I am still processing what I put my body and mind through on Sunday. I went through many emotions, but surprisingly most of them were on the happy side. The Belgian Waffle Ride is the BEST event I have ever done. From the recon rides to the race itself to the after party, every aspect is meticulously planned to give the rider the best experience. I am in awe with how awesome the crew for BWR is. Some say this is the most difficult one day event in North America. Regardless of difficulty, it is certainly one of the most fun!
I absolutely suffered out there but my headspace was in a place where I was just stoked to be out there! My Pivot Vault ended up being the perfect machine. My Shimano gearing was just what I needed and I suffered ZERO flats thanks to my Kenda tire and Orange Seal combo. This in itself was a major victory as I passed more people with flats than I could even count.
I ended up finishing 14th in the largest and fastest field of women in the history of BWR! The field more than tripled over last year and I bet it will increase even more next year. In case you want to see how I stacked up, check out my Strava!
And now, a recap of my race and how it played out:
To be honest, the start was terrifying! It was yo-yo’ing for the “neutral start” and my power was fluctuating a lot! I was committed to going out hard to get onto Lemontwistenburg, the first dirt section, in a good position. I did just that…and then unfortunately people did not go all of the way to the end of the U-turn and I ended up mid-pack going into the dirt. The first dirt single track was painfully slow. I will admit, there was some anxiety in those first dirt miles as I imagined the lead women gaining minutes on me just from getting in ahead of me. When I got back onto Del Dios Highway, I kicked it into high gear and got with a pack that was moving forward. When I say I went out hard, I mean it. I got my third highest one minute power EVER on this section. Near the end of the next dirt section there was a pile up in the sand. All of a sudden I saw two more women!
Black Canyon was sandy! It was graded a few days prior which left massive sand piles everywhere. All of the dirt was the same color so it was hard to tell where the sand was. After the first section of the long climb, we started descending. After passing a man who was very unsure about this section, I went into a sandy section and started sliding. Boom! The man rammed into me, flipped over me, and landed on top of me. My chain was stuck in between my derailleur and my chain ring, my kit was torn at the hip, and I was bleeding at my elbow, arm, hip, knee, and shin. Yikes! As a mountain biker I am used to crashing so I got up and kept on going without thinking twice.
I was in a dark place here. I was cracked. Bonked. Done. I thought my power meter was malfunctioning because the power was reading so low. Nope, I was just not doing well. I got passed by countless women. It was a bit demoralizing. I kept looking at my mantra bracelet that says, “Be where your feet are.” It helped remind me that it didn’t matter who was behind or in front of me, I needed to be present. I drank fluid as much as I could going up that climb in an effort to stick to my nutrition plan.
Tomas of GÜP saved my day! He hand fed me turkey bacon and several cups of Coca Cola… and I came back to life! What?! Over the next 20 miles, I continued eating, took an electrolyte pill, and continued to focus on hydrating. I was with two other riders and we were going at a decent pace; not too fast and not too slow. A faster group caught up and I was recovered enough to hop on!
Out of nowhere, I started feeling really good! This was a huge, welcomed surprise! These miles included a lot of dirt and I was able to pass people along the way. During this part of the race I started to notice that every aid station (they were spaced about 20 miles apart) had women at them as I stopped quickly and kept going. I was moving up! The crazy thing about this race is that you have no idea where you are in the field. It truly is a race against yourself.
This is the part I was most mentally prepared for. I had such a positive attitude and I am so stoked on my performance during these miles. I continued to pass people while encouraging them, was able to get in with a fast group, and I was still taking pulls! I raced in fear for much of the race because I didn’t want to get a purple card/jersey, which means you were sitting in and not doing work. Thanks, MMX (Michael Marckx, the race director) for the scare! Double Peak was grueling but I was able to turn the pedals over, with a max grade of over 20%. Ouch! With less than a mile to go I caught up to two more women. On the last little kicker of a hill I got out of the saddle and and was able to get a big enough gap to finish ahead without a sprint finish. The crazy part is, I would have been ready for it.
At the finish I was greeted by Nic and MMX. I got a big hug and a congrats from both. Having part of my tribe at the end was really special to me! I chugged a recovery drink and went straight for the waffles and ice cream! Next, I had a delicious Cinco de Mayo meal with a Lost Abbey Cinco de Drinko Mexican Lager. Pure epicness!
The BWR is hands down the best day I have ever had on a bike. It is everything a bike event should be. As MMX said before he sent us off, “this is a parade of bikes with your friends.” We are here to help each other out, before during, and after. I am already looking forward to lining up for the 2020 BWR. You should join me!