- 13 months of clearing and reclearing my schedule to make every race.
- Missing 1 race because it got rescheduled to a travel tournament weekend.
- Losing 2 races’ worth of Cat 2 points because I started in Cat 3.
- Breaking my collarbone, yet miraculously missing 0 races.
I managed to accumulate enough points to win the Women’s Cat 2 CCCX Super D 2011-2012 Series on Sunday.
I started this season with a single goal: To win the series in my category. It’s been a long journey. I’ve learned a lot, met a bunch of new people, repeatedly rearranged my calendar to accomodate schedule changes and additions, and watched the schedule rearrange itself a few times to magically work around my broken collarbone and tournament schedule.
For these last 13 months of effort, I will receive a series winner jersey. This jersey doesn’t say, “I’m fast,” or “I can ride down a hill faster than anyone else in Cat 2.” Cat 2 isn’t particularly fast, nor am I fast right now.
What this jersey says is, “I’m persistent,” and also, “I will walk my bike down the hill with one arm if that’s what it takes to achieve my goal.” (I’m glad I didn’t have to do that.)
Now, to think about next season. What are my goals? I’ve lost some ground, I’ll likely lose a few months to have my collarbone plate taken out, I need to schedule some clinics, I have yet to test my nerves on big stuff. There’s a lot I want to learn and a lot of factors to consider.
A little voice in my head says I should just enjoy my victory and not worry about next season yet. Screw you, voice.
It’s time to get planning.
I’m back! I’m back I’m back I’m back! I don’t care if I’m a few seconds slower now than I was in March. I am so freaking happy to be back on the bike! See:
That big smile is actually for photographer Rick Rasmussen. I always try to say hello if I see him on my practice run and have enough brain cycles to process who it is, say hi, and not crash. But that picture is a pretty accurate reflection of how I feel about racing again.
Heck, it’s a pretty accurate reflection of how I feel about riding again, skating again, driving again, working again, being able to lift my arm again, sleeping on my right side again, brushing my teeth with my right hand again…
I won’t say it. But I don’t like it! But if you were to ask me what’s not to like, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I had a clean run and a respectable time. Compared to other, faster-than-me racers I may have even had a faster-than-usual time.
#1 finished with a fantastic race time. Fantastic enough that it would have placed #1 in Cat 1. Fantastic enough that I’m not sure where I could have made up that time in my run. She was simply better and faster. And quite nice. So again, what’s not to like? Oh right, not winning. Hah.
I’ve learned a few things since my last race. For one, I figured out that my discomfort at high speeds on fire roads comes from fear of getting chucked off the bike by excessive front wheel chatter. That’s why I braked at Sea Otter. But what makes the front feel unstable? Lack of weight. So I weighted the front more on yesterday’s super fast fire road descent. Way more stable. Way better steering, too.
In retrospect, I knew this, but it never clicked enough for me to apply it fully to my riding. I first heard it from Kathy Pruitt at Dirt Series in April 2011:
… she told us not to shift our weight back too much going downhill, even when it’s steep. At first, this made no sense to us, but she explained that if we shift our weight back too far then we can’t steer. This really made me think, since I often just get my weight back, point my bike down the hill, and let my suspension guide me down through rough stuff. But she was right, when I do that, I can’t really steer.
I heard it again from her when I helped out at Dirt Series in May of 2012. This second time, with Sea Otter fresh in my mind, plus a few more weeks to stew on it, a lightbulb finally went off. I’ve since been working on keeping my weight more forward (it’s actually just more neutral) on descents, and I consciously told myself to do it in yesterday’s race. Felt great. Thanks Kathy!
I said above that I’ve learned a few things, but after writing down this one thing I can’t remember the rest.
Pics or it didn’t happen! Thanks Rick Rasmussen for making sure it happened!
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?
- SCMBF 2011: Come across my first ever pump track. Try to ride it on my Anthem. Fail miserably.
- In the months that followed: Hear about how pump track skills translate into trail skills. Intrigued.
- Early March 2012: Find out about a pump track clinic with pro women coaches at SCMBF 2012.
- March 15: Sign up for clinic. Start searching for a DJ bike.
