So morning comes and I line up to get my race number and I am starting to get nervous. But I just swallow it because I’m here now and i’m not going to NOT race now! Besides, even though my Dirty Girl Designs friend is setting up her tent to pedal her wares, she still plans on racing so at least I’m not alone.
The shuttles start and Michelle’s tent is not ready. So I go line up alone. I spot another lone female rider close by and move so that I talk to her. Turns out she is my “competition”! She’s racing beginner category too! Cool! We have lots to compare notes about! What to expect? How long have you been riding? Is this your first race? Are you nervous too?? So we load up our bikes and jump in the shuttle van for the ride up. More talking and comparing notes. Starting to feel much less nervous 🙂
We get to the top to do our first practice run and it’s very strange to be up on the wood start gate in front of everyone, but really it seems, nobody cares. Everyone is just waiting to get their turn up there and do the best THEY can do when it’s their turn. They just enjoy watching people get turned loose and ride away, regardless of whether there’s some fancy start, but of course when someone does hit a nice jump that’s close to the start, there’s tons of clapping and hooting in support.
So, I drop down the wooden ramp and start my first run! I feel the “pressure” that I put on myself. But this is good! One of my reasons for racing at all is to try and push my speed limits. I am not the fastest rider in any group I ride with so this gives me extra incentive to try and push it by being as smart as possible about the lines I choose, the way I’m braking, the way I take a corner or hit a burm, etc. And damn, I love when people clap for me at the finish line no matter how I did!!
My first practice run is good! At the bottom I find that my Dirty Girl Designs friend is not going to race after all, but I’m feeling ok because I got a practice run in and made a new friend in the meantime! I get back in the line for another shuttle and ride up for a second practice run. On the way down this time, I hear “No 130 (me), you are the FIRST racer. You need to get back to the start for 12:00!” I yell “OK” back to the unknown voice.
When I finish my second run, I rip directly to the shuttle meetup area and wait. By the time I get to the start gate, I was late, and they already started the race. They let the other beginner females go and were working through beginner men. But it’s ok, they tell me, I just have to wait until the beginner men are finished, they’ll tuck me in there, and then they’ll begin the intermediate women.
So finally it’s my turn. I get up on that wooden gate again and there’s a women there watching the start time. She explains to me that there’s a 1 minute break between riders, she’s going to tell me at 30 seconds, 15, 10, and then count me down from 5. “Cool, thank you” I say…
5, 4, 3, 2, 1… off I go. About 30 seconds in you hit a spot where you need to pedal a bit, so I begin to pedal and I’m getting nothing! Spinning! Damn! My chain is off! I have to fully stop, hope off my bike, scoop the chain back on and get going again! “Damn!” I think, “there’s goes podium!”.
I dIdn’t really notice anybody around me at the start, but I notice almost everyone watching on the way down. By now, the course is lined with spectators and they yell encouraging comments (and I smell the scent of pot wafting through the air here and there! Ah yes, the island…) I find that I’m smiling the whole way down having a great time (or maybe just stoned by this point!) and I yell back to some of the people who yell out to me! I also find I comment to whomever is close by if I wasn’t happy with something I did. In this case, I’m feeling pretty good though. Aside from my chain stop, i feel this run is clean and smooth and the fastest I could have expected from myself that day.
I finish! and I feel great! But I’m beating myself up a bit about the chain because I am sure it was because of the gear I was in. I ALWAYS switch to a harder gear at the trail head when I’m on a dh ride, but didn’t think to do this at the start line of a race?? Oh well, it’s done now. Something makes me still optimistic about podium because it was such a good clean run otherwise. For some reason, I’m still hopeful. Â So I hand out a few Red Racer beers, crack mine open and I wait.
When it comes to calling the winners, I am 3rd!! I did get podium!! I’m thinking “Wow, would I have been 2nd or even 1st if my chain didn’t fall off??”. I’ll never know. But I do know that will not happen when I race again…
Funniest thing is that the 1st place winner is a 14 year old girl! BUT, I tell myself, it’s ok because she rides that course EVERY day! and she’s not pushing 40 with 2 kids and a full time job…