First Race of 2012
Yesterday was my first race of 2012, and also the first race of the root 66 mountain bike series here in NE. After such a mild winter, I think everyone was itching to get out and test their fitness because there were tons of people! I especially noticed the growth in the women’s fields over last year. In categories that some races had 0 women, there were 10-20 who showed up to race.
Coming into this race I was VERY nervous. I hadn’t gotten a good nights sleep in about a week because I kept thinking about the race. I wanted to prove that everything that happened last year was in the past. As much as I wanted to win, I really just wanted to prove that I could be competitive and not have to walk my bike in technical sections.
The day before the race I checked the other women registered in my category and saw one had won the cat 2 overall series in NY along with being the state champion. Why would she move down to cat 3 after this I was thinking, as I was mentally getting psyched out. Rich assured me she probably just made a mistake and not to worry. It was clear when we showed up on race day that 1)it was not a mistake and 2)she was clearly in a different league then us. I tried to calm my nerves and tell myself it didn’t matter, I just needed to race my own race. This was working until I went to the start line and the girl that pulled up next to me was on a specialized sworks epic 29er (a $10,000 bike)!
Since I typically have very slow starts, Rich bribed me by saying I would get a prize if I got the hole shot. After getting pretty psyched out by the other girls in my race, I decided that I wasn’t going to go for it. I didn’t want to blow myself up, since my nerves already had my heart rate skyrocketing by this point. Well when the whistle blew, I took off at a moderate pace and soon found myself in second. Yes, I feel that I could have chased the leader for the hole shot, but I was happy to actually fall into third going into the woods.
Unfortunately, I had a wardrobe malfunction as my tights got stuck around the front of my seat, causing me to slip on the short climb up, losing a bunch of spots. A lot of those to pass me were the first timer men, and as we went through the first section of singletrack I grew very frustrated, questioning why I was doing this. Too many people in the front weren’t able to do this section, so we were all off our bikes walking. As soon as we got through this section, I moved up a couple spots, and then we moved right into the main climb of the race. People were immediately getting off their bikes, and I was determined to stay on my so I found lines around them. I only saw one person ahead of me still on her bike, so I was determined to close the gap. Luckily for me, the hill kept going after making a turn, and she was not able to stay on. I continued to press on and passed her as she had to walk the final 5 yards of the climb.
At this point I played a little cat and mouse with some of the men, as they would pass me on the downhills, and I would then pass them on the uphills. Eventually all the climbing seemed to wear them down, and I was able to get away. I tried to ride strong on the climbs, catch my breath since I was afraid to go to fast on the downhills and throw the hammer down on the flats. This seemed to work, as I didn’t have anyone pass me from behind after about 1/2 way through the lap. Each climb, however, I continued to pass more people that were ahead of me.
There were a couple sketchy sections, with a fairly decent all gravel decent, a long rocky descent and some tight spaces between trees. Through all of this I managed to stay on my bike and make it through. On the back side of the course was one final climb, where I passed 5 people on the first lap. I then used the skills Rich had taught me to pop my tire over the only real log on the course, and I worked my way through the windy descent to the finish line. I did walk my bike over a drop off at this point, but I got right back on and kept going. At this point I was told I was the 3rd women to come through, so I had some hunting to do. Not long into the second lap, I caught sight of the jersey of another woman. I would narrow the gap on the climbs, but she would quickly disappear on the descents. I tried to pickup my pace on the descents, but it wasn’t enough.
In the end, I was 2 minutes faster on my second lap, felt great and actually wished we would have done a third lap. I got 3rd overall for all cat 3 women and 2nd in my age group. For me the biggest success wasn’t the podium finish, but the confidence I gained from finishing strong and riding 99% of the course. There is definitely room for improvement, especially when it comes to going down the hills, but that is something that will come with more practice.
I’ve got three weeks until the next race, so I’m hoping to continue to build my fitness and get some quality time on my mountain bike to work on my skills. I’m not sure yet if I will stick with cat 3 for at least one more race or make my transition to cat 2, since the next one is part 1 of the CT state championship series. Ideally, I’d like to be cat 2 for both races, but I also don’t want to push myself before I’m ready. We will see how the next 3 weeks go, but I am very please with how things went yesterday.