more than just another bike blog

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Going to Hell on a Hardtail

I've always suspected I would go to Hell, but I think I sealed my fate on Sunday.

Sunday was the 6th in a series of 7 mountain bike races promoted by the guys at CCCX. I've been dabbling a bit with mtn biking for the past couple of years, primarily to improve my cyclocross skills. So, when I started formulating goals for 2006, I decided I'd do some mtn bike races. Not knowing where my health would be, I decided mtn biking would be a way to participate even if I couldn't be competitive. So, I picked out the CCCX series, Sea Otter, and Cougar Mountain as my races for the season.

My goal for the year was to podium in the series and to win one race. The fun thing about series is that by their very nature, they reward the consistent participants (not just the top racers), so if I just consistently showed up, I should be able to achieve my first goal. Now, the second goal is more of a "gee this would be nice, but don't count on it goal."

I haven't had stellar results this season, but I was never fresh for any of the races either. Before each of the races, I'd done a road race, crit, or hard training ride the day before. Two weeks prior, I was certain I was going to kick ass, raced hard, smart, and fearlessly, but still ended up toward the bottom of the results, 13 minutes down from the leaders. Of course, all the slow girls stayed home that day and there were a couple of new, fast girls who showed up. But, I was still improving and having fun, so it's all good.

Anyways, back to Sunday. It seemed my heart was only half into the race, probably because I was disappointed with the prior race. But, I went through all my pre-race rituals (even cleaned my bike) and drove down to Ft. Ord for my early-morning pre-ride. The course seemed to suit me -- flattish, fast, and lots of places for me to power through.

At the line, I was a bit more casual than usual, chatting with a friend from road racing and not getting the position to the far right that I usually like. Oh well, I had a good start and was second wheel on the leader up the climb (I've learned not to be first wheel). Two riders flew by just before the turn-off to the single track, so I started 4th wheel on the course. I let myself gap just a little bit, and Keith (the race promoter) yelled at me to get moving. This was just the wake-up call I needed (thanks, Keith) -- game on! I jump and get back in the wheels.

There was a big pile-up with the women in front of me on a short little steep, and I thought I'd be able to stay upright and get around them, but one of the women walked right into me so I had to dismount and chase. And chase I did, passing the two riders in front of me and sitting myself right on the wheel of the race leader on the short pavement climb. Hearing my heavy breathing, she looked at me and took off, and I chased and chased, never letting her get more than a few seconds away from me. This continued through the first lap, until we hit the one hard climb at the finish line. She took off, I climbed at my own pace, and the girl in 3rd passed me (I was able to pass her back in just a bit).

Then, destiny struck! I'm sitting second wheel again with 3rd about 45 seconds behind. We're swooping around the singletrack and I start wondering if I should just pass the leader at some point and go for it. Of course, she's this 20-something perky little blonde and I probably stood no chance of staying away for three more laps, so I just sat tight, never letting her out of my sight, drafting when it made sense, and just following when it didn't. I round a switchback and there's a teenage boy standing on the singletrack. Without time to think (we're riding about 24mph at this point), I just held my line, my left hand clipped his bar (ouch!), and I go flying, still mounted on the bike, into a bush on the side of the trail, swearing up a storm about how stupid it is to stand on the trail!!! But what made this my fatal flaw is the kid races for Cavalry Chapel (the church school). Crud, I'm going to hell for sure now!

By the time I untangle myself from the bush and assess the damage (hand/wrist/arm hurts like hell, and I've got a HUGE hematoma on my arm), the race leader has disappeared and I've been passed by #3. I can still see her, and know in my heart I'm a stronger, faster racer, but I just can't seem to catch her, so I end up chasing for the rest of the race. Knowing I'm in 3rd place, I'm motivated to stay away from the women behind me. On the final lap, I'm losing a little steam and getting sloppy, but I just keep chanting #2s name under my breath as motivation to catch her.

I cross the line in #3 and get a big shiny medal -- how cool is that? I know, medals are for geeks, but it's only the second medal I've ever gotten (and the first was in a race with no other competitors in my category). I wore it home and then went into the bike shop where I work to show it off to the guys.

p.s. I ran into the kid again (figuratively) post-race and said "are you the kid I hit?" He said yes, we made nice, and then he asked "did I affect the outcome of your race?" Well, yes, and even if you didn't we can say it did!


At 6/21/2006 2:05 PM, Blogger Olaf Vanderhoot said...


... it's whats for breakfast.

At 6/21/2006 3:04 PM, Blogger velogirl said...

Die trying.

At 6/22/2006 8:43 AM, Blogger Flandria said...

you did awesome!


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