Fall 2010 Forward to a Friend

Mountain Bike Race - Love Every Mile

LOVE EVERY MILE. LOVE EVERY MOMENT – THAT INTRODUCTION TO THE SUBARU 2011 LINEUP MAKES A PERFECT INTRODUCTION TO MY STORY. IT’S ONE OF A 50-SOMETHING-YEAR-OLD MOM ABOUT TO EMBARK ON THE RACE OF HER DREAMS.

My journey started with a conversation with a co-worker. I had completed my first mountain bike race of the season in the Mid-Atlantic Super Series (M.A.S.S.) and thought it’d be cool to write about racing as an “average Joe.”

Two months later I am headed to Wautoma, Wisconsin.

PLANNING

Most of the planning was done right in my cubicle in CDS. If I were to do this right, I not only had to train properly, but pay close attention to all the details that made for a successful trip.

The excitement I felt with planning every detail of the journey was as invigorating as a bike ride itself. From booking the airline ticket to connecting with my peers in securing a bike at the venue, it all felt like a sweet ride. The experts and promotional tech with Trek and Subaru Trek team have my deepest thanks for the use of one gorgeous EX 9.9 carbon-fiber ride. All that was left to do was train like mad and stay well.

PREPARATION

I train every day. It’s as simple as that. I don’t have a coach. I alternate between running, biking, and swimming. I log my miles, fill my own water, and fix my flats.

At times the tedious ritual plagues me. Then I clear out the old and come up with a new vision. I create a new ride, a new distance. When I aspire to higher mileage, I know I have pushed myself.

Considering the factors of distance, altitude, climate, and terrain, I was moderately confident I could finish the Subaru Cup in Wisconsin. I had completed three M.A.S.S. races and had just finished the 100-mile Subaru Elephant Rock ride through the Rockies. Still, I harbored a respect for the unknown.

OFF TO WAUTOMA

Ready or not, it was time to leave the familiarity of New Jersey. My flight from Philadelphia to Milwaukee was the first leg, followed by a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Wautoma. From Wautoma, it was a scenic seven-mile back road drive to Mount Morris.

Pulling in to the race site, I felt energized. Exposed trails remind me of my race and my stomach flutters. I would ride the same trails as the pros. Maybe I should watch and cheer instead. No, I could not go home without doing this race. This is an opportunity of a lifetime; you are not going to miss this. I push away the butterflies.

Colorful camping tents lined the dirt road up to the main race area. The mountain, which doubles as a ski resort in the winter, was bustling with promotional vendors, Subaru cars, and the ever-important refreshment tents. Mountain bikers of all sizes, men, women, and even their children, dodging here and there, were testing the trailheads at different entry points.

I made my way to the Subaru Trek team trailer in the pro racer area. Wow, this is serious; how cool is this? Every pro rider’s name is listed boldly on the trailer.

My jaw dropped even further at the site of at least a dozen gleaming specimens of cycling perfection. I am in heaven; pinch me! I don’t know how long I stared at those beautiful bikes, but somewhere in that time warp, a friendly hand was extended to me along with an equally engaging smile that belonged to the team’s manager, Jon Rourke. Introductions were made to the team mechanics, Matt and Shep. I knew their expertise and devotion were responsible for the pristine mountain bikes in front of me. I launched into a myriad of questions ranging from bike parts to bike paths. Clearly cyclists themselves, they were both engaging and professional.

There was still daylight to walk the course. I needed to inspect it.

I managed to walk roughly one whole loop, about five miles. Satisfied with the inspection, I would return in the morning at the start of the pro race. Sunday would be the amateur race.

RACE DAY

I didn’t sleep well the night before. Thunderstorms rolled in to Wautoma, and, after hours of looking at the clock, I got up. I know what rain can do and was anxious to see for myself.

I noticed loose dirt had turned into paste. During my previous walk, I examined stones and root placement. Now everything had changed.

Ken with Trek had my loaner bike. I knew I was early; I hoped he was, too. I was in luck. My EX 9.9 carbon beauty was waiting.

It started to drizzle. Pros termed the course “greasy,” something I hadn’t encountered. I was used to sinking mud.

During the next 30 minutes, I attempted to feel comfortable with protruding roots, even off camber. I checked drop-off levels, because you never know when somebody may go down in front. In spite of preparation, things still can go wrong; the possibility of crashing is always present.

THE RACE

We were grouped for a mass start. For 30 seconds, we were united. This is commonality in its purest form.

There are two races: the physical race and the mental race – where your head keeps tabs on your body.

Once I was out of the chaos, the panic subsided and I began to focus and believe this was my race to ride.

After the first shock of adrenaline moves into my fingertips, a quick assessment is made. How do I feel? Remember to drink and drink some more. Breathe. Settle down. Get going up this grassy climb! C’mon Lee, there are rocks coming; attack those rocks! Okay, here comes the ledge. Wow, that IS steep. Okay, you can hike it here for a second, now get back onto your bike! Settle in for an easy rolling stretch. Make up some time here and shift.

I am able to glimpse how sweet the trails are with the leaves and sun combining on a strobe-like effect. The first descent and the tingle of the “fear factor” kicks in. Do the straight shot down the middle. Keep your speed up. Do not hit the brakes! Phew! Clean and done. I know how to do it for the second lap.

The mud splashes up my legs. I don’t mind, and at least I am sweating. Keep hydrated. For a few seconds, I joke with myself and wish I were 20 years younger so I could see the trail better. Maybe it’s better that I can’t!

It’s time for an energy shot. I pop a chewy block of black cherry power in my mouth. My mind gives my body a rest. I am tired but feel great. I switch to the big chain ring and force my legs to gain time on the easier stuff before I begin the second lap.

More thoughts come. Am I strong enough to do another lap? You are going to have to dig and dig some more to get up those grassy hills again with all its mud sucking … wait … I feel somebody behind me.

“Hey, how ya doin’?” she asks. “Ha! Great. Thanks. Good job,” I reply. I can do this … I know I can. I can’t go back and tell the pros that I didn’t finish. No way! It spurs me on to do another lap.

I finished in one hour and one minute. I marveled in appreciation at the thrill, the chance to ride a super bike, and having completed the race.

POST-RACE

After the race, I grabbed a few moments of repose. I sketched pine trees flanking Route 21. I later finished the watercolor and keep it on my desk as a reminder. I think of my family’s question upon my return: “What was your favorite part of the trip?” From start to finish, it was one sweet ride.

Lisa Pierson is a Customer/Dealer Services (CDS) representative for Subaru of America, Inc.