Monday, May 4, 2015

Race Report: Belgian Waffle Ride

It was so hard, my brain has blocked a lot of it from memory. But here are a few photos to help illustrate my 8 hours and 22 minutes on the 143 miles + 10K+ of climbing on road/trail/gravel, as well as the highlights that shine through. Sorry they're so late, but for the last week I think I've been trying to catch up the over 5,000 calories burned, and deep training hole I dug. I'm finally starting to feel myself again! Without further adieu: 

New kit day for me and Cynthia at
RIDE Cyclery with Eliel Cycling! 
1) So awesome to line up with Cynthia, my RIDE Cyclery partner in crime, totally kitted up in our matchy matchy Eliel kits and twinned accessories, right down to socks, shoe color and helmets. Since all "the Gents" were in different start waves, and us girls got our own, I was super happy to have a teammate in the mix.

2) The Expo was awesome!! So great to see everyone there -- it felt like you couldn't take two steps without saying hello to another [crazy] member of our tribe. Plus the food was excellent!

3) Our friends. The Belgian Waffle Ride is more than just a single day event -- I feel like it's come to inform a great deal of the riding we do together for fun and Strava most of the year. This one event thus carries with it so much energy and excitement as well as goodwill to see each of the buddies reach their goals, and celebrate together at the finish line. And/Or begin plotting for next year's.

The CHP were winners! Jake Orness photo.
4) The route was amazing, and protected by California's Highway Patrol with perfection. These guys were awesome, waving us through stop lights and intersections, making sure we stayed on course, and letting us have our fun for a day so it really felt like we ruled the road everywhere we went. That in itself is a treat worthy of the cramps and sun burn.

5) The Belgian Waffle Ride participants who weren't on bikes. I knew a lot of people riding it, but I think I knew an equal number of people who put up with long days of training for the whole year, and then came out to cheer, support, set up aid stations, write our names in chalk on double peak, give a push, ring a bell, and drive tired battered bodies home again. These people are heroes. Especially Shelly who had water ... and carrots ... at the precise moment(s) I needed it and fought off other thirsty riders to save me that bottle. Priceless.

And to close this out, here's a brief sketch of my day:

We met up with all the awesome riders of North County and were beyond stoked to get this thing rolling. The boys got a detailed call up in Wave One, but we didn't waste any time doing formalities in wave two for the women, despite being a well-stocked field of pros, former pros, and champions. *ahem.* So before we knew it we were off.

Cynthia and I hung around the front mugging for the camera and also for me, as a mountain biker not super used to pack riding, I get a bit nervous when I can't see the road (and potholes) in front of me. By the time we finally got to the first dirt section of San Dieguito road, I was feeling ready to go. Neutral roll out was pretty easy going, but I wanted to start turning the screws.

First Dirt by Kristy Morrow 
The dirt separated the pack, and Cynthia and I found ourselves in the lead group. From here until the top of the first QOM we were together and it was my favorite part of the day. We were ripping in a group of about six, sharing the work, rotating through, and still chatting a little.

The first climb however seemed to take my legs by surprise. Rhonda Quick - eventual winner, and three time BWR Champion - is a gifted sufferer and surged ahead powering up the first moderate part of the ascent, and then she got really impressive as it pitched steeply up. I think I hung on in third or fourth wheel and with Cynthia cresting shortly behind me, the two of use were able to work together to reconnect with the lead group, minus Rhonda who I think from this point on must have been gone off the front. She certainly never looked back.

Sandy Bandy was next and again, we got through the technical dirt section with good momentum, and no bad luck. About this time, the next wave had caught up, so traffic increased bringing with it some added challenges, but also opportunities to grab more wheels and let others do the work of pulling us into the wind.
#SaltedCaramel aboard, of COURSE! #GUCrew

Somewhere in here, we missed a turn and added a couple miles to the already very long day. That was not a great feeling, but on the other hand, it's such a long day I figured we could work it back with a little focus.

