I have officially upgraded my Mountain Bike racing category from a “Base” women’s racer to a “Sport” women’s racer. This past Sunday was my first venture into the world of “sport” up at Haile’s Trails. Haile’s Trails are on a quarry that is actually on someones private property (they also happened to have a sweet moto cross course on the property also–these people are sort of badass apparently). The trails are only opened twice a year–for racing only. I was pretty excited as I had heard this course has “a lot of climbing” (although, I was pretty sure that was a Floridians explanation of a lot of climbing, not someone from NC, CO, CA, or pretty much anywhere else with actual hills).
Regardless, I was pretty excited to “climb.” I busted out the HOT OFF THE PRESS 2012 Rose Bandit Team Kit–which is BAD ASS thanks to the amazing design talents of CRE843 designer BZ–and even gets comments while riding in the trees (apparently, it is not all that camouflage–we stick out).
So, I lined up against 7 other women, including friend and competitor Beata Wronska who, like me, was also lining up for her first race in sport. She and I had both independently pre-rode the course on Saturday and both were AMAZED at how hard the course was–I was excited, she, less excited especially after a recurring knee injury was worsened the weekend before when we both competed in XTerra Miami. Before the race, we laughed at how we were both so nervous we felt like puking–laughing because we had no reason to be nervous, we shouldn’t have any expectations, being it our first race in a harder category.
The whistle blew and for the first time in my short MTB or any racing on a bike experience, I had a hard time clipping in–turns out I had some serious mudd in my cleat–doh! A couple of bangs on the pedal took car of that issue, but when I finally clipped in I was sitting in 6th/7th or so for the hole shot. The first 15 minutes of this course are EXCEPTIONALLY demanding. There are steep climbs (yup, this section definitely had me eating my words about climbing in FL) with steep drops not he other side, not to mention off camber switchbacks on roots–awesome. I knew I had to make a move towards the front and lucky for me, many struggled on the second climb and I maneuvered my way into 4th. The top 4 almost immediately had a sizable gap as we were able to power over the tough climbs in the beginning while those behind us got either stuck behind someone who could not (thus being forced to walk) or had trouble themselves. I didn’t look back to see the source of the issue.
We finally got past that section (that ends with some tough rocks to get over/through) and into the single track. I have never been so happy to see single track–time to recover and see how these girls ride. Almost immediately the girl in first opened a small gap and the girl in second was lagging at a slow pace. She was riding well but just not fast enough. I was in 4th and the girl in front of me was riding less well, but was able to pull of the pass for second and I got stuck still in 4th going slower than I would have liked. I decided since it was my first race in Sport, I should settle in and I assumed they knew something I didn’t about pacing themselves. Wrong. Gave them too much credit or myself not enough. I was able to pull of the pass for 3rd on one of the steep climbs out of one of the quarries.
By now, there was a gap though between me and second. She was in sight, but it was about 30 seconds and another 30 to the race leader. The race continued, almost uneventfully, although it did get briefly exciting when Ironman Danish and Fast Freddy passed me towards the end of my last lap. I finished the race in 3rd and at a manageable pace–in fact, so manageable I sort of felt like a 4th lap wouldn’t be THAT big a deal (of course, it was probably toooo manageable a pace, probably should have gone harder on the third lap). I definitely didn’t give myself enough credit to battle to the front, and have learned my lesson for my next race in Sport. Beata battled knee pain and finished 4th–a great race for both of us.
The course was surprisingly dirty on race day. In fact, it was so not dirty on the pre ride on Saturday Ironman Danish and I commented on it. Overnight, there was a decent amount of rain, and I am guessing this contributed to my being covered in dirt/mud. Someone asked if I fell/crashed and I was pleased with my witty response: “no, I was just on fire and had to stop drop and roll….” Feel free to use that one…..
** Special thanks to Beata’s hubby Pax for the AWESOME shots from the race!!!