Monday, March 21, 2011

SERC #1 Race Report

A job well done, both by racer and support crew!  

The first one is in the books and what a nail-biter it was!  The Lowery Ladies finished respectively in their categories.  Both the girls 6-11 and Women Pro/Cat 1 had 12 racers each ... what an awesome turnout.  Charlie got an A+ for his support roles:  chauffeur, photographer, cheerleader, and soigneur.

Saturday Carly and I pre-rode the course.  I first rode several laps with Carly; her course was the first 1/2 mile of my course and 90% single track, which was really cool.  Tight and twisty it was with sandy berms and even a log crossing!  She experienced her first crash when her front tire washed out in a sandy turn (there were even more crashes on race day in this same corner).

Afterward, I did two laps on my course.  Coach had told me to do one lap with gears and one lap on the SS.  However, after my geared lap, the only way I was going to race my SS was if Indy ran away in the middle of the night.  With long flat stretches broken up by short, steep punchy climbs, I knew I was not at the fitness level to be able to power up those ant hills in a gear where I could be competitive on the flats.

Come race morning, the butterflies were furiously fluttering in my stomach!  I really did not care how my race went so long as Carly enjoyed hers.  Our rules for racing are pretty simple:  Have fun, race smart and fairly, and then and only then do we worry about where we finish.

Carly was the youngest in her class.

I could tell Carly was nervous at the start.  But when the whistle blew she was all focus and determination.  I stayed at the Start/Finish while Charlie went out on the course.  Carly's race was 2 laps.  When I saw Carly come through on her first lap, I think I finally took a breath.  No tears or blood, just heavy breathing!

Looking strong and focused.

On her second lap, as she came out of the woods towards the finish, she was just ahead of Lydia.  However, there was a boy (different class) ahead of her.  As he turned the corner to enter the finishing chute, he crashed hard!  The chute was narrow and he completely obstructed Carly's path, which allowed Lydia to catch up.  After what seemed like an eternity, an adult pulled the bike off the boy and got him out of the way.  The whole time we (the parents) were shouting, "Run it in!  Run it in!"  Lydia got a head start on running her bike in and just beat Carly by a wheel length. 

Competitors and friends!
What an epic battle as these girls were neck in neck the whole way!  Afterwards they hung out with each other and rode bikes the remainder of the day.  They will be seeing more of each other as Lydia is racing the series as well. 

My race went off at 11:30am.  It was 80 degrees at the start!  I forgot just how ridiculously fast an XC start is!  I got a good jump and headed into the single track in 4th position just behind Kym Flynn.  It was like trying to keep up with greyhounds when you are a dachshund.  I barely hung on to Kym's wheel for the first half of the first lap.  Knowing I could not maintain that redline pace, I popped off and settled in to what I felt I could sustain for a 2 hour race.  I also hoped that the front runners could not maintain that madness for 4 laps.

I love rocks!

 On the 3rd and 4th laps, true to my consistent nature, I started gaining time on 3rd place.  But it was too little, too late.  Although I managed to see Shelly quite a bit on that final lap, I was unable to reel her in.

Stay focused on the trail as the fall just might kill you!
I was most pleased with my 4th place, as it has been a long time since I have raced highly competitive XC race.  I see I am going to have to train this engine a bit differently than I do for the all day races.  I need a hybrid engine: diesel for TNGA and high octane for XC's.  Coach is gonna have her hands full with me this year!

Feeling the single track love!

 I did enjoy the Haile's Trails.  They are so radically different than what I am used to.  Smooth flats, super tight and twisty flats, sharp rocky descents down into quarries, followed by grunty, loose rocky climbs out of them, chunky ups/downs with sketchy off-camber sections, and multiple ant-hill climbs made for a good "shock" to the anaerobic system!  My back was sore after the race and not because of the rough terrain as I had my Era to smooth things out.  I really used my back muscles to power up the steeps and negotiate through the tight twisty ups and downs.  It definitely helps to have a solid core for these types of races.

After our races, it was super cool as we both discussed our race, our competition, and our finishes.  Nothing makes a Mom prouder than to see her daughter perform well and have fun doing it.  I think she is beginning to like this mountain bike thing!  Next up for the Lowery Ladies is SERC #3 in Spartanburg.  I cannot wait!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Snake Creek Gap TT Race Report -- March Finale

Cold and raining during the awards.

 Well, who would have thought that the January race would have had the best racing conditions.  March has always been sunny, warm, dry, and FAST!  Not this year.  With muddy conditions expected and my fitness level not exactly where I wanted it, I chose to ride gears.  Indy got the call up and she performed amazingly well.

Me, on the other hand, not so well.  Legs were not sparkly.  I was not sure if it was a combination of the previous week's training, my less than stellar health, or the fact that pedaling through soft terrain and soupy mud drained what power I had pretty quickly.

I was able remain comfortably warm in my Costa Rican weather gear:  shower cap on the helmet, 16 gallon trash bag over my torso, and Gorilla tape on my shoes.  I contemplated wearing my high dollar Gore-Tex rain jacket.  I would have acquired more style points, but also would have burnt up in it.  I chose the "better to feel good than to look good"  Glad attire.

This time I was able to start with only a handful of racers in front of me and most of those I never did see until the finish.  I pretty much had the trail to myself ... no energy lost in passing 30+ people.  My drive train held up extremely well; it was a silent as a single speed and the shifting was impeccable.  Kudos to my mechanic and Specialized!

At the halfway point, my time was 1:37.  Not good!  At this rate, I was going to have to slay the second half if I had hopes of winning.  I have done sub 2 hours on the second half before, but it had been dry and I had been in good form.  Today it did not look good for me, but I accepted the challenge and dug deep.  I was descending well and the Specialized Captain's were hooking up quite well on the rocks and in the mud.  As I crossed Snake Creek and began the final climb up to the last techy bit of single track, my hopes of winning were dashed.  This fire road climb which, just a week ago had been dry and SUPERFAST, was today a slog through sticky mud.

What little time I may had gained was quickly lost as I suffered through.  By the time I entered the single track, my watch showed 2:42.  Oh well, I did the best I could and enjoyed the ride.  The Era rocked the chunky trail as I held on for dear life.  I happened upon Mr Hardrock again, this time walking up The Wall.  If you recall, I met Mr. Hardrock in January as I pulled his 30 pound bike off of him as he lay in the trail, unable to clip out of his pedals.  This time he was doing much better and was able to keep the rubber side down!

I finished with a time of 3:41:07, slightly better than January's, but 2 1/2 minutes behind Jamie's January time.  Good enough for 2nd place and $500!  This was money well spent as I used it to purchase Carly's new bike.

I will be back next year.  I hunger for The Bounty!!

Thanks once again to all of the NWGA Sorba volunteers who made the 7th running of the Snake absolutely fan-friggin' tastic.