Four years ago, I swore I’d never race Sea Otter again.
1. That was only four years ago? I’ve learned a lot since then.
2. I still swear never to race Sea Otter XC again. *()#&$@!! See?
Signage aside, that race was the first of several times I realized I’m not well suited for XC. I’m not fast when the terrain favors power. I have a chance when it favors skill.
So I went and acquired more skill. And a bigger bike. And then an even bigger bike. Then I went and did some Super D races, which featured a giant-to-me jump that prompted a slew of visits to Carlmont, Boy Scout, Z’s, and the jump park.
Then came this weekend. Sea Otter 2012. I signed myself up to race downhill. Cat 3, because I expected more women to race, and for the overall level of competition to be higher than at CCCX Super D. After all, I’m only a little more than 4 1/2 months into my gravity career.
Career, hah! No, I’m not giving up my day job.
I arrived Friday morning and met up with Heidi for a couple practice runs. She’s done the race before and had gone down the course twice the previous day. I had no idea what the course would be like, and was thankful for some tips and the opportunity to follow her line for my first run.
After a half hour medical shutdown, we finally had our turn. The course was fast and full of jumps, with a big line on the left and a fully rollable line on the right. I launched all the tabletops and flat landings, but rolled all the potential doubles. The penalty for casing a double is too great!
I headed for the expo in the afternoon, where I ran into Lauren, whom I met last weekend, one of the guys from jump practice at Carlmont the previous day, who chased me down to share the small world moment, and the pump track race announcer from SCMBF, who picked me out amongst the masses for a shout out. Chris hand delivered my super awesome Quadzilla hoodie, which was photographed shortly afterward by a random guy who loved the name.
I finished the day with a visit to the Pivot booth, where one of the guys very nicely let me ride around on his Point. That frame is awesome. I am definitely building that bike up and keeping it.
Woke up Saturday at the crack of dawn. I jumped out of bed at the alarm and promptly crumpled into a little pile on the floor. What the heck? Turns out my left quad wasn’t awake yet. It wasn’t even pins and needle-ey. It was just… not there. Paralyzed. I guess I was partially in REM when the alarm went off. (I’d like to note that REM paralysis is probably the only truly useful thing I learned from that stupid lucid dreaming book.)
Stumbled into the hotel breakfast area. There were a couple downhill kids there at the same time. They had snazzy kits on. I didn’t think much of it until Aaron sent me a link to photos from the pro downhill race a couple days later. Turns out one of those kids was Manon Carpenter, who blew me away over Red Bull TV at the South Africa World Cup race last month. 2011 Junior World Cup Series winner, 2011 Junior World Champion. The best 19 year old female downhiller on the planet, eating breakfast 15 feet behind me.
Got a practice run in around 8:30. The trail felt a lot looser than the day before. Had to go with a different line than the one I wanted through the steep off camber s-curve. Reminded myself to stay off the front so I don’t dig into the loose stuff. (I bet you that curve won’t be steep or off camber next year, and the course won’t be loose, despite being exactly the same as they were this year.)
10 o’clock. Race time. 31 women signed up for the race. 27 made it. I think we lost a couple to practice crashes earlier in the week.
Five beeps, then a higher pitched sixth beep. Go on the sixth beep. We had a railing to hold onto at the start platform, which meant I could clip in fully before my run. What a luxury compared to CCCX!
Everyone in line was super friendly. There was a collective, “Call out which side you’re passing on and I’ll pull over.” I bet you won’t hear that in the guys’ line.
The rider scheduled to start in front of me didn’t show, so instead of a 20 second gap I had a 40 second gap. I was relieved, because I figured I’d have to put more than 20 seconds on the average rider to do well, but I have no experience passing.
I rolled up and clipped in. Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, BEEP. Go!!! Pedal pedal pedal. First drop, right turn, rollers, table top, a couple big up and downs, left berm, small lip on the exit… pile of rocks, another table top, small berms, more pedaling. I debated whether it was wise to burn out my legs. If I wear myself out, will I be able to control my launches later in the course? Non-jumpy section. Why am I braking? Don’t brake! But slowing is better than crashing. This is a race! Turn, HUGE LEFT BERM. Super fun! Off camber S, outside line, roll the hip, pedal across the road, don’t launch the double. Drop drop drop drop drop, PEDAL! See the two riders in front of me approaching the finish. PEDAL MORE! Launch table top. PEDAL! Launch final jump. PEDAL! Why are you sitting??? Cross finish line.
The announcer went nuts about my time, which I didn’t hear. All I heard was him going on about pole position. Heidi crossed the line with a wicked cough. I realized then that I hadn’t pushed hard enough. I cough for 15 minutes straight after a hard CCCX Super D run. Where was my cough? Slacker!
Someone else came in with a new fast time. Since I hadn’t heard my own time I had no idea where I stood. 15 minutes after the race, they posted results. I had come in 2nd, 5.2 seconds after the 1st place rider.
My reaction? Surprise. I really hadn’t expected to podium. I *wanted* to podium, but I’d expected to be somewhere in the top 5-10.
My second reaction? WHY NOT 1ST? 5.2 seconds. That’s pedaling hard on every flat, releasing the brakes every time I thought I was going just a little too fast. 5.2 seconds. Could I have done enough different to make up that much time?
The answer is yes. It’s humanly possible, so yes. And if I’d known ahead of time that the winner gets a freaking sweet yellow jersey, perhaps I would have!
Just kidding. #1 is worth more than a jersey. I just didn’t realize how close I was to #1. I went into that race simply wanting to do as well as I could without eating it. Not that I want to eat it for #1, but knowing I was close would definitely have motivated me to risk more, push harder.
Enough of that. When other people say “what if” and “should have” I want to tell them to shut up and “just do”. So let that be a lesson to me. Just do. I’m still working on getting my mind in a place where I will push 100% every run. No doubts, no hesitation. Ride every ride like I have a legitimate, razor thin shot at #1.
Even though it says “2nd”, the medal is pretty rad. I declared I wanted one when Aaron got his last year. Done!
Looking at the results and noticing yet again the end-of-2012 ages of the 1st and 3rd place finishers: 18 and 16. I’m old enough to be their 16 and Pregnant mom. Do I o_O or do I laugh?