- March 21: Buy a DJ bike off Craigslist. Destroy myself on it immediately. (I’m still healing.)
- March 24: Sign up for the pump track race a couple hours after the clinic. Still haven’t pumped anything, but I figured I’d be there already, so why not?
- Week of March 25th: Watch it rain.
- April 2-9: Go to the Pleasanton BMX Park a few times.
- April 14: SCMBF 2012. Attend morning clinic. Race shortly afterward. Win. Receive awesome schwag.
How awesome? This awesome:
No, I didn’t win a bike. But I did win a Pivot Point frame. Thank you Pivot Cycles!!!
Remember that Hilo I won in a raffle earlier this year? I ended up buying an Enduro for it. I’m in a similar situation with my new frame. I just bought a DJ bike. Yes, remember? Up there, next to “March 21″. The Malice is a great bike. It fits me beautifully.
While logically I should sell the Pivot frame because I don’t need it, I can’t bring myself to do it. It’s way too pretty. Plus, I won it! I can’t sell the prize from my first ever pump track race! So I’ve decided to turn it into a project. I need to learn more about bike parts, all the variations in bike parts, and bike assembly. I will build this frame up myself. I did something similar when I spec’ed and built my desktop back in 2009. It was a great experience. And now I get to do it for something else. I’m looking forward to it.
- Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival for providing me an opportunity to know the joy of pump tracks.
- Aaron for being my enabler of all things bicycle. (Except for giant drops he thinks I’ll kill myself riding.)
- Pivot Cycles for the super duper awesome prizes. (I love the T-shirt that came with the frame too. I’m sad that it’s a men’s medium and I’m not, but Aaron is and it looks great on him.)
Aaron, on the possibility that I won’t win the CCCX Super D series in my category this season:
“Even if you don’t finish first you’ll still get a belt buckle and a plaque and prizes.”
Me, after having declared last summer that I want a belt buckle and a plaque:
“I don’t care about all that. I care about #1.”
I still *want* a belt buckle and a plaque, but those are just icing. I want the cake.
I missed CCCX Super D #5. They moved the race to last weekend, and I was out of town for hockey.
It’s just a race, right? Sure, except that I set a goal of winning the 8 race series. Because I moved up from Cat 3 to Cat 2, I lost my series points from the first 2 races of the season. Missing race #5 put me neck and neck with a couple other racers in my category, one of whom is exactly my speed.
This made me nervous going into race #6, which made it difficult to sleep the night before. I found myself lying in bed tired but wired. Normally, this happens to me only before early morning championship games. And ski trips when I was 6 years old. I really, really wanted to win this race.
No, really. I wanted to win this race more than all the previous races. How do I know this? Because instead of intending to do two practice runs and doing only one, I actually did two practice runs. I wanted to make sure I was comfortable and familiar with every part of the course.
This course featured a lot of singletrack. It wasn’t particularly rough, jumpy, or technical, but there were a few things to keep in mind: the not blowing first turn, not running into the tree after the first turn, not hitting any of the free roaming cows, and not running myself off one of the fast off-camber sections of the trail.
I managed to do (or properly not do) all of those things, but I did run myself off the trail at the tree after the tree after the first turn. I looked at the tree, thought, “Don’t hit it. Nudge right,” kept looking at it, and found myself running off the trail heading straight for the tree. NOOOOO!!! Fortunately I was able to muscle my way back onto the trail without completely stopping or unclipping. It was still early in the run, and that mistake motivated me to pedal as hard as I could to try to make up for lost time. This kept me going hard for the first half of the course.
The second half of the course was some fun twisty singletrack in the canyon. There happened to be a parallel trail on the other side of the ravine, and some guy on a bike pacing me. I have no idea who he was, but every time I stopped pedaling he would yell, “PEDALLLLL!!!” Oh, right! Pedal! And I would. Then I’d take a turn and forget, and he’d yell again, “PEDALLLLL!!!” Mystery parallel trail in the canyon man, THANK YOU. I want to miniaturize you and put you on my shoulder.
There was a short but painful fireroad climb toward the end of the run. I was gassed by then, but a very loud cheering section had formed, and I couldn’t bring myself to disappoint them. So I pushed through it, pedaled and mashed. THANK YOU, whoever you all were, for the motivation and encouragement.