At the next QOM, Cynthia let me know I was "cleared for take off." The BWR was a last-minute decision for her, so she thought better to stick to the 70-mile Wafer length since she didn't have so many miles in the saddle. I was sad to lose my buddy, but pretty far gone into the pain cave myself, so I understood. I hammered up the dirt QOM Cougar Pass in hopes of making a mark on that competition and felt a second wind.

I latched onto groups where possible and put my head down for solo efforts while alone until we made it all the way back to the Lost Abbey to close out loop one. I did not let myself dilly dally there, knowing that the temptation to just stop would be great. Indeed for many, it was too great. In and out again, I was back on the road with a case of deja vu for loop two.
Photo by the lovely Leah Crane, proof I was up there.
Because it seems impossible I made it.

By now the racers were very spaced out literally and figuratively. I was alone except for a couple of guys I scooped up in my travails. The best part of loop two was Del Dios both ways in a trio that included Ben Jones before Lemon Twistenberg. I had caught a glimpse of the top five women, and it felt like it was going to be possible to close if I could just get into a group. They had groups, and I think that was a huge stroke of luck for them, because I was definitely feeling like I had the legs at this point.

A lot of work later, and I was alone again on Modest Mule, alone on Saint Lusardi, alone through Fortuna and alone at the base of Questhaven. Til this point, I had held my goal of 17.5 miles/avg but Questhaven undid me.

This whimpering began and I wondered what was making that sound, and I realized, it was ME. I coaxed my legs up while it felt like my quads were melting into my calves. I felt sun screen stinging my eyes and was shocked I even had any left up there. Stabbing pain accompanied every pedal stroke and getting off the bike to step over the horse bar was insult to injury. But then I saw a familiar face at the top of "the wall" - Laurie! A couple more watts. Then some more volunteers and people cheering from the street. A couple more watts. Then the base of double peak and knowing it was not "so far" to the top. A few more watts. Catching back on to some guys that had dropped me earlier. More watts. Seeing my NAME written in chalk on the steepest section, right when I thought I might have to walk: a TON more watts!! I heard my name being called from the side of the road, too, and barely recognized it but that was some more watts as well.
Couldn't have done it without this amazing sight!!
Thank you Julie Kelly and kids!!

At last, I wobbled to the top and began the final descent back into the finish. I connected with another group and they talked about cheeseburgers and beer and the other things they wanted immediately when they crossed the line. For once, cheeseburgers were not on my mind. The only thing I wanted was to lie down on cold grass and close my eyes.

In the end, my tired body clattered over the cobble stones constructed just for the occasion, and crossed the finish line in 6th place. Even despite the calamity that was that final climb, I managed a third place finish in the QOM competition. I hung around the expo until I figured I'd better get home before I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. So for the second time this year, I missed a podium moment due to acute misery, and general unawareness of anything except immediate need for calories and salty things. Maybe I'll try again next year. Though the amnesia hasn't completely worn off. Yet.

Scroll for photos from the amazing, talented people on course, of the amazing talented people on course:

Women's podium by Jake Orness
Pre Race Bike Prep with RinseKit, Feedback Sports, and WD40 Bike

The kits we made with Eliel were sponsored by some amazing local businesses, including this one ... mine :) Check out!
Bikes of the BWR by Jake Orness
Faces of the BWR by Jake Orness. I spy some of my favorite riding buddies: Steve and Tom. Missing are Chris, Rich, Steve, Johnny, Marc, Greg, Eric, Richard, and Steve S.

We're off!  Kristy Morrow photo (see Morrow's photos from the women's race here)
JensonUSA photo, at the start
The BWR begins.  Kristy Morrow photo

Another face of the BWR by Kristy Morrow (and I helped ... what the.)
Amazing Eliel kits in action at the front of the women's field, by Kristy Morrow
 Kristy Morrow photo
"oh, picture?" Kristy Morrow photo
The women's field looks awesome next to the bougainvillaea.  Kristy Morrow photo
Eliel up front again.  Kristy Morrow photo
The long stretch through Hodges.  Todd Gunther photo. 

A portrait by Jake Orness, the day before. #facesofthebwr

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