After a pretty rough winter and spring, I FINALLY feel healthy again. I ended up with bronchitis, the flu, and felt exhausted most of the time this winter and when I had some blood tests done they showed that I had very low iron and almost no white blood cells. After much sleeping, laying on the couch, taking my vitamins and iron, eating red meat and more protein, and not riding that much, I feel a lot better. Who knew that resting could be so helpful??
I wasn't sure I was going to be ready for this year's Cascade Creampuff, but the last few weeks I started feeling back to my normal self and was able to resume my normal training.
Eric and I drove up to Westfir, Oregon on Friday so we had all day Saturday to go for a ride, rest up, hang out, catch up with friends, and get our stuff ready for the race. Most racers and families/friends/supporters were camping on the lawn of Westfir middle school, and we were able to use the showers and bathrooms there. Very luxurious!!
Saturday was really hot and the forecast for Sunday was in the high 90s, so I was worried it was going to be a replay of 2006 when temps hit 104. Saturday night it started raining followed by thunder and lightning, and it was pretty misty and cool when we got up at 4 am. The super friendly volunteers were serving coffee, oatmeal and bagels for breakfast in the school. Scott, the race organizer, was walking around chatting with everyone and seemed very energetic for 4 o'clock in the morning.
The race started a couple of miles away from the school so we rode our bikes to the "starting-line". We took off around 5:30 down a paved road. It felt great to get a little warm-up before hitting the first 8 mile gravel climb. I felt good and my plan was to go out hard so I could get as much hard racing in as possible before it got scorching hot. The course was a figure 8 loop and there were 4 checkpoints that you hit several times.
After the first climb we got on a really fun single-track trail that had some steep climbs but mostly super fun downhill! We did the upper part of the figure eight 2 times, then went all the way back down and finished with one more loop of the bottom part. I have done "the Puff" 3 times before, but this was in my opinion the funnest and hardest course so far. There was so much single track that you could fly down for miles and miles. The trails were in perfect condition!
I felt really good the whole time. I knew I had a pretty big lead on the next woman, but when the support guy on the motorcycle told me I was in 11th place I had to kick it up a gear. I have never finished in the top 10 before so I thought that would be fun. I passed a guy on one of the climbs, now I was in 10th place!! As I descended the 45 minutes or so toward the start/finish/last loop I had a huge smile on my face. I have to say this is probably the best single track riding I have ever done.
At the bottom of the loop, we rode along a river for about 30 minutes before going up the 8 mile gravel climb again. It was probably 2:30 in the afternoon and would have been pretty hot if it wasn't for all the tall trees shading the road. I was surprised at how good I was still feeling. It also helped knowing I got to descend the fun Alpine trail once more. I finished in 10 hrs 55 minutes. It was a really fun race thanks to Scott and all the awesome volunteers. All the check points were loaded with food and cold drinks and the volunteers were really helpful and cheery. After we finished we were served the best race food I have ever had. It was catered by a Thai restaurant that was cooking up gourmet food at the finish line. YUM!!
My bike worked great the whole race. It was nice to be on such a light bike since we climbed 18,000 feet (5500 meters) in the 106 miles (170 km). I felt surprisingly strong throughout the race and was totally happy with my finish!! I am racing at Downieville on July 11th and then we leave for Ironbike, Italy on the 14th. I can't wait!!!