Monday, July 21, 2008

National Championships at Mt Snow

I am still trying to unwind, take a deep breath and realize all that happened in these last two weeks of racing. The first thought that comes to my mind is that I am part of an incredible team of generous and giving people that have been so instrumental in making this successful weekend happen for Team Campmor. Without them, and especially Art, I may not have even been at the race this past weekend.

We arrived on Wednesday, and found an unusually dry XC course with steeper climbs added, as well as single-track taken out and replaced with new single-track. The course was very rideable, but was strewn with roots and off-camber sections that would completely become a new creature if soaked in rain. Call me sick, but I half hoped for a little rain, to lube those roots up for a fun filled race. It wouldn’t be Mt Snow without the wet roots.

I also took a few runs on the Super-D course and determined that it was indeed too fun to miss, and talked my teammate Dar into doing it also. Marianne, Laura, Dar , Jess and I were stirring a lot of attention on the lift lines, as we always seemed to appear like a pack of giggling girls. Plus the lift attendant was quite a Titus fan, so we must have had some cool factor going on, and every time we were in the lift area, all we heard was “Campmor Girls!”.

Friday night before my race, my half hopes came true, when a severe thunderstorm passed over the mountain. It woke me from sleep, and I could see the curtains in the bedroom flying in the strobe light. Cool winds rushed in, with pounding rain and flashing light. All my life I have dreaded this situation the night before a race, and now I am excited by it. I am not sure how I was transformed, but I like it. I thought as long as it did not rain long enough to cause mud, I would be golden. .....The rain stopped in 30 minutes

Saturday I took the line, and when the gun went off, a woman I did not know, bolted. I chased down hard, but I could barely hold her wheel. As we reached the steep part of the climb, she spun out in the greasy mud. I moved to the side in hopes of passing her, and rode by her, pressing hard over the top, my heart-rate soaring. As I passed the infield, I heard people cheering and calling me by name, and then I heard cheering for the woman I had just passed. The next steep climb came way too fast, and I was nowhere near recovered, my stomach now starting to cramp. By the time I was turning into the single-track at the top, I could see the other woman was off and pushing her bike up what I had just ridden, which gave me a little comfort.

Plodding away up the many climbs, passing people in other classes, I finally reached the summit to start my descent. "Be like water" was my mantra. Oh boy, what fun it was. Slipping and sliding, staying loose, I got on a good wheel. She took great lines, and I found myself at the bottom way too fast. Recovered and back on the climb, I noticed that I did not seem to have my climbing legs. I proceeded to spin a bit more than usual and tried to find something that I could work with. I eventually got into a groove, and once again I found myself at the top ready for the romp down the mountain. This time, I was getting lapped by the lead single-speeders and experts. The traffic was a bit dicey as a few men crashed trying to pass me, but I kept it upright myself staying on the low side of the roots. At one point I got a little sideways with the rear end, causing a little “tighten my sphincter” panic, but I kept the front wheel pointing downhill, and momentum straightened me out eventually, causing me to let out a sigh of relief that morphed into a juvenile giggle.

As I neared the bottom, the cheering was incredible. If I didn’t hear my name, I heard things like “nice bike” and “nice wheels”. People were just cheering for everyone. As I turned down the last hill, I could taste the victory, and this is something I did not get five years ago ( when I did not know I had won until the results were posted, because they forgot to mark legs). Into the big ring I went, and coming into the finish line at Mt Snow with all the local friends cheering was exhilarating. I can’t tell you how much I have always wanted to win this race at Mt Snow, and to do it feeling like I had found peace with the roots felt even better. My fitness did not feel like it was my best, but I technically rode very well and my bike was just an extension of me, handling perfectly.

I was pretty pooped on Sunday for the Super-D, but it was a blast!! The Campmor girls rocked it in the Super-D. I am so thrilled to have Dar be our new Super-D National Champion, a very deserved win for her. I am lucky to ride with these incredible ladies, and it was awesome to stand next to them on the podium afterwards in our Campmor Podium sweep. Besides doing well myself, the team was fantastic as a whole, especially Marianne winning the sport red and stars jersey in her first year raceing. Truly a great weekend with friends to savor in my memories.

