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.

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