Michelle and I loaded up the bikes, some gear, and the hounds and headed to Laramie early Friday morning and drove straight to Curt Gowdy State Park for a lap on the race course. I am not sure if it was being in the car for 7 hours, or being surprised by the technical nature of the trails, but our pre ride was lacking mojo. It felt as if we were off our bikes as much as we were on them. At least our youngest dog Kenai was having a blast as he got to join us on our pre ride. We were a little skeptical about racing on these trails and Michelle and I half-joked that it would be excellent cyclocross practice.
Note to self: When you are about to pin it for an hour, do some semblance of a warm-up. Doh! Somehow the morning got away from me and it was time to race before I knew it.
Ready, or not, go! I decided to be aggressive on the run and try to be one of the first to the bike for a change and it was cool to leave the staging area the third wheel back. Having done zero warm-up (dumb, dumb), I was seeing stars and feeling the burn within minutes as my HR shot through the roof and my technical skills were fading as my HR crept higher and higher. With my HR soaring above 180, and only 15 minutes into it, I had to back it off a notch and let a big group go by so I could compose myself and get back into a groove before the first really technical section of the course.
There is a section of the course called Mo’ Rocka’ (one of the best trail names ever) and you can imagine how it got its name. Race speed and adrenaline allowed me to ride most of the big granite ledges that I had expected to hike after Friday’s pre ride and all of a sudden I loved this trail! Woohoo! I was clearing ledge after ledge and the lap just flew by.
I tagged Michelle after Lap #1 and she was off for her first lap. Our plan was to go lap for lap and just see how it played out.
The best part about duo lap racin’ is that you can pin it for an hour with almost total disregard for your hydration and calorie intake and then come back to your pit area and make up for it quickly. This course was tough to eat & drink on so I was lucky to drink half a bottle per lap but I drank plenty and ate in between laps.
Michelle nearly caught me off guard with her blazing fast first lap in 1:02…I was expecting something around 1:10 from her…but I was ready to go when she rolled through the timing tent. With my new confidence that I could ride most of the tech features I was psyched for my second lap.
The overall field was limited to 99 racers and this kept the 8.5 mile course wide open for racing after the first lap. I focused on trying to catch the next rider in front of me, using them as rabbits, and this was my motivation throughout the rest of the race. My second lap was quite a bit faster than my first since I was starting to learn the course and was clearing all but a couple of the tech features.
Back at our pit after my second lap I was drinking more, eating more, and getting to know our neighbors Nathan Potter and Chris from Fine Edge Sports. I even broke out my Park DAG-1 and straightened a bent rear derailleur for them. Michelle’s homemade peanut butter chocolate chip bars were going down especially well. Yummm.
Before staging for my third lap I looked at the results…Holy Shit Balls! We are in 2nd place, 7 minutes out of 1st and only 2 minutes ahead of 3rd. Now I had a new motivation to stay pinned throughout the lap. Michelle’s lap times were very consistent so far and I knew I had to hold up my end of the deal.
My third lap was 30 seconds slower than my second so we were still on track when Michelle headed out for her third lap and our sixth overall.
Meanwhile back at the pit I was drinking more, eating more, and checking in with our pit crew…our two hounds who were quietly kickin’ it in the back of our truck. Everything seemed to be going smoothly and I was mentally charged up to unleash every ounce of pedaling fury I had in me on my last lap…and then Michelle rolled through the timing and said “you might have to do a hot lap”. What?!?! That wasn’t part of our plan. I calmly said “you need to get ready to go again” as I pedaled off but now I was conflicted. Do I go all out or so I save a little in case I really do have to do two in a row?
I quickly decided to stick to my plan and empty the tank since I was 99% sure that Michelle simply had a “low moment” during her third lap and would rally for one more lap and finish off the race. And we were still battling for a top three spot at this point.
My last lap went great, I felt fast, cleaned almost all of the obstacles, and when I rolled into the timing tent Michelle was there ready to rock. Nice! We tagged and I yelled some encouragement as she pedaled away for our 8th and final lap. Catching first place was a long shot but she still needed to have a solid lap to secure 2nd place…and she did. Michelle threw down another very solid lap and increased our lead over 3rd place. Woohoo, lap racin’ is fun!
Michelle faced her inner demons and rallied for a strong 8th and final lap for Team Byers
The social aspect of lap racing is an added bonus. We met some great people including Mark from Wilson, WY who was having a phenomenal solo race until a mechanical ended his day.
Huge thanks should go out to Rich Vincent for putting on another great race and for keeping it fun. In addition to offering great racing at a great value, Rich and the Laramie Enduro are one of the largest private donors to the trail program at Curt Gowdy State Park. As long as Rich is organizing races, I will continue to support them.