Photo credit: Greg Greene

Last year I didn’t get to the Whiskey 50 and I was excited to go back this year. Especially since Stan’s fronted 10 comped entries for pro women and the women’s field ballooned to nearly 40 of the fastest chicks in the country.

I met Jenny at the airport in Phoenix on Thursday evening and we drove to Prescott to meet up with the rest of the NoTubes crew arriving from various destinations.

On Friday we prepped bikes and Jenny, Nina, Shannon and I headed out to spin and check out a small piece of the course. We went to the pre-race meeting, got checked in and tried to keep the nerves at bay before the Fat Tire Crit in the evening. The crit is a funny event – a bunch of dirties riding on the road is often a recipe for trouble. Add to that, that some of us were running slicks, while some were running knobbies, some were dogging the crit to save their legs for Sunday and some of us were pinning it, and it ends up being a little silly. But when you add a beer garden along the course and a couple thousand people in town for the race, it gets fun. Nina, ‘the Baum’ took the hole shot and led out the first lap, AND grabbed the $100 lap 1 prime. I moved up through the race and was happy with a 10th place finish, though it was damn painful. I liked the corners

I did not sleep on Saturday night – evening races to NOT promote restful sleep, good grief. We also had a 5am wakeup call from the fire alarm when certain unnamed people made burned their pre-race breakfast. Hehe…it’s okay though, because those unnamed people also went on to finish 1st and 7th in their races that day and all was forgiven

Shannon was on feed duty at Skull Valley so Nina, Jenny and I shuttled up the road and were able to check out another piece of the course and spin the lactic acid out of our legs from the crit the night before. We rode the singletrack on the last part of the course. It_is_awesome. And during the race, it comes in the last hour – almost all descending and you are cooked at that point, with about 40 dirty miles your legs and just finishing a 14 mile dirt road climb. Here we are pre-riding. Someone must have said something funny

Photo credit: Yackle Brothers Racing

We made final preparations, watched some Lady Gaga videos on youtube (don’t ask) and got to bed. For me it was another sleepless night and I was impatient when it was finally time to get up at 5:30. I felt not great warming up and my legs did not want to open up and work. I ran out of time and didn’t warm up enough, especially for how my legs were feeling but it was time to go. We cruised in a group up the lower, mellower portions of the paved climb out of town and I think everyone was ready and anticipating the inevitable split that occurred when the pavement tilted up near the top. I know I was ready and I tried to make the split but instead watched as the front group rode away. I was happy to see that Jenny made it and hoped she would hang on for a good day. (She did!) I tried to stay near the front of the chasers but was caught as we crested the climb. Sue gave me a push, which was really nice and motivated me to at least stay with the group of chasers, even if I had floated to the back at that point. I entered the singletrack at the back of that group, I’m guessing around 20th. I was glad that there was a group as I wanted people to work – but the mojo was kind of funky in our group. Instead of motivating each other and making a good train, it seemed like we were getting in each other’s way a lot and slowing each other down. I made a conscious decision to stay calm, though, and not blow myself up trying to make silly passes. Instead, I conserved some energy riding a little slower and waited for good passing opportunities. I had moved up several places by the time we hit the first big descent and caught up to Kelly B and Nina at the bottom. I hung on Kelly’s wheel for a bit until she gapped and dropped me.

The descent to Skull Valley felt long and I tried to eat and drink. Maybe I tried too hard because when I flipped it at the bottom and started the climb, my stomach was in a knot and full of fluid. But I was happy for the feed from Kenny, Rich and Michael – thanks! I always struggle on the bottom section of the climb that is all false flats and rolly. I really wanted someone to work with but Sue, Kelly and Wendy were ahead of me and I was only losing time to them and Nina was behind me but far enough that I did not want to wait. As my belly felt worse and I started to get some nausea and dizzy spells, I shifted into damage control mode and started I was going backwards. I felt a little better when we cleared the first half of the climb and hit the steeper pitches. When we got to the 25mile split aid, I was very thankful for the feed from the Alpine Ortho guys. I tried to grab a tablyte out of my pocket but my motor skills were severely lacking at that point and I couldn’t fish one out. I put a foot down just passed the aid, got some tablytes, poured some water on myself and got going again, feeling a little better and like my head was finally on straight. I made up some time on those top miles of the course and could see a couple of the ladies who had passed me lower on the climb up ahead.

I hit the last section of singletrack and reveled in knowing the hardest part was over and it was all fun (except for the very final fun-hater road section) to the finish. (Did I mention this part is fun? Love_it). I was having so much fun railing it, I caught a couple of the ladies in front of me and made a couple of passes on Cramp Hill. As I neared the end of the singletrack, I could see Kelly in front of me and when we popped out on the final road section she had about 10 seconds on me. I chased her all the way down the road and didn’t seem to be making any ground. When we made the right turn up the little one-block grade, all of a sudden I closed the gap and found myself on her wheel. This posed a bit of a dilemma. Kelly is my friend and is a total sweetheart. I knew it would hurt to lose a place after 50 miles of racing. On the other hand, it was a race, and I wanted it too. (And we were racing for 14th place – not exactly podium spots). I’ve never won a sprint finish but I knew in this situation, all I had to do was grab Kelly’s wheel, sit on and recover for a moment and sprint. So I did. I was feeling a little guilty so I started my sprint early, trying to make myself feel less guilty for the dirty road tactics. I think Kelly was cooked, though and I held on. For 14th. Oof.

I was faster than the last time I did this race so that feels good. I wish I had felt a little better during the first half of the race but in the end it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

I cooled down and we reconvened back at the team house. Nina had finished less than a minute ahead of me and we were thrilled to find out that Jenny had a fantastic race to finish 7th! Shannon rode solid, having worked non-stop through the weekend (and since who-knows-when before that), feeding racers, sorting various problems and taking care of all of us.

After packing, food, wine, whiskey (not me, but certain unnamed teammates…) and a requisite Trader Joe’s stop, Jenny and I headed back to Phoenix as we both had crack of dawn flights the next morning.

Huge thanks to Shannon, Kenny, Rich and Michael for their help all weekend and to the Alpine Orthopaedics crew for their help as well, and the support this season. Huge thanks also to Stan’s, elete, Adidas, Lazer, Cannondale, ProGold, Gu Energy, Genuine Innovations, Ergon, Crankbrothers, Kenda, Verge and fi’zik.

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