Race Report: Gorge Roubaix and Gorge Big Grinder

While we were still happy... !
In typical Jamie-Lo fashion, we signed up to do back-to-back races this weekend down in Dalles, OR. Saturday was a Cat 4 35 mile road race for Lo (sneaky sneaky, she's only Cat 5!) and Cat 1/2/3 48 but actually 53 mile road race for Jamie. After a ferociously early start, sunny skies in Oregon, and not enough warm up time (dying trolls need a solid hour), we were off on our respective races in our *new* team Thrive kits.

That's supposed to be straight... 
The kicker about this race was that is was 2500 ft of climbing in 35 miles (brutal for a road race). The good news is that it was a pretty gentle grade for most of it (6% or so). So I just kind of cruise along at first, my climbing advantage tampered by my dying troll disadvantage, till the top of the first hill. At this point, I sensed weakness in the pack, which had loosely been hanging together, and I launched an attack to get a break away group going. At first it was great, and by at first I mean, as long as Lo was pulling, it was all dandy but as soon as someone else was supposed to take over pacelining the breakaway group, suddenly no one wanted to work. Thus began the most uncooperative race I've done yet.

This race was awesome in that you're always on some kind of struggle bus. After climbing 650 feet, suddenly you're on a windy plateau, then you have some rollers, then it's a gravel climb... at the gravel climb, finally attrition wore in (roadies hate that dur dirt!) and our pack reduced to 3. Oh, but then randomly a girl not on any of our teams chased us, did a couple of hero pulls, and then fell of again (...?)

The real game was decided when we came out of the final gravel climb and began the descent. But first, we had to cross a plateau that was the most awful, terrible, no good, VERY BAD wind I have ever ridden in. Picture like biking in Twister the movie. A gust came right as we entered and the little girl ahead of me screamed as she blew (literally) 6 feet across the road. I blew a few feet because I was in my drops, but above shows you what happened to my handlebars 10 miles from the finish...

Jamie and her broken derailleur 
The girl in front got a breakaway at this point because the girl ahead of me was now terrified (you can't really blame her). My goal is just to finish at this point... Ibie wasn't looking so hot from the top-down perspective. Jamie, in her own race about this time, was blown into a fence post by a similar gust (note to self, don't be small, tiny girl. Be large Italian super model when biking in winds). Did I mention it was a barbed wire fence? Oh, and Jamie's derailleur (how you shift) broke too. I've never seen bikes so beat up from wind before...

We began a very scary, very steep, very windy descent (please oh please oh please, I just want to live and take a shower later). 4 miles out I tried to get small girl to work with me to catch the girl in front, but no, heaven forbid that she take a pull before the finish. It's OK, when 400 m came, she pulled in front of me, and when 200 m came, I pulled to the left and outsprinted her, finishing not too far behind the first place woman. Oh, and I survived, and Jamie did too!!!
Moving up on the podium! 
Best part of the finish - I get off my bike and third place finisher gets off hers. She turns to me and goes
Her: "WOW I never thought you were going to be a climber"
me: "What do you mean?"
Her: "Well good climbers aren't normally ... [looks me up and down] big like you"
Me: "it's all about the femurs, girl"

Yes, ladies and gentleman, I got called fat by a girl I beat in a sprint. No, she didn't mean that I was tall. She was actually calling me fat in biker speak.

  So Jamie and I lived to bike another day... which happened to be Sunday (the next day). We hopped back on our repaired/other bikes ready to tackle a 96 mile gravel grinder with Jamie's husband Mark. It started out with a typical Jamie sprint to the lead group (buh bye Lo!) while Mark and I poked along a bit. Lo eventually pacelined her way up to Jamie (I'm back! 10 miles in... appropriate warm up).

 Jamie and I worked together a bit and then... Christmas came early!! Two guys were pacelining their friend along, taking what Mark called "hero pulls". What's a hero pull? It means that the two of them were cooking at 25 mph and alternating the lead position, so whoever could keep up was (A) A-OK to draft and (B) not expected to be in the front. OMFG BEST DAY EVER ! (actually not, stay tuned).

We hopped on for as long as we could, Jamie (wisely) pulling off sooner. I know Christmas when I see it, so I hung on for dear life. Until... we hit gravel... (dun dun dun). We started the gravel climb, which was about 8 miles of uphill dirt roads. I was hanging pretty well until mile 24 or so, and they dropped me (bye bye Lo - you're a cool girl but we're faster than you!). The next 4 miles were slow, but steady. I was feeling like I could take on the whole 96 and not have to turn off early.

The smiles look a little more weary at the start of day 2
Then... something snapped. Very quickly too. I crested the plateau (2800 ft!) and marveled at the beautiful farmscape around and CLEAR view of Mt. Hood on a sunny day (?!?!?!). It was nothing short of stunning.

But windy. Oh, very windy. For miles. By mile 28, I was hypothermic - my teeth were chattering and it was hard to pedal. I forced myself on, getting colder and colder and starting to have full body convulsions on the bike as the wind blew. People passed me as I had slowed to a crawl, inching my way along, trying to find the next support station, praying for heaters there.

By mile 35 at the support station, I was in a sad state - it had taken me about 45 minutes to go 7 miles, I was crying, I was having trouble moving my hands and legs, and I was uncontrollably shaking. I had never felt so cold in my life. I got off my bike in shock and walked over the people giving the riders sandwiches, who had no idea what was going on because everyone else was fineee. They asked if I was OK and I couldn't speak... so they had me sit in a warm car while they called for support and took me out of the race (my wish after waiting there another 45 minutes and unable to stop shaking or crying even as I was getting warm). One of the most comforting things to me during this period was when Jamie rolled into support (and Mark too) and came over to make sure I was OK and to make sure that I was going to get what I needed in that moment - whether it was food, a hug, water, or making sure someone was coming to get me.

At least it was beautiful!!
The PA told me that I probably ran out of electrolytes (hint: I had salt all over my face and kit) and when you run out of electrolytes, you can't keep your body warm. (Shoot, I should have brought more shot blocks with extra sodium in my shorts!!) Jamie and Mark, like champs, finished, cutting short to the 60 miler (still far more impressive than my 35 mile sobfest DNF). Jamie had a scenario where a horse was in the road and wanted to play 'chase the cyclists' - let's be glad this story does not end with TWO DNFs...

Jamie and Mark killed the rest of the grinder, pacelining the rest of the way and largely working together. They both, like awesome team mates, checked on me at the support station and gave me a lot of love. I think we all felt great that it was over when it was over... what a weekend :) Type 2.9 fun, right Jamie?

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