Markham 360 is a yearly endurance race organized by the Markham Park Trail Building Fund, in efforts to collect funds used to this amazing trail system’s maintenance and expansion. This MTB bike park also happens to be my “home trail”. Even though I have other MTB trails closer to home, I will always consider Markham Park my home. It is here where I learned to be a true mountain biker. It is here where I learned to love to ride as fast as I possibly could, and this is the place where I have developed my ability to ride in tight, technical singletrack. Home, sweet home….

It’s been a couple of months since I have been putting together a list of races for my 2017 Race Season. Not having participated in any races since the Pisgah Monster Cross September 2016 has allowed me to continuously build endurance and power without having to taper back for racing. However, that also meant that my “race legs” have been dormant for some time now, and I figured the Markham 360 would be a good place to start.

Start Hard…Finish Hard…

Race Day came so soon. I feel like I was celebrating Christmas and welcoming the new year just yesterday. In a blink of an eye, the time to prepare for my first race of 2017 quickly approached. Given that I considered this my Test Race of the season, I wasn’t too nervous about it. My initial goal for this race was to implement a race tactic I learned from Coach Drew Edsall’s MTB Fitness Race Day Performance Articles. He discusses in detail here which race techniques would work best in different race scenarios, so I had a clear goal in mind of what I wanted to execute come race day. Start hard, finish hard…This would hopefully allow me to complete equal lap times, and be able to put out an even effort throughout all 6 hours of this race. Since I haven’t raced in a while, I felt like it would be a bit challenging for me to figure out how hard or how easy I needed to start…but that’s what it was a test race for!

Markham 360- 6 Hour Race Graph showing Heart Rate (red), Cadence (yellow), and Power (pink).

Like a Horse Let Out of a Barn….

I lined up with racers of all categories at the start. The start of the race would take us on a long stretch of fire road before entering the single track. So, even though I wasn’t in the front, I’d have a long section of road that would give me the opportunity to place myself in a position to avoid all the bottlenecks. The problem there was that I did not know where my competition was. I didn’t know if they were ahead of me or behind me… these mass starts are always so chaotic and my focus is elsewhere other than where the other ladies are at that moment. Regardless, with 6 hours ahead of me, I wasn’t too concerned.

Photo Courtesy of SFLCyclist.

Upon entering the singletrack, though, I noticed that I was riding behind a lady doing a Two-Person Female team. I have competed against this rider before and I know how fast and smooth she is in the singletrack. I was glad I had a very good wheel to follow on my first lap, and then on my second one as well. Her team’s tactic was to do two back-to-back laps before switching mates, so I quickly realized that the pace I was holding was that of the ladies doing the Duo Teams. Was I going too hard? Was I going to blow up? Honestly, I didn’t know that. But my HR and Power were right where I wanted them to be. I knew that if I focused on my hydration and nutrition, I could hold that pace throughout, with a chance of even being able to pull my fastest laps toward the end.

Photo Courtesy of Ositoking Racing.
Photo Courtesy of Ositoking Racing.

The first three hours were uneventful, I had the chance to ride with different people throughout. It appeared that they could hang with me for a lap or so, but then I wouldn’t see them anymore. I’m not sure if they were in teams or if they were solo riders, but I’m guessing we were getting separated at the Feed Zone because they had to stop for their bottles, and I was rolling with Camelbak hydration packs. Not-so-pro….but Oh-So-Effective! It wasn’t until my 10th lap that I burped my front tire and I had to slow down significantly for some time  until I figured out how to fix my mechanical. Unfortunately I lost more time than I wanted to, but I was able to get back into my groove once I got that sorted out. I had been doing sub-30 minute laps, so I knew that I still had at least two more laps to go, if I could sustain at least that same power I had been holding all along, for the last hour of the race. Tough to do, however I have been practicing this for some time now and I knew what my legs can do. If you’d like to see what kind of work outs I have been doing on the bike to achieve this, check out this link where you can get 10 Free MTB Specific Work Outs. 

My rival competitors in my Solo class were either ahead of me or behind me, I had no real way to find out, but I was racing my own race. I was feeling good. I was flowing well. I wasn’t making mistakes. I was RACING. I was MOUNTAIN BIKING. I was riding fast “Like a Horse Let out of a Barn” for those last two laps.

Candeffi Sandwich / Podium Chicken Dance…

I made it to the Finish Line 2 minutes and 5 seconds before the cut-off time, allowing me to put in 12 laps in 6 hours, totaling a distance of nearly 74 miles. That earned me the 1st Place Win in the Women’s Solo Open Category.
Sharing the podium with Steffi and Candace.

I couldn’t believe my ears when I was called to the podium, to step on the First Place box, alongside Steffi Penco and Candace Chin Fat. I never in my life thought I’d beat Steffi, who is such a skilled and talented, lifelong cyclist. I have tried to learn from her ever since I started riding and she has helped me numerous times explaining training and riding techniques. And Candace is the National MTB Champion of Trinidad & Tobago…. that says a lot of her skill and ability on a bike. Calling them my friends is an honor and this photo, a Candeffi Sandwich, will remain as one of my favorite ones of all times! And that improvised Podium Chicken Dance, we couldn’t have planned it any better. The three of us just busted out dancing….how funny! Thank you, rivals and friends, for making this event so memorable for and with me.

Special Thanks….

More amazing than winning a race, is being surrounded by people who are equally bike-crazy as I am. This race brings together lots of competitive athletes and weekend warriors alike, kids and people like myself, with big goals in the sport. Not only did we raise money for our local trails yesterday, but the race organizers and a lot of participants helped me collect a lot of donations for my personal charity project for MTB Tegucigalpa PuroCiclismo. I collected bikes, clothing, helmets, shoes, tires, and so much more stuff than I can mention at this moment. I am so thankful for all of those who contributed in any way. THANK YOU!

Special thanks to the Markham Park Trail Building Fund for putting together such a fun and safe course for everyone to enjoy. What you do for the community is something so much bigger than can be explained. You allow us to come together as one big family, and on Sunday we all came together to honor the memory of Chris Mohr, a fellow mountain biker that whose life was recently taken away by a careless driver. RIP Fellow Shredder!

What is next?

I am so excited for what’s in my Race Calendar in 2017. Yesterday was a very clear indication for me that I am in the best race shape of my life, and I’m so ready to put it to work! Being able to do 12 laps at nearly equal lap times yesterday does not come with good looks (LOL). I have been closely following the instructions of Coach Drew Edsall/MTBFitness, and through his guidance I have been able to explore my strengths a little deeper to hopefully allow me to succeed in the races to come. Check out his website, there is a lot of useful info in there!

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my a recap of my next adventure in a few weeks!

I raced with my BMC TE01. Check this bike out at Alex's Bicycle Pro Shop.
I raced with my BMC TE01. Check this bike out at Alex’s Bicycle Pro Shop.