I went into the weekend a little freaked out about racing at altitude, I wish I could say that was the extent of my fear after the race was over! The fifth stop on the Southern California Race Series was in Big Bear California. Big Bear resigns about 8500-9000 feet above sea level. This was my first experience any where near that high and there was definately a learning curve. I had recieved tons of great advice from friends that had raced there before and after a very tough week I headed up the morning of.
After the 2+ hour drive I had enough time to relax and register. After registration they told us that we need to pedal "up" to the start line which is about 10-15 minutes(by bike)away. My legs felt really good pedaling for 20 minutes plus up the hill towards the funky start. I met up with some friends along the way and chatted about what the race may hold? When we arrived to the psuedo start line everyone seemed a little confused about how we were supposed to stage and Team Big Bear seemed the same way! Usaully they run things well, but this time there was not a lot of direction. Some racers even missed thier start times.
As soon as we took off we started to climb. The dirt was loose and the temps had hit high 80's maybe even 90's. I started well but quickly started to feel very fatigued in my legs. I was a little upset that I couldn't force anymore out of my lower body. Any flat areas that we hit I was able to take off like a roadie and pass those who sailed by me on the climbs. We finally hit a cool singletrack and I quickly caught up to some slow descenders. One goofball hit some sand and swerved right at me pushing me into some tree branches. I yelled out an expletive and he turned to apologize. I got back on course and tried to make up the lost few seconds. About 8-9 miles into the race we were flying down a fire road when the unexpected happened. A rider about 20 seconds ahead of me went down and went down hard!
Jim Garwood of the Platinum Racing Team out of Santa Barbara had pile drove himself over his bars and straight onto his head. The next 30 minutes was really scary. His head was bleeding and he was unconciouss. He had horrifically labored breathing and only came to maybe twice during that first 30 minutes. Finally a doctor who was racing stopped along with a local firefighter and an EMT. They took control of the situation much to our relief. When the race medic finally showed they were able to administer oxygen. That really started to help as the paramedics did not arrive for another 15 minutes. Once the medics arrived the 12-15 of us that were there decided to pedal out. They airlifted him out about 10 minutes later. When we finally came through the finish we were told that he was finally responsive as they flew him to the hospital. The only information that I have been able to find is that he had multiple facial fractures and had been in ICU for 2 days. It also said that he would recover but that it would be a long road. Please keep Jim and his family in your prayers in the coming weeks.
At the awards ceremony I found out that I was once again the only rider in my class and that I had won?! I am definatley looking forward to the end of the season and moving towards the next stage in my racing. As my desire for endurance racing continues to grow, it also reminds me how I am at the beginning.
I recieved some great advice from the Stephenson brothers of Team Sho-Air. They shared with me that the road to dominance is a long one. They warned me of over training and burnout, and shared stories to go along with that. All that they said made perfect sense and inspired me to be careful in the way that I train. There are days that I wish to do nothing but ride and days I get mad at myself for not getting out of bed early enough to train.
Well it's Friday and time for a ride so have a great weekend and watch for my post about our July fourth road ride!