My favorite race series of the year! The folks at AXS Racing do a standup job of organizing these races, and I always look forward to them. I missed racing this series in all of 2015, (due to a little race called the Red Bull X-Alps), so it was doubly fun to come back and race this year. Plus, I'm now a little bit more familiar with Moab mountain biking trails, and I actually have a full suspension mountain bike!
I did my best to guess the trails that this race would cover (there are only so many options when the Colorado river is involved). But everything I thought turned out to be incorrect, which was both surprising and pleasing. I like a challenge and AXS always provides.
They also seem to provide huge climbs on the bike, usually soon after the start! This year was no exception, we started the race at Gold Bar campground outside Moab, and climbed up through Long Canyon to start the race. Long Canyon is a very steep but smooth jeep road, climbing up 2000 feet above the river before leveling out on the high plateau near Dead Horse Point State Park.
I've never been a strong hill climber, so I was happy just to maintain my place among the streams of racers heading uphill. With only one sprocket on the front of my bike, I didn't have a true "granny" gear, but I was able to keep riding along with everyone else most of the way. Almost everyone stopped and pushed their bikes up in two places where the grade got insanely steep. Except for one guy who just motored on through...no idea how.
After climbing for about an hour I arrived on the plateau. Several women around me seemed to be in my category, and I pushed hard to leave them behind on the pavement section. With a tailwind, it was a quick descent to Gemeni Bridges road. A mountain bike trail called Getaway parallels the road, and our first checkpoint was on the trail. However it was faster to bomb down the jeep road for a few miles first, before diverting to the checkpoint. Unfortunately, I missed the correct trail junction and ended up going too far. Along with a few others, I had to ride the trail backwards a little to punch my passport. One of the women with me said she thought we might have actually been faster to do it this way...and when I re-rode the trail a couple of days later, I realized that she was right...our mistake had bumped us up a few places!
I continued on the trail past another checkpoint, meeting a few lost men in the race who had completely missed the first checkpoint and were riding backwards for miles to go back and get it. Then it was time to ditch the bike for a while and switch to ropes. The rappel was near the Gemini Bridges viewpoint, and looked over some amazing slickrock, arches, and a cool canyon. The rappel was about 300 feet of decent, and they had set up 5 or 6 ropes, so all of the racers could get through this quickly. It took a while to descent, as the rope was really heavy to lift up and through my belay device. Then near the bottom my gloves started getting hot! I stopped in the middle to look around and enjoy the moment.
At the bottom, I quickly stowed my harness and started the trail ascent back up to my bike. Unfortunately my legs felt like jello and I found it difficult to run. A solo woman passed me like I was standing still, and left me in 3rd place for the moment. The trail was sandy, bumpy, mostly uphill, and I didn't have very much fun. I could never get my legs to work right after such a hard effort climbing on the bike, and I walked most of this 4 or 5 miles. I was really happy to get my wheels back again!
Starting the second leg of the bike on top of a hill is always nice. I knew there was another small hill but it turned out to be minor, so now I had a fast 2000 foot descent down to the river near Moab. I also had a headwind but for the most part this was a fast section.
|Kayaking with rain over the La Sal mountains|
The final leg of the 50 mile race was the Colorado River. I left almost everything with my bike, and slid into the kayak with just some water and snacks. I knew it would be about 8 miles and 2 hours of padding to the finish line. With no women in sight ahead or behind me, there wasn't much I could do to affect my place. And I hadn't paddled in a kayak for about a year and a half! So I paddled as hard as I could and tried not to let anyone pass me. The river was flowing pretty well for flat water, but the headwind coming up the river made forward progress a struggle at times.
It was a relief to turn a corner, see the finish line, and have the wind behind me for the last section. A nice kid helped me carry my kayak up the ramp, and I crossed the finish line with tired arms that felt like limp spaghetti.
My final time was 6 hours 58 minutes over about 50 miles. This put me solidly in 3rd place in Solo Women, and 24th place out of 96 total teams. Ironically, I have finished 3rd in the women's category 3 times in a row in this race...perhaps next year I might win... if I do a bit more kayaking practice!
Check out more info and photos on Facebook, listed under Gravity Play Sports.
|Rappel ropes faintly visible, what a beautiful place to go down a cliff!|