Race Report: Vicious Series #3 Leavenworth

I know, I skipped a race report... let me give a quick summary: I did Tour de Bloom, my team and I did well (won the prime in the crit!), it was lots of fun... after, my legs mutinied, my body followed suit, I was sick and out of commission for two weeks going through what we could call throwing sleep and work into a blender, and then I decided to follow through and do the Leavenworth Gran Fondo. I mean, I had already paid for it... what could go wrong?

Pre Race warm up
Innocent Heroines Jamie and Lo had a few guest stars this time. Firstly, team mates Marsa and Jadine (!) made an appearance. I'm going to go with the statistically unlikely probability that either of them read my blog and say that Jadine and Marsa are both truly excellent bike racers and much out of my league. They're so out of my league I saw them each twice - ahead of me at the starting line and leaving the post-race party when I was arriving. The other guest star was Ann Arbor legend Harvey Elliott who deigned to try a Washington Gran Fondo to see what all the excitement was about.

After a legendary breakfast and a pre-race prep day of whitewater rafting + hiking (note: I was still sick and both of these about pre-killed me for the race), Harvey (AA-Legend) and I met up with Jamie. When I say "met up", I mean Jamie came over while Harvey and I are desperately trying to inflate tires and fill water bottles and went "hey guys, you know the race starts in like 5 minutes, right?". But hey, we made it, and I glimpsed Marsa and Jadine, so it was all good!

From nearby ... but the course was even more beautiful
The first 'big climb' (~3500 feet of forest roads dirt/gravel) came 4 miles into the course. Yes, I felt like death squared and yes, this time I had this 'thing' (re: AA-Legend) next to me cheering me on going "I think I see one of your team mates ahead (Marsa) - want to try to catch her?" (me: No. Not at all, guy next to us chortles). This climb... was not for the weak. It went on in such a way that I lost track of time. Were were in a space-time continuum? Were we even still going up or was I hallucinating? The only way to tell the difference was (A) the beautiful scenery crawling by and (B) the occasional grade switches between 5% and 15% (my heart, be still).

My personal cheerleader/demon didn't fully comprehend my personal struggle - he kept wanting to sprint ahead and catch people or pull me up the hill (you can't do that). About 10 miles in, I desperately tried to get rid of him (please for the love of all that is good, leave me Harvey) but no, he was having too much fun. Jamie would occasionally cruise by us, looking as happy as a clam (everything good? OK lalala Jamie keeps biking).

Then the descent happened... snow + straight up mountain biking-esque features for another 15-20 miles down. I lost track of time and space again as the blisters formed on my hands from desperately trying to control my bike (please Ibie, calm down, we're in this together!). I was mostly alone (Harvey decided it was OK to descend as fast as he could and wait for me at the bottom) wondering how in the world I was ever going to finish this course. Harvey and I regrouped at the bottom and 'psuedo' worked together on some pavement to get to the aid station (re: I kept dropping Harvey off the front because there was not way I could sustain the 22+ mph pace he wanted to go). Yes, I felt as bad for myself at the time as I do writing this up now.

At the middle aid station, we caught up with Jamie again (she took a bathroom break!) and actually left before her. 10 miles of highway passed and led us to our next climb (f#$*#@# bull$#*&). I believe this is actually what hell looks like: an exposed canyon in full sunlight with almost no cover or break from this relentless heat (> 100F said my Wahoo Bolt) that came out of nowhere. Add in another 3000 foot climb and 4x4 trails (re: rocky and sandy, impossible for road bikes, difficult on cross, a death wish for a Lo at the end of her rope). I actually wanted to die as I worked my way up this madness half biking, half hiking with a bike.

Spoiler - us at the finish. I did survive!
About 3 miles into this nonsense, Harvey was far ahead, and I was walking my bike when I was swarmed by yellow jackets. I can't make this shit up - 4 yellow jackets started following me. I literally threw my bike down (sorry Ibie!) and ran up and down the trail trying to get rid of them. Eventually I got away from them long enough (this took several minutes of concerted effort) to grab my bike, cross-style hop on it, and pedal for all I had away (so like 3 minutes of pedaling). I escaped!

The rest is a tortured memory of sand, mud, rocks, heat, running low on water, running low on morale, Harvey waiting for me under trees and at oases acting like this was the easiest race of his life (Yes, you would have wanted to punch him too). I finally convinced him to leave me - that having him wait for me was like having your big brother taunt you as you're struggling to learn calculus or something else very hard. Jamie handily passed me with nearly full water bottles and as chipper as can be at one point ("Hi Lo! Bye Lo!") while I was walking my bike, head bowed in shame.

Eventually the madness ended, and the three of us reconvened at the final aid station at mile 60 at the top of the last climb. Jamie at this point had a flat ("don't worry guys, I'm fine" -- she went on to have FOUR flats and still finished, pumping air into her tires every 10 minutes on the way down). We had some truly breath taking views (wasn't hard to do after those climbs) and then the most gorgeous, long, perfect descent down the mountain side in a shaded forest. I really want to say the descent was worth it, but... it wasn't. Ha.

In the final miles of pavement, Harvey had gone on without me (Thank goodness), and I made some delightful friends who worked together for a bit in the final 10 miles. They eventually dropped me (I wish I could have stayed...) and I struggled the last 2-3 with a guy ahead of me in striking distance. In the final sprint, he started slowing down and took his hands off the bars so... naturally I totally gunned it from 300 m back (at about ~500 m) and beat him by maybe a foot. YES.

Completion patch magnets - as a reminder that
 the horror really is, in fact, over
Overall I finished 133rd/200 on 7500 feet of climbing and 81 miles of agony. Only 167/200 finished the race (holy smokes). Jamie finished a few places behind me (although realistically, that should have been several ahead of me... 10 places for every flat). Harvey's finish is irrelevant because he didn't try ("man that was great, but I don't even feel tired").  Jamie refers to this ride as "the best ride of my life" -- I'm not sure if I'd ever refer to any ride let alone Leavenworth GF as "best ride" with FOUR flats. GAH. (Also, Jadine had 2 - the flats were a serious problem).

Would I do this again? I don't know, my body kind of wants to seppuku itself right now. Was it great having Ann Arbor wonder boy and rockstar Jamie there? Of course :) I would have preferred Harvey racing with the front guys instead of dragging me along the course against my will, but hey, you take what you can get. I will say this - I have never been so relieved to get a Vicious Series GF patch. Now to not ride my bike for a while...

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