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!

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