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Saturday, June 16, 2012 -- Bruceton Mills, WV / Big Bear Lake Camplands
Big Bear Lake 2x12 Bike Relay and Mountain Fest (iPO Event Id#: 13891)

2012: [Details] [Coverage] [Photos] [Overall Results] [Results by Class]

[2010] [2011]

Roaring Into West Virginia

Story by Selene Yeager with photos by Julie Friend Schooley.

Ms. Yeager is a health, fitness and cycling expert and the author of Ride Your Way Lean: The Ultimate Plan for Burning Fat and Getting Fit on a Bike and Bicycling Blogger: Fit Chick.

Facebook message dated June 6, 2012:

    "I am looking for a partner to race to Coed class at the Big Bear 2x12, in West Virginia. The date is Saturday June 16, a week and a half from now. Payout is big for winning. I was planning to do it Vicki but she can't make it anymore. Thought I'd ask you. No sweat if you can't."

It was an invitation to race the 2x12 Big Bear Lake Relay, a race I've never done, but have heard great things about. It's a team format-all duos. Each open/expert team completes 6 laps (3 each teammate) on a 12-mile course that is supposed to be second to none. The team that does it in the least amount of time wins. My heart leapt. I'd just missed Trans-Sylvania and was looking for a "consolation race." I'd found one or two possibilities, but nothing that inspired me. This was new, looked fun, and sounded like just what I was looking for.

My teammate (the sender of the message above) would be Aaron Snyder of Scott, a fast, talented local mountain bike pro who can float the rocks and routinely crushes the local competition. I don't know Aaron super well but I've always liked him. We've competed in two Rapha Gentlemen's races-both very long; very arduous rides-as part of a team together. I knew he was a good sport and an easy-going personality. He's also 24 years old.

Those who know me know I really don't give much thought to how old anyone is, including myself. I pedal my bike. You pedal your bike. We do our best. Who cares about the rest?

Well, evidently some people do. Aaron signed us up and within a few days the pre-race buzz bubbled up on Facebook. I was tagged in the following post by a fellow racer drumming up entries for the relay, which he was cleverly referring to in dance terms (since you need a date).

The Prom pre-reg closes at NOON tomorrow! Not in the evening, pay attention kids!
We got a father/daughter team.
We got a Cougar and fast-kid looking to score.
We are nothing if we aren't inclusive, get together w/ whomever you can! Heck you don't even need to race, you can just come for the spectating, food and festivities post-race!

Cougar? Did he just call me a Cougar? I scanned the post again. I wasn't the father or the daughter .. I wasn't the "fast kid" ...



I knew the poster was being funny. But Cougar!? My hackles, were I to be a large predatory cat, went up. The implication wasn't simply that there was an age difference in our little dynamic duo, but that this member of the Scott/Team CF squad was somehow preying on this unsuspecting mountain biking youth, using him for a podium spot. My claws (again, were I a ferocious feline) came out. Now I wanted to win. Like really wanted to win. And not ride on my speedy "cub's" coattails win, as this post implied. But go down to West Virginia, stomp on my pedals, and leave it all out on the course kind of win.

There was just one problem. I was a banged up mess. As reader's from last week might recall, the very next day after saying, "Yes! Sign me up!" I blew a corner and hit the deck hard enough that I went to the ER just to be sure nothing was broken. So, I was a bit worried. But one of the advantages of being a sage kitty is I've been here before, so I knew what to do.

I got a massage, took some "forced rest" (i.e. sitting around thinking positive thoughts, telling myself that this was really some sort of blessing in disguise and other sweet little lies) and did some shake out rides to keep from stiffening up like the Tin Man after a monsoon.

It wasn't all smooth sailing. Most rides went well. But four days before race day, I reached into the bucket for a sponge while cleaning my bike and felt a pop on my right side that took my breath away. %$#@! I recognized it immediately. I'd popped a rib out of place. The one right along my serratus anterior that I had popped out two summers ago.

It must have gotten jacked up when I'd hit the ground. It had been achy. But now every time I breathed, coughed, raised my arm, or God forbid pulled on my bars while pedaling, an imaginary buck knife jabbed my diaphragm. You've raced like this before. You'll get through it, I told myself. Yeah, but it hurts like hell, sucks the fun out of it, and I don't want to, I replied. This tigress was getting grumpy. But I refused to give up hope.

With the help of Dave, my foam roller, arnica gel, and a few sacrificed chickens (kidding), the errant rib settled back Friday morning, T-1 till race time. Nearly ebullient, I packed the Neon and was West Virginia bound. Fast-forward four hours and I was at the venue, buzzing with nerves. I needed a pre-ride. I was kind of scared to pre-ride. Be a big girl. Get on your bike and ride.

And I did. My legs were stiff from the drive but I had no pain. Less than a mile in, my apprehension disappeared in a wave of perfectly rocky singletrack that was as beautiful and baller, if those two words can coexist, as any I've laid tires on. The course ripped. Big ring, flying, swooshing, sweeping, jamming, grinning, and giggling ripped. Wow, this is awesome. I couldn't stop smiling. I entered a strand of tall pines, carpeted in ferns and heard myself gasp. I stopped and took pictures and finished my lap. I looked down at my Garmin. 1:10. This is going to be great.

It was. The next morning we met at the venue and agreed to do a straight rotation, rather than trying anything fancy like pulling double laps. The first riders, including Aaron, staged on a gravel road climb to thin the ranks before diving onto the course. I spied a white kit coming up the road. Aaron was off the front and first into the woods. And away we go. I kitted up and prepared. He came in a blistering 57 minutes later. I grabbed the baton and bombed into the woods.

An hour and change later, I emerged, rolled up the giant flyover bridge and into the transition tent to find Aaron smiling broadly. "Niiice Selene." He grabbed the baton and was off. I heard a women call out, "You've got the fastest female lap time so far." I smiled inside and out, went to the car, ate some food and downed a bottle with my feet up before rolling into transition to await another round.

Aaron pulled in-again, sub 60 minutes-and off I went. Lap two seemed to go by even more quickly than lap one and in no time I was rolling into the tent again to find Aaron smiling and nodding, "We're in contention for the overall." He grabbed the baton and went.

Another sub-60 lap later and I was off to finish the day. The first pedal strokes felt like I had molten lead in my legs. Oof. Push through. Just push through. One more lap. You've got this. We had a healthy lead in the co-ed division, but I also had healthy respect for the competition and wanted to take no chances. So I willed my heavy, achy quads to come around, which they eventually did. And when I rolled in another hour and change later, I was greeted by a fist bump. We'd won our division and got 3rd overall. I couldn't stop smiling. Heck I'm still smiling.

That night I danced (and danced and danced) during the bluegrass festival that followed. I was happy we'd won, of course, but more happy that I'd overcome adversity and held my own. I was no Cougar. I was just a woman on a bike who knew how to get the job done on her own terms. Hear me roar.