This is the start of a 3 day/4 night adventure with one of my besties and team mate, Bobby Acuna of RST Suspension. RST Suspension is one of the GGR Rocktober festival sponsors this year October 30th at Castaic Lake: www.rst.com.tw/en/
About 4 months ago...March 8th to be exact....I reached out to an industry acquaintance (Bobby), that had exhibited in the past at GGR's annual Rocktober Festival through another company to see if they would like to be an exhibitor at this year's festival. Come to find out he was transitioning into a new position and now also had some free time to join some of our co ed rides and help with learning the trails at the new location for this year's festival, Castaic. Well, we immediately hit it off as riding buddies and friends. I found that when I rode with him, just to keep up while he was chatting with me was a challenge that kept producing PR'S every time I rode with him. ( PR= Personal Record: this is a term used on Strava, a cycling app for anyone that does not know: https://www.strava.com/).
THIS was a great thing! Riding with super fast riders can either break you or force you to step up and work harder. I chose the latter...I excepted the challenge and his direction. Little did I know what adventures I was about to get myself into!
Racing a few of the Pedalfest races in Castaic: http://www.racepedalfest.com/ an Enduro at Rim Nordic: http://rimnordic.com/2016-racing-schedule and a bunch of hammer rides...........I started to get faster. I am also on a new bike this year, a Specialized Expert ERA 2016. My confidence was rising not to mention the fun factor grew with my increased speed. We were joking around one night about entering the 6 hours of Temecula race/endurance event and how we should get a team together. Well, pretty much in the next 24 hours we were signed up for the 2 person team.
Jason, the race promoter of SoCal Endurance/Enduro: http://www.socalendurance.net/12--6-hours-of-temecula.html and general super great guy, racer, shredder, single speed crazy, promoter of women's sports, wife of an epic rider Heather, and much more, invited GGR to have a booth at the event as well. So now with all the GGR booth items, 4 bikes between us (xc & enduro bikes), food, tons of water and our personal things...we needed two cars for everything we were taking for the 3 days. (my 1st idea was to camp to save money, thank goodness we didn't because we would have had to rent a toy hauler with everything we had to bring!). So we packed up everything in the 2 cars to make the 3 hour drive to Temecula. The plan was to pre ride both courses on Friday, get the booth set up, then go get our hotel and relax for the remainder of the day/evening in preparation of the 6 hour event.
On the road at 6:30am........
So running a wee bit late....yes...my fault....I just needed a wee bit more sleep.....5 more minutes right??? We were on the road around 6:30am to make the long drive to Temecula. We arrived at Vail Lake around 9:30am and went to greet Jason and find out the skinny. The course was already marked, so we broke out our XC bikes to pre ride the 6 hour endurance course. I am racing a Specialized 2016 Expert ERA and Bobby is racing a 2013 Specialized EPIC.
During the pre ride, we took our time and discussed lines, corners, descents, the gnarly climbs, everything I really needed to discuss and session we did. Everything we did on the pre ride was critical with how confident I rode during the actual event.
After pre riding the almost 9 mile course, it was time to switch to the big bikes, pads and pre ride the enduro. I rode my Canfield Balance...better known as Taylor. And Bobby rode his Rocky Mountain....of course known as Rocky. We started to ride up the long fire road to get to the 1st timed stage. About 3/4 of the way up, we ran into Jason on his ATV. Him and Bobby talked shop and Jason gave me some pointers on the top gnarly section. At this point, it was triple digits and I was feeling it big time. I felt like I was melting, I was dizzy and it just seemed like a truck hit me, the heat was so dry I could barely breathe. I didn't even know if I could finish the climb to get to the top, but of course didn't want to let Bobby down or tell him how badly I really felt, so I sucked it up and kept riding.
We climbed to the top and then it showed its ugly face.....the top section of the climb was pretty much straight up...Bobby rode up it. (yes..he's a beast). I just remember pushing my bike and trying to lift my own spirits thinking cool thoughts when I totally wanted to vomit and was fighting the tears..........I didn't want my new team mate to think I was a girlie girl who couldn't handle it when the going got tough.....and then..... he was just there. He walked back down the hill, took my bike, pushed it up the 1st steep climb to where his bike was. Then took both big bikes and pushed them both up to the very top. He was my hero and knight in shining armor at that moment. This is something I normally would never allow because I'm such a feminist and insist on sucking it up and doing things for myself. (I'm working on letting some of this go). This I welcomed. I couldn't have been more grateful that my friend did this for me. I never asked for help and I don't think we even said anything..... somehow he just knew.......I'd had enough and needed his help.
So we got through the first few trail sections and came back on the fire road. I told Bobby to keep going, I'm getting back on the fire road and riding back to the cars. It was over for me and I didn't want to prevent him from pre riding the rest of stage 1.
He got back to the cars right after I did. I was so discouraged and disappointed in myself at this point I really had nothing to say, I didn't want to look him in the face feeling I was letting him down. He worked really hard to get us both there so my disappointment in myself was pretty unbearable at the time. I was just glad to be done pre riding and wanted to get the GGR booth set up. It was time for me to change my tude and focus on a positive Saturday event and holding up my part of the team.
