Sunday, July 19, 2009

National Championship Chronicles

Like Lindsay, I've been putting off my XC Nationals race report, although not because of any "mixed feelings," as she's suffering from, but because I've been drunk. Oh, now-now, not that kind of drunk (well maybe a little of that kind).....oxygen drunk. I flew back "home" to PA on Monday, had a delicious dinner with the fam, and then I...... PASSED OUT. When I druggedly dragged myself from the sheets the next morning, I drove my aunt to work, came home, and......down she went. Six hours later (that's 6 hours for the nonbelievers).....I drug myself out of bed again.

Are you kidding me???

My dear, sweet, friend Erika, in Breckenridge, told me that when she and her husband come down the mountain from 9,600 ft., they sleep like babies. I laughed cutely in understanding when she told me that... but now I've been schooled. Dang. The crazy part is I bet I'll sleep 10 hours tonight if the farm activity doesn't wake me up.

Why so tired?? Well, I suppose it has something to do with the months of travel and racing.... and maybe the National championships this past weekend....but I'm blaming the oxygen. I finally got to where the lack of it wasn't bothering me quite so much---I wasn't trashed from climbing a flight of stairs, putting away dishes, or drinking one beer, but I guess just because it wasn't overtly bothering me doesn't mean it wasn't affecting me....and being at sea level again is showing me how much I was missing that sweet, sweet low country air.

The races themselves were pretty epic. Saturday's cross country had me all nerves beforehand. I usually give myself a lot of leeway when racing pro girls, but since I don't have a USAC upgrade, I was racing Category 1 and thinking that if I didn't win, I was a bad, bad girl. What a terrible attitude to have about a race......sigh......but it gave me plenty of ammunition to keep my body pushing forward, even when I started hurting.
....which didn't take long. I felt really amazing at the line, and when the whistle blew, I hit it sea level style. I downshifted a couple of times and stood up on my bike, figuring that I could at least get a small gap on the other girls and at most get in their heads. Both worked, except with one girl...she caught up and jumped on my wheel, determined to stick with me. Let me interject that I hardly ever race this way----I am not a go-all-out-at-the-line kind of girl. I'd rather play my cards wisely, sitting patiently on someone's wheel, and charging when I feel great and they seem weak. Yeah, I know, this is the internet and I should keep these kinds of things to myself, but seriously? It's just smart race tactics, published in the manual of everyday thinking.... and here I was ignoring the basics at a national race. Yes, I can see the altitude was affecting me.

Soon after climbing the first really *fun* climb, oh I mean start of the race, I felt the effects of my effort. WHew! No effort goes unrecognized at high altitude---I could hear it in my breathing and feel it in my lungs, but I was expecting pain, so I pushed through and hit the singletrack somewhat strong. On the first singletrack climb I heard what I was expecting to hear a great deal of- the bell of my singlespeed friends who had started just behind us. Jen Wilson came cheifing up on me and passed in beautiful SS style. One minute later I heard Amy Hermes getting ready to do the same thing. Great, I thought, singlespeeding really is faster than geared bike riding!! As it turned out, Amy and I went back and forth a couple of times, but no other singlespeeders passed me. In fact, only one or two other riders passed me during the whole race, so I guess I'll stay on my geared bike....for now.
I managed to stay in the lead of my group, with second place riding off and on behind me. Occasionally I could hear her breathing hard behind me, but she never made a pass and I eventually put a minute or so on her, finishing just behind Jen and taking the win for my Cat. It was painful to ride hard for 2 hours and 9 minutes at altitude. I felt it in my legs when I was climbing one of the dirt roads on the back side of the course and some nice cramps started coming on. Fortunately, I was able to ride through them and keep my legs from totally locking up, but I could tell that any work I was doing was cumulative and that my body was not going to forget the effort.

The next day I woke feeling those cumlative effects and knowing my body did not have what it needed to kick butt in a short track competition. I also woke knowing that I had already given the USAC my $55 and had no choice about the situation. Back to the line for more suffering, it was.

The short track, ahhh, my most dreaded, and occasionally, most loved event. It can be so painful for me to ride at redline for 20-30 minutes, but when I'm feeling good, it can be so refreshing. I think in the long run, it might be better for me to train up to doing short track and cross country races. The recovery from them is so stinking short (compared to a 24 solo), and all they do is make you faster.....and faster......I took 3rd in the Cat 1 Nats short track. I'm amazed that I finished those laps at all, let alone that I got on the podium. I'm sure there were only a handful of girls out there who actually felt fresh and ready to go for the ST, but for whatever reason, I was dredging the bottom of my tank to slog up that hill one-more-time. Speaking of...the course. I was not a fan of either the ST or XC courses, but seeing as no one really cared what I thought, I raced them just the same. The ST went up a pretty intense hill climb, then turned and climbed some more, then turned and steady climbed through a tree section, and then went down. I really could have ridden the whole thing going down, but again, no one asked for my thoughts on the course, and I guess going down the whole time means something more like Super D or Downhill. OK, Ok.

Total tally for the weekend: one 1st place finish in the Cross Country and one 3rd place finish in the Short Track. I can deal with those results....and I guess I'll quit putting off an upgrade and submit my results to the governing body of cycling rules and go for a pro liscense....on to life as packfill, I suppose. Perhaps that means that next year I will try to race the really fast girls at these events, and fulfill a dream as a XC athlete. Who woulda thought??

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