100m of asphalt for the start, to the first corner. I had some unfinished business, considering my gong-show of a start at Nationals. This time I practised my start gear, and was feeling confident. Thankfully the commissaire used a whistle, rather than a light or a gun - we're off! I had a great launch and start in a perfect gear. I am third wheel to the corner, but we are pretty much all together. Right hand rutted turn, and a lumpy, muddy, soft section across the top to the descent. Sluggish!!! I can't believe how slow my wheels are moving, gear down to keep momentum and get some speed before the descent. Left hand corner into the thick, sticky, rutted, off camber mud slope.
First place has made a bit of a gap, but 3 of us are pretty tight. Behind the clubhouse across the field to the pit, but the other girls don't switch bikes yet. I hear my nieces cheering, and Jeff tells me not to just sit in. I power past the first pit, then make the pass by 4th. Up a little slope and right hand onto a double track road. It's hard packed, so is a nice break from the energy sucking soft pasture. Legs feel ok, but powering through the soft wet ground has set them on fire a bit. I am sitting right behind 2nd, and after a little draft on the straight, I make the pass just before the next corner. This one takes us into some sweeping S turns - the first 2 are fine, but I take the 3rd one a bit wide and I am not set up well for the last tighter corner. And we come upon one of the women from 30-39, so I fumble a bit.
Back into 2nd, but not for long. Another couple of long straights, then around the back side of the course to another off camber section which is out of the sun, and therefore still frozen. I ride it well though, and am right on 2nd's wheel. A beautiful left hand corner that requires no brakes, so am able to take over 2nd again. Into the pit for my first bike change! The Rocky Mountain is heavy, but a clean drive train is worth it. Out of the pit, across the slowest softest section, and then onto another double track to the asphalt climb back to the start. Come through the start finish feeling good, and start the second lap strong.
2nd catches back up in the slow section across the top, but this time, I ride it smooth and fast. Well, relatively speaking. It was lumpy, rutted and I bounced all over the place, but maintained my speed and stayed upright. Good old Rocky. Around the corners, past the clubhouse again, and into the pit for another bike change -back on the Scott. Smooth transitions, and I don't lose much time. Thanks Jeff, Kali and Rae! Lap 2 was fairly solid, bit of a slip on the back half of the course, on the frozen section, but I get passed even though I'm back up right away. Decide to stay on the Scott for another half lap, since it's shifting well, and will be nice to have on the climb back up to the start finish. Come through just behind 2nd, down by 6 seconds with a 30 second gap on 4th.
I have got my speed, looks good -but my front wheel slides out 2/3rds of the way down.
I am gaining on 2nd, but she is still 20 seconds or more ahead. The problem is I don't have much distance left! Through the tough wet slow sections, and then on to the double track to the road climb. She is so close, but not close enough. I stand and go as hard as I can, but 3rd place is the best I got today. I cross the finish, and slump over the bars to reduce the oxygen needed for my muscles - I am done, nothing left in me!! I was super happy with my race, despite the mistakes I made.
1) Riding is not always the best choice - sometimes running will save your bike from collecting too much mud.
2) Always change back to your lightest bike for slow or climbing sections.
3) Train more.
What a great experience. A short interview - Check out 3:17, and don't mind my cryptic ESL English!
Thanks to my pit crew, husband and coach, awesome team, and network of supportive friends and family - without whom I wouldn't have even thought of going. Now I'm thinking about next year already....I'm pretty sure I need a new bike....