24 Hours of Big Bear BELLA Style

My Team: The PITTSBURGH BELLAs (an acronym for Biking Enthusiastic Ladies Loving Adventures, or simply means Beauties, whichever you prefer) in racer/lap order was Lauren Mika (thanks for taking on the dreaded run, Mika!), 2nd up was Lee Ann Beatty (a girl who does not know how to be any less than spectacular.. no pressure.), then Me aka MJ aka the long winded blogger and Cristina Frentiu (a rock star cycling competitor and friend from Ohio.. yes we had a Pittsburgh Bella from Ohio.. get over it!).   

06.14.09 24 Big Bear BELLAS

The Course: 13-14 miles of single track, a few sections of double, an awesome rocky downhill (weeeeeee!), a nice gradual climb follows, a crazy section of moon rocks, a rough climb towards the end, a few more rollers after you think your done climbing, more single track, pass the wv night club on the right, a quick left, right, left, right, go up and over the bridge AND finally a 360 loop back into the transition tent!  Whew!  All done! 

Our Competition: The Gripped Racing Ladies, consisted (from left to right) Kat, Melanie, Emily and Amy.  A four pack of strong willed, passionate riders that reminded me of… us!  Oh boy!  Yes, there were only two teams of us expert ladies competing against each other, but I’m telling you this race was more intense and aggressive than any race I’ve experienced!  The competition was stacked, fierce, strong willed and ALL GIRL POWER!!  A true competition!  What a 24 hour race should be!   Yeessss!

06.14.09 24 Big Bear Gripped Ladies

For 23 hours we continued to go back and forth for 1st place position.  We were leading.. behind.. leading.. leading.. behind.  There wasnt a moment where anything was certain.  We had to be on our game the entire time!  Rider and bike ready!  Hydrate!  Eat something!  Rest!  Gosh darn it do NOT forget your card swipe thing!  Rinse and repeat!  After our second set of laps Cristina heads out for her night lap and took a good spill.. enough to pull her from race and take her home before the event was even over. 😦   (I”m still bummed to even type that!  Hope you are all better, Cristina, and we catch up with you again soon!) But the show must go on.. so we continued on with the event minus a BELLA (hense missing our 4th rider on the podium)

LAP 13 (outta 14):  The pressure!!  The last I knew when Lee Ann headed out we had an 8 minute lead on the Gripped Ladies.  This was nothing to feel safe about as we probably had and lost that time several times through the weekend.  The change in our rotation lined me up for the last lap with Amy Breyla!  Oh man!   The Lee Ann of the opposing team and then some!  My lap times so far consisted of a 1:39, 1:56, 1:56.  Amy’s consisted of 1:33, 1:38, 1:39.  If you do some quick math here with me, that means with only an 8 minute lead (and even ASSuming I would have a 10 minute lead once I got going) Amy is going to gobble me up in the last few miles of the whole race!  Pooey!  Until this point we all rocked an optimistic vibe as we always do, but we now definitely reached a noticable feel that we ALL thought I was going down.  When you look at it all on paper there was no way around it and our race looked to be coming to an end in more ways than one.  I cannot express how lousy that felt.  To be anticipating a final lap of such a long race and I know my teammates (and me!) are all thinking.. craaaap, we’re so done!  What a downer.

Once we knew the scenerio that was going down we discussed if Lee Ann could double up and immediately go out again to finish up the race for us.  She was bound to be tired, but her lap times were consistently faster than mine and more competitive with Amy, so we may have a better chance!  I got dressed and ready to ride.  Anxiously awaiting on LA’s return to see what she wanted to do.  If she was going to double up I still intended to head out with her and try to keep up and keep her company.  Amy and I were both in the transition tent awaiting our teammates arrival and joking it up big time!  Ohh it was funny!  I was officially termed her “carrot” as she was just itching to chase and pass me, and I truly expected it to happen!  We all did.  Our banter dies down as the clock is getting closer and closer to our anticipated teammate arrival time.  I am so anxious my heart rate has got to be up over 120 just standing there!   I actually made it a point NOT to wear my heart rate monitor for this run.  No matter what happens next that HRM would only mess with my head more than I could do all on my own.

LAST LAP! Eek!  Lee Ann rips into the tent!  I run over and ask her what she wants to do!  “I cant do it Michelle.  I’m blown out.  I cant do another lap!”  Oh snap!  I’m on my own!  HR = 170!  I immediately feel like the turtle and Amy (yeah the Hare!) is tappin’ her big hare foot waiting for her teammate at any moment!  #&@*!   My friend and weekend support, Shane Gouldthread, just happens to be straddling his bike waiting for a bud to take his final lap and follow him around the course.  I run over to Shane and basically yell in his face “LEE ANN CANT GO!  I NEED YOU TO CHASE ME!” and I run down to my bike waiting at the rack.  I jump on and Shane is right behind me, “Go, Go, Goo!”   Now I just need to ride fast as hell and not bonk.  Um, yeah. 

