Amateur racers. We drag ourselves out of bed at 6 am on a Saturday and haul ourselves to a race we have no chance of winning. It's either a noble rage against cosmic meaninglessness or, like, way more fun than mowing the lawn. (Bicycling, March 2004)
Having finished the Urban Assault race, feeling all good and full of endorphins and post-race amnesia, I blithely stated OUT LOUD that I'd probably be doing the Camp Hilbert race in June. At the time, June 28th seemed a long, long ways away. Or, you know, yesterday. Oops.
I didn't train for it so much as I just rode my bike every chance I got. This isn't a terrible strategy for me because nothing makes me a better rider than riding. If I go too long between rides I get more fearful and cautious and start avoiding some of the more technical sections of trail that scare me. If I ride a lot those sections still scare me but I ride them anyway. So there, trail.
Anyway, I registered for the race on Friday and felt good about it in general. I hadn't raced (or ridden) Camp Hilbert in a couple of years so I couldn't really remember much about it, specifically. For me, ignorance is bliss. If I don't know what parts to be freaked out by, I can't be freaked out by them, right? Right.
(Note: Camp Hilbert is the site of my disastrous Very First Bike Race back in 2002. I entered the Sport category because I'm stupid and then rode the entire thing in my small chain ring. I came in dead last, went home and slept for the rest of the day. )
Early Sunday morning and the weather was perfect. Perfect! Warm but not hot and slightly overcast. We ate breakfast and loaded up the car. Kenny proved that it is completely possible to put two full-suspension mountain bikes in the back of an Avalon:
Impressive! I was feeling okay, aside from flashes of pure fear when I thought about the race start. I hate the start. I'm usually fine once I'm in the woods but the start always sends me into red-lined horror. It's the part that leaves me panting and panicked and I'm always afraid if I go out too fast I'll blow up immediately.
We drive out to Camp Hilbert, gear up, pee 200 times (me) and before I can even blink, I'm lining up with the other Sport Women. Wow, that was fast.
WE GO. The start was blissfully downhill on a gravel fireroad that led around to the left and then down into the singletrack. It's fast and I manage to go in with the front four or five women. We hit the woods and I'm panting and winded, but handling the fast, twisty trail just fine. We head towards the bottom of the woods near a creek and there is a small disaster- a sideways (and giant) root has taken hold of my friend Malissa's front tire and she crashed. A flat takes her out of the race before she'd even got started. Totally sucks. I rode on and tried to pace myself. Donna is behind me and Amy ahead, though (I think?) at one point Amy pulls over and lets me pass (I think. I always get confused as to who is where.) She stayed behind me for the whole first lap (hey, that's my trick) pacing me and never quite letting me pull away. I felt TERRIBLE for most of the first lap. I rode everything and never stopped, but I felt like I was dying. (This is the part you conveniently forget the minute the race is over, which is why anyone ever does more than one race, ever.)
I rode the whole first lap clean and Donna passed us right as we started into the second lap. I was starting to settle in and feel better when I came to the root section that had taken out Malissa. For some dumb reason instead of taking the left line (like I had in my first lap) I went straight into it and my tire caught the root and over I went. I managed to do one of those weird flying dismounts and landed on my feet, but it didn't matter. I was shaken and Amy got her opportunity to pass me. Go Amy! She earned it.
She was gone by the time I got back on my bike and got myself going again. I settled back in and was concentrating on catching her when I hit the little tiny mud-slicked bridge that was right before the steepest climb in the race. I hit that bridge and my bike slid off it like it was covered in ice. I landed in the underbrush and had to push up the hill. Not a big deal, but I lost a fair amount of time.
After that, I just rode. I just rode my bike and enjoyed the fast, whippy trails and pushed as much as I was able. This was the first long race I've done since September of 2007, so I just didn't have the race endurance that comes from, well, racing. So! I finished a very respectable 4th place and I'm happy with that. Funny, the 1st - 4th lineup is the same four women as my last race, but with a few places rearranged. I was in good company, for sure. Donna came in 2nd place despite the titanium plate she just had screwed into her collarbone after a crash in her last race. I was a little worried that she was back racing so soon, but, um, I shouldn't have been. That plate just made her faster, I swear. Andrea won both races and she's so fast I never see her after the start. She gets out in front and stays there. Solid.
Kenny rode with the early group and came in 7th, which is admirable. His field is way bigger than mine. He was happy, I think. We watched the noon start:
And then packed the bikes up and went home. And immediately took naps because that's all we were good for. And that's still kind of how I feel today. Bleh.