(photo courtesy of Ben Madden: www.title9photo.com)
I wasn't going to do it. No way, no how. How could I race when it had done nothing but rain for weeks? And then I got a cold? The race was fast-approaching and I'd barely gotten more than one ride a week in, if that. It was a bad idea. A BAD IDEA.
My friends Paula and Malissa were both signed up, so on Tuesday I joined them on a practice run of the course. I felt pretty good to be out but definitely could tell I wasn't recovering after climbs as fast as I would like to be.
The, on Thursday I went out with Kenny to join Paula on a slow last-ride-before-the-race ride. I felt great. Legs were strong, lungs were hanging in, my confidence was up. But I wasn't racing, no way was I ready. At one point I confided in Paula that I didn't want to race because I didn't want to embarass myself by coming in last. Paula stopped her bike and looked at me like I was crazy. Then she started working on me and by the end of the ride, I was on board. I was racing? Oh, shit. She totally missed her calling as a motivational speaker, or something. That woman could talk anyone into anything.
Kenny wasn't so sure, but he wasn't quite saying he wasn't going to do it. (He did it.) I was pretty certain I had no choice. Paula was right - this race is on our home course and there's no reason not to do it. None at all. Except for the PAIN.
The start of the race had a few things going for it:
1. Unlike previous years, Sport Women got their own start. No lumping us in with beginner men, a practice I loathe. I don't enjoy dodging spazzy, nervous newbs.
2. No Lemans start! Woo! I firmly feel that all bike races should start on bikes. If I wanted to run, I'd sign up for a duathalon.
3. Noon start! I hate it when my race starts at 9am and my husbands doesn't start until noon. That's your whole day, right there.
The short course started at Tredegar, followed fireroad up and around to the Lee Bridge, across the bridge, down to outdoor stairs (nine, count em, flights) more fireroad, up another set of stairs (again, nine. flights.) then finally singletrack down the southside of the James River to the Boulevard bridge, across that bridge and more singletrack on the north side to the finish. It was about 8 miles. It was a death sprint.
There were ten of us in Sport Women and I only knew one other person in that category, so it was hard to know what I was up against. We started fast (well, they started fast) and I was too afraid of blowing up to try and keep that pace right away. As soon as we were up on the bridge, though, I put it in my big ring and started picking them off. One, two, three, four passed on the bridge. I think there must have been a couple of girls behind me, but I'm not sure.
On the bridge (thanks Billy!)
We dropped down to the the stairs and I had one girl right on my ass. We trotted down the stairs with our bikes (ugh) and hit the fireroad. I passed two more on that stretch and was feeling winded, but not too bad. Then, more stairs. Carrying a bike upstairs is way, way harder than carrying a bike downstairs. By the time I got to the top and was facing actual, real singletrack, I felt like I was going to explode. I was sucking wind and my knees were wobbly, but I got on my bike with another rider right behind me. The first real technical obstacle was a rocky creek crossing that I've never been comfortable with, so I jumped off to run it rather than risk crashing. The girl behind me was much closer than I thought and I nearly de-biked her. Eek. I apologized and jumped back on to head down the trail as fast as I could manage.
On the next creek crossing I bobbled and got out of her way so she could ride it, but somehow our bikes got tangled and we both floundered. We got loose and she continued on, asking over her shoulder if I was okay. I was, but I couldn't actually talk at that point, so I couldn't answer! I think she thought I was mad, but no way, man. That's just the way racing is! I got back on and headed up the trail, starting to feel a little better and more recovered. This section of trail is really, really technical and it also on a steep hillside, so you really need to be sharp and pay attention. I rode everything fine and headed up the hill to the second bridge crossing.
There was another girl who was riding with me and passed me at one point, who was riding a singlespeed with amazing dexterity. I think I managed to weeze, "You're kicking ass on that thing!" because damn, that is impressive. She and I traded spots back and forth a bit, depending on hills. I think I finally caught her after the ramp on northside and rode behind her until we hit a climb in northside, at which point I passed her again. Then she rode up behind me and started to ask to pass and I decided to put the pedal down and just use up everything I could to get some distance between us. At some point on the northtrail I also caught the girl who I'd gotten tangled with and passed her. She told me afterwards that she was so impressed that I managed to come from a deadstop to catching her that she felt like I'd earned that pass! I don't know about all that, but thanks! Those two ended up sprinting together to the finish moments after I finished, which was pretty exciting.
I crossed the line not having any real idea of what place I was in, but I felt like I'd ridden a good race and I'd put everything I had into it. I checked around and, woo! 2nd place. Not to bad! The girl who won was someone I never even saw. I think she must have taken the lead immediately and just kept it the whole race. That is impressive, for sure. So, here's the top four lineup (from the right: me, 1st place, 3rd, 4th)
(very cool photo courtesy of Ben Madden, who you should check out at: www.title9photo.com)
And here I am with my prize-winning razor! It was one of the items in the backpack I won. I was the only one who got a razor and I think everyone was totally jealous. Who's hairless now? That's me.
Kenny finished his race handily in 14th place (his field is way bigger than mine) and Paula unfortunately had a mechanical and couldn't finish. Totally sucks considering she was the reason I did the race.
So thank the lord that's over. There's another race at the end of June I'm considering, so apparently I've drunk the Kool-Aid. We'll see.