6/30/08: Another Monday night, another short track MTB race. This week I had my act together but a trip to the vet (sick kitty) put my arrival time only slightly earlier than last week. The difference was, this time I just marched up to the check in counter, where there was no line, said my name and race number and went on my merry way.
A quick visit to the Chris King tent took care of some nagging brake rubbing in my front wheel. I'm still experimenting with the tire pressure thing, so this week, I tried 28 psi, just for grins and giggles, 'cause that's what Sue said she ran last week. I set off on my pre-ride lap and before I got too far, I saw our new Jr team member, and gave her a shout out as I was passing.
As I twisted and turned and twisted through the course the word 'sadist' kept popping into my head for some reason. It seemed much harder than last week. A scientific poll of a core sample of other racers in a number of categories revealed that I wasn't the only one who thought the course designer was just a little bit evil. The worst offender was a steep climb followed by a sharp right turn followed by a quick but hair-raising decent into a hairpin left turn. Sadly, as the beginner women's race lined up, the starter announced that we would be skirting that hill. Darn. Yeah, I had already developed a love/hate relationship with it.
I got a little better start this week, and settled into the middle of the pack just behind Sharon, my neighbor from two doors down. Not a good enough start though, because I got caught behind a lot of slower people going up hills and through technical sections. Right after the start, I had to slow down near the top of the first crest. The rider behind me was yelling "PEDAL PEDAL PEDAL!" but alas, that didn't make the woman in front of me go any faster. I managed to stay in the saddle, but I think she had to get off and run up the rest of the hill.
Next, I got caught behind four people who all died at the top of the gravel pile, and then it was my turn to get off and run. The descent is a lot harder when you're trying to remount your bike at the same time, but I pulled it off.
Once we got into the trees, things settled down. I focused on staying on course and working on my turns. The field got strung out, but this time I could actually see most of the women in front of me for the majority of lap one. That got me thinking foolish thoughts about a top ten finish. But I do come out for fun, so I didn't kill myself trying to catch anybody, just kept to a pace I could maintain.
Things were going pretty well, when I came past the finish line and up into a big hill. The decent is pretty loose dirt and before I knew it, I was on the ground with my bike on top of me and one foot still trapped in the pedal. Oh, I crashed, I thought, even as I was trying to figure out how to get up. It was a stupid rookie mistake really. I had my weight too far forward. A quick inventory revealed only minor scrapes. I hopped on and kept going, but despaired of ever catching Sharon again.
I settled back into a rhythm and as the race went on, I started feeling better and more confident. At the end of the final lap, I had Sharon in my sights and found an extra gear to pass her just before the final turn, which made my night and gave me bragging rights for the week. So imagine my surprise when results came out on Thursday and I was placed 17th, two places behind Sharon. I wrote to the officials and learned that in fact, I'd been sent on a wild goose lap. I got passed by the leader of the men's race and should have been done on lap three, but they were slow figuring things out and passing that on to the races. "Turn on the after burners sooner next time," was the parting advice.
7/7/08: Jess was off work this week, while we hosted her dad, who was visiting from Santa Fe. They came out to watch this week's race. After my course pre-ride, Jess came over to the back side and I gave her my bike so she could try out the whoop-de-doo hills, the only part of the course I thought she would enjoy.
I'm getting used to the pattern now. The courses seem to get more evil every week, and every week, during pre-ride, I freak out and think, no way am I going to survive this! When the race starts, I have little time to think, and more time to enjoy myself. Since I'm still riding beginner, they usually take out the narliest section of the course. In this case, it was a couple of logs that required bunny hopping in the wooded section and a steep downhill into a hairpin left turn. I always make a point to try them out in pre-ride and I successfully got down the hill twice and over the log once.
The race started way over on the back side this week. I've been making it a goal to get better starts and hopefully position myself in front of the people who end up stalling on the technical sections. I did better this time sprinting to the first turn, but then lost some ground by the time we got to the single track and ended up in my usual mid-pack position. This was OK till we got to the gravel pile, where I once again got stuck behind four other people. I had to bust out my non-existent cyclocross skills, run up the last bit and then remount while sliding down the steep gravel pile. I almost bit it at the bottom but saved myself just in time.
After that, things settled down. I started the race already tired and for the first lap, I complete forgot everything I ever knew about shifting. I went up when I meant to go down and vice versa. The heat, plus the huge meal of fish and chips, walla walla sweet onion rings and Burgerville shakes a few hours before weren't doing me any favors. Afterwards, Jess commented on how much slower my cadence seemed than everyone around me (see video). I am known to be a masher by trade, but after looking at the short clips of dad's video from the week before, I have to conclude that I probably had no legs going in.
Still, the woman ahead of of me was pissing me off. She slowed down at every little bump and hill (video 1:30), destroying any momentum I was trying to build up. I made it my goal in life to get by her, and I was finally able to cut her off in the woods at one of the 90 degree turns going between two narrowly spaced trees and up a hill.
After that I just tried to survive, but as the final lap came up (for reals this time) I found another woman just ahead of me and managed to again sprint around the last corner and pass her right at the last hill before the finish line. That felt good.
I yelled to the guys on the side, "Are we done!??" but couldn't get an answer. But I'd heard the announcer talking about seeing the leader finish, so I pulled off, and hoped it wasn't premature. Results are up and I got 8th this week, my first top ten finish. But I still didn't catch Sharon, so I have a nice carrot waiting for me tomorrow. I'm disobeying nurse's orders and racing tomorrow, despite still being sore from having my wisdom teeth out this past Thursday. Priority number one will be not to fall on my face (or any other part), and number 2, will be to see if I can finally catch that elusive neighbor of mine.