24 Hours @ 7Springs. A Bittersweet Victory.

09.06.09 7S Pgh Bella TentWith the uncertainty of a 4th rider we called 7Springs and ask if we can compete in the 4-women open catagory with just 3 riders.  They said its okay, so we said its okay and got ready to ride.  Lee Ann Beatty, Lauren Mika and I felt prepared for the challenge and started looking forward to it. 

My weekend started with a non-cycling BFF getting married on Saturday.  A wedding I did NOT want to miss, but during a race I did not want to miss.  Ugh!  I am saddened.  I talk to my BELLAs and they are insistent they want me to race with them, so we all agree I’ll make it to the race later Saturday afternoon/evening and jump into the rotation as soon as I get there.  Before I continue I MUST give a shout out to Julia and Chad and their most fabulous wedding.  The day could not have been any more perfect.  I am so, so sorry I had to leave as early as I did.  I was truly torn between my two worlds more this day than ever before.  It really ripped my heart out to have to leave, but I had a commitment to my team and racing, which has been the biggest and most important part of my life this year.. so I headed out.

I arrived at 7S around 6:30p.  LA had completed her first two laps and Lauren was out on her third.  After some discussions it was decided I would head out next to start giving them more break time asap.  They were already seriously rocking it out and had us in 1st place all afternoon so far!  I was totally impressed, but not surprised.  Heehee! 😉

I feel the need to say I did not have anything at the wedding except a coke.  I left before dinner was served and did not have any drinks with racing on my brain.  I ate up a few things before my first lap, but nothing out of the ordinary.  My first lap was average.  Slower than LA’s and Lauren’s but I can only expect that.  They kick my ass on a constant basis.  Now in order to catch up with the laps and give them a little more break time the laps would continue like this.. MJ.. LA.. MJ.. LM.. MJ.. (reminder they already rocked out a duo team for 6 hours w/o me).. then after my 3rd / 10th team lap we’d start rotating through all three of us normally the rest of the race.   My second lap was about 10 minutes slower than my first.  I expected it to be a little bit slower, but I was disappointed with my time.  Already significantly slower than my bad ass team mates.  The last thing I want to do after showing up late is let them down, but just wait.. it gets better.. and better means worse.

I head out for my third lap at some point in the night.  I felt tired.. a little more tired than I wanted to admit for only my third lap and already disappointed in the times I was turning.  Not so much my legs but the rest of my body as if I already did twice as much riding.  I head out down the hill and into the single track.  I love the beginning of the course.  Fun, fast, easy on the pumper and for getting warmed up again.  As soon as I cross the first road and drop into those switch backs my head lamp dies.  WTF?  I kind of expected it to die out in my lap, but towards the end not before mile 2!  Ugh.. that sucks.. a lot.  I had my minewt on my handle bars, so it was by no means pitch black, but the gloomy, dream-like darkness did nothing for my speed. 

(WARNING: all weak and weary readers should proceed to the next paragraph now.)  I was riding along and my belly was a little irritated.  No biggie.  Crazier things can happen during such events.  I was definitely more concerned about my lighting than whatever my belly was doing.   The aches continued to grow and I slowly reach a “wow, this isnt cool” feeling brewing inside.  I just keep it on the back burner and pedal.  I’m making my way to the half way point and I am having a hard time exerting much effort without a henious feeling.  My stomach is officially jacked off.  I reach the one flat stretch of road before we start switchback climbing to the top and back to tent city.  Maybe I just need to pause for a minute at the tent.  Sometimes a 5 minute pause can make a world of difference when its necessary.  Yeah, yeah.. so I start climbing.. its getting worse.  I ride from the road, cut right into the new stretch of trail, another right up the steep gravel road, sharp left into trail again, it turns into double track, and all I can think is I want.. no need to be at the top of this mountain, but I stop.  I reach that point where I am talking myself out of a throw up.  Nahhh, I’m totally not going to get.. uhh.. gulp.. sick?  Noooo.  Why the… whoa.. wtf?  gulp.. dry heave.  Oh shit.. its official.  The first heave puts everything into motion and I toss out absolutely every single thing that was in my belly.. and a little more… about five times over.  Now I’m thanking God my head lamp was dead.  Go figure!  It was vocal, it was violent and it was on my glove a little bit.  (totally comparable to the Coach barfing out that nasty devil creature on the exorcist.. seriously.)  I stood there, left foot still clipped in, head on bar, pile at right foot, uncertain why that just happened and what to do next.

