Yesterday was the final race of this year's series. Prior to the start, I was concerned with just holding on to third in the women's money class. It had rained all day on Friday so I knew the conditions were going to be a little sloppy. However, it was sunny and warm and I was actually feeling good about today. I was also riding Stumpy, trying her out for the first time in a race. Being a half pound lighter than my Epic and having ridden her a couple days ago on the last technical section on the race course, I thought this decision was pretty much a no-brainer.
I was lucky enough to be in the fourth wave off the start so hopefully I would not have to expend too much energy passing people. Immediately my legs felt "snappy." Oh, yeah, today is going to be good! Then I hit a section of doubletrack that the Forest Service had worked on ... just recently. Their idea of trail work usually involves heavy machinery. I bogged down in the thick mud but managed to stay upright and pedal out of it. I was not about to lose a shoe to the goo! Luckily there was only about a 1/4 mile of destruction, but I still used up a lot of energy fighting it.
The first 6 miles of the race was the sloppiest, but then the conditions improved tremendously. Most of the remaining trail was dry, thanks to the awesome trail work of the NWGASORBA crew. I was setting a good pace and lovin' the downhills. The extra inch of travel was just soaking up the bumps. I even got several compliments by the guys on my descending skills. It has taken several years of practice and better suspension, but I am finally not afraid to go fast.
Looking at my computer as I rolled in to the aid station at the midway point, I saw that I was 15 minutes faster than last month! Holy crap! I knew I was rollin' but ... but wait, my odometer was only reading 12 miles and the midway point was at mile 16. My computer was way off so I looked at my watch and saw that I was only 5 minutes faster. O.K. that is more reasonable.
Now I began to realize that I just might be able to improve my placing. I was the first woman through the midway point, but I knew that superspeedy Jamie Dinkins was somewhere behind me. She currently held first place after the fastest time in January.
Starting the climb after the aid station, my legs still felt great, and I was able to maintain my HR in the 170's. As I topped the climb, I looked back down the mountain and saw Jamie. I estimated her to be about 2 minutes behind. I managed to hold her off until we entered the last technical section. About a mile in she passed on a climb. I knew she had started at least a wave behind me so my chance of a first place was gone. But I stuck to her wheel hoping that I could pull of a second. I stayed with her for a couple miles. I was equal to her on the rocky descents, but she is such a strong climber. This is where she was able to pull away.
The last 2 miles of singletrack I was in oxygen debt. I ended up running a couple tricky sections because I knew I would be faster and less apt to hurt myself. I pushed myself so hard that as I popped out of the singletrack onto the road for the final 1 1/2 mile descent, I hit a pile of rocks and just about went sliding across the asphalt.
I finished with a time of 3:47:10, knocking off 5 minutes off my February time. Good enough for 2nd place. I was satisfied! Jamie improved on her time as well, finishing in 3:43 and some change. The under 23's better watch out for her; she is going to do some damage this year at the national races!
I have been doing this race since its inception in 2004. It just keeps getting better and competition fiercer. The NWGASORBA club works hard to ensure a great race. On Friday, in the rain, they had to walk the course, with chainsaws, and move at least 7 trees that had fallen in Tuesday's windstorm. The post-race food was tasty! They even had homemade peach cobbler!
This is a great winter series training race. You all should come down and see what it is about in '09. You will not be disappointed.