A Tale of Two Races
Let’s start the post a little differently. “Thank You Time". To Rich, who opened his TARDIS door to me, built up my @VanDessel Full Tilt Boogies, and managed heroics in the pit on Sunday to keep me on mud-free bikes. To the Schmidtman’s for making my trip to Boulder a breeze (and for unheralded bike maintenance - who breaks a seat-clamp bolt???). To Edwin at Van Dessel who builds bikes (and his house) that stand up to all conditions. To @DougEFreshCX Super Fan and love of my life, Chief Bicycle Officer, for doing such a great job building and maintaining, that after 8 races in four weeks (six of them muddy), things are still mostly working! To Barry and Sanitas Cycling for putting on a great event. To Cameron and the kiddos of Rage Cycling, always a pleasure - my bikes will be branded soon. To friends who came out to cheer and jeer and take pictures, even though I was so dazed at the finish line on Sunday that I couldn’t hear my own name. To Shelby, who got my frozen mud shoes off on Sunday, this in itself was an extraordinary feat. To Petra for keeping it fashionable - though I’m still questioning the white tights on pre-ride, but they did keep your skinny jeans clean underneath. LOL
I was reminded after this race, just how many people are involved to get a racer to the line - Richard Breininger, mechanic for Kody Kaiser, would like to suggest that there be #moremoneyforwomensbicyclemechanics. :-) I mention it here because he helped me readjust my bars after pre-ride (see below).
Saturday, Race #1
Sunny, 60s, a breeze so slight it felt like a cool caress. The whistle. Katie Clouse started like she was spring loaded, immediately gaining 3-4 bike lengths, as the rest of us were still clipping in. Then it was Emma, Laurel, Caroline (Nolan), Frenchy, just ahead, and Beth Ann (Team S&M) immediately to my left. Beth Ann - like a boss- sent out a warning, “watch out on the corner”, as a few riders were forced to go wide at the end of the straightaway. Others grabbed a bit of brake, and I plowed through the rough rut on the inside, gaining a few spots before the climb.
Air was the most immediate problem. I couldn’t seem to get any in my lungs. Already the interstitial muscles of my ribs were stretched to capacity, and still, I pushed my effort, knowing their was a brief respite at the top. If you can call “Pete’s plunge” a respite!
While I was “resting” - let’s not call it resting, so much as “being efficient", Sophia (DNA/Scott) jumped to the front and built a slight lead, and I may have slotted in behind Emma - lack of oxygen to the brain at this point. Taking the plunge a little slower allowed me to line-up the off-camber perfectly, riding the high-line without difficulty and gaining a few valuable seconds before dropping in at the bottom of the stairs. Whose idea was it to put an off-camber 180 degree turn right there? It killed all my momentum, every lap.
The course was, in turns, dry and fast, or slight mushy and bumpy as a shackles wagon ride through a plowed corn field. On the day before, during pre-ride, i innocently hit one of these bumpy sections and rotated my handlebars toward the ground, despite having achieved the prescribe amount of torque (using my new Feedback Sports torque tool!). The previous races on the course that day had done little to smooth these sections.
Sophia was still on the front, and Clara (Team S&M) had bridged. I dangled a few seconds back, gaining some on off-cambers and corners, loosing a little on the climbs - seriously, not enough air to power the quads. I was far enough back from the pair that I couldn’t follow the lead changes or track their effort, but they weren’t gaining much, and I built the distance to 4th. Somewhere around lap 4, Clara put in a dig (I suspect on a climb, she was hitting these like she had found an invisible tow rope), and broke away from Sophia. We continued like that for the rest of the lap.