A rider rolls past and asks if I’m okay.. “I’m not really sure yet.”  He gets my number to let people know up above (that was way cool of him).  I lift my head and realize how MUCH better I feel.   Whew!  Am I better?  Do I just ride now?  Should I walk?  I have no clue.  I cannot stand the stench for another second though, so I push off and ride.  I creeeeeep up to the top (way proud that I actually road the whole thing) and stop at the tent.  I see Tim and LA and inform them “I just emptied my entire tank on that effn mountain.”   We are all standing there not knowing what the heck to do.  Should I finish up the lap?  Can I finish up the lap?  Should I DQ and send LA out righ tnow?   All I can think and say is I did NOT just put in an hour and ride my sorry ass back up to the top to DQ this lap!  It was just absolutely not an option for me.  I needed to finish it for them.. if they are okay with it.  I get some new gloves out (for those that skipped the last paragragh.. dont ask), feel like I should take some food, but I know there is no way I can even attempt to eat anything any time soon!  I confirm at how crazy slow this is probably going to be, but they are okay with me finishing the lap so it counts.   I rinse my mouth out a few more times and with a little bit of fear for the unknown I head out.

The next 5 miles has got to be the worst five miles of my riding life.  I’m sure I’ve had some bad experiences bonking and whatever in the past, but I cannot recall anything relating to the overwhelming and emotional and physical experience of this lap.  I felt hollow, lame, throat still burning, uncertain if I might start heaving again, never wanted to be off my bike so much in my life.. ever.  All I could think about is how much I wanted to be HOME.. not done, not at the tent, not sleeping, but effn home!  It was bad.  I managed to ride everything, minus one batch of big rocks in the garden after a right hand turn, but they can get me on a good day.  I reach the final few climbs out of the single track, around those utility sheds and up the final slope climb to the pond.  I am so relieved I would have cried if I had any kind of energy left in me.  I was so past that.  Defnitely zombie-like.  I reach the transition tent (which felt like HOURS since I was last there) and LA is going crazy ready to rock out a fast lap.  I am SO thrilled to see her energy, but so painfully broken hearted that I lost our lead.  😦

Back at the tent I had THEE BEST support I could ever ever ever ask for.. ever!  Todd and Tim were there ready to take care of me.  Knowing the first thing I needed was some food.  They weighed our options and decided on a plain wheat hot dog bun and set a bag of Lay’s chips close by if I wanted salt.  We had Pedialite on hand also, which I was baby sipping in between my crazy little itty bitty baby bits of bun.  I was truly a pathetic scene.  I think Todd told me to “eat the bun” a good 7-8 times as I started fading (“eat the bun”)  in and out of (“MJ, eat the bun”) consciousness.  By the end of said bun, which definitely deserved commercial breaks during the long, long process I started eatting it on my own.  Todd later told me out how proud and relieved he was at that moment knowing that I was going to be okay and might still be in this thing.  That makes me smile every time I think of it.  haha.

I finish up my snack and MUST sleep.  I am hooked up with a sleeping bag and tent as I had nothing prepared and actually thought I’d just stay up all night with my late arrival.  I must have crashed the moment my head hit the pillow.  A rare occasion for any rider going through a 24 hour race.  I was mangled.  I wake up on my own and hear LA talking in the back ground.  Oh no.  How long as she been back?  How long has Lauren been out?  Are they letting me sleep and I’m done with the race?  Am I voted off the island!?  I’m a ball of emotions and dont know how to feel about all of it.  The biggest and most prominent feeling is so not wanting to let them down!  We had our minds set on a threesome race.  I did not want to force a duo on them now too.  I suck!  I get up to figure out whats happening.   I feel okay and want to do another lap if they trust me.  I need to keep trying for the team!! We were now behind because of me and we were all pretty sure I wasnt going to do anything for our overall, but I would give LA a little bit more of a break and she needed it. 

