotion I quietly said, “I Love You too.” Not too long after that I had reached my limit. I couldn’t fight it anymore and I was getting really dizzy. I pulled off into the only shade I could find, which wasn’t very much, and Carlos took the bottles from my jersey to get some of the weight off my back. After a few minutes of a pity party and letting my heart rate come down a little bit, we made it to the top of the climb. I was so thankful to have him there by my side! He gave me back my bottles, once again kissed me goodbye and I was on my own.
For the next three miles I got to rest my legs on the descent. This is exactly what gives the next mile long climb its name, Cramp Hill. He had told me to push through the climb and he knew I could make it up! I didn’t really know that it was going to be a mile long climb, and it felt REALLY long at the time. The ground was pretty loose near the end. His words stuck in my head, I gritted my teeth, and grinded it out all the way to the top! NOW it was all downhill from there! All of a sudden Sarka comes blowing by me and says, “Hop on my wheel! I’ll take you down!” She was flying! I stayed on her wheel for about five seconds till I thought to myself, “Yeah, she’s going to take me down…literally, down on the ground!” I didn’t trust my skills and I knew I was super fatigue so I backed off her pace. Since I was the last rider on the trail I had the sweep on a moto behind me and when I finally popped out onto the road I was police escorted all the way back into town! It was so fun to have them stop all the traffic for me and I could take each corner as fast as I wanted to. You would have thought I was someone special or something! 😉 My rock star moment was coming to an end as I turned the final corner to the finish and all the tents and booths were being torn down and packed up. I was officially the last rider to roll through for the weekend and it was a great one at that!
What an absolutely awesome experience this whole trip has been! I know deep down that God paves our way through this world and He is the reason that Carlos and I are able to do everything that we do! I cannot lie. This trip was so great that it’s taken me this long (a month and a half) to get back to reality. A million THANKS to our sponsors, Richard and Lisa of Comedy Defensive Driving, Outta the Oven Las Colinas, and Education Location for believing in us and helping give me a “boost” into this pro mountain bike world, my amazing brother Roman and his support from Roman Strength LLC., my wonderful sister Marisa and her beautiful family for “temporarily” adopting our son Plopper, Deborah and Steven for their constant love, support, and not to mention providing us with a fancy shmancy roof over our heads for a week, Uncle Oscar and Marlene for supporting their crazy niece’s dreams, Deirdre and John for the surprise Christmas bonus, Plano Cycling in Fitness, Team PACC, Elete Electrolytes, ESI Grips, Sockguy, Honeystinger, Schwalbe, all of our clients, friends, and family I did not mention, and last but not least AT ALL, my backbone, my best friend, my HUSBAND! He is my inspiration and the glue that keeps me together. I truly thank God for him!
This Sunday we’ll be racing the Fossil 50 out in Glen Rose, TX. I’m super excited and really looking forward to this one! This is a race like no other in the area and I know it’s going to be a blast! This race is pre-reg only so hurry and sign up now, this is going to be one that you don’t want to miss!