|A bermalicious experience!|
Last year when Melissa Cooper asked me to team up with her for this event, I was on the fence. Just days before, I had received a heartbreaking email that this edition of Warrior Creek was going to be the last. I really wanted to race the finale in the solo SS division. I couldn't give Melissa an answer just yet. And then, just before registration was to open, I received another email, stating that 6WC would live on under new management. Hallelujah! I told Melissa I was in.
After realizing that Melissa had raced 6WC twice, but had yet to stand on the box, my goal for this race was to secure her one of the infamous mugs. And we were both using this race to prep our fast twitch muscles for Marathon Nationals. We both had plenty of long rides under our belt, but needed to get in some speed work.
And then a first for 6WC: they released a starter's list. Whoa! 15 ladies' teams and some tough competition to boot! I flip-flopped back and forth on what gear to run and finally settled on 32/20. I had used this same gear 2 years ago when I teamed up with Ursula and had happy legs then. I knew I would get shuttled back pretty quickly at the start, but with the heavy training load leading up to this race, I did not think I could push a 19.
I had Melissa hold my spot at the start while I did a lengthy warm up. Gone are the days when I can just hammer hard from a cold start. About 10 minutes from "go time," I approached the start line, but then hung out for a couple extra minutes, just watching Melissa squirm a bit. You see, she was in her long pants and tennis shoes. She definitely got nervous about whether or not she was going to have to race that first lap!
|Finishing up the parade lap.|
I had given brief thought to racing my geared bike for that first lap, thereby avoiding all that nonsense that happend mid-pack. But the purist in me would not allow it. Not to mention I would be black-listed by the SS community. It seems every year I get to wrap handle bars with a fellow racer. This year was no different. Some gearie rode "up my butt" and entangled his bars with mine. How we managed to not go down was a small miracle, but after a couple pedal strokes, we were able to free ourselves. Nothing like a little adrenalin to help keep my HR and cadence up!
The first lap is always highly entertaining for me. In the beginning miles, I was behind a dude that was jumping everytime there was a rise on the trail. He was making me tired just watching him. After a mile or so, he began to fatigue on the climbs and I was able to pass.
Then I came upon two dudes racing so close to one another it looked like they were on a tandem. I soon found out they were "momentum-challenged" when we approached a steep descent followed by a sharp left-hander with a high berm on the right. I seem to remember some centripetal force equation from physics (F = mv*2/r). Anyway, this particular berm was slightly muddy. For whatever reason, the dudes brake checked upon the approach to the berm. I was about 2 bike lengths back, my mind frantically making calculations to avoid the imminent crash that was about to happen. Well, the dudes reached the highest point of the berm, but slowed down to a point where gravity intervened and sent them both sliding down the berm and off the trail. I managed to put in enough power in 2 pedal strokes to maintain the minimal amount of speed necessary to clean the berm. (I would have loved to have had a GoPro for that one!)
After about 6 miles, I found myself mostly alone, and able to find a good sustainable rhythm. Although the gearing was perfect for the climbs, I noticed that I was a bit too spinny on the flats. I began to doubt my gear choice.
I rolled through the transition area and Melissa took off. Now, only time would tell. After cooling down and refueling, I went to check the first lap results. We were in third! Hells yeah! Now to wait for Melissa's return. She came rolling through about 3 minutes down on second. Our goal looked achievable. I took off after Hannah, hoping I could reel her in. My legs came back around rather quickly and I was in a good zone. With no traffic, I could save any matches I had left for the last lap. I focused on being smooth and consistent. I soon came upon another SS'r; it was Kip! Sweet! He soon began to talk all about the past couple months, with most of it focusing on P36. How he could manage to talk in sentences, all the while pedaling a tall gear, I don't know. A real motivator for sure.
We rode most of the lap together ... and he was racing solo! When I pulled through the transition area, Melissa yelled out that I had gained some time on second place. Boom sauce! Could we secure second? It was worth a try. I've got to hand it to Melissa. She dug deep into her arsenal of fitness and was able to catch Lilly on her second lap. They came through the start/finish, separated only by seconds!
Oh, boy! The race for second place was on! Upon entering the single track, only about 50 yards separated us. I pedaled so fast, I thought my legs were going to become entangled around the bike like a bolo. I was equal to Hannah's speed on the climbs, but was losing time on the flats. Now I was really wishing I had a 19. I could only hope that she would blow. But mile after mile the gap slowly increased. Around mile 7/8 I lost sight of her. Ugghhh! Oh well, now I focused on finishing up with a clean run. I did not want to make any mistakes that would cost us our 3rd place.
Melissa and Lilly were on pins and needles that entire race, waiting to see who would exit the single track first. I rolled though the finish, 1:07 behind Hannah. I was stoked that we were able to secure a position on the podium and accomplish our goal. This was the first time I had undergeared for a race. I am not sure that had I chosen a 32/19 that it would have made any difference in the outcome, as Hannah and Lilly are super strong young women. But, what I do know is that Coach Lynda has me on track to potentially become the strongest I have been in my mid-forties.
|Stoked to share the podium with some uber strong women!|
So thank you, Melissa, for asking me to partner up with you. Sometimes the best races are not the ones you win, but the ones that push you beyond what you thought your limits were.