Justin and I first rode the Idyllwild Spring Challenge course in May 2006, a week or two following the official event. Luckily some of the course tape was still up at the time, since Justin and I would've been horribly lost a few times otherwise! A few of the trails from 2006 aren't used for the event anymore, and I remember they were pretty challenging, but fun.
It was a really hard for me at the time and I spent nearly 5.5 hours riding the course.
We both raced it in 2008, riding the 19-mile Sport course.
Since we've been fans of the course and the trails for 3 years, we had the race on our radar for 2009 as well. This year, however, we'd be *racing* the 30-mile course!
Unfortunately Justin wound up going from a minor head cold at Sea Otter to having the full blown sick-deal last week before Idyllwild. He took the week off from riding, was sleeping a lot, and generally didn't want to wind up getting even worse, so he opted out of the race and into full-blown support mode. Yay for me, but not so much for him.
Friday night was all about final bottle/food prep and bike maintenance. Our friends and VQ training partners from last year, Steph and Dan, were on their way up from San Diego, and we were ready for a fun filled weekend!
I was totally stoked to be hooked up with a new set of Ergon GX2 grips with bar ends for the race. I knew the bar ends would help offer some additional comfort and leverage for the steep climbing that was on tap for the next day.
Steph and I were both racing XC on Saturday, and the boys would be racing Super D on Sunday. Allow me to interject here - the Idyllwild Spring Challenge Super D course is all that and more. It starts way up on May Valley fire road and descends down to Hurkey/Apple Canyon campground. Max singletrack, lots of tight twisty trail, and generally a challenging and fun route. They had been waiting to race this since last year when the event was sadly cancelled.
BUT, for now it was all about the XC. The four of us carpooled, and wound up caravaning up the mountain with Luke, who was out in full force enjoying his 3rd trip to Idyllwild in a few weeks, and still basking in his 8-hour of Hurkey Creek victory from the weekend before!
Temps were chilly, but bearable, and the clouds didn't threaten rain. I had on all my gear for my warm-up, but despite the hefty winds removed everything but the arm warmers and a summer base layer before the race. Warm-up definitely left me sweating and the sun was really out in force. I wound up pulling down the arm warmers on the start line and didn't need them at all!
The 5 Pro Women lined up with the Open Women's class and we took off just after 10 am, chasing the Open Men in front of us. The Open class at ISC is non-USAC and available for those that want to challenge themselves on the 30-mile course without being a pro or Cat 1 male! It's a great way for everyone to be able to enjoy the killer long course.
Pua was way off the front less than half a mile in to the race, and I wouldn't see her again until awards! Sarah Kaufmann took off in pursuit with Joy D, Carolyn P, and me following suit.
Sarah charging it
Me, holding up Joy!
Joy took a massive pull on the pavement out to the bottom of what is normally the 24-hour course descent, and when we hit the singletrack (now ascent for us) I fell in behind Sarah with Joy just behind me. We went back and forth hiking and riding, and I passed Sarah about halfway up. Back on the bike and trying to pass some of the guys, and then it was the wide-open Coyote Run double track. I didn't look back once we hit the singletrack, so I have no idea how things shook out.
I hit Keen Camp climb and tried to keep myself moving at a good clip. I was catching the Open men, and some of the Juniors and younger Cat 1 were catching up to me. I tried to recover through the meadow since there was a bit more climbing to come before the Mirkwood singletrack descent.
Once on the singletrack I felt like I was cleaning some of the techier spots well, but once I got to the rock wall Sarah was right there! I tried to put in some descending efforts, but everytime I looked back she was not a turn away and charging hard. I dropped my chain on the entrance to the Southridge cyclocross climb and she went by asking if I was okay. I told her to go!! I hopped back on and had to put in some efforts to catch back on to her wheel and we traded spots back and forth the entire way up, passing and being passed by guys here and there.
Luke and Brian went by, then James. Matt was on fire! He'd passed me on May Valley before we hit the singletrack rollers.
Matt up near Aid Station #3 up in Idyllwild proper
Near the top of the cyclocross climb I knew I had to pass Sarah if I wanted to take 2nd back and fight for the spot on the podium. I consider myself a pretty strong climber, especially on the less steep fire road slopes that we had coming up. I pulled in front of her near the top of the singletrack climb, went through the aid station to pick up my bottle, and it was throttle down for as long as I could muster! I had to put in some time since there is a LOT of singletrack descending and climbing that comes up once the race peaks out at "Cherry on Top" at the top of the steep Southridge fire road climb.