We head into the single track and I try to find a groove.  Shane is tossing in positive comments here and there… “good pace”.. “keep it up MJ”..  “no one is behind us!”   Nothing he said could settle my nerves at all.   During the race I had Brandon Draugelis and Evan Perrone pass me at one time and they truly made me look like I was sitting still!  I swear I had to look down.. yeah, I’m still pedalling.  I seriously anticipated that scenerio with Amy at ANY MOMENT!!   I knew with about a 10 minute lead I had some time before she’d catch me.  It would be towards the end of the lap.. probably on that neverending climb after the moon rocks.. just keep moving MJ and dont think about it! 

I was completely lacking on any climbing strength.  Well, thats normal for any given day to be honest, but now its my fourth lap and my legs are tuckered, so on any kind of downhill, down grade, back side of a rock or ANYTHING.. I would so try to rail as ridiculously fast as I ever could.  My full suspension 69er really eats up the bumps so if I had any “strength” against Amy I was hoping it was going to be that.  I maintained a steady “borderline out of control” pace for most of it.  At one point my back wheel jumps to the side so fast and unexpected I can NOT believe I didnt eat dirt!  My adrenaline jerked that bike back upright so fast, she didnt even know she was in eminant danger!  Whew  This was no time to be losing my mojo! 

Shane and I start up the gradual climb past that camp site.  I finally give a glance over to Shane and manage a smile.  He gives a shout that rattled the trees!  He was so pumped for the whole scene and I was a freaking stress mess!!  That smile was really an interpretation of my thoughts being “holy crap I canNOT believe we are trying to rock this out like this” and an added “heh heh I’m afraid to look back” and a side of “is there any possible way I can win this thing!?”  So up up we go and we eventually reach the moon rocks.  I hop off, lift my bike up and try to hussle through.  (I did not clear this section once) Back on and its the start of the climb.  This whole time THIS is where I’m expected to get eatten.  I gear down and try to find a zone.  I realize my pores are like open faucets and I am dumping sweat.  Of course.. anything to get me in that “your gonna bonk!” attitude.   All I want to do is stay on my bike.  I walked portions in both my 2nd and 3rd lap.  Once due to traffic and another due to exhaustion.  I am totally thinking of my teammates and saying I MUST STAY ON MY BIKE.  GET UP THE HILL MJ.  GET IT DONE!   And I do!  I crest the hill and am gearing back up, passing a guy along the way.  Holy moly!

The trail turns left and a few rollers await.  Nothing crazy, but just enough to slow me down again and keep the fear in my veins!  Shane says again that no one is behind us and says something along the lines of winning the race.  NOT YET!  I have to be done!  I am so waiting for Amy to show up ANY SECOND!  We reach the single track and I start to wonder if I actually might pull it off.  I big ring it and am back to uncontrollable hammer festing through the trail.  I make the left at the wv night club, get boo’d for passing up the beer stop, zig zag through the remaining single track and still ignoring Shane giving me props because I am so not done yet!  I’m up and onto the bridge and give a hollar “BELLLLLAAAAAS!!”  and toss a rock star symbol in the air!   Lee Ann and Lauren are just as shocked as I am that I’m actually back and BEFORE Amy!  I’m making the 360 bend into the tent and finally have a slight sense of relief.  Did I do it?  O!M!G!  I roll up to the table and take what feels like 5 more minutes trying to get my card out to sign out and Lauren, LA and I are going freaking nuts!!  I finished with a 1:40!  Shaving 16 minutes off from my last two lap times!  I’d now like to give a shout out to my adrenaline, who evidentally made a late but perfect arrival time of an appearance!  Way to go!  My body is borderline convusling from adrenaline, fear, happiness, approaching bonk-dom, and relief that it was over.  Now I cry.  That amount of intensity for an hour and 40 minutes did me in and my eyes sprung a few leaks.  I dont even give a shit because that was the bestest, most amazing feeling and experience rolling into that tent than any other racing moment in my career!  NO WONDER people like winning and make it a habit.  I want to feel like this foreverrrrr and everrrrrr! 

Amy arrives!  She comes barreling over that bridge and around the bend so fast you could feel the heat!   She rolls in and seems slightly disappointed knowing the outcome.  I approach to give her props and a hug and I say I did a 1:40.  she replies “you rode fast!?”  She was surprised but in that rockstar way giving me props at the same time.  Talk about good sportsmanship!  I so love that girl!   Her lap time:  1:32!  THE FASTEST LAP TIME of the entire womens expert field for the whole 24 hours!!   I knew she was gunnin’ for me and could hear her breathing down my neck, but I had no idea she was pulling that out!!   Amy Breyla rules!! 

Thanks to the Gripped Ladies for making this a race we will all never forget!  Thanks to Amy Breyla for scaring the crap out of me on that last lap!  LOL.  Thanks to LA for giving it 200% on her last lap and giving me that time window I needed!  Thanks to Shane Gouldthread for chasing me down and forcing me to keep aware of my pace that entire lap!  Thanks to Scooter, who gave my bike the TLC it needed before such an event.  No mechanicals baby!   Thanks to Trek of Pittsburgh for getting my back and helping me do this crazy cool scene I love so so much!   Thanks to Amy Garbark for making our sweet BELLA shirts!  Worrrrd!   AND a big thanks to my girls Lauren and Lee Ann, who have made this race season and year so amazingly cool and fun for me I cant even handle the truth!  I love you BELLAs!   The end.


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