Oxygen… or lack thereof! This was the theme at Brianhead Norba National in southwest Utah. We left Thursday night and pimped it in Tina’s red Jeep Liberty on the drive to Flagstaff where we camped for the night. We finished the remainder of the 10 hour drive on Friday after a little pre-race ride to open up the legs. We had lots of rain on the way to Utah… it was ominous and we kept praying that it wouldn’t rain at the race. Adam and I pitched our tent in the camping area by the race venue. It was pretty wet when we arrived, but we went in the trees and had this amazing view of the mountains…. sleeping at 10,000 ft. Now THAT is good for recovery!! Not all of us can live the Kabush lifestyle of staying in nice condos and getting leg massages every night!! We ate some *gourmet* pasta for dinner and realized we didn’t have a car to put our food in since Tina was staying in a hotel. We looked around the campsite and saw very large turds… it was either from a very unhappy human who gave birth to a very large baby brown boy or a bear. We decided to make friends with someone so we could keep our food in their car. The guy we made friends with had just gotten back from Iraq! He was on the front line and told us about it a little. Quite a culture shock to go to the quiet mountains in Utah.
The cross country was on Saturday at 3:30 PM. I was stoked not to have to wake up at 5 AM to race, but was a little concerned with the time since it was raining every afternoon. I was looking at my bike and my rear tire didn’t offer any clearance for mud. I kept bugging Adam to go with me down to the race venue so I could get a tire for my bike. Titus was not at the race, so I went to the Kenda tent since we are sponsored by them. I told the guy about my situation and that Titus wasn’t there. He said rudely, “I don’t even know who YOU are!!” Damn!!!! One day you will, bitch…and you’ll be sorry. I got a tire for pro deal and had to hunt down some Stanz, but it turned out aiight. Around 1, the skies grew dark, and it was raining on the mountains in the distance. Now some of you know this, but for those of you who don’t…it gets freaking cold when you are racing at 10-11,000 ft and a storm moves in. It gets dark. the temperature falls dramatically. The trails become treacherous with slippery rocks and your bike stops working. It’s not fun. And on top of that, me and all my New Mexico buddies were not prepared for the worst. It had been 100 degrees at home the week before, so we did not bring extra warm clothes for the bike. I kept saying, “I know it’s going to rain. I just know it.” To my surprise and delight, the weather seemed to clear up. There were actually a lot of expert women in the start chute and I was feeling a little intimidated. It’s scary when everyone has been training and racing, looking fit, and YOU have only trained 2 weeks out of the summer and the last big race you did was in May. The start went up a steep pavement road for about 2 miles. I was feeling pretty good and was passing a bunch of people. It turned off onto a pretty steep dirt road for another 3 miles and then single track. The actual singletrack at the race was very nice, but before I knew it, I was turning off onto yet another dirt road to climb up to 11,082 ft!! I was in 3rd at the moment, but saw my competitor up the road and red lined it to catch her. To my dismay, the climbing was not over at the road. We turned off onto a steep singletrack hill. My eyes were starting to bug out of my head from lack of oxygen and my legs were totally blown. We were only half way through the course… mile 13. I had to keep going, but at that elevation, I was being slapped senseless in the hurt locker and on my way to the land of Crackatoa(Adam’s new word!). Fortunately, there was a lot of downhilling after that. It was kind of sketchy because it was steep, muddy, and wet from the day before, but I managed with my Titus Racer-X! I tell you!! That is one sweet bike. With 5 miles to go, I glanced over my shoulder and saw a girl in my field 20-30 yards back…the same girl I had passed on the fireroad. I did not want to lose 2nd place at a national. I did not want a repeat of the last weekend losing by 5 seconds. No way. So the last 4 miles I pushed myself to the limit. I felt like puking several times because I was downing too much water at once. I thought I was so close to the end…but those last 4 miles had what seemed to be an endless amount of climbing. Just when I thought I was done with one hill, there would be another and I was just trying to mash it out in my granny gear. I just had to keep my legs moving. I finished the 26 mile race that went between 9500-11,100 ft, thrilled with my placing considering I hadn’t been training or racing. I compared my times to the pros and at least I know I won’t be getting last next year! That night we got to hang out with Olympian Mary McConneloug and Mike Broderick! It was so cool being in the presence and talking with someone who is the best in the country and has raced all around the world. She was also a very nice person!
The next morning was the short track at 7:30 AM. My nightmare began around 12 AM… I had been lying awake for 2 hours and sleep was nowhere in site. There was a redneck convention going on down the road. We saw it… trucks, four wheelers, and mullets as far as the eye could see. “Go to sleep!!” I kept telling myself. 1 AM…almost went to sleep but redneck man keeps yelling, can’t get comfortable. I have to wake up in 5 hours to get ready to race. 2 AM… pllleasse. I need to sleep! 2:30 AM… finally! I slept. I woke up at 5 AM and was worried I wouldn’t wake up to my alarm in an hour. 6 AM…alarm is going off, I feel the exquisite pain of waking up at the crack of dawn with about 3 hours of sleep under my belt, a cross country race still fatiguing my legs, darkness, and cold. I managed to get ready, but not without whining. I managed to get in a good warm up and was pleased to see that the short track was actually a little technical. The race started on time and there were 15 women in my field. We were doing 17 minutes plus three laps. I never have a good start in these things, so was at the back on the first lap. On the first technical section, a girl in front of me STOPS suddenly and gets off her bike. I am forced to do the same. Because of this fact, I spent the rest of the race playing catch-up. The 3 girls at the front were working together, not nearly as hard as me. I worked my way up to 4th and was desperately trying to get up there. I couldn’t quite get around them and ended up with 4th in the short track. If only that stupid girl had not STOPPED in front of me. Then I would have laid the SMACK down! 😉 That’s bad news in a 20 minute race. Oh well! It was still fun. Tina drank a Budweiser at 8 AM immediately following the short track. You go girl! She proudly put the empty can in her bottle cage and rode around. The 10 hour drive back wasn’t much fun, but the memory of the trip was GREAT!