Monday, July 14, 2008

East Coast National at Windham

Finding some in between race, drug-free, psychedelic times in Tannersville, N.Y.

It was really cool to have a National Race venue so close to home. It certainly brought back memories of Hunter Mt. in ’93 with Tomac, Hans Rey and the infamous downpours. Now 15 years later, National racing has finally returned to the enchanting Catskill Mountains.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon with my teammates and was quite surprised to see such a buffed out XC course that was powder dry and scattered with nicely engineered bridges. All the sections and bridges had signs with cute names. The bridges were very friendly and had chicken wire on them as if they were expecting lots of rain … hmmm, remember Hunter Mt?

Come XC race day, it was up at the crack of dawn, to eat and get in a 1 hr warm up. I was expecting a very short race, and the shorter the race, the longer the warm up. It was a mass start for women and off the uphill start, I would guess that I was about 2/3 back, and ahead of my competition, going into the first single track. I did not feel that spunky, but I was able to stay in the lead of my age group, and get by all the miscue’s and grab a good wheel pulling me up to the base of the first of the longer climbs. I was able to find my legs and pass quite a few girls and bridge up to my teammate Laura. Just barely keeping her in sight in the single-track, I finally reached the last big climb where I passed about 3 more including Laura, but Laura hung on to my wheel.

Over the bridge, big ring and into the descent for a romp down the mountain, and through the mini wall section with ease, while Laura offering me some supportive words. Starting up the climb again, I heard crunching and felt my chain stop. I looked down and my chain was sucked into the spokes behind the cog set. It wouldn’t come out, so I flipped my bike over and un did the wheel and started to wiggle and yank on the chain. The first semi-pro came by and asked if I was ok, then Laura, asking too. All they got was a “yes fine”, but in my head I was frazzled, and trying to stay calm. Still wiggling, and now getting frustrated, another 2 women came by, and I gave it a hard yank, and it came out, thankfully still in one piece. Wheel back on, back on the bike and away to the top, catching back up to Laura again at the top climb.

The semi pros were in full lapping mode now, and I lost sight of Laura ahead of me. Sometimes getting lapped is like a race in itself. Being my second and final lap, I was flowing much faster in the single-track, and was able to allow passing for the semi’s out on the open slopes, which I actually felt pretty good about. My racer-x certainly suits me well, and helps give me much better handling ,control and confidence while descending. I was happy to finish my race ahead with a pretty good margin, and still be competitive with the whole expert class.

I had taken a few runs on the Super-D course, and once again, very nice trails. There were many pedaling, twisty sections in the woods. I almost felt like I was riding at home. And as a middle aged, female XC rider, I found them to be just challenging enough to try my first super-d race. Well that is what I thought until it started raining on Sunday and with heavy storms on the radar, it looked as if the super-d might be a no show for me. With some amazing luck, the rain gods spared us, and the sun started peeking out by race time, so I took my practice run and got to the top of the mountain.

It was pretty cool as there were 3 other women doing their first super-d also. It was a mass lemans start for women, and I can’t run for crap, so it was a given that I would be off the back. Jess’s bike tangled with the girl next to her, so she and I ended up in the back of the train pedaling like crazy down the meadow. I am usually pretty conservative, but I really enjoyed pushing my comfort zone a bit. I wore wide eyes and a big grin all the way down, passing friends cheering along the way. Much to my surprise, I reeled in some girls in the single-track, and made my final pass in an open field near the bottom, getting some un-expected air off a gravel pile, and sucked it up for a smooth landing. …all this initiating some uncontrolled giggling. At this point, I was beginning to go for the finish line and hung it out a bit more for competition sake. Awesome stuff! I crossed the finish line asking for another run.

Not always being competitive these days, this weekend helped to rejuvenate my sense of competition, and was a good reminder that there is lots of fun in some healthy competition. Looking forward to Mt Snow National Championships!