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Where Is The Downhill? My Experience at the Camp Eagle Holidaze Marathon Race by Margie Nolen

February 16, 2010

Bicycle  Sport Shop’s Women’s Mountain Bike Team Member Margie Nolen shares her experience:

With all rain we had last week, I decided to skip racing the Holidaze Camp Eagle Marathon.  Then Friday morning, my friend Michele said that TMBRA posts showed that they only had 1/4″ of rain and the trails were drying out.  So after much debate, I figured I’d ‘go for it’ and sign up for the “Half Marathon” distance.

Now, I don’t know how those guys at Camp Eagle do their math, but 2 laps = half-marathon distance, and 3 laps equalled a FULL marathon… so as far as I’m concerned, I was doing the 2/3 Marathon.

I’ve “raced” a few half marathons and I raced the full marathon at Rocky Hill.  Now, I don’t actually race… I just show up at the start line, pace myself to make sure I finish.  So my goal was to do the “2/3 Marathon” and see if I could do the Full Marathon next year.  I’ve been to Camp Eagle several times, so I knew the course fairly well… or so I thought.

The morning start was a little chilly and sadly, it was a very light turn out, the race had just a tad over 50 racers.  I think Miles of Dis-Comfort and the Dirty Dozen mud fests scared people off.  My friend, Michele, and I were the only women racing the 2/3 Marathon.  She was hoping to pace herself and finish, she had never raced in this long of a race before.  Because of the light turnout, we had a mass start with all of the racers, and off we went… I jockeyed for my usual position heading toward the first major hill climb for the start of the South Loop… which was well… dead last.

Some of the technical sections were still a tad slick from the morning dew.  So I poke, poke along at my non-blazing speed and I start to catch up with some guy that is struggling through the technical… I can hear him screaming “This is CRAZY!”  So naturally, I sense the opportunity to pass!  At the top of a rocky climb he didn’t make, I holler “Rider Back”, grin ear-to-ear, and pass him…  I love passing guys.
I’m riding along and there is no sign of Michele, I know she is faster than me and I hoped she would race smart and not blow herself up and tank at the end.  Unfortunately… I would see her on the trail later…

I get through the South Loop and start heading towards the North Loop.  All is going well…then,  I get to the ‘Texas’ trail… now I’ve ridden Texas before, and I rode it well when it was crazy slick during the cross-country race last year.  It was still a little slick this time, but nothing crazy, so I thought I would be fine… walk what I have to walk and work my way through the technical sections.  Then I fell apart… I completely lost my mojo… I struggled and struggled and struggled… just couldn’t get my mojo going… sliding, slipping, walking… the more I struggled, the slower I went, the slower I went, the more I struggled and the more I walked.

After what seemed like forever, I finally see the downhill that is the end of Texas… “YES!”, I thought to myself, mostly downhill on Boot, some extra jeep road I’ve never done, and then I’ll have finished 1 lap… piece of cake I’m thinking… I’ll recover on the downhill and get my mojo going again.
Then, I get to Wagon, they re-routed it for the Marathon and you climb… and you climb, so I’m pacing my way up the climbs, I’m still good I’m thinking, got my heartrate down, all is good… Then we make a hairpin turn to the right on a caliche dirt road… there’s a hillacious hill we have to climb… now the legs say they are tired.  I ride up about 1/3 of the way, I walk another 1/3, and ride the last 1/3, I thought that would be the end of the climb, and I ride, and there’s another hill climb, and I ride, and there’s another hill climb.  With all this climbing, I’m thinking, “Where the heck is the downhill?”

Now, I’m thinking, I really want my Mommy… I don’t want to do another lap, much as finish this one.  I get to the windmill and FINALLY we get to start downhill.  YES!  I start flying downhill.  Well, I’m not a downhiller, so when I say, “flying”, it’s by my standards, which means I have to “white-knuckle” my way down and I start to pray.  Then, the jeep road turns a corner and there’s ANOTHER climb.  WHAT???  When does this jeep road end?  Since I was still in the big ring, I have to walk my bike up.  Some more rolling hill jeep road riding, a touch of rolling single track, more jeep road and FINALLY, I see the new bridge we’re supposed to cross that takes us to the finish line.  But the damage was done, that “little extra jeep road” took it’s toll, my upper body was worn out and aching from pushing my bike up the steep climbs and hanging on for dear life on the downhills that most women racers fly down.
One lap done, one to go…

I re-fuel at the pit area and I’m back on the trail.  For the second lap, the trail was super sweet!  Nice and packed and no longer slick.  Only a couple of miles into the 2nd lap on the South Loop, I see Michele, she had a flat, so I stop and wait for her.  We both agreed we were tired, but we should be able to grit it out and finish.  She was just finishing up changing it and she was worried that she didn’t have another tube, I told her to stop at the pit area and grab another tube when we go through the pit area before we start the North Loop.  She takes off and I see her at the pit area, so I stop and re-lube my chain, while I wait for her.

Off we go again, and we get only a mile into the North Loop and she gets another flat.  She only grabbed one tube, so she was really hoping that she wouldn’t get another flat.  I told her, I had one in my bag still, so we’ll just cross our fingers and hope for the best.  I knew she would be in front of me, so she could just stop and wait till I caught up to give it to her.  We just both wanted to finish.
We take off and start heading up the climb on Boote, we stay together and she takes off on Texas.  This time I had my mojo for Texas and I knew what to expect for that “little extra jeep road”.  I get to the finish line and see that Michele finished safely.

My upper body ached for the 2nd lap, but the legs could keep turning.  I had completely underestimated what a Marathon would do to my little wimpy upper body with a technical trail like Camp Eagle, combined with all of the pushing my bike uphill that I had to do.  I survived and finished… now I have to debate for a year if I want to punish myself completely and go for the whole smash… 3 laps.<

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