Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tardy Race Reports: Part II. State Champtionships and PIR

After packing up and heading back inland after Halloween weekend, I was sick, tired, emotionally overwhelmed and physically under-motivated. Decided to take a drastic measure....a real week off. Didn't work out for five days. No commuting, no training. Lots of sleeping and movie watching, followed by more sleeping.

The worst of it all had passed by Friday, and when El Luchador decided that he wanted to do the State Championship race in Salem, I decided to drag my mom down I-5 south to the Oregon State Fairgrounds and give it a whirl.

State Championships:

First and foremost, this was my favorite course of the year. So a huge thank you to the bicycleattorney.com folks for setting it up. Course was flat, fast and had at least 6 different surfaces to ride or run through: pavement, mud, sand, gravel, loose dirt and a motocross course. No run-ups and lots of room to stand and sprint. A vicious headwind. My kind of course.

R raced early, in the C race, stayed upright and picked a good day to win his first cross race. It was a tight race from start to finish and I got a good warm-up in while frenetically riding back and forth through the course and hollering bloody murder while he raced.

As ecstatic as I was for him, I couldn't be upstaged by my boyfriend in front of my mother.

A monsoon welcomed our start. This kind of weather beats some people down, but I love it. It might be because I get warm and stay warm pretty easily. But it also might be because Mother Nature is just another ass to try and kick.

The fields were small, so they called each field out of the barn individually, lined us up and blew the whistle before we could get too cold.

The start of our race is about thirty seconds into this video. One hundred meters of pavement, a sweeping left turn and another 100 meters of pavement, then into the dirt and mud for the first half of the course. I got a great start and by the time we hit the mud, had a fifteen/twenty meter lead on the field.

This half of the course was a series of straightaways into and out of the headwind, with several surface changes. I buried my head and stood up out of all of the corners, knowing that any gap would have to be created before we headed into the second half of the course, which weaved in and out of the show barns and covered motocross course.

I had a sizeable lead after the first lap, which grew during the second and third laps. I felt great and willed myself not to look back, but to just keep pushing forward. At the end of the third lap, I could sense that Margi and Steph had made up a little ground. On the last time down the starting straightaway I stood up and sprinted as if I was finishing a crit, figuring if they couldn't see me when they rounded the corner onto the same straightaway, I would have the psychological advantage going through the last lap. As long as I stayed upright, that is.

Turns out that I didn't need the psychological advantage. Because I had Burns. For the only time this season, the masters riders started behind the B riders. Burns had worked her way through my field and caught me a third of the way through the last lap. As she was at least three minutes ahead of the next masters rider, she slowed up a bit so I could just hug her wheel for the rest of the race.

Which is what I did, all of the way to the finish line.

(Post Race Smiles for the Hammer Velo State Champions.)

Whether I had won this race or not, I was really happy with my ride. It was technically clean and mentally consistent. And my mom was there at the finish line. Even at 32 years of age, having parents there for big moments doesn't get old.

R prepared a huge celebratory meal for me and my family that night and the two of us capped it off by tossing back a bottle of bubbly that I had been holding onto for five years for a "special occasion." That Saturday was such an occasion, unexpected and joyful.

And Sunday, we both woke up with a bit of a headache. Obviously.


Sunday began with extra strength Excedrin for both of us and, for me, a dilemma: Which race? With the third win on Saturday, I was well within automatic upgrade territory. I hadn't gotten the email from OBRA, but I also was well aware of the rules. And of the heckling that would occur from my friends if I lined up for the B race.

One option down. Two remaining: A race or Singlespeed? In reality, there was only one option left because I had no desire to race for an hour after racing, then consuming most of a bottle of champagne, the day before. It was settled. I would make my debut as an A (minus) at Barton.

Racing in the Singlespeed race was a wise decision on my part. It allowed me to race without any pressure and get in a phenomenal workout.

I had to do things differently at PIR because of the nature of the race. Usually, I get a fast first lap in, then settle in, regroup and try to maintain for the last 25 minutes.

However, because I was racing with men, started mid-pack and was pack fodder within two minutes, I had to ride a slow first lap and pick up speed as the race progressed. It was a good exercise in frustration management. I ended up in a pod of about ten guys, most of whom were faster than I, but I was more technically proficient through the barriers, in the mud and through the tricky off-camber sections . Lots of passing and getting caught, passing and getting caught.

(I'm not passing these guys. I'm getting lapped.)

PIR was a sonofabitch of a course as a Singlespeed. 80% the course was covered in varying consistencies of mud and there was no way to get the gearing just right. It also forced me to be a better technical rider, because I couldn't "cheat" my way through parts of the course by gearing down.

I rode the race mostly clean. I say "mostly" because there were several sections of the course where I knew that if I attempted to ride them, I would end up sliding out. So my strategy became to ride those sections as fast as I could and hope that I'd be closer to solid footing when I wiped out and had to hoof it. Stupid, yet fun and, I imagine, entertaining for the spectators.

(Getting lapped again. But still running!)

I worked harder in this race than I think I had all year in a B race. I suppose it was a combination of not having to race strategically and being under no pressure to place well. No one was paying attention to me, so my only job to ride my ass off.

I think I finished 110th out of 140. Ryan Trebon may or may not have lapped me twice. I honestly don't remember.

Only twice this year have I willed myself not to barf after a race: Barlow and PIR. If you can't tell from my face, I was spent.

But was also, again, very happy with cross racing. Which was the biggest victory of the weekend, as I was ready to hang up my shoes after Halloween weekend, content to spectate for the rest of the year.

Up Next: Barton (Or "Why I Missed the Finish of the Best Men's Race of the Year") and USGP Day #2 (Or "You Mean It's Going to be Twenty Degrees COLDER in Bend?!).

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