January 21, 2007

Rio Bravo Rumble

Well it was Saturday and that only meant one thing this weekend. It was time to Rumble!!!

This was the second annual Rio Bravo Rumble Biathlon and my second time competing in it. It was interesting for me because I had never done the same race twice until this weekend. This year Monique was racing it too. If I had one word to describe it, it would have to be "surprise" because this day was full of them....

The “RUMBLE” starts with a 10K trail run through the rolling hills of the Rio Bravo Ranch followed by a 16 mile mountain bike leg. The trial run, consisting of a single loop, starts out through the orange groves with a gentle climb and soon heads to the hills for some steep trails and fast descents. The mountain bike leg heads deeper into the hills on the first loop, heads back through the transition area and then follows the 10K run loop for the remaining six miles. The SSFTA does a great job of putting on this race! This course also gives the supporting families and spectators a steady flow of racers passing through the transition area the entire race.

(Monique dials in her transition area)

After a check-in, Monique and I did a quick warm-up to check our bikes and get the blood pumping. Although my legs were feeling a bit better I felt my quads pulling every time I started taking longer strides. I just passed it off as me being “cold” and thought that I would stretch a little more before the start. Before I knew it we were at the starting line and I was in for a day of surprises.

The Run

As we started off with the run I had a strange feeling in my quads. Pain! I had never had pain like this in my quads before. It almost felt like there was a bar placed within my quads from my hip to my knee… What was going on? I felt like my quads were going to cramp up and roll off of my legs. I had only taken about 10 steps or less so I slowed my pace and tried not to lengthen my stride. I tried to talk myself out of the pain and just convince myself that I needed to warm up more. I started walking and really trying to feel out if the pain was from s

ore muscles or if I was damaging something. Why now?? I started running again at a slow pace and the pain was manageable as long as I took shorter steps. I though that as long as I can get a little more warmed up it wouldn’t hurt as bad. Then we started to get to some of the first downhill’s. Ahhggg!.. This sucks… I told myself that I was not going to complain and I would not have any excuses. I told myself that even if I was going into the race sore I would not “take it easy” because I knew myself better than that. I have never quit a race before but I felt like I may have been putting my first season of racing or my health at risk and for the first time I started to think about a DNF. Was I doing some permanent damage here? I have my first ultra in less than two weeks and I am already behind on my miles. Was I going to

continue on and put that race off too? I was battling back in forth in my mind about what I should do and then decided I would complete the first loop back to the transition area because I had to head back anyways and then I would re-evaluate. Maybe I could just go back and get the camera and take some pictures of Monique on the course? Maybe I would have to learn the hard way that you don’t do V02 max training sessions for the first time a week before a race.

(runners make their way over the last climb on the run)

As I slowed down I started to pray and refocus my racing strategy. Did I need to push myself so hard that I would cause damage or did I need to push to a new level and just learn to deal with the pain? It is always very important to know the difference in your own body between sore muscle pain and damage causing pain but this was a new one for me. What would I do if my quads were shot and I was at the Western States in the middle of nowhere? How would it feel to be running on tired legs on day three of an expedition length race? My mind would not stop. I could run slower without as much pain but watching people pass me was just as difficult to deal with as the pain in my quads. When did I get so competitive I thought? That thought brought my mind to ease. I was here to have fun. I just wanted to spend the day on the course and enjoy the trails. I wanted to talk about the course with Monique and meet new people. With my mindset changed it was easy to make the decision, when I made my way back around the first loop to continue on and enjoy the day on the course even if I felt I was not going as fast as I could.

As we made our way up the steady climb on the run I started to feel better. My quads did not hurt as much running uphill and I had been training in the hills almost exclusively for the last few months. I started to pass people but I was not focused on anyone else anymore. I found myself in such a focused tunnel that I was pushing just hard enough not to hurt myself but not enough that I couldn’t enjoy it. ;-P By the time we rounded the trail to the last downhill section for the run I started to get a burning in my quads again. At this point however, I knew that I could hold on for the last two miles or so and get to the bike. I also realized that my quads were just really tight and sore but I didn’t think I was causing any damage (or at least I convinced myself by now). As I ran into the transition area I heard them announcing that I was currently in seventh place overall. Although that meant little to me now it was encouraging and I was so happy to get the run over with.

The Bike

Riding out of the transition area on the first bike loop I continued in my “tunnel vision” pace. My quads felt so much better on the bike and it was a nice change from the pounding of the run. I pushed harder up the climbs and although my legs were burning it was a familiar pain and it didn’t feel like I was causing any permanent damage so I continued to push on. I started picking the next rider ahead me and one by one trying to close the gap between us. It felt so much better to be able to push through the pain when I didn’t have the mental war of deciding to stop or worry about causing damage. My focus was on target now and was right where I needed to be. . . I was in a race with myself and the mental decision had been made to push on.

Arriving at the transition from the first bike loop I heard the announcer once again, “Fletcher currently leading in first place overall”. WHAT?! WHAT? I shouted out as I rode through the transition in shock. The people watching were laughing because they must have seen the shock on my face. I was so focused on my leg turnover and pushing myself that I did not realized I was all alone out front. Could this be? I started looking as far as I could up the trail and I didn’t see anyone. I was starting to have a great time and was so focused but now I felt some pressure! I still had the 10K course to cover and I knew there were some serious hills ahead.

I was able to hold onto the lead and crossed the finish line in about 1hr 50min. What a great feeling! I finished in first place overall and dropped about 27 minutes off of my time from last year but I was most proud of the fact that I kept on the course and was able to enjoy the day while “safely” pushing and learning my limits. It was so nice to have the reality check and know that I wanted to be out on the trails on that beautiful day.

(Feeling good. . . Shortly after crossing the finish line)

As soon as I rode across the finish line I saw Monique already cleaning up her gear at the transition area. Did she beat me in? I was so happy to see her and quickly scanned her over for injuries as I rode up to her. She ran her fastest 10K to date (even with the hills!) and after a short distance on the bike, she (in her words) was “relieved” to get a flat tire. She went out fast on the run and we later looked at her heart rate monitor to discover she was pushing over 200 beats per minute on the run! Incredible! She didn’t have spares or wanted one at the time so she headed back as her cool down. I was so glad to see her safe and in good spirits.

We ended our day watching the the kids races and enjoying the stories from the of the racers and families. It is alwasy rewarding to learn something new and be suprised... Good or bad.

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly know how far they can go" T.S. Eliot

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