Friday, November 12, 2010

The Swank Race Report

Now that's the way to end a fantastic, fun-filled season!  I was worried after my Berryman fiasco that I would repeat, either with a bike or body mechanical.  I left everything out on the trail and could not have raced it better.

2008 S-Works SJ FSR with Ergon bling!

I chose Stumpy to race, for the stability and extra travel.  I raced her at The Pisgah Stage Race and was in awe how she responded to the technical terrain ... I can only imagine how a 2011 model would perform!

Upon arriving at the venue, it was 21 degrees.  I must have muddled around for an hour or so, trying to figure out what I was going to wear.  I started out with several layers, but as the sun rose and warmed the landscape, I shed most of it. 

The start was Lemans style; I took my time and spared my ankles.  I hit the first bit of single track probably in the top 30-40.  It was a pretty mellow pace climbing Thrift Cove.  I was wanting to go, go , go, but I also did not want to spend precious energy passing people or throw a stick into my derailleur.  I do believe this 20 minutes spent warming up Thrift Cove was in my best interest.

As it opened up onto some double track, I was able to let the reins loose and fly.  Indeed I did fly by a lot of people.  My legs were sparkly and it felt as if there were no chain on the bike.  I had not ridden the first section of Daniel Ridge since '08 so I did slow a bit to negotiate the tight, twisty turns and multiple bridges.  But once out onto FS 475, I gunned it.  One fellow I passed said I was in first place, to which I replied, "No, I am not.  There are quite a few guys in front of me."  He then proceeded to tell me I was probably in the top 20.  I took that as a top 30-35; not bad this early in the race.  I usually am pretty consistent throughout the entirety of the race, while a lot of guys seem to blow their stack about the midway point.  I had multiple carrot opportunities in front of me.

The top of Butter Gap Trail

Butter Gap was a hoot.  Having ridden it the day before, I was able to rail it, despite the leaves.  There was one sketchy area where a natural spring follows the trail; it was slick and muddy, but I managed to keep the rubber side down.

You ride down this rocky section; may not look it but traction is superb.

Long Branch is a 2.5 mile climb back up to FS 475.  Although super steep in areas, it flows well.  I was able to ride it all, despite having a couple guys in front bobble.  The next bit of fire road was climbing up to Farlow;  all I know is that it is much easier to race up this steep section when you are fresh as compared to seeing it on Day 3 of the PSR.  There were a few downhillers at the top getting ready to ride Farlow.  As I passed one of them, I earned a new nickname, "the goddess of internal combustion."  Quite a compliment, thank you very much Mr. Downhiller.

I do believer all the leaves on Farlow made it easier to ride.  It made the trail appear smoother;  I leaned back onto my rear tire and let Stumpy do the work.  I did dismount in several areas, fearing death or dismemberment.  Hey, this gal has gotta work come Monday!  One guy on a Gary Fisher SS 29'r blew by me like I was sitting still.  He was awesome!  But I did ride more of it than during PSR.  I also ran the hike-a-bike sections faster.  I was able to hold my own within a group of guys during the hiking.  Let's remember, I am having to push/carry a greater percentage of my weight than the men.

On the final descent down the last bit of Farlow and Daniel Ridge, I did let a few guys by me.  They were rockin' it.  I also had vivid memories of that dreaded sidewall gash at Berryman and did not want a repeat on this rocky descent.  I stopped at aid station 3 and grabbed a bottle to get me through the last 10 miles or so.

I treated this last 10 miles like an XC race.  Knowing that the last few miles were descending Thrift Cove Trail to the finish, I rode the last 7 miles like a scalded dog!  After big-ringing FS 475 and Davidson River Trail, I TT'd up FS 475B and FS 225.  This 4 miles of climbing I had done earlier this year while on a recon mission so I knew just how far I had to go.  I put the hammer down and passed ALL the guys who had passed me on Farlow.

I did let Mr. SS Phenom by on Thrift Cove.  This last bit of single track was over before I knew it.  I could smell the hamburgers grilling on the final 0.5 mile descent.  Oh, that was mouth watering!  I rolled under the Finish line in 4:15:03 ... 1st lady and 18th O/A (out of 150).  Whew!  A perfect season ender!

Coach dialed me in perfect for the last two races.  I am most grateful that I was able to perform well at both; that definitely gives me the confidence I will need going on into the winter preparing for 2011.  Hmmm ... now I get to start planning my 2011 season.  Exciting times ... exciting times indeed!