Aid Station #2 (Thanks, Dan!!) just before the bottle hand-off
I managed to create some separation and just kept it cranking the entire way up May Valley. I felt slow and awkward on Sunset singletrack, and knew that at any point Sarah could come railing around a corner and be ready for the pass!
The traverse through AstroCamp was new to me, and definitely different. I had no idea where I was going, so wasn't moving very fast. I came out on the pavement just before Aid #3 and there was Justin at the top of a short climb. I dropped both my bottles (the water on accident while trying to feed out of my back pocket on a steep section) and the E2 to pick up a freshie from Justin. He cheered me and ran alongside as I told him Sarah was riding really strong and I was just trying to hold on - my legs were tired!!
Luke on his way to aid #3
I knew I still had a massive climb ahead of me, so I took a bottle of water from neutral feed and made the final turn to begin the Southridge climb. There weren't many racers in sight, but I managed to pass two men (U23 and one other) on the way up to Cherry on Top. The climb was brutally steep, and while it never seems as long or tortuous as the first few times I climbed it, it was a struggle and painful even in the easiest of gears!
The only time the entire day I remember feeling any chill was just as I topped out and headed down the hill. The loose descent down Southridge is a fun one, and I tried to keep a good pace knowing that Sarah would be back at it once she got onto the tricky descents!
I enjoyed some of the rock and log rollers as well as the sweeping turns all the way down and out Snakeskin. Once back to the trail merge the Pro's went one way and everyone else went another. The next two singletrack sections were brand new to me, and pretty barren. I kept wondering if I was actually on the right course! I hadn't seen anyone in awhile, and even though I'd come across a race arrow every .5-1 mile, I still questioned if it was the right way. There were a few mud bogs, and one massive creek crossing (my shoes got wet, so I imagine the entire lower half of the bike did as well!) and then it was rolling singletrack. I knew I was headed toward the top of the Hurkey Creek climb; I just wasn't sure how much further it was!
Eventually I saw 3 racers from the Sport course just turning down Rage through the Sage. I caught up on the first few turns, but wasn't able to pass. Unfortunately Ben from Troupe had an off the bike excursion on the sandy descent, but we continued on once he said he was fine. I backed off my pursuit since passing wasn't going to happen, and all I was getting was a mouthful of dust! Ben hopped on my wheel on the same descent, and once out on the fire road I put in some efforts trying to catch anyone to draft. It wasn't to be!
I finished out the pavement time-trial into a headwind, and knew all I had left was the Demoralizer! Let me tell you - it was demoralizing!
I knew it was coming up…
I grannied up that, finished out the few turns and pumped the course down to the finish!
Steph finished up shortly after
We enjoyed some recovery mix, I had my AB&J sammy, and then we all headed over to check results and watch the podiums. I went out in search of M&Ms (they had them last year!)
The only thing is they don't sit so well after a hard race, recovery shake, and ABJ. It's ok, they were still pretty awesome.
Sid and Manny came in 1-2!!
Pro Women's podium (L-R): Carolyn, Sarah, Pua, me, Joy
It was a hard race for me, especially as the 3rd race weekend in a row, and my 5th race in 6 weeks (all of them being Pro level!). My body is DONE! Would be nice to take the week off, but I'm trying out some new things starting today, and getting back into a base cycle.
For some reason I'm still struggling to hydrate enough while racing. The E2 Hydro was great throughout the day. Not only was my sea-level body racing between 4500-6000 ft, but I didn't notice the effects at all. The E2 tasted great all day and didn't leave me with any stomach distress or cotton-mouth. Unfortunately I'm just not taking in the amount of fluids I should be. I think I probably drank around 35oz (at most half of each of 3 21oz bottles, plus probably 6-8oz of water) for the 3 hour race. Not sure why I'm just not taking in fluids? I didn't feel thirsty at all, and the E2 Hydro concentration tasted awesome. I only went for water a few times on the fire roads to wash down gel.
The Pro Charge mixed with milk was great for post-race. I drank it right up. I'm thinking I might add some chocolate syrup next time for the complete vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup experience!
I'm really looking forward to this week and this coming weekend. It isn't "off" by any means, but we're getting back into the swing of serious training. We'll be doing a few rides with Luke again, and some killer riding this weekend with Steph and Dan. Hoping to really get back some volume and dial back the intensity just a bit before ramping up again for June and July!
Justin pulled off the victory in Open Men 30-39 in Sunday's Super D!
Thanks to Katie to everyone at Idyllwild Cycling for putting on a great weekend of racing. Thanks to PossAbilities for supporting the XC event up there. I look forward to racing Idyllwild Spring Challenge again in 2010!
Thanks also to hubby, Justin, and Dan for awesome feeds. Thanks to Justin, Dan, and Tom for the pics!