Sometimes you’re the hammer, sometimes you’re the nail

Eek, time to catch up on the June happenings!  It’s a big month of riding and little racing compared to this spring, which has been downright refreshing.

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Earning the bacon money at Laramie Mountain Bike Series

June 23rd marked the start of the Laramie Mountain Bike Series, or as I like to call it, THE BEST LOCAL RACE SERIES IN THE WORLD!  Seriously, those are my thoughts on it.  Funny how $10 gets more of a value than many $80 races, with more and tougher competition.  But I digress… the leadup started with the normal “I’m going to puke” feelings as the I anticipated the course being posted the night before, and all day before the evening race I was antsy and distracted.  I am hands down more nervous before any LMBS race than I have been at any other race, including my two trips to the national championships.  It’s my hometown race series, and it just makes me nervous!

I had my first ride of the year at Happy Jack two days prior and felt incredibly flat and granny geared everything.  On my warm up for the race I felt good, which was a relief.  Armed with bug spray and my awesome personalized number plate, I lined up for the open class race.  Sara and I were chatting with Georgia, and ended up at the front.  Usually the women start behind the open men, but Sara and I stuck our ground and I chose to get behind Georgia, because naturally she knows how to start a race!  I had a great start, sticking with Georgia to the top of the campground climb (well, that’s certainly an improvement from last year!).  Sara and I were together going onto Meadow, and Gwynn joined us.  Last year I was finishing a good 10-20 minutes behind these two monsters in the open races, so I was so tickled to still be with them!  And with them I stayed all the way to the overlook climb on Headquarters.  We put a huge gap on the other three women, and never did see them, though I knew they were lurking out there behind me somewhere!

After the rocky climb and descent on Summit to the fast jeep road back down, I was feeling good and powerful… no granny gear this night!  I caught Sara on Ridge, and followed her down to Middle Aspen, but she got away with her great descending skills.  I caught Gwynn on Pole Creek, and though she pedaled away I PR’d on that trail to a tune of 3 MINUTES off my last PR… um, 3 MINUTES!  I came through the first lap only 30 seconds behind Sara and Gwynn.  Wow!  Still never knowing who was behind me waiting to strike, I set out on the second lap.  I had my first and only bobble of the night leading up to the overlook climb on a rock and had to dab, otherwise the technical skills were on point… such a relief after the mountain bike season I’ve been having!  I couldn’t stop smiling as I realized I was having one of the best races I could have, but tried to remain calm as I’ve learned over the years how soon that can change with a lapse of concentration even for a second.

Coming down Middle Aspen I asked a passing male how far back he thought the nearest female was, and he told me “a couple of minutes… decent, but not in the bag.”  So I hammered Pole Creek and once I was on Campground Bypass I knew I just had to keep going and I’d have it!  Aside from almost hitting a tree, I was golden, but still sprinted for my life to the finish line and crossed with the biggest damn smile.

FINALLY!  One of the best races I have ever had 😀

I finished 3rd, about 1:35-ish off of Sara in 2nd.  Wow.  What a difference a year of training makes, and having all the stars align perfectly for this one night!  I was worried about the course as it was a lot of power riding and descending, and my strength tends to be climbs, but it all went great and I even descended well for my abilities, crushing some PRs on the downhill trails.  I was over 5 minutes ahead of 4th place, so I had a decent cushion which was nice, but I did like having to race hard because I didn’t know!  I was worried open would be another season of racing by myself, but now I’m a bit more optimistic for the LMBS this year, but also trying to keep it in perspective as I tend to have a strong first race, but as people gain more fitness over the summer I fall further back.  So we shall see.

Oh, and I won $5!  My first payout in an open/”pro” race!  Best $5 ever, I was so stoked!  I got to eat delicious tacos made by Pedal House Dewey, and then chatted with Georgia and Jim around the beer cooler.  Great evening, and an awesome start to what will be an awesome season at LMBS, regardless of my results!

———-

With the start of LMBS out of the way, it was time to look towards my first attempt at 40 in the Fort in Fort Collins.  I figured this would be good LT100 training, though looking back it’s really not the type of race course that lends much to the LT100, but whatever.  My biggest concern was the heat, but a 7am start abated that slightly.  Open women had a decent turn out, and the start was calm and we all stayed together up Timber.  I thought we were going so slow up Timber, then I realized I did that trail 3 minutes faster than I ever had before!  We broke up descending Kimmons, but I was with Gale, Erin, and Bella until Sawmill.

40 in the Fort is no joke.  Technical with about 3800 feet of climbing per lap, which was 20 miles long.  It uses Towers Road, which I had only done on a fat bike in the snow, but I knew how hard those 20% or more pitches were.  I was taking things at a moderate pace, as the goal was to finish, not fit for a top spot.  I flew up the first bit of Towers to Loggers and Carey Springs.  Then it was time for more Towers, which went well, and I stayed riding when many chose to walk.  I took some Coke and cold water at the aid station, and proceeded up Towers to the summit to head down Westridge.