After we set up as much as we could and anchored everything down, we had some lunch and checked into our hotel and called it a night.
Saturday....Race day...The 6 hours of Temecula!
This was it....we left the hotel early to get to the race pits were the GGR booth was. Many were already there and we still had a lot to set up. We finished setting up and got checked in. Now it was getting real. Time to put on our race faces, get on our bikes and warm up. Since it was a mass start, Bobby being the Veteran racer and more skilled, faster rider was going to ride the 1st lap. This way when it was time for me to ride, the course would be much more cleared and spread out. With the heat, we had to be realistic & safe so we kept our lap goals at Bobby 3 laps and myself 2 laps.
I went to the start line with Bobby and kept spritzing him with cold water until it was time for me to get out of the way. I also had ice packs ready for his jersey to keep his core body temperature down. I was very excited for my friend, but also wondered how he was really feeling. I don't think he would let me know if he was ever nervous or uncomfortable until the end as to not freak me out as any good team leader would do.
I stood at the start line excited to watch him and the other hundreds of riders fly by. Jason counted down and everyone was off for a parade lap to spread riders out.
It didn't take long for the riders to get to the other side. I ran over to get more pictures and cheer on my team mate. He looked strong, focused and very intense as he always does when riding hard with a purpose. Now I was getting excited!
I estimated it would take him about 50 minutes and myself about an hour and 20 minutes per lap in the heat. (I was way off, took me an hour and 5 minutes!). He was able to ride up all the climbs, I was not. I had to run my bike up a few sections that were steep & gnarly, so that would significantly slow my time down. However, we already made our goals and it was all about the adventure today and living this amazing opportunity we were given. I had visualized the course over and over again the night before. I barely slept at all thinking about every inch of the course and making mental notes.
Well I was ready to take the baton from him. I was stoked to do my part of our team. He came in super strong yet looking very over heated. So I was immediately concerned and very worried for him but tried not to let him know that. I'm a worrier...there's nothing I can do about it...I just worry about the people in my life I care about. I also worry a great deal about myself in these situations and try to hide it as best I can. He shrugged it off like the pro, vet rider he is, focused on putting the baton quickly in my jersey and gave me some quick direction/instructions for my 1st lap.
I was off. I had to let my concerns for him go. He had an hour to cool off and I needed to focus. I had my music on just loud enough to relax me and make me feel committed yet I could still hear the riders around me. I also carried my radio on my pack so he could give me some encouraging words while I was riding which I desperately needed to hear.
I felt strong right away. I was relaxed and ready to tackle the 1st lap. The course was still super busy. I thought it would have thinned out more than it did, but there were still many riders all around me. I held my line and tried to move to the side when it was safe. I was feeling confident and focused until we got to Marine Hill. The day before we talked about which line to take and how to ride it. It was super loose, rocky and a wee bit steep at the top. I had already ridden it, but not with a bunch of riders all around me at the same time. So this was scary, but I held my line and let them ride around me. Wish I had done this later in the lap....
Moving on past the gate to a super sandy, steep section with a steep left hand switch back. I had to run my bike up it. When I got to the top I was like....O my god just running my bike in the heat was brutal! I took a few seconds to get my heart rate down and drink a few sips of water then jumped back on my bike and continued to just keep a steady pace throughout the lap.
The switchback climb was brutal. I had to push up this, but so did others, so when I saw this, I was like...OK...this is OK....others are struggling too. I always think it's just me that struggles.
The other enormous, steep climb I had to push up as well and just talked to the others that joined me for the push.
Now it was time to ride the flowey, super fun stuff. This is where I can fly, am the most confident and have a blast. That and the flats. We had ridden all of this the day before so I knew all my lines, where I could crank and where I needed to be a wee bit more conservative.
I radio'd in and let Bobby know I was getting close. This way he knew to grab his bike and be at the transfer area for the hand off. I was still trying to ride as fast as I could in the last section holding on and feeling the cactus needles just going deeper in my hand.
I got into the pit area and just held my hand up telling him I had cactus needles in them and needed to see the medic right away. At this point I was nauseous, super over heated and shaking. He took my bike from me instead of leaving for the next lap. I've never seen Bobby worry. He is always so cool and calming. Probably because I can be a handful and he has to be chill to deal with my overwhelming self. He actually looked concerned, but I really didn't think too much about it except that it was odd that he looked worried. Guess I must have looked worse than I thought! I needed to focus on getting the cactus out and cooling down for the next lap. So onward I go.
Off he went for another lap. I went right to the medic. When she started to peel my glove off, many of the cactus needles came out with the glove. I thought I was going to vomit, then pass out, but was thrilled a lot of them came out. I knew I only had about 45 minutes or so until it was my turn to go again, and I needed time to get cool and relax, so I wanted this part over with already.
Well, there were no tweezers anywhere to be found. The needles looked like tiny hairs. How could something so tiny be so painful?? So another medic came by and they started taking duck tape to my hand to pull them out. Kind of like when you go to the salon and get waxed. They pretty much got all of them out. It felt like someone took sand paper to my hand. But amazingly it looked good. No blood and most important I could move it which meant I can now use my front brake again!
