Sheboygan 2005. That's me in the red and white jersey and red helmet with the tiny legs.
Fast forward to Sheboygan 2008. I warmed up with this girl and rolled to the start line just minutes before the race began. The nerves were dancing around in my stomach more than usual, even though I had a great pre-ride the day before. My technical riding hasn't been so hot and I don't think I'm alone in worrying about when and where the first Comp men are going to start passing me. Don said GO!!!! and the sprint for the hole shot was on. My start was better than normal and I was sitting right in the middle of the pack when we entered the single track. I rode my first lap smooth and fast, it was almost shocking and too good to be true....and it was... because on my second lap, I began to fall apart. Lap 2, I started off by sitting on April's wheel in the single track, almost feeling like I should pass her as she was a touch slower than me. Before I could act, we would hit the open sections and she would blow me freaking up (almost like it was the first time I had ever ridden a bike). That girl has a big motor on the flats and knows how to use it. I ate dirt a few times and subsequently watched April ride away. Patti and Christine passed me as I floundered. I was left to finish the lap by myself. My Sheboygan was slowly heading down the poop tube.
Picture courtesy of mountaingoat
On lap 3 I hunkered down and focused, which is hard to do when you have no carrot to chase. Ride it cleanly and keep pressing, I told myself. They have to be just up ahead. I obsessively eyeballed my heart rate monitor and made sure that my body was being pushed to its fullest. I ran up that bitch of a hill that SheVegans call the Equalizer for the 3rd time. (I have never attempted to ride the Equalizer during a race. In fact, it's just as fast for me to run it, if not faster. Though, it probably juices my legs more as I am not a runner). Shortly after I re-mounted my bike, I saw Christine in the quarry just ahead of me. In the past my approach would be to hammer up to her and try to immediately pass her. But my summer of getting schooled by road racers who were weaker than me has taught me to settle down and use my head. So I followed her at a bit of a distance. I needed to recover from running the Equalizer. I moved closer and was just a few feet behind her for the remainder of the lap. Lucky for me, Christine never looked back....she too was drinking her bottle and recovering in the single track. As we headed onto the service road for the beginning of lap 4, Christine turned and looked at me. Then I fucking punched it with all I had (the song "drop it like it's hot" kept running through my head as I told myself to "pedal RB, pedal".....at least I entertain myself during these excruciating physical activities or perhaps it's just the dehydration talking). I wanted a nice gap before I got into the single track and I thought it might deflate her a bit. The last lap was pretty uneventful other than I felt great and rode great which is very unfamiliar territory for me. My little tactic worked as Christine never passed me. I kept seeing Patti ahead of me, but I was too tapped out to catch her. So I rolled to 12th out of 18 starters. While not fantastic finish for some, it's a solid result for me.
Picture Courtesy of Velogrrl. The Equalizer run-up. Except my legs are less tiny these days.
At the end of another mountain bike season, I have to remind myself not to stress over how I finished. It's not always about what place you took or didn't take....or who you passed or couldn't pass....sometimes it's just about the journey.