Monday, May 20, 2013

SERC # 5 / US Cup East - Conyers, Ga

My first Cat 1 Race! Rode in the Pro/Expert division on the truly historic course which was the Home of the Mountain Biking Olympics in 1996.

I got 6th today and qualified for the Mountain Biking Nationals that will take place in Pennsylvania this summer and that was my only goal after a really good performance in Xterra Southeast Championships yesterday in Pelham, Al, where they have the Bump and Grind race in 2 weeks.

Some of my friends had their Eggbeater 11's seize up in the weather but my new Xpedo M-Force 8 Ti pedals were light and worked flawlessly. Wish I can say the same for my brake pads though :)

Now for the Write-Up:

Products used: 2013 Specialized Stumpjumper 29'er HT that Arnie helped me out with from Bike Tech with a 1x10 setup. S-works Prevail Helmet, S-works shoes, Schwalbe Racing Ralphs 2.1, 2.35 with Stan's Race Gold wheelset, Syntace handlebars and stem, ESI Grips, Xpedo M-Force 8 Ti pedals, Clif Shot Gels and Garden of Life every day of my life now - Thanks...

I barley finished my Xterra Southeast Championship event, jumped on the box, got my medal, showered under the cold watered bike hose and jumped to the car for a 3 hour trip to Georgia.

Great Picture from
I was already pretty hungry and tired and Pax and I changed to our bike kits and pre-rode the historic 1996 Olympic mountain bike course.  The loop was 6.75 miles long and included the famous granite rock section, which was very demanding and bumpy and really unlike anything else I ever saw, quite pretty and weird at the same time.  But for sure difficult to ride on and most likely even more so to race on at full speed.  After a whole loop of amazingly fun and fast riding on this massive roller coaster like track we were definitely done for the day. Solid meal culminated the day and we had a long sleepless night ahead of us.  So after some 1 to 2 hours of rest we got up and headed to the race site. Nothing was however left from what the track was the day before, the nice and beautifully packed trails changed to slimy mud slides and the grass was fully saturated with water. It kept on raining and lightning until the start and long into the race. So this is how my first Pro/Expert experience was going to be like. I experienced so much of wet trails the day before in Alabama that I could care less what was waiting for us today on the course. The gun went off and we were going. I had to be somewhere in the mid pack and had girls left and right and rain was just pouring on us and water was splashing around the tires while we were hammering the start on the grass. I got up to speed, moved to the outside and just seconds later was head to head with Jen and Duffy, I looked at them with this surprised but happy grim at my face and waited for them to attack. I was just by a wheels length in the lead but didn’t feel there was a need for me to pursue it since I didn’t plan to be the first one to go to the trails. I backed off a little and this is when we all got to the first and the smallest uphill you can think of that leads us to the trail system…  Momentarily I felt it, this instant burn, sting, emptiness overwhelmed my legs, we were some 35 seconds into the race and legs were gone, so totally gone!  I felt like I halted from 20 mph to 2 mph in an instant, I had girls going left and right by me. I looked around in disbelieve, hmm this is how racing after racing feels like; it doesn’t feel good for sure. 

Thanks for the Clif Gel Pax...

Big High Five from Jen who finished
 just before me
Few girls went by and I just pushed as much as I could and made sure I’m not last. Things got better however in the trails and somewhat I was able to recover, I knew however that I’m riding on an empty tank and kept my expectations reasonable. Mostly today it was about the experience, being part of it, doing my best and finishing my first expert race. The rain kept on pouring and trails were so wet and slimy… My glasses fogged up so badly that whole left lens was totally opaque and right one had speckles of rain, mud and still clear spots on them. I couldn’t see anything, no roots, no rocks, barley seeing the trail… It was difficult to go at full appropriate speed for those conditions. I felt like I wasted a lot of valuable time by just trying to see the course, I finally decided to rip my glasses off some 2/3 into the first lap. Without glasses the face did get slapped by some leafy branches and mud was now collecting and hitting me straight in my eyes, but at least I could see where I was going.  I was biting down on my glasses and then I finally dropped them off in the transition I was able to focus only purely on racing.

Me and Jen representing Bike Tech
somewhere under the mud

This time around rain had to pick up even more and every single trail changed into a stream with mini standing pools of water. Now all the obstacles were under the running water that often we had to bike against. It was a challenge, but it felt good at the same time, I felt like I was riding better this lap. Two steep climbs that we had to go up on were very painful and almost never ending. This is where all the energy was being lost. I got passed at point by one of the girls but I worked my way to get my position back and never let her back close to me. This lap was the most critical because it seems like everyone started to experience some kind of bike mechanical problems. At a point I noticed Jen on the trails in front of me struggling on the uphill, apparently her pedal stopped spinning. Later on I saw many other riders having trouble and even some walking their bikes. I noticed myself my shifter would not let me go to the sometimes 3 biggest cogs and I was stunned when I was trying to make a climb and was sure I was on the biggest cog while I was pushing so hard and almost not making it to the top, because the gear would not change.  This definitely didn’t help me on the final lap where I had to get up those giant hills once again. It was a struggle and I was quite glad that course had been shortened for this race from 6.75 to 4.5 miles. We didn’t race much but we raced in the brutal conditions and for me it was the first true race in such a complete mud slide and to be honest I enjoyed every minute of it. It was an amazing experience and such a challenge, and not only during this race itself but throughout the whole week, since this week was a monster. I covered 3 races in 8 days, not mentioning all the travel and work in between.

Me, Duffy and Jen with Huge smiles after the race.
I will be going home happy for a well-deserved rest. Placing 6th today in those extreme conditions with not much energy left in me I will note in my book as a success. This would not happen, like usual, if not for the unconditional support of my husband who was by my side for this whole week’s long experience. Not mentioning that my bike was completely torn down to the pieces, washed, lubed, put back together just to be thrown to the muddy race once again. I felt bad for my bike to have to go through something as drastic on almost a daily bases and mentioned it to my husband, to which he responded (to my bike), "Sollie, this is life of a Pro, get used to it". :-)

Well we are not there yet, but feels good to think and feel that way once in a while...

And of course big thank you to all my sponsors for the amazing support!

Some nice pictures from H & H Multimedia...

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