Stoked for Stotty

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Six Les Femmes treked four hours north of Portland, OR on Friday May 18th to camp out and get our dirt on. The Stottlemeyer 30/60 mile race takes place in Port Gamble, WA,  perched at the top of the Olympic peninsula, a 30 minute ferry ride if you are coming from Seattle. Lisa, Laurie, Audrey, Beth Ann, Erin and I set up camp in the cool dusk of an open field next to the race course, surrounded by fir trees and bright yellow flowering scotchbroom. With the sun setting later this time of year,  it gave us time to cook our evening meals and reconnect. We were joined by friends Sarah Tingey (Tireless Velo) and Rachel Bagley (Ira Ryan), in addition to Lisa’s teenage daughter who came out to support her mom. Margi couldn’t come to this one but her hubby Scott (Team S&M) made the drive solo and  Laurie’s man Dan (Gentle Lovers) was in the mix too, cooking up a monster pasta feast with the biggest camp stove I’ve ever seen. Welcome to Les Femmes Camp.

Nobody got a preride of the entire course in, but intel from Stottty veterans told us it would be rooty, like Browns Camp in the Tillamook forest, short climbs, and some technical sections but dry. Oh, so happy it’s dry.  With a course loop of 15 miles, our race options were  2 laps for 30 miles or 4 laps for 60.

Overnight temps dropped below 40 degrees, leaving a few of us shivering around 2 am. Once the sun came up, our camp came alive, Beth Ann brewing her hair raising coffee and others cooking up oatmeal on the camp stoves. I gnawed  on a chocolate fudge meal bar, keeping my nutrition simple and camp stove free.  All were moving but Lisa’s late sleeping daughter, staying tucked in until 8:30.

Pre race meeting warned us that this was an open trail with hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. So be polite and let them know there will be about 400 more guys right behind you.  Lisa, Laurie, Erin, Rachel and Sarah opted for the 60 mile that went off at 9:30 am as did Dan and Scott. Beth Ann, Audrey and I went with the  30 mile group, leaving at 10:10 am. I opted for racing 40+ today and we had 19 ladies in my group while Beth Ann and Audrey raced open with 26 total in their group.

I went out hot off the line, racing 1.7 miles mostly uphill on a gravel forest service road. Beth Ann was leading the whole pack at an obscene pace.  I knew that was a hefty pace to even attempt and just stayed true to what I could manage, trying to outrun as many girls as possible to get to the single track first. Legs were on point and the cardio was good. Into the trees the scenery changed, morphing into tight single track climbs, tighter maneuvers between and around trees and lots of roots and logs. Up and down, up and down, the trail flowed but with all of the twists and turns I found it difficult to keep a high speed through here. Note to self, work on more speed on this terrain.  This is where the passing started from the open women. My races of late had been less than successful (flats, racing tired, unfavorable trail conditions) so I decided to treat this as a training ride and willingly let stronger girls by me but I never stopped racing MY race.

Short, punchy climbs and roots gave way to wide open service roads and this is where I opened up. Roadie time kicked in and I flew down the descents, actually overshooting my next turn into the trees and almost ending up with another girl up my  ass when I put the breaks on. I went back and forth with  Jodi (Alki Rubicon) from Wa. but she was racing open. On a side note, all of the girls were really nice, some having entire conversations about cyclocross yards behind me while I am using all of my mental and physical prowess to manage myself through the course. So my new racing compadre, Jodi, would lead on the tight climbs and I would rail the more open downhill sections, working together and trading the draft on the open roads. “You like to go fast don’t you?” she asks with a smile. “Oh YEAH” I reply back. Jodi responds with “I’m more of a technical rider. I like the logs and roots”.  Don’t we make a fine pair of opposites. That was fun for a while until she got ahead of me in some twisting single track in the trees. I went the wrong way on a super fun downhill section with a train of folks following right behind me. Popping out onto the side of another service road, absent of any markers, we realized we missed a turn and had to climb back up. It was a short trip but cost some time. You know what the race officials say, the guy in front doesn’t always know where they are going.  There was tape on the ground where we had missed our turn. Guessing someone had gone crashing through there earlier (a volunteer was posted there directing riders to the right in lap 2). That short cut would have shortened our route by 1 mile but there is no way I would ever cut the course on purpose (I did hear afterwards that riders were seen course cutting).  We will know to turn right on the next lap. My mishap also allowed another girl that was in my group to get around me and one I had gapped on to catch me again. Crap.

