I had no expectations going into this race. I was pretty fried from Madera last weekend, and after tacking onto the Valley Ride this week and keeping up to my goal intersection. When I did my pre-race ride on Thursday, my legs were seriously protesting. I decided to just "ride" the MTB race this year. Have fun. Not worry about my front brake dragging me down like last year (and making me want to throw my bike down some ravine!).
Sea Otter was the usual madness, but reg was a disaster this year. Took forever because I had to: stand in line to be told to fill out a waiver (even though I pre-reg'd), go stand back in line to get my number and ankle chip, go stand in line to have USA Cycling verify my NORBA license, so I could get a stamp on my voucher (they ridiculously charged all of us $10 for a one-day license), stand in line for my goodie bag (shit, just give me a bottle, I don't need all those damned coupons) and then go stand in line to get my $10 back from the cashier. In a word: LAME.
It was cold and windy and luckily, I brought all kinds of clothes. Ran around to visit some of the vendors and my friends and then back to the car to get ready. Felt like ass during my warm-up, but something happened once we lined up. I got the competitive thing going. As we inched forward, it grew. When we were first in line, I accidentally overshot the start line and everyone was teasing me. Oops. BANG! Off we go. 2 women took off like a shot, and I just steadily rode ahead. As we approached the turn that goes up the first little grunt on the racetrack, we'd pulled the 2 leaders in and were now a tighter group of 6 or so. Then a gap opened and I went around it. We caught some women in the group ahead of us while still on the track, and somehow I got around the leader in our group and was first going into the dirt. Holy crap. As we approached the first sharp turn, there was a woman having trouble in it and she stopped. Now, my room was gone and I'm a bona-fide retard when it comes to sharp hairpins. I biffed and landed on my ass. Ouch. I was embarrassed because I slowed everyone down and quickly moved my carcass. I then was able to make up ground on the climb and was in first again. However, I can't descend well and was asked to move over on the single track descent. Fine by me... Then we hit the conga line. Garrrr. Got around them and onto the next section where my rabbit was in sight. Anyway, I ended up passing again, but was behind some slower folks. Tag, I'm not "it" any more, but I was in 2nd leading into the sandy descent.
I have GOT to learn how to ride that stuff better. I ate it at least 10 times, including the last "dance", where I started to endo, but got my left foot out, left hand out trying to balance self, bike endo's forward, I get right foot out, do a pirouette and end up standing, holding my still downhill-facing bike with my left hand. I have no idea how I did it, but that was at LEAST 10 style points right there. I finally gave up after being passed by several people and just ran it.
I then got discouraged and almost panicky. My breathing was ragged. I was almost panting going uphill. It took about another 15 minutes or so to get myself under control and just start RIDING again. I was riding with a purpose, most definitely, but I needed to focus, just to get my head back into the ride. It worked. I was able to ride another sandy descent, which proved less formidable than the first (thank God), and I rode all the steep little grunts. I was doing great right up to when I dropped my chain and banged my knee on the top tube. Ouch, that hurt! I didn't think to try to shift up, because I was ready to fall over anyway. Got the chain back on, then shifted back down and off we go. I caught a few women on the long uphill grind back to the race track, but I had no idea which group they were in. I did end up walking the last part, because the huge gravel freaked me out! But once onto the track, I threw it into a huge gear and motored through the finish.
We stood huddled around waiting for the results, which were totally screwed up. Apparently, several women missed the one turn, where a yellow sign indicated "10 mile ride go this way" while the red ARROW indicated the race goes left here. Janet LeFleur saw at least 4 women going straight at that junction, which indicates that they cut quite a few miles and time off of their race. The results in several groups showed the screw-up, where women finished (14.7 miles, mind you) in: 32 minutes, 40 minutes, 41 minutes. Yeah, right! Anyway, the officials were scrambling last night trying to get the results straightened out and told us that they wouldn't have them posted OFFICIALLY till the morning (today).
Bummer. I drove home, in a stupor. I was so tired! I didn't know how many passed me on my fumblings on the beach, but I figured it was quite a few, so I guesstimated I'd finished in the top 10. Which is great. I thought there were about 15-20 of us, and it was significantly better, time-wise, for me than last year (I shaved off 25 minutes. Of course, last year I had to stop and try to fix a sticky brake about 30 times, but who's counting?). I was happy with the way I rode and I got a really good training ride in.
Holy shit. Janet just called. She's at Sea Otter this morning. Results are posted. She's in 2nd. I GOT FREAKING THIRD PLACE!!! I can't believe it! I'm totally excited, but also bummed in a way. I'm on the podium (for real this time, not because I was 5th of 5 like last year's circuit race!) at Sea Otter, but there probably won't be a podium ceremony, and no pics. :(
But somehow, that placing justifies all the bumps and bruises that I got yesterday. And it was hard, but it was a total blast!