Back in Vermont for another go at Nationals. It was easier this year, because I kind of knew what I had in store. Heat and humidity, roots and rocks and perhaps some thunderstorms. It was going to be epic. We drove over from Windham on Monday and settled in at our new home for the week, anxiously anticipating the weekend of racing. At one point, I just wanted it to be Saturday so I could get the pain and suffering over with. Tim arrive on Thursday, so the house took on a new volume and level of energy. It was good to have him there. At least for me, it was.
Race Day #1: Saturday, XC
Tim raced early at 8 a.m., so selfishly, I did not go watch. Brett babysat him and made him breakfast way earlier than I wanted to be up. Tim did not have his best race, but still finished 21st. The expert men his age are wicked fast and one of the fastest expert categories. But I know he is faster than that. He just had a few too many races in his legs prior to natty's.
I, on the other hand, was ready to have the best XC race of my life. Legs were coming back after the BC base I built and I really felt good. That was, until on the first lap after the start and first initial steep climb when I reached down to drink and somehow my water bottle had disappeared. 85 degrees and almost 100% humidity. I was sweating profusely and had no way to replenish myself for the first 35 minutes of the race. It was not good. Many things crossed my mind during this first lap. Throttle 'er back was one of them, and I did. I kept telling myself I would be o.k. and that I race a 40 minute cross race w/o water, so just relax. Problem with cross, you are done after 40 minutes. I still had over an hour to go and 2 more laps after that. I did survive, but I did suffer. The lack of hydration caught up with me and although I held off the cramps, my legs were not turning the pedals over that well. I lost a few more spots on that last lap, for a 14th place finish. Sure, this was an improvement from last year, but also a frustrating reality that 'anything can happen'. I didn't ride my best, but I knew tomorrow was another day. Get over it. That's racing.
Front row (in a puddle of mud where no one else wanted to go) rubbing elbows with Georgia. Who wouldn't want to start next to Georgia???
(Image by Dave McElwaine/www.trailwatch.net)Race Day #2: Short Track
I opted out of the Super D race that was a few hours before Short Track. The cost of failure on that course could have been high and after pre-riding, although I didn't think it was too bad, I definitely knew it was an accident waiting to happen, especially after how I rode the technical stuff the day prior. So I saved it all for short track. And it showed.
Tim had an AWESOME short track race and although I was in and out of my warming up trying to catch a bit of the race, he was always right in there and anything could have happened. He could have won the damn race, it was that close. But he had a great finish in 4th and was on that podium. Of course, my camera was out of batteries by then, but he looked AMAZING!
My race was one of contradictions. It was an amazing race, but also one that was frustrating in retrospect. I had a great start, got myself in the lead chase group (Katie was gone and Mary behind her, both riding solo) and then one little mess up from the rider in front of me (she went down when rubbing the tire of the person in front of her), and we were all separated from the rest of the podium group. But there was still time with 3+ to go. But signs were flashing 3 then 2 on the same lap. The confusion grew, but the race was on. I made the mistake of not just attacking and going solo to chase. Why was I being conservative at that point? No idea. Perhaps I was hurting, exhausted, scared to blow up. But the race was almost over. Our group chased, fought for position and then with one to go, they called us of course as we went through the start finish, and we watched 3rd through 5th ride away with the safety of no one behind them. I am not saying we would have caught them, but 6th -12th position was decided without a fight. We had one to go, or did we??? The confusion of it all left me disappointed, yet thrilled to have been in the fight. There has never been a time that I could honestly say, I could have done it. Who knows how it would have turned out had I gotten in a different position earlier and not just tried to conserve energy in the headwind, saving it for the last 3 laps. I will never know. What I know is that I have to be satisfied with my 9th place finish and call it a start for better things to come.
In the lead chase early in the race.All in all, it was a good weekend of racing. I had fun, enjoyed the company of others, relished my front line starting spot for the XC (not sure how that happened), and really am excited to do it again next year (although already scared about the altitude), building on the experience from this year and taking the next step to where I want to be. Yep, the announcers keep calling me 'old', but I am young to the racing scene and am racing against time. I may not have 10 years to build and get myself to the top, but I want to be the best I can be (yikes, sounds like the army) and will enjoy every step of the way and smile while I am doing it!
(Image by Dave McElwaine/www.trailwatch.net)
(Image by Dave McElwaine/www.trailwatch.net)