My current employment allowed me the ability to head to Arizona for the week following the SPY Belgian Waffle Ride. I stayed at my brother’s place in Tucson (explained here) and enjoyed the riding around the area for a few days while getting some work done in a new environment. Friday I headed north of Phoneix and stayed in Anthem, AZ the night before the Chino Grinder.
|Tucson Mountain Trails|
|Saving this snake from getting run over in Anthem, AZ|
More Dirt than Asphalt:
There is a claim to be approximately a 60/40 split between gravel and paved roads. Yippee!
The first 20 miles were all gravel, hectic and awesome. It was about a 10-mile gradual ascent followed by a 10-mile gradual descent. The pace was much faster than I anticipated but it was probably due to the fact that the safest place to be was up front, therefore everyone at the front kept pushing forward ahead.
After the first aid station, it was a steady, continuous climb for what felt like forever! Everyone strung out after the aid station and I found myself behind the wheels of Scott and Josh. These two became best buds as we made our grueling way up the never-ending climb. Mile 29.2 was the transition from dirt to pavement. We came up behind Caroline Mani shortly after the pavement and my two new friends urged me along to get ahead of her. We managed to push the pace for just enough time to pass and there I was on the front of the women’s race.
Don Kellogg was hanging out passing water bottles to riders somewhere around mile 35-ish. I had lost a full bottle with calories during a bumpy gravel section around mile 12 earlier in the race, so I was so thankful for this bottle hand-up from the Raleigh Clement team. They ended up offering neutral support to everyone at the race! At mile 44-ish there began a series of hellish rollers up and down til mile 51-ish where we turned onto the dirt climb to the Elk Ridge Ski Area. Scott and Josh were with me the whole way and we made a good team. That dirt section felt too long, especially with the smell of bacon getting stronger with each pedal stroke and while guys began to come down the other direction.
Once I was finally at the top everyone kept reminding me I was indeed the first female they had seen. One particular guy, who I later learned was named Jared from Flagstaff, pointed at me and yelled, “BACON?!” I replied, “no… Coke!” A very nice volunteer got me a Coke (which I proceeded to drink too quickly) and I refilled my bottles. Jared continued to remind me that I needed a piece of Bacon, so I caved and grabbed the most beautiful slice of bacon as I jumped back on my bike and shoved a banana in my back pocket. Nervous about maintaining my lead, I left Scott and Josh at the aid station and moved on ahead of them, but still very thankful for their company.
|Because I can't say no to bacon mid-race.|
Aside from helping me with the reminder of needing a piece of the Elixer of Life (aka bacon), this guy Jared helped me down the mountain. I happened to roll down the gravel to start the second half near Jared and another guy named Josh (not Josh from the first half). As we hit the pavement they started asking me if I was the lead woman, to which I responded yes! Jared said, “well let’s get you home then!” Like I mentioned in my BWR post, thank goodness for these guys. True gentlemen and great athletes.
The 14 miles of pavement that we had climbed on the way up was now the most ridiculously fast and fun descent. It was one of those long descents where you have enough time to think and be amazed you even climbed up it. And I also had the wheels and wind-shielding drafts of Josh and Jared in front of me on the way down.
As we hit the dirt when the pavement ended I knew something was wrong. My rear tire was LOW. Like squishy-feels-like-a-tubular low. I proceeded to gingerly get my bike through the next NINE miles of gravel without flatting somehow. Luckily I made it to the aid station carefully enough and yelled “Pump!” A volunteer grabbed his pump and laughed when he started to inflate, telling me it had barely any psi. I probably burped it or there was a crazy slow leak at some point. Regardless, I was happy I didn’t lose too much time going slow on the gravel descent.
Somewhere towards the last home stretch of gravel, it started to rain. Yes, rain. Every so slightly and the drizzle was welcome. There was a gentle breeze that sometimes shifted to a tailwind carrying me straight to the finish line with a giant smile on my face.
Daily CX Bike w/ 35c USH Clement Tires
Perfect for this race.
After reading Nicole’s post on her 2014 Chino Grinder woes I was hoping my tubeless set-up with Clements and a giant saddlebag filled with every just-in-case safety measure would be good enough.
Finally, big huge thank-you to SPY Optics AGAIN! SPY took care of my registration for this event as the Chino Grinder is presented by SPY. Can you name another company like SPY who’s promoting the adventurous lifestyle through dirt and gravel? I’m thankful that they’re at the forefront of this and as always am proud to see happy with them.
|Thanks Osmo, for your Preload magic!|