OK, I just don’t like the descents at Horsetooth Mountain Park, especially during an endurance race.  It’s not because I’m not a technical rider, because I am.  It’s just that the fact that they are loose, if not cat-head sized boulder fields it almost borders on “too much danger, way too little reward.”  Needless to say, I walked a lot of stuff on Westridge and Wathan, all the while wishing I was still climbing Towers.  Yes, that is how MUCH I hated those descents!

Descending Westridge (Photo by Cameron Way)

Descending Westridge (Photo by Cameron Way)

Once I hit Herrington I was a happier camper, and cleared nearly all the obstacles on the climb which made me happy.  Then it was time for Towers again, before the descent down Mill Creek.  Once again more Coke, water, some watermelon, and Endurolytes at the aid station and I set off with a smile.  The first bit of Mill Creek is awesome, but then… ugh.  Loose rocky stuff with technical stuff that I even say no to.  And this is where my race ended itself 😦  There was a long steep downhill of those cat-head boulders and about two thirds of the way down I went over the bars.  Still not sure why… not sure if I had shifted too far forward without noticing since it was such a long descent, or if my brakes, which I had been struggling with, caught more on the front.  Either way, I was somersaulting, and so was my bike.  I went down hard and instinctively covered my head as I knew my bike was still airborne.  Then at that moment my entire right leg cramped up and I did some of the loudest swearing I’ve ever done mid race.  As I grimaced and rolled around in the middle of the trail trying to massage out my calf and quad at the same time, I realized my right elbow was all cut up and feeling a bit sore, and my left knee, which I had just healed up, was bleeding.  I had a hole in my left sock, and my ankle was all cut up.  And I didn’t realize it at the time, my bike did hit the back of my head, but luckily my awesome Poc helmet just took some cosmetic scuffing.  

I finally massaged out the cramps enough that I could stand and I hobbled over to my bike, which, except for a tear on my brand new ESI Grip, was fine.  Funny how a bike made out of carbon fiber can somersault multiple times through the air and be just fine… But I knew at that moment the second lap was questionable for me.  So this led to the several mile walk out of Mill Creek.  It was miserable.  My confidence gone, I wouldn’t even ride smaller descents that normally wouldn’t phase me.  I passed some patrol gals, and they offered to clean me up, and I refused sine I still had about two miles to go.  They offered to try to get me help out, but really the best way back to the finish was, well, the course!  I assured them I could make it, even if it took me forever!  After my un-enjoyable hike down Mill Creek, I finally joined to the Valley trails.  My right leg smarted as I tried to pedal, but I could move forward at a decent speed so I was ok.  This is when I realized my elbow really didn’t like weight applied on it.  Yeah, I was done.  I crossed the finish line and pulled the plug, though I really didn’t want to 😦  I just knew it was the smartest decision since I knew I would be walking every descent on the second lap out of fear, and I didn’t know how the leg and elbow would hold up for another 3800 feet of climbing.  I also knew I had more important races on the calendar coming up that were important to do well in, and it wasn’t worth destroying myself trying to finish this one. 

For the first time ever I had EMTs clean me up.  Luckily the knee wasn’t bad once the crusted blood was washed off.  My elbow and ankle were swelling, and even though my elbow was making suspicious crunching noises, I knew I’d probably be ok (remember, I’m the girl that waited 3 weeks to get X-rays of a cracked elbow in 2012…).  I jumped at the chance for my first ever professional massage, which felt amazing, and then cleaned up and helped out with passing out the finisher medals to those coming through.  Bittersweet, especially after the high of the LMBS the previous Tuesday.  But as injuries and DNFs rolled in, I was happy that I was doing ok!  

So 40 in the Fort… yeah, it’s no joke.  Most people point to the climbing, but for me that wasn’t the issue whatsoever.  It’s really the amount of technical riding on trails that are really quite sketchy and loose.  It’s funny, because someone told me, “No, this is way easier than Glendo!” and I have to disagree!  At least Glendo had trails with no loose baby rocks on them!  If this race makes my calendar again, I do believe it’ll be in the 20 mile format.  *IF*  Maybe give it a few years, and I might try to redeem myself 😛

Definitely the nail at this race…

———–

Other than that, my June has been low key for racing!  I did finish out the New Belgium Short Track Series in Fort Collins with a win in Expert Women on my single speed, and a 2nd place finish to Suzie in a single speed race involving LeMans starts with beer chugging and donut hand ups!  Oh, and I wore a tutu 🙂

Keep it fun, my friends!  (Photo by Kristen Eagle)

Keep it fun, my friends! (Photo by Kristen Eagle)

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: MTB Race Season 2015: I survived! | Heidi Rides Bikes

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