Nearing the end of the race, I forgot about needing oxygen, and resigned myself to hypoxia. What could possibly go wrong? I used Clara’s mental tow-rope strategy on the climbs and managed to bridge, and then pass Sophia. She stayed right there for a few minutes, even taking back the lead for a second by coming on my inside, losing a wheel in a slide-out, and catching it at the last minute at the bottom of Pete’s Plunge. I gained it back on the off-camber, and widened the gap on the stairs. I had my advantage. I took a few more chances on corners, and hammered the intermediate straight-aways. The hammering paid off, the chances, not so much. After putting a foot down here and there on the last lap, my glory would be 2nd place!
Sunday, Race #2
Overcast, snowy, temperatures below freezing. Ice mud that would build up on any surface, including spokes, chains, frames, and butts. All the pictures being posted from the venue, as a I burrowed into the couch, were of muddy pieces of compromised equipment. Rich and my Rage Cycling adopted team crew - the Schmidtman’s - would be angels in The Pit today.
What a difference a day makes! Front and center on everyone’s minds - “Am I wearing enough clothes?”. My last thought as the whistle blew, “Hmm… my toes are already numb.”
No air. Again. Better start though. I knew I wanted to be near the front down the plunge - the lines were squirrely, but with enough momentum and the high line, you could keep it up right. Which I did not do on pre-ride. Being first down the plunge meant I had to hammer this sloping slopfest with multiple line (none of them good) on the approach to the stairs. Success! How I managed it, I don’t know. My glasses were already starting gather frozen mud splatter, blocking my view of the race.
I stayed in front most of the lap, until pit two, where I was the only one who took a bike. Really. Why did I take a bike? Because it was freakin’ heavy with all the mud it was picking up, I could feel my chain slipping a bit, and I didn’t want to carry it up the stairs. That’s why. I lost position, but not time, not really. I was back on the group before we hit the first home stretch that marked the end of lap 1.
The next few laps were a blur. I was in 4th, then 2nd, then 3rd, then 1st for a bit. Katie went off the front, and I chased her down. Pitting seemed to be the cause of most of the lead switches. I stayed on my next bike for two laps. That felt like a mistake. By the time I traded Rich for a fresh bike, the one I was on twice as heavy and the chain was barely moving. This could also have been my increasingly frozen limbs. At one point I tried to talk Katie into working together to build our gap, but all I could do was mouth the words and squeak.
The announcer was heckling us all - deservedly - for our conservative approach to Pete’s plunge. I couldn’t feel feet, nor face, nor hands by this point. And I couldn’t see anything either. I’d ditched my glasses on the 3rd lap, and immediately discovered that all of those ice mud splashes were now going in my eyes, and mascaraing my eyelashes. This is my defense, why I was not "plunging with abandon". Instead, I was using my one strength left to me. On the very next feature, I deployed my loosey-goosey-caboosey bike-body-seperation on the slippery off-camber straightaway that had been popping other riders off their bikes or putting them in the fence. I had watched Jake Wells crush the singlespeed division in a similar fashion earlier in the day. When I went to congratulate him on the finish line, he said to me “Hey Sunny, check out those snow lines.”Miraculously, unsurprisingly, given the temps, there was still some snow left on the course for our race, and that was one spot.
In a nearly identical fashion to the day before, Clara caught and passed Katie and I as we pitted, again putting in a dig with one and a half laps to go. I made chase, plunging into the sandpit half-blind (really, I just forgot it was there) and riding it in truly ugly fashion. I seemed to be gaining, or at least holding. Together, we chased Claire. Katie would get a slight advantage on the final climb.
I would pull her back in on the stairs. She would plunge faster, and then I would loose my caboose on the off-camber to try and catch back up. On the side-lines I saw Shelby and Aaron cheering their heads off through The Fog of Race. Aaron yelled something and pointed to the higher line, where there still seemed to be some grass! I jumped the bike up on to it, and Nascar-ed the feature. It wasn't enough. Clara would again skip the pit, Katie, too, a little farther back. I felt I needed to pit, but had trouble clipping in afterward with my now painfully frozen feet. They both would pull away, and that’s how we would finish. 1-2-3.