Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Your 38, new to mtb racing, win US Nationals, then take 2nd at Worlds.

24 Hour Solo Mountain Bike World Championships, Conyers GA Oct 7-8.

I just returned home to Ketchum, ID from the World Championships and am trying to catch up on sleep and fill you all in on how the race went. I intended to write this race report on the airplane, but even 48 hours after the event I found that holding a pen to write actually required more strength than I have in my hands right now. The race was one of the most brutal efforts I have put forth in as many years as I can remember. The technical course left me sore and bruised from my thumbs down to the balls of my feet.

The days before the event were spent in Georgia pre-riding the course and sorting gear. The pre-rides consisted of me working a couple difficult sections to try to figure out how to ride them, trying to plan where in the course I could actually take my hands off the bars to eat and drink, and feeling frustrated about the technical aspect of the course.
It was by far more difficult riding than any mountain bike race I've ever done. The course was only 8 miles long, but action packed the whole time. It was all single track with very fast twisty turns, blind corners, abrupt transitions into very steep headwalls, rattly downhills and virtually no place to rest. I have to admit that the nature of the course definitely put a chink in my confidence before the race. It was not a course suited for me.

But I had to adapt to the situation, so I altered my nutrition plan a bit and proceeded with the preparations. I was definitely better physically trained for this race than previous ones. I had a top notch crew, great gear, a solid race plan, a National Championship to my name. I was ready. The only unknown was the competition I was up against. The Elite women's field was a short, intimidating list. They were all names I'd read about in mountain bike magazines and many of them have years of bike racing under their belts. The race organizers were publicizing that the women's field was the most competitive one they've hosted. I had only gone head to head against one of the women before. All the others were complete unknowns to me.

Endurance is my strength, so I expected the first laps to be uncomfortably fast and furious. I was pleasantly suprised to find myself riding the first lap solidly on the wheel of mountain bike veteran, Sue Haywood. Last year's 2nd place winner, Monique Sawicki was also close by. We three spent the first few laps within seconds of each other. From that point on, Sue and I had some laps that were compatible times and some where she was just a minute or two ahead. That was enough for her to start to develop a lead over me, while I was also opening a lead on 3rd place. I kept the distance to Sue under 8 minutes for nearly half the race. From about 2am on, I felt like the technical nature of the course was just giving my body a beating. My thumbs were aching from the constant shifting, my forearms were bruised from the jackhammering of my handlebar and the balls of my feet were tender from standing in the pedals over the ragged roots and bumpy granite.

I was still giving it everything I had and riding as hard as I could. The lap times were slowing, as expected, but still hovering around one hour. My pit times were short. I didn't really take time off the bike. The crew was tuning my bikes, preparing food/bottles, giving me lap times and pushing me out of the gate each time, so that I didn't waste time off the bike. They were fantastic motivation for me. I looked forward to coming into the pits each time to see their faces, even though they did push me out as soon as I got there.

By around 8AM, Sue had a solid lead over me and we had both lapped the rest of the women's field. The race had come down to just the two of us, but it was clear to me that at this point, she had the race. Barring catastrophe, she would take 1st and I would take 2nd. My last four laps were probably the hardest for me. I knew I just had to maintain a decent pace and finish my laps to hang onto 2nd place. However, the course and the hard effort had taken their toll. I was suffering from asthma attacks, coughing up blood, and walking up many of the steepest hills (although I was not alone in doing this). At one point I had to ask a volunteer to borrow her asthma inhaler.

Riding into the finish chute for the last time was a huge highlight for me. After 25 laps (200 miles) and 23 hrs, 31 min. of extremely intense racing, it's an inexplicable experience to finally reach the finish and be able to step off your bike and onto solid ground. Sue finished a lap more than I did, so that put her about 1:15 ahead of me and I was approximately the same distance ahead of 3rd place finisher, Louise Kobin. My laps and time would have placed me 9th among the men and DID earn me 2nd place in the women's elite field! I feel ecstatic to be able to put my name up there among the best endurance mtb racers in the world!

The finish line was all fanfare with media cameras, music, banners, spectators, but the thing that meant the most to me was seeing the beaming faces of my friends and family who had ushered me through the race. It was definitely a team effort. They selflessly wiped my nose, fed my face, handled my dirty bike shorts, and provided more motivation and inspiration than I could have mustered on my own. I am so thankful I had my team to share this World Championship event. Jason, Charles, Mom, Greg and Glenn.......THANK YOU for a great race!

And of course.........thanks to Specialized, Red Bull, Light and Motion, Hammer Nutrition, Brave Soldier skincare and Wobblenaught bike fitting for getting me to the start line.

Below I have included a couple links that have blow by blow coverage of the race and a good race article. Some photos are copied here as well.

Next on the agenda is La Ruta de los Conquistadors, a 3 day staged mountain bike race across the country. This one will be about 24 hours of racing, but spread over three days. Also, Louise Kobin from worlds has won this event three times and will be racing again this year along with other mountain bike notables like Marla Streb. The women's field in the Costa Rica race is currently 40 deep!

Enjoy the photos. Time for me to catch up on some sleep!!!

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