After hitting the snooze button a few times, Scott and I finally got going. After a quick breakfast we loaded up the truck and drove over to the start venue. We arrived about 40 minutes before the start of the race. Normally I like to arrive at least an hour early but it was so cold and windy out that we didn't want to stand around and get cold.
Scott went to find our timing chips when we got there (which was very nice of him!) and I sat in the car enjoying the heat a little bit longer. I also mentally prepared myself for pain...lots of pain. I am not going to lie. I really wanted to win this race and knew I was going to hammer hard to cross the finish line first. It felt weird to be so nervous in January...but I was.
Finally I got out of the car, grabbed my gear, and put my timing chip on. I was cold but knew that once we started racing I wouldn't be. Lucky for me they had a warming house to hang out in before the race.
Since the race was only 25K I should have gotten a long warm-up in but instead I was doing this....(my coach will be oh-so-proud)
With 10 minutes to go I finally hopped on my Mukluk and rode around the start area. The cold air felt shocking on my lungs. Pedaling through snow takes much more of an effort and within a few minutes I was breathing hard. Then it was time to line up.
I lined up in the front row with Scott. Since these were the snow bike World Championships it was all very serious. The promoter asked if any "officials" wanted to speak. Everyone looked around...no "officials" were in sight. They must have been hiding in the warming house. The promoter said "go," cowbells started ringing, and we were off.
The start was chaotic to say the least. I remember being near the front, someone wiping out (for once it wasn't me) and a lot of us having to jump off of our bikes and run. The snow was deeper then I expected and I had to travel a bit by foot before I could hop back on my bike. The first half mile of the trail was hard packed and I tried to keep a fast pace going. But even with eight pounds of pressure in my tires my rear end was fishtailing around a bit.
I was riding with two other guys and all of a sudden the trail was no longer groomed. Since I was completely oxygen deprived I couldn't figure out what was going on at first. All I knew was that I couldn't stay on my bike for the life of me. Anytime we hit a hill we had to dismount and push our bikes. It was slow going all around. Not only were we pushing our bikes in snow, but it took a lot of work just to walk in it! I kept trying to get on my bike and pedal but almost always would have to get back off and push my bike some more. This is where I really noticed the benefits of the workouts both Andy and Jason have been giving me. Not only am I stronger on the bike, but my upper body was able to handle the pushing. The downhills were fun, but slippery. I had a few wipe-outs and at one point landed directly on my face.
It goes without saying that the first couple of miles were frustrating. My little mental race demons started to show up in full force. "You aren't going to make it...everyone is going to catch you....muahahahaha!" Then the opposing force showed up..."keep going...don't look back...you can do it....bahahahah!"
One thing that I've learned from 24 hour racing is to just shut-off my brain and keep pedaling. Or in this case riding, sliding, and walking.
My friends...it took me about 55 minutes to complete 5 miles of the trail. I repeat...55 minutes for 5 miles! Talk about demoralizing. Just when I started to consider building an igloo and bunkering down for the night the trail became more firm. It was fishtail-y at first but then I hit completely groomed trail. Thank goodness. From that point on I lowered my head and pedaled as hard as I could!
The last couple of miles were the best. We were on the Ore to Shore course and lots of people were there to cheer us in. At one point I passed a group of women dressed in all pink with feather boa's and they started yelling that I was the first female and ringing cowbells. Even though I was going as hard as I could I couldn't help but smile.
Hearing the announcers voice and seeing the finish banners was a great feeling! I did it!
And it got better!!! One of my favorite parts of the Ore to Shore race is that there are doughnuts waiting at the end and I was happy to see the winter version had them as well. Thank you awesome promoters :-)
After eating some doughnuts I went back outside to get a picture of Scott finishing. Scott introduced me to cycling and has always been super supportive of my racing. I finally beat him on his birthday :-)
But to be fair I think his legs were a little tired from all the speed skating he had been doing! After the race a newspaper reporter asked how winning the snow bike world championships felt compared to winning the 24 hour SS National Championships last October. I answered that it felt just as good. Granted there was no fancy jersey to put on, but there WERE doughnuts.
Snow bike races rule.
Next year the promoters said that they will groom the first part of the race, which means that it will be much faster. What would be really cool is if they added a 50K option like the skiers have. I would definitely do it!