Monday, July 22, 2013

National Championships

National Championships at Bear Creek: Let me start by saying that the amateur XC course at Bear Creek is an awesome, rocky, kick-ass course for real mountain bikers! There was a great vibe all around the venue, and my weekend was like a whirlwind. My only regret is that I did get to spectate more.

The biggest factor of the weekend was the heat. Steamy, near 100 degree heat had us all melting and hiding in the shade. Many family members took refuge in the air conditioned lodge and watched out the window. This was certainly a factor in race performance for many over the weekend. Luckily I am not affected by heat as long as I am hydrated and in the shade. More than 75% of the course was in the shade. Art and I drank about 5 gallons of water in 3 days.

I had done my preparation and pre-ridden the course several times in the month prior to the race. The course was well suited for me with technical climbing and many rocks, because that is what I ride almost every day. I heard some chatter about the course, but it was just regular riding for me. I’m not saying that it was easy, just that I was comfortable with the challenge. My main concerns were not pushing too hard off the start so that I got stomach cramps and not flatting, as I flatted on this course the year before.

My start was delayed 2 minutes to accommodate a racer who had a front flat at the start line. Unfortunately, she was unable to resolve the issue, but there was an effort to wait for her, as she came all the way from Idaho. Thank you USACycling for the effort!

Bang and we are off with the 60+ ladies. I take the lead, but cyclocross national champion, Ostenso passes me on the gravel climb. In fear of over cooking my stomach, I sit in behind her. Once we hit the trail, her pace dropped and I made my pass. I listened when the course turned back on itself, but I never heard anything behind me.

I quickly encountered racers along the trail and passed them with ease, both men and women. By the time I reached the final climb, my legs felt good and I passed a bunch more. The traffic started to build as I approached the technical section on the backside. The older men were very accommodating to let me ride through. There was an awesome 80 year old on course! How cool is that?

And then it began to rain. This made me laugh out loud. It was so hot that the raindrops, which were still warm, felt good on my skin. Thunder and lightening came and course conditions started to change, and I was okay with all of this. Riding this course was like a big party. Coming through the technical rocks was awesome with spectators screaming, major traffic, slippery rocks, you name it. I made my way through, calling lines, dabbing here and there to get around racers both on and off their bikes. There was a great vibe out there.

I climbed alone on my second lap and may have slowed the chase, but once the rocks appeared in front of me, I came to life again. I made a few more passes and then exited the singletrack knowing the finish and a national champion jersey was around the corner. It’s an awesome feeling, and that in itself, brought new energy to my legs. I rode in with the second fastest overall female time, winning my age group.

Super D is a great way to top your weekend. Whether you are looking for redemption after a less than stellar XC race or looking for some extra fun, Super D is a great option. I have always been somewhat conservative descending. Doing Super D has helped me open new doors. I may never be great at it, but it is really fun and has helped improve my riding skills. I raced my new Pivot 429C, which I was still making adjustments to on race day. I rode conservatively in the tight turns in the beginning of the course, and then let it rip. The climbing portions were much improved with this new bike, landing me an unexpected 3rd place.

What an awesome weekend of racing, including Art (6th in XC), Dar (3rd SS), Team Campmor, friends and the best pros in the country. I have nothing but good things to say about this race. There was a great vibe, great courses, and it was well run. It was very satisfying to have a good National Championship race on home turf with friends in the mix. I was looking at Nationals as perhaps being a last XC race for me, but my experience this past weekend may have re-kindled my desire to race for now.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ripping it Rip Van Winkle Style

After the two Enduros that were on my race calendar for this year, got cancelled, I decided last minute to sign up for Super-D at Windham. .... and after a mechanical DNF at Lewis Morris the week before, I decided another XC race before Nationals might do me some good. So I signed up for XC as well. Why not?

Art and I headed up Friday to preview both courses, riding a lap on the XC first. Heavy rains had left the course pretty wet in spots, and although much of the trail building at Windham is sustainable and built with draining rocks and bridges, there were a few dirt fall line sections left in for thrills. It had been quite some time since I had raced or even ridden fall line trails, and I felt a bit out of practice on skid controlling down the slippy-slide fall line sections. I did not let it get me bent out of shape, as my main goal for the weekend was to practice my skills for Super-D/Enduro stuff. There would be plenty of opportunities to practice fall line stuff on the Super-D course.

The top of the Super-D course was a total quagmire: puddles, soup and peanut butter mud. My hopes of really riding this stuff became a bit dismal, and my first run was not so good with Art advising me to walk the long off camber peanut butter slide. Art bailed after one lap, which I totally understood. The course was a mess, but I had made it to this point and I needed more practice, so I took another run solo. This time I plowed through the mud on top and made it without getting off. Then I tried riding the peanut butter slide. I got a little unglued on a water bar, but rode it out like a cowboy and made it down in one piece with some nervous laughs. Not so bad, I thought. There was one drop that I could not face up to, and I accepted that fact, reminding myself that I already made gains in one day and tomorrow was another day.

I had little expectations of finishing high in the cross country, but I was still going out there to shred the down hills and drag my butt up the mountain best I could for training. The climb was tough. My legs were not feeling great, and while I was climbing, I remembered that at one time I actually liked to climb. I am so not there now. I suppose after racing for 18 years, one’s priorities can change. I am more interested in having fun these days. As for the race, I soldiered through the climbing, and felt fairly consistent and rode the technical part well finishing better than I expected with a 5th place in the 35+.

By 6:00, the courses were beginning to dry out some. However, I knew there was no hope for the Super-D quagmire to dry out. I chose to skip a pre-ride in fear that it would mess up my drive train too much. I also opted for a down tube mud flap which was a big help containing the splatters towards my face and glasses so that I could see.

Art headed up to “Kabush Falls” to watch the end of my run, and had some extra time alone in the quiet woods, so he took a nap on a log. He was woken up by local spectators who quickly named him Rip Van Winkle. They asked him if he was waiting to watch his son race, and he had to explain that he was waiting to watch his wife…. Mrs Rip Van Winkle, I suppose.

We had a lemans start, and like usual, I was last into my pedals. It did not help that I lined up between 2 downhillers that towered over me in height. Elbow to elbow running, I may have been a little size intimidated. Once on my pedals, I started passing. There was a 2 girl tangle up, with words flying, as one woman got flipped into the woods and the other tumbled and slammed down across the road. I had to swerve not to run her over. She eventually came by me down the peanut butter slide and disappeared like a bullet. The slide had actually dried out some and I was able to hold the preferred line all the way down. I had one miscue in the first single-track, but from that point on, I had a great run, nailing the drop that I did not get the day before. It is amazing what you can do when you are focused! I heard a lot of cheering when I came through Kabush Falls. I did not know that it was the Mrs. Rip Van Winkle fan club, lol!

Still waiting for official results to be posted, but according to my calculations, I finished 4th just out of the money in the Pro/Cat 1. There is no doubt, that this course was downhill heavy, not really suited for my strengths, so this was a very good result. But in reality, I do not care much about winning. The feeling of ripping down the mountain at the edge of your control, is soooo much fun! I do not understand why there are so few girls doing this. It is a blast!