It's hard to believe that my first 'pro' mountain bike season is over!!! I have successfully completed the national series. And what an amazing place to finish. Aspen was awesome and Emily and her parent's were great hosts. I didn't want to leave. I flew into Aspen on Wednesday and the high altitude adventure began. We rode the course on Thursday in it's entirety. It was so much fun that even though I knew it would be a suffer fest, it would be an enjoyable one. Friday we took the lift up and only rode the upper loop once. That was enough fun for one day prior to the race. Especially at altitude, where I was feeling the effect. I think the race started above 8000 feet. Yikes! For someone that lives at sea level, that hurts! Tim flew in late Friday night and my parents arrived Friday as well. It was going to be a fun weekend.
Chris Moor dialing in my bike. Such a great mechanic!!! And super guy.
Race Day #1: Saturday: Cross Country
Having our race at 9 a.m. was a new experience. It meant getting up way too early, but would also mean a little cooler weather. We woke up at 6 a.m. and began the caffeine consumption and the forced feeding. It's hard to eat that early when you aren't used to it. We got to the venue with plenty of time for warming up and to our dismay, it was already getting warm. That high altitude sun really makes it warm, but it wasn't too bad. The air was still way to thin, however, and that was evident on the first climb that lasted over a half hour on singletrack. I seeded myself pretty well and just kept climbing, trying not to breathe too loudly to let others know I was feeling the altitude. But once we got to the upper loop, I knew it was going to be fun, so I had a great attitude and just had fun. After some frustrating delays behind riders that were not riding sections and descending slowly, I worked my way up to the top 20. And I kept feeling better and was having fun. When I went through the feedzone the second time, I was told I was 19th, but I had a couple gals in my sights and knew they were fading. And then it happened... that sound you never want to hear... air rapidly escaping my rear tire. I dismounted and took a minute to realize that I had to change a flat. I was almost in shock and bummed, b/c we were almost to the final descent. So, I turned my bike upside down, took off my rear tire and evaluated the situation. It was a torn sidewall. My Stan's was not filling the hole. I would have to put in a tube and pray it held. Emily passed me and asked if I had everything and I assumed I did. Shouldn't I? I always was prepared. The main problem was my lack of experience using my big air valve and I really struggled. I'm sitting there on the side watching people pass me as I get organized, take out my tubeless valve, get the tube out, put it in, tire back on and try to air it up. Well, I realize I really don't know how to use this chuck. I have never used it. At one point the air is going all over and the valve is not on the tube. I get it there and get what I think should be enough air in the tube to get me down the hill. The only thought that was going through my head is that "darn it, I better not have to walk out. This descent is too fun. I just want to be able to ride again." More teammates had passed and other gals offering their condolences, but I just relaxed and got back on the bike. I was worried that I would get a pinch flat, b/c the descent was pretty rough, so I daintily picked my way though the rocks and had a great time chasing back in. I did pass several that has passed me and most were gracious and let me by. It was a rough way to finish the last cross country race of the season, but I still finished 28th and that only dropped me to 18th in the series overall. For my first year and only one mechanical all year, I could not complain and if I did, no one would listen. It was a great day and our friend Shannon and Ethan made the trek over from Vail to cheer me on. And we had more friends arrive that evening, Doug and Mel Pape. That evening we had an awesome gathering at Emily's place.
Race Day #2: Sunday: XC for Tim, Short Track for me
As I have become accustomed to, it was another early a.m. getting up to support Tim and get to the feed zone. He started his race at 8:30 and I thought I would be clever and ride the lift from the start/finish and ride to the feedzone. Well, I got lost and ended up having Tim and Ray, the other guy I was supposed to feed, pass me. I had to ride the course to get there, but I found it and found my way back on the road where I thought I was lost. Oh well. Tim had his camelback, so wasn't really needing me. It was a beautiful morning and actually a nice ride, despite being in regular clothes. At least I was smart enough to bring my bike shoes and helmet. Tim had a great race and looked strong, and although he is disappointed in his 7th place finish, they were all close and being a flat lander racing above 8000ft, it was pretty darn good. He finished 2nd in the national series and although he missed his podium, he received a very nice plaque.
Tim missed his podium, but picked up his 2nd place series plaque for Expert Men 40-44. Congrats Tim!!!
We took a break in our day and back to Aspen to Emily's so I could regroup, eat and get ready for my race. Race time was 3 p.m. Warming up I decided I was pretty much 'over it'. I couldn't breathe, but my legs felt pretty good and I had ridden that morning. So, after 20 minutes on the trainer, I decided enough was enough. And somehow my mental toughness got me to the end of the race. And I didn't get pulled!!! 3rd time this season to complete a short track race.
I was just seconds away from a top ten finish, but finished 11th and had a great race. (see picture below for how close it really was. I am the one behind the Trek gal just finishing)
A great way to end the season. That put me in 14th for the series. And then the party began...
Sue drinking beer and Tim drinking water. Now, that is something new. (Ok, he already had a few.)
RACE AFTERTHOUGHTS: It is still hard to believe that it is over. I am excited to move on to Cyclocross. But first, a break and a trip to Thailand after having my niece and nephew for a week. Life is pretty darn good. Although my goal this year was to have one top 10 finish, I have to say it was a good year. It was a good indication of what I am capable of and what the future will bring. It was a consistent season and I have learned a lot. I went from starting in the very back of the pack to the second row. I am already excited for next season and know that there is improvement to be made. I have had a lot of fun, been to many new places, met a lot of great people and think the adventure will continue to bring great joy. Thanks for coming along with me on this adventure, for those who have followed it and get ready for some more fun... I sure am.