Friday, May 23, 2008

Rainy Days

After what seemed like an eternity of rainy days, the sun has finally found my face. Rainy races come and go, and I no longer care to think too much about them. I suppose the first time you endure one and finish, it feels like a victory of perseverance, but after dozens, it has little merit any more. So the most significant thoughts of my last race were that of relief that all seven of my teammates piled back into the van uninjured with a finished race behind us, and tired smiles on our faces.

Now that I return to my woods to ride, dodging the showers all week long, I find a full canopy over head and ferns reaching up to my chin. The forest grows at an amazing rate, and I feel lucky to experience it each time I go out. The field, control burned each spring by the park, is now filled with green and the first signs of wild flowers. The wild turkey gather in the field in anticipation to raise their young. I can’t wait to see all the little “turklets” scurrying around in a few weeks. All this, because of the rain. ….this week has been perfect.

Laura and Kathy enjoying the late afternoon sun.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

2008 Season Opener

Whether you are anxious to get back to racing or just looking forward to reunite yourself with the many racers that you do not see over the winter, the first race of the season is always a grand event. New bikes, new teams, racers moving up to the next category, a whole new crop of wide-eyed beginners diving into the sport. We’re all bursting out with expectations of the day. The first race of the Campmor H2H Race Series starts off the season for so many of us in New York/New Jersey area.

Campmor H2H Race #1 Wawayanda Spring Cleaning - May 4, 2008:

My last training day was the Cheese County Stage Race, one-month prior. Since then I had been doing about 10 hours a week of casual, happy faced, no pressure mountain biking. Enough to keep my distance endurance and handling skills sharp, but not necessarily enough to develop my cardio and intensity for racing, and now the race was here and I did not feel ready. However, I did make sure to prepare my bike a few days before, as I needed to get some things dialed in before the season started. The course was really rough and rocky, and my fork was not feeling plush enough on my pre-rides. Not sure if it got aired up a little more than I like after servicing in the winter, or if my new Industry Nine wheels were just that much stiffer, but I opted to increase the sag a touch for this race. I would later let a little air out of my front tire when I saw that the course was wet.

I packed the car the night before, and was up by 6:00 to have breakfast and arrive at the race in time to help Jess set up a paydirt information stand and be ready to cheer the start of the beginner race. I love to watch the beginner kids race. 11 year old Veronica, who had attended the All Girl Pre-Ride that my team had led, would be racing for her first time in the full cross country. It is pretty inspiring to see the determination of these little kids pedaling their bikes that sometimes weigh as much as they do. There would be many other familiar faces out there racing also, and many for their first time. The course was wet from rain and would be very challenging for the racers. I rode cheetah bike into the first trail with a cowbell to get them stoked off the start. Veronica came through looking very serious, but cracked a smile with the cheering and cowbell. She rode away into the daunting 6.5 mile course and would eventually finish first in her class.

By the time the sport racers were out on the course, the sun started to come out, and everyone was coming through the start finish filled with fire and smiles. My friend Marianne, who was racing for her first time, came flying through all stoked in the lead of her class. With all this excitement, I knew I needed to be out there racing, especially with Laura and Wendi racing expert for the first time. I decided to go register and get dressed to race.

I had just enough time to warm up and take the line. I had not eaten in six hours, but it was too close to the start to eat, so I omitted any eating, taking only a bottle of endurance drink and one gel along for lap two and three. It was a perfect type of start for me. Some fire-road leading into low angle climbing that gradually ramped up, giving me plenty of time to settle in. I found myself 6th off the start and by the top of the steep climb I was 4th with my teammate on my wheel. We went back and forth a few times with the slick conditions, working together to pass some of the men. Eventually she rode away.

I felt really strong, only tiring slightly on the last lap. I was able to keep my heart rate very close to where I wanted the whole race, and rode very cleanly, never falling. On top of that, my bike performed flawlessly. The handling on the Titus Racer-X is amazing, and the I9 hub/spoke combination worked great for me. There were a couple of sections that became bermed with pump bumps that I was able to fly through. A few spectators commented on my pink spokes. It’s always nice to score some style points along the way. I was very happy to finish 3rd in my class, and I would have finished third if I raced my age class in the men’s as well, so not too bad for the first race of the season.