Two weekends, two wins! I’m always a little reluctant to race back to back weekends but I really wanted to race Greenbrier Marathon and 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey – Greenbrier because it didn’t go well last year and Cranky Monkey because the course is awesome. Last year the 9 hr race was the weekend before Greenbrier and apparently 6 days wasn’t enough for me to recover from a 9 hr race. This year, Greenbrier was the Sunday before Cranky Monkey. Perfect.
Greenbrier is a really tough course. It serves as the Cross Country Maryland State Championships and usually draws big fields of racers. It features relatively short laps (5.7 miles) but you spend half of each lap climbing. I’m not a climber. So, I didn’t really have any solid goal in mind for this race other than to do better than I had done last year. As usual, it was a small group of women lined up behind the 40 or so marathon male contenders (including teammate Charles Buki).
Before long we were off, up the first climb of the day. Luckily, it’s short and I was in no rush to charge to the front. I sat behind two women for most of the first lap. When the pace slowed a bit towards the top of the last, rocky climb, I made my move and got out in front, hoping I could put some time in on the long downhill to the start/finish. By the time I was heading out for my second lap, I saw that my competitors were not far behind. I kept a steady pace over the next few laps until around lap 4 or 5, when I started to have major inner thigh/hamstring cramps. As soon as I started the race I realized that I forgot to stuff some Endurolytes in my pocket. I was going to pay for that mistake.
By lap 5 the cramps were enough to force me off the bike a couple of times to try to stretch them out. I expected the other women to blow by me any second. They didn’t though, and the cramps subsided, and I got back on the bike and tried to stand and pedal as much as possible. Spinning only made them return more quickly. The rest of the race was mostly cramp management, which for me meant a lot of slow, standing pedaling. When I headed out for a 6th lap, I was surprised to see that I still had a good lead on the next woman. She was just rounding the corner to finish her lap as I was already getting to the first climb. I was even more surprised (and somewhat disappointed) to see that I would have time for a 7th lap. This time, I didn’t see anyone behind me as I headed into #7 and figured if I could ward off the cramps for one more lap and just keep moving forward, I would likely win. The final lap went smoothly and I came in with a final time of 4:07, about three and a half minutes ahead of the 2nd place female. And then it was time to start thinking about next weekend’s race.
With only a couple of easy spins during the week, I came into Saturday’s Cranky Monkey feeling pretty fresh. As the weekend drew near, the chance of rain and thunderstorms went down from 40% to 30% to 10%. Race morning was beautiful, partly cloudy and fairly cool. I had high hopes for an awesome day of riding. My goal this year was to do 10 laps or at least just make myself ride for the full 9 hours. I didn’t have any other teammates at the race, so I set up a small pit area near the start/finish with just the basics – cooler with bottles, pump, lube and a bit of food. After a Lemans start, we were off. There was a short bit of pavement before we hit the singletrack and I tried to move up as far as possible. In the process, I found another solo woman that as holding a pretty good pace so I mostly followed her until things spread out a bit. I was able to get out in front on a punchy climb that followed a short descent and tried to keep a fairly high pace for the rest of the lap.
The next few laps were great. I was maintaining a good pace, pushing myself on the climbs and riding smoothly on the fast sections. Time in the pit was minimal, just enough to grab a couple bottles and wipe and lube the chain. The trails were in great shape. I felt really good. A bit of rain started to fall on the 4th or 5th lap. It was enough to make things a bit damp under the trees but it also felt refreshing. The rain came and went and although it had created little streams on the trails, once the rain stopped the trails seemed to soak up the moisture quickly. Unfortunately, by lap 6 or 7 the rain came back and stayed, turning what is normally fast, fun, flowy singletrack into greasy, slippery nastiness. This is where things really started to slow down. The rocky sections were still manageable but the last third of the trail was in really bad shape. The dirt was like clay, and it accumulated quickly on my tires. Loss of traction made normally easy trail very difficult to ride and where the trail became off-camber and a bit rooty, it was easier for me to just get off and run. The conditions made Lap 8 pretty miserable, especially knowing I would have plenty of time to do a 9th lap. I was still feeling pretty good and shocked that despite some hard efforts up the climbs, I never had any cramps. The sticky mud had zapped a lot of my energy though, and my focus was starting to wane from having to really concentrate to ride well on the slick terrain.
Lap 9 was more of the same, until halfway through the lap when I felt my front rim hitting the rocks. My tire wasn’t flat but it had lost a lot of air. I weighed my options. I could continue to ride, gingerly, and hope that I could finish the lap. That didn’t seem smart considering the rocky downhill that was still ahead. Or I could just stop and put air in and see what happened. After fighting with my seatbag that had been almost sealed shut with all of the mud, I finally got out my air can. Except that I could not get my inflator to work. Several people passed. No one had a pump. Finally a really nice guy offered me his seat bag that he said would have everything I needed. The zipper on his bag was super hard to open as well but I finally opened it just enough to pull out some type of air cartridge tool. After figuring out how to use it, I finally put some air in my tire and went on my way. That probably set me back about 10 minutes, which didn’t bother me because I figured it would result in me getting back too late to do a 10th lap.
Turns out that it didn’t, and I came in from lap 9 at 7:56, just enough time to go out for a 10th lap. I looked to see where I was in the standings and due to a mistake with the timing folks, thought that another woman had just headed out on her 10th and that she was 6 minutes ahead of me. Given the horrible conditions and a potential issue with my tire, I decided not to head out for lap 10 to see if I could catch her. Second place would have to do and I was really pleased with my day anyway. Turns out the woman I thought had won was heading out on her 9th lap, not her 10th. She would go on to take second place and I ended up with the win, coming in almost 50 minutes ahead of 2nd place. Despite the weather and the muddy mess I had to clean up, it was a great day to be on the bike. I can’t say enough about how fun the course is and the EX2 guys put on a really well-run race.
Podium photo to come.
-Editors Note: Pam has won every race she’s entered in 2012 (3). In June she will compete at the Kenda Cup Massanuttan Hoo Ha where last year she won the short track and placed well in both the Super D and XC races. Then she heads back to her Vancouver roots to compete in the BC Stage Race, we are looking forward to see how well she does!