more than just another bike blog

Monday, February 19, 2007

always the bridesmaid, never the bride

Yesterday was the second race in the central coast mountain bike series at Ft. Ord in Monterey.

My legs were worked on Saturday at our Tri-Flow training, probably due to standing on my feet (in heels) for many hours on Friday night. I was a super-model (bah!) at the Tour of California gala in Sausalito, and combined with all the standing, we didn't eat until about 10:30 that night, so I was tired, cranky, and my legs were killing me. Saturday morning we worked on race drills, and anytime I hit my high-end my legs would flush and burn. I was a bit concerned they wouldn't be recovered for Sunday's race.

I arrived at Ft. Ord with enough time to do one pre-ride lap as a warm-up and roll to the line without a minute to spare. The timing was actually great -- no waiting around and cooling down, although in the last ten minutes I was a bit worried I wouldn't make it to the line by the whistle. Knowing I wouldn't have time to make it to the porta-potty, I used the green door on the side of the trail, waiting for Jill and Al Painter to ride by -- they didn't. whew!

I was more nervous for the race this weeek than I was last week. I think it was because I suddenly felt pressure to do well again. What if last week's 2nd place finish was a fluke? what if I really did suck again like last year. what if a certain ex-Velo Girl who was rumored to be racing this week showed up and kicked my butt? What if? I tried to channel my nervousness into positive energy.

I got my usual good start and rolled up the hill. I didn't push myself as much as I usually do -- not sure why. And for the first time since I've been racing mtn bikes at Ft. Ord, no one passed me on the starting stretch. You see, I usually get a good gap in the first 45-60 seconds and then blow pretty badly and get passed by at least a few racers (sometimes a lot of racers). But this time no one passed me and I was first onto the single-track. As we hit the first early climb (aka "the hill"), I kept expecting women to pass me. I tried to make myself as big as possible, but since this climb is on double-track, there are other lines to pass. Again, no one passed me and I was shocked. I rolled through the finish in 1st and Rod called out my name as the leader.

During the first lap, I kept waiting for someone to pass me on the climbs. Unfortunately, most of the climbs are on wider terrain, so it's easy to pass. And since climbing is my weakness, this is a big disadvantage for me. Again, shock as no one passed me.

Being in the leader's position is unfamiliar territory for me. I wasn't exactly sure what to do. I wanted to keep going hard but not too hard so I blew or got sloppy. At one point, I missed my line and ended up off the trail into a big pile of mud. It took some time to right myself and get back on the trail. I expected Jody (last week's yellow-jacket girl who was in 2nd this week) to pass me at that point but she didn't. I would occassionally glance back to see her about 30 seconds or so behind me. Not far enough for me to become comfortable with my gap, which kept me super-motivated to keep going.

Heading into the finish area, I see Jody's family and hear them cheer for her behind me. As we approach "the hill," I again expect her to pass me but she doesn't. A guy who I'd passed earlier in the lap passes me, but I pass him back at the top. That's one of the interesting elements of mtn bike racing that I've had to learn to deal with. Because there are multiple fields on the course at the same time, you can sometimes hear someone behind (breathing, shifting, braking) but not know if that person is in your field or not.

Heading into the finish chute going into lap two, I'm still in 1st place, but Jody is just behind me. Rod says something about "this is where the battle is being waged" so I know I don't have much of a gap. Back up the hill and I again expect Jody to pass me. I push as hard as I can and somehow make it to the top still in first position.

Lap two was pretty sloppy. I decided that I could increase my gap if I increase my risks, so I'm riding like a crazy-woman. At one point, I completely miss the trail as it turns to the left and stay on the trail to the right. Of course, I then notice the tape and realize I've ridden right off the course. The tape is low there so I turn around and ride over the tape and back onto the trail. Thank goodness the tape doesn't catch in my cranks or derailleur and I'm back on the trail (and Jody hasn't passed me). A quick glance back and I don't see her so I'm feeling a little more confident about my gap.

Then back to "the hill." I've always hated this hill. But today I'm able to ride it in bigger gears than in the past. On the second lap (my 4th time up the hill including my warm-up lap), I bottom out to my 34. Not a good sign. I hear Jody's family cheering for her, but she doesn't pass me on the hill.

Lap three is more of the same. At this point I feel I know the course well enough to really jam on the technical elements and fly through the single-track. I don't see Jody when I glance back except on the long stretch of uphill pavement (and she's way back there). But, she sees me which is probably enough to motivate her to pick it up a notch. Somehow, I stay on the trail the entire lap even though I'm pushing it. As I round the bend before "the hill" I suddenly realize I could win the race.

Alas, as I'm climbing "the hill" Jody passes me. I look down at my bike computer -- one hour and 20 minutes -- I've been leading the entire race for one hour and 20 minutes (in what was to be a one hour and 23 minute race). Unbelievable. As she passes, I try to respond, but my legs just cramp up and I barely make it to the top without stopping. But the race isn't over yet. I know that anything can happen (Jody could flat or crash or miss a turn) and I don't give up. So I try my hardest to catch her before the finish. But it just wasn't good enough today and she beat me by 37 seconds.

Although I'm a bit disappointed, I'm still pretty happy. My results are better than last year, I've learned a lot about mtn bike tactics in the past two races, and I think I still have the potential to win a race. I'm sitting in 2nd place in the series (down by only two points) and my fitness is far from peak so there's hope yet. I seem to have solved the nutrition issue for this race and my energy was constant throughout. Actually, our last lap was faster than the first two so that's positive, unlike my complete loss of energy in the week prior. The only things I would've done differently would be to stay on the trail (which I blew twice) and reconsider a couple of gearing choices. Regarding the latter, there were a couple of climbs on the trail where I got stuck in my middle chain-ring, not wanting to risk dropping my chain by shifting mid-climb, so I had to grunt it out. I'm sure this burned my legs a bit and didn't help my climbing the last time up "the hill."

So, another shiny 2nd place medal. So close, and yet so far from that elusive win.

Congratulations to my teammates also racing yesterday! Elizabeth did great, in just her third mountain bike race, finishing top-ten in the beginner women's category. Jeanine gutted it out with the sport women even though she was having a cleat malfunction. And Jenny, who missed the start of the beginner women due to some time spent with CHP in the morning, decided to race with the sport women, knowing she didn't have time to finish the race before having to take her son to his sporting event. After two laps she was sitting fifth or sixth and just jamming!

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4 Comments:

At 2/20/2007 6:38 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Good job on 2nd place. Jan Ullrich settled for second a lot, so it can't be all bad, right?

Also, just FYI. You should wear running shoes with your super model outfits. Nothing is sexier than a woman in a sexy shirt and a pair of New Balance. :)

 
At 2/20/2007 9:26 AM, Blogger lauren said...

are there any pics from the "super model" showing?

and what happened to jenny and the chp? driving too fast in that little put put car?

 
At 2/20/2007 9:27 AM, Blogger lauren said...

you're moderating comments? are you getting dirty comments?

 
At 2/20/2007 12:42 PM, Blogger chatterbox said...

Very cool. Congrats! Better to be a bridesmaid than not even in the wedding party. You already know you can beat Ms. Yellow Jacket. You'll do it next time!

 

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