Recaps of Wild in Waverly and Angel Mounds races.
Waverly Park, Louisville, KY May 18th Even though this would be the inaugural 2014 Kentucky Point Series race I had a hard time getting psyched up the days leading up to Sunday. To start with I had gotten sick for the first time in two years! Though I can’t say it was much more than a head cold it certainly drained my energy and made it hard for me to breath and stand up straight for more than 10 minutes at a time. I really knew I was under the weather when my desire to ride vanished! I felt more human by friday afternoon but the mental damage was already done. My confidence was dampened by the thought that I ‘hadn’t prepared enough’ the week before due to sickness and the recent wet weather that put a limit on available trail time. To compound this feeling, I was still holding on to the painful ride I had at Waverly a few weeks back. On this particular group ride I experienced the most severe quad pain ever in my life. Never, ever before had I felt the stabbing and twisting knife sensation in each individual quadracept as I slowly churned the pedals. The guys benevolently teased me, “now you’re really a cyclist”, but I was dreading what I might feel at race pace on this exceptionally hilly course. Waverly Park is a well groomed, 8+ mile trail system complete with rooty sections, log piles, 20+ mph bomber downhills, well-bermed switchbacks, jumps, and one particularly gruesome climb named “Montana”. CAT 1 women would do 3 laps… 3 “Montanas” and 3 trips up the other 4-5 slow burner climbs. My legs better have gotten their act together by race day or my ego would really be hurtin’ if I was forced to do some walking. I worked to stay focused by preparing for battle in other ways; foam rolling, yoga, and rehearsing positive mantras that I could summon when the going got rough. I slept a lot and ate a lot and by saturday I felt pretty good on my 20 mile road ride. Come race time I felt pretty good.
Many of my Evansville Mountain Bike Association (EMBA) friends and Dan’s Comp teammates were in attendance and I recognized the whole women’s field from past events. This can easily become damaging information because as much as you try to ignore it your subconscious is feverishly reminding you of how you stack up against each competitor. Devulging into it can be very comforting, almost taking away all the pressure of competiting and allowing yourself to accept, “I’ll probably finish 4th…” BUT that’s why we race the races as they say. Predictions and expectations can only account for so much.
If you can stay hungry and refuse to settle in to your body’s pleas to slow down, you just might surprise yourself.
The race begins and I sprint up the long inclined road, holding the lead for about 30 seconds. The first and second place finishers glide past me and I never see them again. I tried to hold my pace and searched for the slightest sound of breathing, shifting, cranking. I heard and saw no one for the first mile and a half until I reached Montana and quickly dismounted my bike to pursue on foot. Anyone that mountain bikes will tell you that walking up a hill suuuuucks but I had never made it up this climb in the past and I certainly wasn’t going to burn up my legs this early. I looked up and saw the first (or last as it were) smattering of CAT 2 men trudging along ahead of me. Any female rider will tell you that ‘catching the boys’ gives you more of a shot of adrenaline than any gu packet ever could! I carried on, up and down some more hills fueled by ever rider I politely passed and thoughts of “am I breathing at all?”. I consciously pumped my lungs, spit up a few tablespoons of flem, and enjoyed some flowy downhill as I caught and passed some EMBA friends. I was pumped up now! My thinking shifted from winning a race to putting down a great lap time. As I came upon Montana for the second time I was pleasently surprised to see a congo line of strong CAT 2 men walking their bikes up the hill! I was ectatic! I’m not trying to put anyone down or be boastful but I’ve been chasing these boys down since I found out that mountain biking can be more than just a slightly faster walk in the woods. When I first moved to Evansville I was flabergasted by the speed that the area riders put down over technical terrain and I was determined to keep their skinny little asses in sight on group rides. Most of these rides were painful both mentally and physically, but I can’t believe how enriched my life has been by this ‘healthy adult competition’ and the even more impressive camaraderie that follows the group rides. Never in my history of team sport participation have I encountered such a friendly, supportive, and motivating atmosphere as perpetuated by the men and women of EMBA.
I am overwhelmed with love and gratitude to you all, but I still want to beat you.
Ok, ok back to the race. Coming into lap 3 a friend told me I was 2 minutes behind the female leaders, definately a tough gap to close. I tried to keep pushing by imagining one of the ladies was just behind me but my legs were chirping by now. Luckily I wasn’t experiencing the stabbing pain of ‘a real cyclist’ but I did need to make adjustments. I begin ‘checking off’ the trail features to the finish line and was proud of myself for keeping the intensity up the whole race. I did end up finishing third, “in the money” as they say but it felt like a greater success than that. I made a good showing on one of my longest and toughest xc races; no crashes, kept my focus, and proved to myself that I’m catching up to those boys.
Angel Mounds, Evansville, IN May 24th This could be the closest to home race I’ve ever attended. Angel Mounds is by no means a mountain bike destination but it proved to be a challenging race in ways many of us did not expect! The trails at AM are used primarily for dog walking and trail running. Very little maintenance is done and there are no features, hills, or technical areas of speak of. I’ve really got your interests peaked now don’t I?! This sprint <5 mile course is the first of the Southern Five MTB series put on by a friend and local racer. Our local mountain bike club, Evansville Mountain Bike Association (EMBA) made a great showing along with a number of first time racers to fill out a respectable field of 50 entrants. This truely was a great opportunity for first timers to test their metal!
Of the CAT 1 and 2 women, almost all of us have ‘grown up’ together in our biking skills. I think it’s a little more difficult to visualize gunning down a good friend (and teammate!) versus some chick that you don’t know. Nonetheless, we all wanted the win and we were ready to see how our various training regiments had prepared us for the season. I had my game plan to be the first into the woods and never let off the throttle. The biggest challenge with this course was that even though I had just three laps totaling 14 miles, there were no hills- which meant no downhill relief for the legs! Sprint, spin, hammer!! Upping the difficulty level a bit were a few sections of mud … the consistency of syrup, some questionable course markings, and believe it or not- speed. Many skilled riders wiped out simply pushing their bikes to the max around the many twists and turns. Even on this short course I rode mostly alone. I got to see many of my teammates and friends in the ‘two- way’ sections but I never saw a glimpse of my competition til the start of my last lap. At the time I found it mildly unusual that the other two CAT 1 women were trailed very closely by the CAT 2 women. I didn’t try to figure it out, all I knew was that I had 4 miles to go and they were at least 2 minutes behind me! I shifted my focus to riding smooth, staying upright, and hunting down some of the CAT 2 men! I felt really good when I finished with my first win of the season. I had pushed myself on a course that was easy to lose focus on, I resisted the urge from my stinging legs to back off my efforts, and I rode a happy, mistake free race! The happy part may seem silly to some but I’ve had a number of races where I was mad at my bike, mad about some detail of the race that would obviously work against me, mad at my competitors, and a major negative nancy that it’s a wonder I’ve hung on this long to find racing ‘fun’!
As I cheered for my friends to finish I found out that many people had made wrong turns due to race tape being torn down- including the other CAT 1 women!! I was instantly grateful I had pre-ridden the course and made good guesses the few times I was unsure! I have yet to see the lap times but if we had all had a perfect race the finish could have easily been a close one! Really looking forward to the challenges of French Lick and Ferdinand State Park which are up next in the Southern Five series!!