Lap 2 had the fast boys doing the 60 mile route catching us and lapping us. I just wanted to keep pushing my pace. Legs still felt good and I made sure to get in a Dr. Will bar and a couple Gu gels with an extra dose of enduralite pills for good measure. I even brought a water bottle with Rock Star recovery in it. Figured it couldn’t hurt.  The sun was hidden when we were deep in the forest, making some of the lines hard to read with sunglasses on. Watched one guy fall off a small bridge into the shrubs. He wasn’t hurt, just tangled under his bike. I had managed to stay upright so far until a short uphill, tree root-log turn. Everyone ran this in lap 1 but I tried to ride it with a clear shot. Up the hill, 45 degree right turn in between the slope side tree root and a big log flanking me horizontally. Epic Fail. Wheel slipped in the soft dirt and I landed under my bike on the disintegrating log on my right. A nice clydesdale behind me helped me get untangled and not fall downhill into the rocks and ferns. No damage. I know I have a pursuer and I’m trying to get a gap on her. Mid lap two I am riding over all of the logs, anticipating what is coming now that I know the course. By this time I really feel like I’m “in the game”. This reality hit me that I actually felt strong AND competitive today. Me, my legs and lungs are on the same page and I can actually make a go of this race. My Kona pony is running great and we are making a super team. It sounds silly but  this realization was like an electrical current  that gave me an extra boost of motivation to keep pushing harder.

A familiar voice is behind me again. Crap, she caught me (Robbie/Blue Rooster). I know it’s her because she greets me with “Hey there, it’s me again”. As we truck along the undulating trails and sweeping banked turns, I call back to the guys behind her to let me know if they want to pass. The call up that they are fine. Robbie pipes up with, “Yeah, as soon as we hit the road she is going to take off anyway. She is fast”!  Wow. Been a while since I heard that. But I will take the well earned compliment today. Then she gives away her weakness by saying, ” I’m trying to take it easy so I don’t end up doing something stupid because I’m tired”.  Yup. Sometimes us ladies put that honesty out there with out knowing others will take advantage of it.  And I ran with hers.

Dropping onto the next gravel road I haul ass up the long climb, passing clydesdale after clydesdale that had passed me on the downhills. By this time there are five guys on the side of the road in various stages of cramping.  My legs are doing as I ask, spinning fast and gaining a gap on my my tired Blue Rooster. The dumbfounded look on the faces of the race worn men I am passing on the climb is always amusing to me. I always play tag with the singlespeeders and clydesdales. It’s a game we like to play. But my game is in front of me and my focus is sharpened. Dropping back into the trees I can feel my legs talking to me while am managing a very technical root descent and need my mental focus to keep me from making a dumb mistake due to fatigue. Over a log my front wheel washes out and I go over the bars knees first. No blood but my knee is sore and my elbow will be bruised. Jumping up I power along until I reach the final road climb to the cut off. Robbie is not behind me but I am not taking any chances. Powering harder on this last hill in the middle ring, I can see the the last aid station  and I know I am almost home. The girl that got around me when I went off course is just ahead of me and she stops on the climb to check her rear wheel. Bad for her, good for me. Another surge comes over me knowing that I am passing another girl in my group and I have enough in the tank to out run her. We went out on a gravel service road  at the start so as I round the corner  the volunteers yell “It’s all downhill from here”. Big ring and off the breaks I FLEW down that hill and picked up speed when I saw a pink kit ahead of me. Turned out to be a worn out male singlespeeder who jumped on my draft to save energy. Just when I think we are almost there I see orange tape and spray painted arrows in the gravel indicating a hard left turn, leaving me to scrub off almost all of my momentum to avoid a gravel crash. What the hell? Rounding the corner we see markers sending us BACK into the woods. Awe shit man. “Confidence” tape hangs from the trees indicating we are going the right way but me and Mr. pink are vocalizing (with swear words) to express how pissed we are now that we have to do more climbing and root management. This last mile or so was technical with big roots, logs, a wet log bog crossing and a surprise punchy climb around a blind corner that I had to run. Er, walk. We could hear cheering and cowbells ringing and once we remounted at the top of the climb, the finish was in sight. Click click go the gears for a last push to get my best time over the last bumpy, grassy section to the finish. I came in with a time of 3:23:22. My pursuer Robbie finished behind me with 3:24:09.

My legs were SPENT.Like, walking was an effort spent. Standing by the finish area,  I was briefly interviewed by the local trail alliance group about where I’m from and how I enjoyed the race. And I told them how much fun the course was and how well organized everything was. I didn’t even know I got a podium until they called my name. 3rd place! Well this day just got better. The woman that won, Georgia Sanz Daniels (no team listed in results), beat me by 18 min 28 sec.2nd place, Izette Swan (Team Group Health) got me by 8 min 16 sec. Quite a split but that is OK. I had SO MUCH FUN. It was nice to feel like a mountain biker again, testing my skills and pushing my body on some of the nicest trails I’ve ridden. EVER.

Congrats to Beth Ann winning the open women 30 mi and Lisa winning the 60 mile 40+.

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