Friday, September 12, 2014

Barn Burner 104!

Barn Burner 104 weekend was a total riot!! It exceeded my expectations on so many levels that I so wish “I could turn back time” (Cher!) and race it all over again! 

If you have been following my blog this past summer you are very aware of my sudden “change of pace” in chasing some longer endurance events.  I suppose you could say at some point this summer amidst a lot of “life” things came into perspective and I realized that there was something seriously missing from my racing.  I missed suffering and feeling anxious not only about competing, but about sustaining, overcoming and persevering.  As much as XC and CX races would hurt like hell…they also seemed to be here and gone in an instant.  Did I even race last weekend?  Some sense of fulfillment seemed to have been lost.
Long story short…the Leadville 100 crept into my mind and it was like a nagging injury I couldn’t seem to shake.  My decision to race Barn Burner 104 was incredibly impulsive and also incredibly exciting!  It became a somewhat secret mission of mine to qualify for Leadville 100 in 2015!!  However…I had never ridden my mountain bike more than 50 miles and seriously it would only take me one hand to count the number of times I’ve ridden any bike more than 100 miles.  YIKES!!! 
Tom and I flew into Phoenix Thursday after work and made it to Flagstaff at just before midnight.  Friday was spent mostly chilling (I’m not a good chiller) and included a trek to C&C Ranch with Tom & Coach Matt for a bit of pre-ride. 
I swear the ranch was located in the middle of nowhere.  It was an open area amidst some small mountains with tons of campers and tents…. made me feel like we were heading to Woodstock, not to a mountain bike race!  We got in a short pre-ride which ended in us getting totally down poured on!! What on earth? I swear I can’t escape the rain for the life of me this summer…my newish shoes smell like a swamp full of dead fish.  I was a sally and took respite in a rather clean outhouse while Tom and Matt packed up the car (thanks boys!!)  This downpour made for a super sketchy trek out of the middle of nowhere back to our hotel and also left the course pretty soft and wet.  At least there wouldn’t be a dust storm!!!
Saturday’s 4:00 AM (Ironman flashback!) wake up was BARUTAL!!  And although we had what seemed like plenty of time to get to the race and get our pit ready…I was still scrambling at the last second to get to my bike at the start line. 
Soon enough the super freaking loud gun went, BOOM!! And just like that I quickly grabbed Matt’s wheel and followed his line which involved him leading us bushwacking around mud puddles and soft thick soil.  I held on to his wheel for a solid 20 seconds and then instantly felt the effects of not warming up (or maybe it was altitude?).  It felt like a 1000 people passed me in the first few miles of the race and I could not grab onto a fast group of dudes to save my life!!  I kept reminding myself that “everything was cool”, since geesh, I still had another 100 miles to get my act together!  I finally got into a rhythm as I was rounding out my first 26 mile lap. One super cool thing about Barn Burner was that each lap you had to dismount your bike and run through a small barn before heading down “Solo Alley” to your pit.  I enjoy small deviations to the norm such as this.  Tom was standing up waving his hands and ready to help me out (what a guy!)  Our pit was pretty quick however since there were a bunch of relay teams it was hard to tell what place I was in.  He guessed 3rd, but I couldn’t remember any women passing me?
Lap 2 was pretty uneventful; I slowed down the pace focused on my nutrition plan and came into the pit a bit slower than I had hoped. Boo!!  However I was stoked to learn that Matt was in 6th place! The start of the 3rd lap was probably my darkest moment of the entire race.  At this point I was closing in on 4 hours of racing and it was really starting to show!  My back was killing me from the rocky terrain and I was feeling hungry, tired and remember taking a mental note that “I am never ever racing a 24 hour race.”   Finally I was able to grab a break on the back of a pretty fast wheel and that seemed to be just the break I needed as all the sudden all systems were a go!!  I started to feel fast again and was really pushing for a faster lap time.  This course had two significant 4 mile climbs that ended with a couple of the gnarliest, rockiest descents that I’ve ever ridden on a mountain bike.  I swear I was in mountain bike heaven, it was rad!!!   However, as fun as mountain bike racing can be, we all know it also poses significant risk. 
As I rounded the corner to a flat section I was suddenly brought to a halt with 50+ bikers ahead of me.   I was very sad to learn that a fellow racer had crashed on the descent and needed to be air lifted to a nearby hospital.   This caused a delay in my race of about 18 minutes and up to 35 minutes for others.  Clearly this was a small concern relative to the one that a fellow racer was facing.  I was amazed at the safe, efficient and fair way that Lifetime and the Barn Burner organization handled this entire situation.  I also felt a sense of calm come over me as I saw the helicopter fly away.  I have been lucky over the past couple of years to avoid a situation such as this happening to me at race.  In the future if it does I sure hope I’m fortunate enough to be at a race with this kind of high class attention to rider safety.  One thing that was hard to miss were the strategically placed volunteers with a radio stationed every mile or so on the 26 mile course.  Thank you Lifetime!
Once the emergency vehicles cleared the course, the race was back on!  It did have somewhat of a neutralizing effect for many people and felt almost like a restart, but again another challenge.  I was also pleased to be able to catch a good draft on the last climb heading into the pit.  When I crossed through the barn this time they announced me as the “RACE LEADER” and everyone cheered as I ran through solo alley!  This brought a huge smile to my face and the jolt of energy from the crowd really helped me rally for my final lap!!   I felt amazing on the 4th lap and I was able to hold on to the lead crossing the finish in 8:03!!! 
104 FREAKING DIRTY MILES!! What a blast!! 
This is my favorite photo of the entire day.
I love how this chica in the pink is like
"Ewe, girls that mountain bike are so gross!"
I was greeted at the finish by Tom and Coach Matt who raced to a 5th place finish and first in his age group!!!  We both qualified for Leadville 2015….MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
Every time I climb to the top step I feel humbled. 
I’ve been working with Matt for nearly 2 years and it’s safe to say that a win like this was 2 years in the making.  Being able to share this success with him was pretty dang special.  Thanks for all your coaching efforts….I am honored to be one of your athletes.

Huge thanks Tom who always assures me that I am capable of achieving so much more than I think I can. Maybe someday I’ll start believing you! J  Tom seemed just as happy as I was to finish in first place.  He worked the pit for both Matt and I for a solid 8 hours.  These races are always team events and I’m so lucky to have his support.

Reading this post I’m sure you can tell where 2015 is heading…however at this moment we are both in a car heading up to Hayward for Cheq Fat Tire Festival and my final race of the season.  Giddy up!


  1. Way to go, April! So awesome! Love that pic of the girl in the pink, too… hahaha! Women who bike are rock stars!

  2. A Huge Congrats!!! Love the muddy photo!!! I so look forward to following your progress, adventures, & training goals for the Leadville 100. Stay Strong