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June 9, 2007

Teva Mountain Games

Anyone thinking about having a mountain adventure with some competition mixed in should check out the Teva Mountain Games. Teammate Shannon G. brought the Teva Games to my attention several weeks ago. It had lots of money to win and last year a very sparsely attended women’s field, both positives.

The course starts at 8200 feet above sea level and I live at about 22 feet above sea level, a big negative. After a few weeks of debating I was swayed into attending by 16 year-old rock climbing phenom Gabi Masse; she helps me coach at the climbing gym on Monday nights and just won Canadian National Championships in her age group.

She really wanted to go, but being only 16 it’s a difficult thing to do by one’s self. I volunteered for the position of responsible adult while Gabi found cheap airfare, car rental and condo rental. We took off Thursday afternoon and arrived in Denver after dark. Picking up the rental car and heading west on I-70 went smooth as silk until the Eisenhower Tunnel.

What should have been a short jaunt through the tunnel turned into a long detour. The tunnel must have closed right before we got to it because as we rolled up there were only six or seven cars in front of us waiting. I thought we would get routed to the other side of the tunnel and proceed on our merry way. Wrong! After thirty minutes of just sitting we were routed around the top of the tunnel and back onto the interstate in the wrong direction.

This put us at the exit for Loveland Pass, a different and much, much longer route to the same destination. The little detour added an hour or so of travel time onto the schedule turning our before midnight arrival time to well past midnight. Once we got to Vail it took several passes on the frontage road to actually find the condo, the sign was well hidden behind some large trees.

We both fell gratefully asleep at around two am with plans to be up at 7:30 so Gabi could register and warm up for her nine am competition. Morning came way too soon, so after driving Gabi to her comp I went back to sleep. Another hour of sleep can do wonders for one’s motivation. On my way through the maze otherwise know as Vail Village to preride I stopped off to see how the bouldering comp went and drop off some snacks.

Gabi finished second in the qualifiers earning a spot in the next days pro comp. It took a bit of riding around to find what I thought was the start of the cross country course, apparently I was a step ahead of the guy with the signs. A few men were riding around looking about as lost as me. One guy even had a map, but it didn’t seem to match up too well with the sporadic marking on the ground. I decided to ride around and do my best to decipher the course and on-sight the rest tomorrow.

Later in the afternoon Shannon G showed up with her roommate Nate and her two dogs. She headed out to ride and came back as puzzled as me as to where the course actually went. Around ten or so in the evening Jen showed up and we were full for the night! The next morning I accompanied Jen to registration, or actually I showed her where it was then sat on the banks of the creek and watched kayakers race through the village.

The Teva games are pretty cool, instead of just having a bunch of skinny people with shaved legs walking around you also encounter rock climbers, kayakers and other fine types of mountain folk. Teva games also had all kinds of free stuff to score, everything from hydration packs, blue spruce seedlings and beach towels to pills that make you burn more calories and orange mocha frappuccinos. I was hoping for someone to be passing out free sandals as this is the Teva Games, but alas my feet remained shod in sneakers.

We spent most of the day hanging out waiting for the late afternoon start time hoping that the cloudbursts would be over before the race. Gabi was hoping the hardest of all of us as climbing on wet fake rocks is much harder and worse than racing in the mud. We lucked out and had sunshine for the start of the race. With no call ups I pushed up to the front and was impressed with the amount of women on the line.

Last year only eight women raced, this year twenty five women started, many of them very fast. Riding at altitude makes everything feel like slow motion. My heart rate was redlined at the start and I was breathing hard, my eyes were rolled back in my head but I was moving very, very slowly.

During the first single track descent (fast and fun) my legs were shaking so hard that I worried about shaking out of my pedals. On the third lap Jen caught up to me and renewed my motivation to work hard uphill. On the last single track I was in front and had a great time on the steep drops and rocky corners. Flying into the start/finish area I was in deep oxygen debt and missed the right turn to the finish. The lap chute went to the left of the start/finish banner while the finish made a hard right/left. I completely missed it and had to turn around and go back around to the finish. In the mean time Jen and Lea Davison finished, dammit, losing two places to a stupid wrong turn is just stupid.

The good thing is that I’ll pay better attention during the start directions and never make that mistake again. Shannon had some mechanical problems and had to abandon the race. Gabi had finished ninth in the pro comp, not bad considering that all the women who finished in front of her are sponsored athletes. She spent the day before flipping through a climbing magazine showing me pictures of her competitors.

After the race and a quick dinner Jen, Gabi and myself took the shuttle back over to the mountain bike venue to watch the free ride finals. There was also a foam party like the kind you see in night clubs in Ibiza but colder and with jazz punk band playing instead of techno. All of this stimulation almost resulted in sensory overload.

Jen and I went dancing after the band finished, I heard dancing and beer enhances recovery. Needless to say we had a bit of a slow start Sunday morning then spent a long time trying to find a hose to clean our bikes. I’ve become accustomed to NORBA where there’s always an accessible bike wash near the finish. We wandered around Vail Village asking people if they knew the whereabouts of a hose, they usually answered that our bikes looked cool caked in mud.

I cannot abide a dirty bike so the search continued until a Trek mechanic showed us a hose hidden on a patio. The plan was to stay at Jen’s place near Boulder then do some bouldering the next day before catching the plane home. So we drove through a crazy rain storm, ate pizza in Idaho Springs and rolled into Broomfield in the late afternoon sun.

After dinner I fell into a deep, deep sleep on the couch. Monday morning, Gabi and I hit Flagstaff mountain for some time on the rocks. She tackled a few hard boulder problems while I hopped around on easier ones. We were interrupted a couple times by rain but still managed to wear out our fingertips. After a quick hike near the base of the Flatirons we made it to the airport without traffic or hassle. This weekend I’m staying home for another road race and a costume wedding. Be sure to stay tuned for full pictures and report!

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