Tuesday, July 22, 2014

East Coast Party: Nationals

As confident as I was with my handling skills, the national championship course and my long term experience, I somehow was feeling very apprehensive because of my lack of motivation to actually race this year. I suffered some mental burn out a few years back and was lucky enough to get some good advice from a friend and coach. I took that advice to heart this year and it really paid off.

This year, a few strong ladies aged up into my class, some of which had beaten me every time we raced together. I knew there would be a high level of competition for me. Actually, I doubted that I could pull off a win, but I was going to give it my best and race my strengths.

The gun went off and I fell into 3rd place behind Lynch and Sandefer. Both these ladies are strong climbers and very motivated. I saw each of the ladies in front of me push close to anaerobic resulting in a foot down or bobble at some point, yet they still held their leads. I stuck to my own riding style and stayed loose, off the brakes and did not allow myself to flail or loose efficiency.

Sandefer and I went back and fourth four times on the first lap climb. She really pushed me hard, and I eventually worked into 2nd place near the top, with Lynch putting a minute and a half between us according to Strava. God bless Lynch … She is one hell of a climber! From that point on, my mission was to ride it like I stole it!

I did not think it was possible, but I caught sight of Lynch ahead of me climbing back up to the heckle zone. As I entered the heckle zone, my eyes met with the eyes of a friend who was spectating, resulting in some big smiles for us both. I can’t remember exactly, but she may have said something like: “ I can’t believe Ellen is smiling”. The cheering was awesome and really motivated me in that section. I do not know how I did it, but I passed Lynch and several men in that section without missing a beat. I had a great run all the way down to bottom, but I never thought I could hold that lead up the climb on lap 2.

This was the perfect motivation to push me up the climb. I made a huge effort and pushed even harder at the top knowing that the climb was almost done. At the top, I glanced back and was relieved to see no one close.

By the time I reached the heckle zone, I started to ease up a tad in fear of flatting or doing something crazy stupid. However, I could not contain my excitement too long and I eventually revved it up again by the bottom. This has to be my best National Championship performance to date. Coming in and finding out that my teammate Marianne also won her Championship Race was icing on the cake. What a day for Team Campmor!

The whole vibe at Nationals this year was awesome! Bear Creek supplies one of the most fun courses that I ever have raced. It was great to see so many locals have their day. The heckling area was a total party including a nun, a devil, a chainsaw and plenty of beer and crazy people. Pennsylvania rocks for sure!

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