Monday, February 20, 2012

First Winter Short Track Series Race

My Proud Surly
So this year, we have a winter short track series being held for the first time at one of our local trails. Same track each week run for 30, 45, or 60 minutes depending on your category. For the first one, it was warm and muddy having rained all night just before. The week after was bitter cold, but dry. And this week, it was cold and rainy on the day of the race and all throughout it. I decided to give it a try this week since I missed the last two. So when the the forecast showed the weather was going to be the worst it had been so far, I was a little hesitant. But, I said I was going to do it, and all the other trails would be closed, so I packed up my bike and went for it. I figured how bad could a 30 minute race be in the mud? I chose to take my single speed Surly 26 inch for two reasons. One, my geared squish was in the shop having the shock rebuilt and two, it would be a lot easier to clean after the race.

We arrived at the race and it started to pour down with cold icy rain. I ran to the car and got the only water resistant type jacket I had in there and I was glad I had something to keep me somewhat dry. It ended up acting like a billowing parachute but at least it made it a little warmer. Quite a few racers turned out for the event which goes to show you that there are a lot of hardcore individuals out here who don't ride fair weather only. I guess we are like the post office, no matter rain, snow, sleet, we're there. Competition is a great motivator.

Anyway, when I signed in, I was the only woman who showed up for beginner class. In fact, I was the only woman who signed in at all. I figured that I'd be competing against myself and was guaranteed 1st place so I assumed it would be an easy medal and worth riding in this crappy weather. I know, not the best way to win a medal, but hey a medal is a medal. Just as I lined up, I saw another woman rolling up to the start line. We quickly introduced ourselves, she told me she was primarily a runner, and hadn't raced in 20 years and off we went. I felt that I might be at a disadvantage because I was riding my single speed. However, when I checked out her bike, I realized she was rocking totally old school. She was riding an early 90's Klein bike with all original equipment including an original Paola Pezzo Italian flag saddle. If you remember who Paola Pezzo was, it's pretty cool. If not, she was known for making a huge splash as a kick-arse female mtb rider when there weren't that many in the sport. She also won the Olympic gold medal in mountain biking, when the event made its debut in the US.
Neck and Neck
So we started out and it soon became apparent that we were very close in ability. It was so great to have a real competitor out there and not just be racing against myself. For the entire race we chased each other neck and neck. Sometimes I pulled in front, other times, she took the lead. For most of the race I maintained the lead until we got to the straights where my single speed legs just did not have the ability to keep up with the higher gears she was able to use in those stretches of road.

Man this grass is tough
Last Lap
By the 6th lap, my legs were starting to get tired. I started to doubt the prudence of my choice to do a 16 mile single speed ride the day before the race.  Perhaps rest would have been the wiser choice, but the weather was too pretty to pass it up. Once she got to the straights, once again, she pulled away. Arrghh....I could not catch up, as hard as I tried. My legs were spinning like a hamster, but there was no way, I had the power left to push like that. I came in 2nd place less than a minute after her. It's hard to watch the person in front of you within sight actually about to cross the finish line, but there is nothing you can do to close the gap.

Hey it counts as Jewelry.
I got a medal!
Crossing the Finish.....2nd Place
 However, when I crossed the finish, I felt good and was pleased with my effort. The first place finisher and I shook hands and I congratulated her on a job well done. We agreed to make arrangements to ride together soon. At the awards, I proudly and perhaps a little too enthusiastically accepted my medal. But, I really, really wanted one of them. And although my medal says, 2nd place, I am just as proud as I could be if it said 1st and I won by default. I had to earn it fair and square and not just take home 1st because I was the only woman in my class who showed up. Although in these conditions that deserved it's own medal. ;-).
Now this gives me something to shoot for to try to work my way up to 1st place. There is one more race in this series next Sunday, but, I am not sure if I will do it because I have a 45 mile long endurance ride planned for Saturday which may fry my legs. But we'll see because I'd like to push myself again to see the difference in my result especially if the conditions are dry. And if the weather is good, I am sure many more women will come to race and the competition will be even stronger. That's a good thing for this sport.

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