After cooling off, I went to the transfer area to wait for Bobby to ride through and hand me the baton. He looked over heated again but very relaxed. I was so stoked. I just needed to go 1 more lap and I was done. It was already triple digits, but we did have a bit of a breeze in some areas. I remember taking off and him yelling to me if I was OK and I was more than OK. I felt strong immediately and so excited knowing this was it. At this point, the riders were super spread out and I had TONS of room so I relaxed even more. I had a ton of fun on the 1st flowey section and kept a strong, steady pace going into the rest of the lap. I saw the cactus coming and moved my handle bars to the right. I walked the same climbs again, but had a lot more fun on the flowey sections because the other racers were so spread out it was not as intense and I could really enjoy the flow of the trails.
Now the last few miles I was really feeling the heat. I was thinking to myself...can I do another lap?? I know I'm reaching my goal..but what about another?? I kept thinking about it the last few miles. When I got closer to the transfer area, the heat was just coming at me like a furnace. It was hard to just breathe. I decided that was it. No more laps for me. I was done. Well....I think...I was still contemplating until the very last minute.
I came into the pit and Bobby was there waiting. I expected him to race out and he was totally chill, took my bike and we both agreed I was done at that point. He said this next lap for him he was just going to go out and enjoy the trail and ride. I could tell the heat was weighing heavy on him as well, but no way was he quitting at that point. I knew he would be OK even though I was concerned for him, I also know he is an absolute beast and would suck it up and finish another lap.
And that he did......we were both done. We finished 13th with a respective 5 laps and approximately 54 miles total in absolutely brutal conditions. We completed the adventure and met our goals. Now it was time to celebrate!
We were having some great conversations about vino and ale. One of the Ale names mentioned during this conversation happened to attract the lovely couple next to us. We all ended up having a super evening of wine tasting, desert tasting and even the owners came over. It was truly a blast and a great way to celebrate our achievement.
One more day of racing at the Socal Enduro. This was an individual event, not a team event, so there was no need for me to race the Enduro. I really needed to session the top gnarly parts and it was just too hot for me to do so. Instead, Bobby decided to race it. He had only pre rode stage one, so he was racing the other 2 stages blind. Yikes...I have complete confidence in his skills...but it was again triple digits...even higher temps than Saturday...109 in the heat of the day and riders had to make this one grueling climb 3 times...so needless to say I was concerned and worried for my teammate and friend.
Some of the other girlz from GGR were also racing the enduro, so it was pretty cool seeing them at the GGR and Jensen booth after every stage. I had my cold water spritzer bottle and Sport Beans ready for everyone. Today I was the Booth Be-atch and was happy to help! Every stage the riders came back looking like they were suffering badly....I really felt for them. Such tough athletes all of them are. Bobby showed his strength, endurance and super happy, positive tude all throughout.
Well, the enduro was thankfully only 3 stages, so after the award ceremonies and the patches, we packed up the GGR booth and headed home. For competing both days, Bobby received an Iron Butt Warriors patch! Soooo awesome and he deserved it!
I had such an epic and amazing experience being part of a team, training for this event, racing the event and learning so much from my teammate. It was like having a personal coach a lot of the time. I can't wait to race this event again in November. This time with MUCH cooler temps so we can ride more laps!
Jason and Heather Ranoa of So Cal Endurance/Enduro: http://www.socalendurance.net/
Thank you for inviting us and the opportunity for GGR to represent at the event all weekend. Thank you for always being so encouraging, positive and supportive as well as providing women mountain bikers wonderful opportunities at your events. Thank you!
Specialized bikes: https://www.specialized.com/us/en/
Cynergy Cycles: http://www.cynergycycles.com/
Thank you for providing me my Specialized ERA for 2016. This bike has completely moved my XC riding to a new, stronger, faster and more powerful level. It's changed everything for me. I've never wanted to ride and train so hard until I started riding the ERA. I'm having so much fun and my confidence has soared as an athlete because of this very special bike.
Jenson USA: http://www.jensonusa.com/ Thanks for being so much fun to have the GGR booth next too!
Zoic Clothing: http://zoic.com/ Thank you so very much for providing us with jerseys, shorts and socks! Loved them!
Kali Protectives: https://kaliprotectives.com/ My long time supporter. What would I do without you?? Thank you for the ultra protective helmets and pads!
Petal Power: http://www.petal-power.com/ I can't ride without you. Literally! The best chamois cream in the entire world! Thank goodness for the Joy Ride cream! Thank you! This cream allows me to ride for hours and hours and hours comfortably.
To all my friends for all your encouragement, support and being so concerned for me in the heat.
And lastly....Bobby Acuna... for being the best team leader, team mate and bestie ever. Thank you for absolutely everything! Bringing my riding to a new level, keeping me calm, and just handling everything. Thank you my friend. You are so freegin rad! I am so very grateful for you! You are truly a gift!
Until the next adventure..........challenge yourself.....ride with faster riders.......enter an event that is outside your comfort zone....and most importantly........grab a friend and experience the adventure together!