To say that this race report is late would be an understatement. Did anyone notice? Highly doubtful, but apologetically flattering if by some reason my delay in recalling the rollercoaster of my final National Ultra Endurance Marathon race has left you somewhat empty. If you didn’t catch that, that was an attempt at comedic sarcasm. The truth, I’ve just been busy. That word. Busy. I despise it… so, let’s just say my days have been logistically filled to the brim and trying to find extra words for myself has been low on the totem pole. More on that later – but first, the race!
My maturity, or lack there of, cannot help but giggle every time the name “Pierre’s Hole” would come up in conversation. This set the tone leading up to the race. I couldn’t wait to see what lied within Pierre’s Hole. What would it present? Who would be in there? Etc. Etc. Etc. In all seriousness, I was most looking forward to this race of all the NUE marathon races. Like Tatanka, it would be completely new to me. Again, new to me trails, competition, and long travel.
After a full day in the van, we arrived to the Grand Targhee Resort surrounded by amazing views! I was in full on tourist mode leading up and during the race, face pressed up against the sprinter van window, gawking at glimpses of the Grand Tetons. The vistas were truly stunning, and the awe of this backdrop never changed throughout our stay.
We were lucky to arrive early and join our teammate Jeremiah Bishop for a pre-ride two days prior to the race, guided by a friend and local photographer Cody Downard. This gave us ample time to ride a good portion of the lap. Wanting to see the biggest part of the course that would potentially present a few surprises, we rode the first half of the lap, the biggest climb, and the biggest descent. Wanting to be sure I came with proper equipment, I asked around about gearing and bike choice. After much debate, I chose to run a dropper post on my Canyon 100mm FS Lux with a 30T SRAM front chainring. This was the safest, most fun set up having never ridden the trails and getting mixed reports as far as the technicality.
The course is set up as a 2 lap race for the 100k racers and 3 laps for the 100-mile racers, comprised nearly 100% of single track with bits of road thrown in to connect the great trails. I was blown away by the amount of trails this resort had. The trails were FAST, relatively smooth, nothing was too steep up or down, and most sections were quite flowy – with the exception of the longest descent of the day, 38 special. This trail is aptly named for its THIRTY EIGHT switchbacks!
I was bummed to see that there was not a large women’s field. However, this allowed me to play it relatively safe. From the first climb, I wanted to put in some good distance and get in a good position once we hit the single track. Within a few minutes, I found myself just off the tail end of the lead group – they apparently did not start racing until a ways into the climb when they went out of sight. Everything was feeling good, climbing, bike handling, communication with the men around me, etc. Once we neared the first descent, 38 special, I took one of the switchbacks too fast and caught a loose corner – quickly landing me on the ground! Crap, crashing does not aid to your overall speed.
From that switchback on, I decided to cool it down – I was fine, there was no need to make any more silly mistakes. Keeping a steady pace, I came in through aid 1 with a six minute lead on second place. Friend and former Eagle resident Colleen Downard helped me with time splits and nutrition throughout the race. It was so nice having race support and not having to plan to stop. This kind of support at every race would be a dream!
Catching a wheel here or there would motivate me to keep pushing as I tend to fall into a place all on my own during these marathon races – I’m usually just off the top 10 men and ahead of the rest. So, when someone comes around it gives me a pep in my step. The extra special pep from this race came from Road World Champion and heartthrob Peter Sagan. Sagan raced the 1 lap, 50k race in preparation for the Olympics. I will never forget the “moment” we had (I created in my mind) as he passed me. In all seriousness, it was a pretty cool experience to get passed by such talent and see him first hand, working SO HARD! It puts it all into perspective really, we are ALL suffering, we just go at different paces. And some of us just look a little more disheveled. Haha.
Coming in through the first lap, I made another cornering whoopsies and ended up crashing on my OTHER side, as well as later finding out, bending my derailleur. Lap 1 now gave me a 9-minute lead, and I still felt great. I knew this next climb I could really rail, then told myself to COOL IT on the descents. Well, racing can be completely unpredictable and as I hit the first climb of the second lap I kept dropping my chain. It caused me to stop 4 more times on the climb as each time I tried to keep it in my climbing gear, it would just dive off. SO – I resorted to keeping it mid cassette and just mashing everything I could. I quickly found out how inefficient this is, and how silly single speeders are. My last resort was just talking to my bike until the next aid station, promising to give it a day at the spa after this race.
I rolled into the next aid station with reprieve of Nate Carey, ace mechanic who had me rolling in just a few minutes and handfuls of watermelon. Knowing I just lost a bucket of time, wasted a ton of energy, I ran scared the rest of the race – all the way through the finish line, I kept my power steady, decisions smart, and lines smooth. Losing much of my gap, I only came in 6 minutes ahead of second place – I was a lucky girl with all of the wrenches I was thrown throughout the 64 miles and 8k of climbing. Knowing I secured the fourth straight NUE marathon win washed away all the drama that happened prior to crossing the line.
This win seems so long ago, but the feeling of accomplishment for a successful season still remains. It looks as though I have won the overall, but won’t know for sure until the end of the month.
Since this race, I went right into Breck Epic prep week and then work week. My words became consumed with media caption writing, email threading, and the customer service perma-grin. I do love Breck Epic week – it’s amazing to call the Breckenridge backcountry my office for six days of around the clock media fun. It just shifts the focus from my own racing to the success of the race and other’s races. Which then runs right into our next event, The Vail Outlier Offroad Festival…and THEN, we are getting married!
With the back to back events, I decided to take the whole month of September off of any kind of structured training or races, to keep my focus on being successful at my job and not losing my marbles trying to plan a wedding. This didn’t go without squeezing in one more town series race with a last minute peel away from my computer to race one more time. I’m so glad I did, as the points from the last race secured me the overall women’s win! It may seem silly to be that proud of a local series win, but this series is the place I started riding and racing six years ago – it’s been my foundation and my community that’s boosted me to competing on a more national level. With names like Jay Henry and Gretchen Reeves, it’s a great feeling to have worked my way up the ranks in our very humble yet talented local field.
So… here I am. All of my marbles are here too! Have I been busy since the last NUE race? Sure. Am I letting it drag me down and consume my happiness…no ma’am. I’m just stepping away from the added pressure of structured training to be able to fit in a more free schedule to explore, cruise, do plenty of yoga, or not do anything at all in my free time. The last part is definitely hard, but after six months of successful racing without injury or burnout – I think it’ll be ok. Every season is a building block to the next, and I’m already making my 2017 goals, and mayyyyyyyyybe even squeezing in one last 2016 race adventure after getting hitched.
So – hope to see you on the trails, at our events, or on the dance floor of our wedding. That rug isn’t going to cut itself!