Tour de King Bliss

Tour de King here I come!

Ah, the Tour de King.  Oddly, it makes me warm and fuzzy just thinking about this event.  It’s one of my favourite races…can’t explain it exactly, it just is.  It might be because it goes through the beautiful trails and roads around King City, because my husband is also doing it or because it is 50 km (I love long distance races), but perhaps because it’s just a fun, adventurous, well-organized event with a great BBQ and live band.  No matter the reasons, it is something I look forward to.

Getting ready to race

This year Chico Racing ran the course in the reverse direction from 2011.  There is a mix of road, gravel road, grass and buff single-track in this race.  Going in reverse meant a lot of road at the start. An event done on a cyclocross bike or mountain bike, changing direction was more favourable at the beginning for the cyclocross riders.  Last year, the mountain bike single track start ate many cyclocross tubes and created log jams of riders within the first couple of kilometres. Not so this year!

I had decided for the beginning of this race I would position myself closer to the front of the pack.  I lost a lot of time being in the back in 2011 and didn’t want a repeat performance. My husband retreated to the Wave 2 position which was for those who were into a casual pace.  Glancing around, I noticed pro-riders in the line-up with me. Instantly, I thought, “Oh shit, maybe I should move back into the middle of the group!  These dudes are crazy fast!”  I couldn’t help but feel doubt that I belonged there.  Quickly, I had a little inner dialogue with myself and managed to convince myself that I deserved to be there too!

Racers getting ready

From the word “Go,” a pace car took the hundreds of riders out for a neutral start for approximately 2 km.  I am learning that my definition of neutral is far removed from being slow.  It was a blistering pace for me out of the start trying to keep up with the car and everyone else.  I hadn’t warmed up and I was quickly paying for it.  Feeling like I was about to spontaneously combust since my legs were about to explode, my lungs were on fire and my heart rate maxed out, I dropped back in my position in the group.  Once the pace car left,  everyone really put the hammer down and at 5 km, I was gasping for air and seeing stars.  My ego was searching for excuses for the inability to keep up….excuse #1, I was on a mountain bike and others were on cyclocross…excuse #1 destroyed since many of the riders in the lead group were on mountain bikes.  Excuse #2 surfaced…the riders are younger than me…excuse #2 was quickly destroyed since I knew that there were a bunch of the guys up front that were older than me.  It was obvious I had to do an assessment of my capabilities and just acknowledge that no excuses were allowed.  Facing reality, the pace wasn’t sustainable for me for much longer and with 45 km left to go, if I wanted to finish, I had to be smart and do my own thing.  Easing off on my effort so my body could recover a bit, I watched more riders whiz past me.  I didn’t feel any concern that I was dropping behind since my quick speed of recovery was showing that I didn’t burn all my matches at the beginning.  This was a sign that I could make up a lot of time through the rest of the race.  Since I narrowly avoided spontaneous combustion, I reminded myself that even when racing hurts it’s still suppose to be fun…after all, at the end of the day, we’re just racing for cliff bars!

While still on the road,  I kept my own pace and soaked in the amazing scenery.  Blue skies illuminated the beautiful fall colours, barns and horses in the silky green fields.  It was turning out to be a sensational day with a crisp fall breeze…a perfect day for racing and a great day to be alive.  Race Day Rush was there to take pics and capture our honest expressions of suffering…  Ted even got my signature pose when I am capable of taking a hand off the bars!  If you want to see a series of other pics check out this link.

Approaching the entry to the first part of the dirt trails, there was a log jam of riders attempting to ascend the blip of a hill to get onto the trail.  There was nowhere to pass so I was forced to get off my bike as well.  These are the situations where a racer loses a lot of time but it’s the nature of racing…if you’re not out front so you don’t have any interference, you have to go with the flow.  Once the flow started, I was back on my bike.  A long and somewhat challenging hill climb lay ahead and one by one riders were dismounting from fatigue or technical challenges.  For me, climbing hills equals happiness.  There is something to be said for making it to the summit without having to get off your bike.  My general rule…no clipping out, I either make it or I tip over.  I couldn’t help but smile as I continued to ride past a lot of riders that flew past me earlier in the paved world.

