4 AM is when I started the restless cycle of sleep and wake on Sunday morning. I was anxious. Maybe it was the fact that I felt inadequate lining up next to most of the field that day, or maybe it’d be a more accurate assessment to say that I wasn’t sure where my fitness was for the year in comparison. If you’ve been enjoying the ride of 2011 with me on my blog, you know how it’s been. Inconsistent training, lots of travel, lots of sick days. I knew most of my competitors were in great shape and had far more races and training in their legs this year than I did. For me, confidence and preparation are intertwined and I wasn’t feeling as prepared as I would have liked.
At the start line, all my anxiety melted away. Some days, the hardest part of racing is simply getting to the start line. Our small, but very talented field of 17 were called up to the line. I looked around me and was happy to be racing with my friends and amongst people I highly respect. People whom if I’m ever ahead of them, I feel greatly honored because I hold them in the highest regard. I was curious to see how fast the race would start, and was not surprised when I saw Catherine Pendrel out of the saddle and hammering from GO.
The start was furious and swift. Immediately, our group split in half. I found myself riding in the lead group . The road kicked up some more and our lead group splintered. I saw one of my favorite racers, Jenny Smith, just in front of me and Zephanie Blasi just behind me up the road. It’s easy to get sucked into the start of a race and go harder than you want and I knew I was on the verge of being in the red. I let the shrinking lead group disappear because I knew if I tried to hang on, I’d pay for it for the next 45 miles. I managed to settle into a pace that was harder than I thought I could sustain for the 50 miles, but I decided to give it a try. Fortunately, I played my hand right and was able to race hard from start to finish.
It was great having our own start this year. The opening singletrack was fast and fun. In previous years, I’ve had to pick my way through the men’s amateur field who would go harder on the road at the start but slow down on the singletrack. This year, I had it all to myself and watched Jenny open the gap until she was out of sight. There was no one behind me that I could see. I knew every single rider was talented and tried not to let it get to me. I kept saying, “Ride your own race. Relax.” And that I did.
I knew the course well. I know the spots I struggle, and the spots where I make up time. The long descent before the dirt road is not a place I excel. I had a minor crash, but quickly got up. The rollers to the dirt road are a place where I suffer as well, but I knew that so I kept a steady pace.
Descending down to Skull Valley, I got to see how the men’s race was shaping up, and also I got to see where I was in relation to my field. The closest women to me were around 7-10 minutes ahead by the time I started the climb. I saw Jenny Smith, Rebecca Rusch, and Nina Baum all riding within a couple minutes. In previous years, the 13ish mile dirt road climb treated me well and I made up a decent amount of time. This year was no different. I turned on the turbo, put my head down and road at a hard pace up the climb. It was lonely. I didn’t see anyone until a I was a few miles from the top and my legs started to mildly cramp. I swallowed a bunch of Elete, chugged more water and hoped for the best. I saw Jenny had a 2 minute gap on me so I kept pushing. By the time we got to the singletrack, it was down to about 30 seconds. Jenny opened that gap up again on the singletrack. I decided that I would be cautious. I purposely ran heavier tires to avoid flats that seemed to plague a few riders. I didn’t want to risk flatting or crashing again so I played the conservative card. In the last 2 years, I have battled down that descent with Sarah Kaufmann and I missed her out there this year! Even playing the conservative card, I still took a pretty good crash.
The course was very slippery this year, and I lost both my tires in a corner and skidded on my knee. I didn’t look down, I just jumped back on my bike. I knew Shannon Gibson was behind me, and that I had to keep it up. She is another great rider I’ve known since I started racing in NM!
I rode up Cramp Hill feeling strong and was ready for the final singletrack descent. It was then that I noticed my front shifter was broken. I could not shift from the big ring to the little ring anymore. Fortunately I had my little ring for cramp hill. Then I saw Jenny on the side of the trail. Flat. My heart actually sank for her because I knew she was riding stronger. She said she had everything she needed, so I continued on and closed out the last 5 miles of the race without any huge problems.
I crossed the line in 7th for the day. 10 minutes off the podium, and 8 minutes faster than last year.
I achieved all my goals: to be faster than last year, to have a good race where I paced smart, fueled properly, and felt happy start to finish, and to place in the top 10. Great success!
Todd Sadow and Epic Rides have done a phenomenal job building this event over the last several years. The event was very well done! It involved the community in Prescott, not just the bike racing community. There were a lot of spectators cheering, the volunteers were great, and they even handed full water bottles for neutral support at the aide station. It’s great to see a city like Prescott get behind mountain bike racing. I also GREATLY appreciate the equal and deep payout. That’s a huge deal!
Whiskey 50 was Sunday morning. Immediately after the race, we loaded up the sprinter and headed to Team Camp and Photoshoot in Sedona. Post coming soon.