As we traveled south, I medicated with caffeine, to wake up, and Advil, to help my sore hips and legs loosen up. Warm up started off rather stiff and slow, but after about 20 minutes and I started to feel good- loose, relaxed, comfortable. The course really suited my riding style- lots of ups and downs, plenty of turns and roots, on the technical side, but still nice and flowy. Excellent!
We headed back to the start line about 15 minutes before our start. That's when the nerves and self doubt started to settle in. I had no idea how this was going to go. My heart sank a little bit when some Team Group Health ladies lined up. These are ladies I really enjoy racing with, but they generally beat me in road and CX and I was intimidated by their arrival. I actively tried to push those thoughts out of my head and focused on the start. With a "ready, go!" we were off. I stomped in to my pedals and took off down the incline, grabbing the hole shot. I expected someone to come flying around me at any minute, but no one did. I flew over the first knoll and nearly over my handlebars as the trail dove to the right. Somehow I recovered and sat back in the saddle, reminding myself to calm down and ride within my means.
|A train of TGH and Cycle U ladies coming down the first descent (I snagged this shot from the TGH flickr stream).|
I was still in the lead when I came to a tricky uphill transition with slippery roots. I didn't pick up my front wheel in time, putting my foot down just in time for Sara from TGH to come around me. I started to get flustered, but told myself to keep calm and pedal on, and breathe. She quickly opened up a 10 second gap on me, and she was laying down a blistering fast pace. I tried to catch her but couldn't respond, so focused on staying within 10 or 20 feet of her. We started up the climby part of the course and I focused on breathing regularly and pedaling smoothly. The gap between us got smaller and smaller, until finally, at the top of the climb, I caught her. I moved right to pass, breathing hard- "good job, girly!" She wasn't going to give up that easily, though- instead, she took off and gapped me again. As I chased her across the flats, I returned to my meditative, oxygen deprived zen-like state and decided to wait until she made a mistake rather than trying to pass her again.
Sure enough, a few minutes later later, in a transition uphill with some more tricky roots, she fumbled and put her foot down. I squeezed past her and pedaled hard to see how much of a gap I could get. 5 seconds, maybe? 10? I looked back and she was there, but I had enough of a gap to breathe for a second or two. The gap grew as I moved up the second climb, passing quite a few men on the way up, until I was on my own. As I passed corner guards, I heard them say "here comes our first woman racer." These are pretty magic words, I have to admit (words I've never heard before!). At the top of the climb, I turned around to look for Sara but to my disbelief she wasn't there yet- I had managed to get a decent gap and was by myself, in my own private pocket of the trail, which happened to be in front of everyone else. What a feeling to savor... I turned back around to see that I was careening towards a bush off the trail. Gah! "No more looking back!" I reminded myself as I straightened out my wheel, narrowly missing the bush.
I wove through some more twists and turns, then out onto a wide straightaway. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sara blazing up behind me at breakneck spseed. We came around a right turn, and I could feel her bearing down. She moved to pass me, so I stood up and gunned it around the corner. There, in front of me, was the finish line- I gave it my all and flew across, edging her out by a couple of bike lengths. Wooo HOO! My first bike win ever!
I turned around and Sara was there congratulating me and giving me a hug and a high five. We cheered as our teammates followed us across the line in short order- we hadn't had much more than a 30 second gap on Sara's teammate Carla, who was followed closely by Anne-Marie. Next Jill came across the line, a huge grin spread across her face (which got even bigger when I told her I had won!). We all hung out at the finish, talking about the race and savoring that endorphin-filled satisfaction that really only comes after a period of pain and suffering mixed with adrenalin.
|First win ever! Dedicated to Laura! (That's her hat, which I'm wearing out of admiration!)|