My 4th lap ended up being the sunrise lap.  A most favorite lap amongst all 24 hour riders.  A time to get revived, enjoy, smile, remember why your out there, all kinds of good stuff wrapped up into a single lap, but.. I was so not into it.  Bummer.  In the first few miles of single track and can see the sky turning a lighter shade of gray.  I couldnt care less and I think I actually rolled my eyes at it as I tried to stay focused on the trail ahead.  Before I know it I am no longer in a tunnel of darkness and focused only on a few feet in front of me.  The forest is big and beautiful and I cant believe how I am not soaking up this moment any better.  I might have.. just maybe.. smiled on the inside.. just a little bit.. when I noticed daylight had officially broken through, but that was all I had in me and I just need to be done riding.  Fast forward: I finish the lap in a below average time, but I did it.

LA and Lauren rock out another rotation leaving me just enough time to do the final lap, but it was discussed and agreed that LA would finish up our last lap for the team and she did it well!  Seriously rocked out ANOTHER fast lap time after such a hard core race!  I really wish I had it in me, but with the win still questionable I was not about to “attempt” anything at this last hour.  LA and Lauren totally pulled us back into first place and we so needed to keep it there!  Ugh.. I felt like such a weight for the team. 

I’m still not exactly sure was caused my scene still either.  A suspect I’d like to bring in for questioning is a soy milk protein shake I drank after my first lap, but I could remember my belly being slightly funny even before I drank it, so I dont know if I’ll ever figure it out.   All I know is I’m totally fearful of it happening again, majorly bummed to have let my team down, thankful they are the rockstars that they are and so determined to win they made it happen!  I am so proud and impressed with them!   They are truly some of the bestest friends I could ever ask for too.  They were awesome and caring the entire time.  Not a negative vibe once during the whole ordeal.  Man, they rule!!   This has been a crazy and important year for me and I just couldnt have done it without them.  I seriously love you, BELLAs!!  I really hope we can do it again some time and I can bring much more to the table.  I must redeem myself.

A BIG THANKS to Todd and Tim for being such great help the whole time.  Two perfect examples of what a team needs during such an event.  The support is such a huge part of the whole race.  It just cannot be done without them.  Thank you so much you guys.  Much love.  Seriously. 

Until next time…

LA finished it up for us.  Fake hugs all around.  She was sweaty gross.

09.06.09 7S Win

I’m so proud to stand there with them, but this is totally their win.

09.06.09 24hr 7S Podium

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ryanne on September 8, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    To say that sounds like a terrible, but yes, awesome experience, is a bit of an understatement. I hope that you never have to feel so crappy again, but I am so proud of you for pulling out laps despite being sick.

    I guess you have 2 choices–hand in the towel, or use it to wipe the barf off your chin… 🙂

    Proud of you, lady.

    AND-I forgot that I had your b-day card (oh, so belated by now) in my car at 7SP and forgot to give it to you!

    Reply

  2. Thanks so much Ryanne and well said! haha. I appreciate that and am SUPER proud of you and your amazing lap times! I’m certain I’m going to have to work extra hard to try to just keep up with you from now on, no doubt! And I think that bday card is a figment of your imagination. 😉

    Reply

  3. Posted by Ride King on September 9, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    MJ,

    Thanks for well written documentary of your 24/7 experience.

    Congrats to PBR. You gals rocked!

    There was (still is) a stomach virus bug floating around these hills. Maybe you picked it up somehow before starting your race rotation.

    Either way, nice recovery.

    It was a team effort.

    – rk

    Reply

    • Thanks for stopping by RK! I thought I might have seen you up there, but I really didnt seen too many buds with my late arrival and very self involved experience. heh heh. I’m glad you actually commented about the virus.. maybe that is all it was and I dont need to be so scared to try another 24 hour gig down the road. I’m certain my nerves will be at full attention, but its helpful to think it may have been just an outside source and wasnt something I did or ate. Cheers. 🙂

      Reply

  4. Aww…I freaking love you woman! Dang you’re a trooper! There aren’t many people that could have kept going, totally hardcore and completely rockstar! You pulled through when we needed you, that’s what I call true team work. And for the record, this win was OUR win. And my “our” I mean YOU, Lauren and myself. I too am honored to have you both by my side.

    Much love all the way from Europe,

    LA

    Reply

  5. Posted by Todd Schoeni on September 13, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    I got two words for ya: Race Support!!

    Eat the bun, Michelle

    Reply

  6. Posted by annon on September 23, 2009 at 1:28 am

    Lee Ann Beatty….freakin hottie

    Reply

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