Wow, what a week. Stick a fork in me – I am cooked. What amazing riding, the trails are sick, sick, sick, the people were awesome, my teammates rock, our support was incredible and Mike and Ray, the race promoter and director did an incredible job. I’m blown away. Really.
My race did not go quite how I wanted. Though, at the end of the day my bad luck (deserved, though it may have been) wouldn’t have changed much results-wise. But I think it soured my day-to-day mojo a little. But, a very little – there was too much good to be very sour.
We traveled to State College on Thursday, which gave us ample time to get situated and check out a couple of sections of the course before the race started on Sunday. On Friday, teammate Vicki and some of the NoTubes boys took us out on Tussey Ridge, which was part of Stage 6. It_was_awesome. On Saturday, we headed out to the venue and moved into our (very) small home for the week. This was the whole house. I was standing in the doorway to take the picture. Cozy
On Sunday afternoon, the race kicked off with the prologue. I had to start 30 seconds in front of teammate Jenny Smith. Dammit. After a brief wind through the venue on dirt, the course headed out for several miles on the road. My goal was to say ahead of Jenny through the road section. Which I managed to do. And I was gaining on Alice who had started 60 seconds up so I was happy about that. Jenny passed me about halfway through the course and I continued to chase Alice. I got myself on Alice’s wheel as we hit a fast moto descent with some sharp rocks and…I flatted. It had been two years since I flatted in a race and it took me 5.5 minutes to change my flat (yes, I checked my file later to see how long it took). Nearly all the women passed me but it was near the end of the course and once I got a tube in, I limped the rest of the way in. Wasting 5.5 minutes on day 1 is not that much and though it wasn’t the most wonderful way to start the race, it hardly seemed like a big deal. And the fact two of my teammates were on the podium – Sue, first; Jenny, second – helped numb the pain.
Day 2: I was ready to redeem myself and the course sounded rad. The race started on a fireroad climb and Sue, Jenny and Alice and I were all pretty close with Cheryl apparently not far up the road. We got in a good group on the next fast road section and (though we initially blew by the singletrack turn), we all hit it together. There was a long hike-a-bike not long after and things separated a bit. Sue and Cheryl were out of sight ahead, Jenny was a within sight ahead and I couldn’t see Alice behind me but I knew she was right there. After another road climb, Jenny was nearly out of sight when we hit the next section of singletrack. My legs felt great and I was still motivated and happy with how it was going so far. Not long through the next singletrack, I rode through a rock garden, slammed something and flatted my rear tire again. I was shocked. I had switched out for a super burly Kenda SCT Karma – how could I have flatted it?! I tried to fill it with CO2 but it would not hold. After further inspection when I put the tube in, I saw that I had broken a spoke and had done it when it was under tension in such a way that when it broke, it actually pushed through the rim tape, breaking the seal and causing the flat. THAT is just bad luck. (I own that I deserved it the day before – I was running a light tire that was not up to the sharp rocks. But this was just_bad_luck). This flat took me 8.5 minutes because I was angry, frustrated and disorganized. Alice and Kristen both passed me. I did have fun the rest of the day but I was bummed and disappointed and it was tough to stay motivated. This was kind of the mojo sucker I mentioned above – I just didn’t get it back. Whatever killer instict I had was pretty battered and though I enjoyed the trails, it didn’t feel much like racing. I was able to catch back up to Alice but never saw Kristen or any of the other ladies and lost a lot more time.
Day 3: Though this stage was a mostly road stage, I still ran bomber tires because I was super paranoid about the short sections of rocky singletrack. But today my legs started to feel the effort and I missed the inevitable split on the road start. I rode in no man’s land for a while, eventually finding some people to work with. I yo-yoed behind Jenny for a while, Kristen caught up to me near the first aid. Jenny dropped me for good shortly after that and I managed to drop Kristen. I could see Alice up ahead for the second half of the race but never seemed to make any time up to her. I wasn’t as stoked on this stage because it didn’t have much singletrack but I was happy to keep air in my tires and there was a rocky jeep road climb, a couple short sections of fun singletrack and a cool tunnel that kept things interesting. I also ran out of water which might have made things very interesting indeed were I not full of elete and able to tolerate a little dehydration. Not that I didn’t beg some fluids off the people I was riding with.
Day 4: This was more like a long traditional XC course – two loops on a super fast, fun, twisty, pump-track style course. The start was waved, which made the women’s race more dynamic as five of us were pretty much together through most of the race. (Instead of getting interspersed with the guys and often not seeing the other women). Cheryl, Sue and Alice rode together and Jenny and I yo-yoed behind through the first lap and a half – sometimes part of their train and sometimes gapped off. Jenny caught back on at 1.5 laps, just as Alice flatted and I cracked. I lost them after that. I felt bad that Alice flatted. But not that bad. It was a little muddy.
Cheryl had taken over the lead on day 2 and by this point, Sue and Jenny were solidly in second and third. Kristen, Alice and I were pretty close in that order (though Alice’s flat was a gift to me at that point – lame though it is to see it that way). More to come.