Chris and I arrived in Palm Desert on Thursday evening after battling with traffic all the way from Santa Barbara. Crazy how busy the roads were at 9pm at night!
That left us Friday to go check out the new venue (for us) at Hurkey Creek Campground. We made our way out of the sunny, beautiful and quite balmy Palm Desert up into the mtns that sit directly behind Palm Desert. Who knew that we were about to ascend to approximately 5000 feet to the start of the race!!!
Some views on the way up.
The further we climbed up into the mtns the more we found it to be absolutely beautiful!
We got to the alpine campground around 1pm and were ready to check things out, course included.
We knew it was a 30 mile course but I wasn't sure what kind of 30 miles it was (fast, techy, major hills, switchbacks, etc) which was why I was there to pre-ride what I could dependent on the terrain.
But plans changed big time when we found out that the course wasn't quite marked yet. Yikes!!!! They really really really tried to help us out by giving us verbal directions and a map but it was way to much information to remember unfortunately.
We were able to figure out the start loop and then the first uphill section but after that we had no idea where we were or where we were going so we pulled the plug on the pre-ride idea. We were stopping and breaking out the map so much that the "ride" was turning into not riding at all and it was getting late in the afternoon too and we still had to drive back home.
Sometimes you just have a to say to heck with it and get your buns home to rest and recover instead of dinking around trying to figure things out. Sometimes that is the best choice you can make. It was a bit unnerving to leave the course after having seen maybe a couple miles of the 30 mile course but so be it. It was going to be a good challenge for me the next day to race sight unseen. Having the ability to do that is a good weapon to have in your race arsenal and I definitely need to work on that particular skill. I don't like to do it but I was going to have to tomorrow morning.
The singletrack we did find was looking mighty fine though!!
In addition to not knowing the course now, we also didn't know where the feed zones were, how to get to the them or even if I would need all/any of them. I think there were 3 and it was looking like Chris was only going to be able to get to one by the looks of the map. Just to make sure that he COULD get to the one he was eyeballing, we drove into the cute little town of Idyllwild (reminded me of Big Bear) and somehow found the off beaten road that we were thinking was the feed zone for tomorrows race. As if it weren't getting late enough in the day but this was important. We drove on it for a while and it was STEEP. I wasn't sure what I was thinking at that point but it was looking like the road we were on was part of the course at about a steady 18% grade. Whoa.
The first climb takes you thru the Tunnel of Love
That night I studied the extremely detailed written course description like I was going to be quizzed on it in the morning. Well I kind of was really!! And since I couldn't see most of the course that day I had to visualize big time as I studied. It was the only source I had and I wanted to be as comfortable with the course as possible without having ridden the majority of it.
In poor form I forgot my purse which I needed to register for the race. This wouldn't have been such a raw deal if I hadn't had discovered this 15 min into the drive on up to the race outta Palm Desert. We had to turn around and go get it which put us at the very early race WAY LATE. I didn't stress to much because "it is what it is" but I had to finish my hour long warm up DURING the race. Nice. But luckily I knew I could do that because we had ridden that part of the course the day before. It was perfect for exactly what I needed to do too! I went hard when I had to then sat up when I didn't.....yes during the race. It was perfect in fact and just in time for the climb(s). Phew, barely got that in!
The race is wildly popular with the CA residents as it should be but unfortunately the pro women's' field was a whopping 3 people. Great prize money, spectacular singletrack and fun atmosphere........where was everyone!!!? Sad but maybe not such a horrid thing for me since I was not even supposed to be racing this weekend according to my training. I had been working myself over all week on that hill by my buddies house in Santa Barbara and was supposed to be chilling a little............but I wanted to race dang it!!
Good thing I did because I have never had so much fun during a race. It was gorgeous and the singletrack was EPIC. The only thing that was sucking bad was that I didn't know what was around every corner so I would throw the brakes on, then get thru the corner and either be happy I braked or completely annoyed that I did because I could have carried my speed through. Oh well, such is life and this something I need to learn and get over as I learn to let er rip on terrain that I am unfamiliar with. My own personal barrier I guess you could say. That is ok, at least I have identified the issue.
It was interesting how much I felt like I knew each part of the course though. Not the actual singletrack, but the AREA I was in. The descriptions I had studied paid off and I felt more at ease knowing approximately what mileage point I was at and where I was in the long race.
And the odd thing? I studied the topo, map, descriptions, etc and determined approx what time I would show up at that feed zone Chris could get to near Idyllwild and I got there within 2 minutes of the time I thought I may. Experience?? Visualization?? Course knowledge?? Whoa, that was pretty cool!!
And YES when I got there, it was that steady 18% climb of about 15-20 minutes too. Good lord! Luckily there were 2 guys just ahead of me and I just told myself to either keep that gap or close it and I used that to keep my mind (and body) from completely exploding. At one point my legs were turning 60 rpms AT RACE PACE. Owe that was steep but a good challenge that was over before I knew it. Glad we saw that climb yesterday though otherwise I would have wondered how long it was, when it was going to be OVER already, etc. Lucked out on that one big time becuase seeing that for the first time during the race could have been disheartening.
After it was all said and done I placed mid pack a few minutes behind the race leader Allison. Ok, that was 2nd place on this day but still mid pack. : )
Afterwards there was a Q and A session for women racers to ask the pro women any questions they had about racing. Dorothy Wong was instrumental in getting that all put together.
Great day! Now back to Palm Desert for some chilling with the family and then back to Santa Barbara for some more fun.