After the hill came beautiful single track trails.  I passed more cyclocross riders who were  now struggling on the rooty and bumpy trails.  Their lack of suspension and skinnier tires made the trail riding a beating and negotiating technical terrain was harsh to say the least.  For me, on my Opus 29’er mountain bike…I was finally in my element and soaking it up.  The single track flowed like a roller coaster and I didn’t want it to end.

Lucky plate #

The remainder of the race was a repeat performance of road and back to trails.  I pushed hard on the pavement with occasional glances at the majestic scenery and let the bike float through the trails.  Before I knew it I passed a check point and a young man said six more kilometres to the finish.  “Sweet!” I yelled out and got an instant adrenaline rush.  I remembered the trails from last year and the last six kilometres were going to be a cruise.  With only a short distance to go, I had to leave the rest on the course so I went into attack mode and finished with a sprint uphill to the end.

Out of breath and standing in the sunshine in a field full of riders, I felt as high as a kite.  I took a 360 view of my immediate world to take in the moment.  Seeing friends smiling and sharing their stories with others, smelling the BBQ, seeing riders hunched over and shrieking from the cramping in their legs and a few bare bums from those bold enough to get changed in the crowd was the perfect finish to an incredible race.

The highlight of the day was seeing my husband come across the finish line looking stronger than ever.  Donning a big grin, it was evident he had a great ride. He doesn’t generally do races (just not his thing) and he had a tough finish at the same event last year.  I was ecstatic to see that this year was different…he finished strong, happy and without any cramping.  That was the best moment for me in the whole event.

I didn’t have any idea of my results in the race.  I knew there were a bunch of other women that finished ahead of me but I didn’t know what category some of them were in.  Waiting for the results screen to become unfrozen from the category it had been locked on, my jaw dropped when my division finally came up.  I had come in 1st place and was 7th overall.  “Holy shit!” I blurted out.  My hand covered my mouth to prevent any other profanity from sneaking out and concealed the grin I had from ear to ear. I had hoped for a podium finish but didn’t expect 1st.

1st place bling

Sitting on the grass as the podium medals were presented, it was fantastic to watch so many friends and strangers receive their awards.  The event may be a small and simple one but the joy and motivation that comes from receiving a shiny piece of metal hung on a strip of ribbon and placed around the neck is incredible.  The sense of accomplishment is evident in their faces and although there is little to no monetary gain, it doesn’t matter.  Standing up there on a block of wood, showing off the new bling for everyone to see and raising hands up to the sky with those that share the same passion is truly priceless.

Chico Racing has put on an amazing season of races and it is because of the Ruppel brothers and their crew that we have had the opportunity to push ourselves and share a day with old friends and make new ones.  I realized just before my turn came for the podium that it would be the last time for the 2012 season that I would hear Adam Ruppel announce “Yawnee” Mitges.  This has become my official race name and I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Adam didn’t deviate and shouted out, “and in 1st place is Yawnee Mitges!”  There was laughter and applause and I could feel another precious moment was carving a spot in my memory.  Receiving my award, I stood on the podium and heard Adam say, “now let’s hear it Yawnee!”  With hands up in the air, I screamed out a huge “Yehhhhhh!!!! This is awesome!!!!”  I’ve done it at every race when I’ve made it on the wooden blocks and I love sharing how psyched I am to be there.  I don’t think there is a podium shot in existence, from any race, that doesn’t have my mouth wide open and a look of pure happiness.  Here is the proof from RaceDayRush.

This race was the day after the Human Book event which made for an absolutely phenomenal weekend.  It is times like this weekend that become my unrelenting, powerful references that reinforce that the future, as unpredictable as it is,  holds many beautiful things and why life is worth fighting for.

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