I ended up winning my category by 1.5 seconds. I owe those 1.5 seconds to every single person who took the time to yell and cheer on the course. Aaron likes to tell me that I should be motivated to pin it every second of every race. I’m working on it, but until I get there I am tremendously grateful to all those trailside voices. Heck, even after I get there I will be grateful.
Speaking of which, I’m grateful for another set of great race photos from Rick. Here are a couple frames he caught of me. On the left is when I spotted him hiking uphill during my practice run. I gave him a big smile and hello. On the right is the drop-in on my race run. I’ve been working hard on getting into a more aggressive stance since looking at pictures of myself from race #4. Does it make a difference? I hope so! At the very least, it makes it look like I really really mean to go wherever it is I think I’m going.
- – -
Update: 2012-03-06 @ 2:41 PM
Results were finally posted last night. A new rider showed up in Cat 3 and finished with a faster time than mine. It has no impact on my standing in Cat 2, but that doesn’t mean I’m okay with it. Gotta get faster. I want to WIN ALL THE THINGS!
We got some much needed rain before and during CCCX Super D #4. The trails were in great condition and this course had a little bit of everything. Except competition. I finished both in first place and DFL in Cat 2. On the upside, my time was slower than all the Cat 1 women and faster than all the Cat 3 women so I at least know I was in the right category.
Once again, Rick Rasmusen came out and took some great photos. I learn so much from them. Like this shot from practice:
I look at that and I think: butt back, butt down, chest to handlebars! I should be ripping through that corner aggressively.
Like this. (Pro men’s winner.) Or this. (Cat 1 women’s winner.)
Unfortunately, ice cream is “slow food”.
My realization that I need to train for my races, along with just having played my first real Black Stars game of the season, has me thinking about nutrition. I think it’s time to start my 3rd annual ice cream elimination diet. More dinner instead of 300-400 calories in ice cream every night. I’d be starting about a month earlier than usual, and this year the season ends a month later than usual. Will I be able to go dessert-free for almost four months? Probably not, but I should at least start so I break my nightly habit, then adjust as necessary.
And don’t say, “Oh, you’ll burn it off.” (You know who you are. Oh wait, it’s all of you.) This is not a calorie diet; I intend to eat the same number of calories each day. I’ll just be allocating the 20 percent I save for ice cream to something more nutritious. This is about putting good fuel into my body so I don’t feel like a pint of Chubby Hubby when I’m burning it off.
- – -
Update: 2012-01-15 @ 10:02 AM
I think the trick to breaking my nightly ice cream habit is to stock up on a few candies I really like and eat one piece at the end of the night. That way I still feel like I’m getting a treat, but it has a lot less impact on my overall food intake.
Not that I don’t enjoy the nutritious food I eat. I’m just wired to need dessert before bed, and this is a way to wean myself. If you’re wondering why I don’t just eat a smaller serving of ice cream, that’s because it will just leave me wanting more. And then I’ll have more. And then I’ll feel like Chubby Hubby.
I choose my riding outfit by first selecting appropriate shorts. They must be comfortable and style-appropriate for the type of riding I’m doing, i.e. no baggy shorts if I’m doing a road ride. Oh wait, I don’t do those anymore. Perhaps I should flip that and say no spandex shorts if I’m doing a downhill ride. Next, I select a jersey that matches the style of shorts. Then I pick socks that match the jersey color. And finally, I pick a pair of gloves that match the jersey, both in style and in color.
If any of those items don’t match, I’ll surely crash. Outfit selection is imperative.
As I arrived for my ride at Santa Teresa today, I remembered the first time I rode down Stiles, Aaron telling me afterward that he likes to ride up Stiles, and thinking, “That sounds terrible and difficult, why would anyone want to do that?” Now I ride up Stiles for a fun challenge. It’s not even that challenging compared to that OTHER trail at the park…
The best part? It wasn’t even two years ago when I first rode it.
Ever since the change to Daylight Standard Time I’ve been riding notverymuch. I’m not big on night riding (it’s dark and it’s cold and mountain lions will eat me) so I’ve been limited to a sprinkling of weekend rides. I’ve been getting on the bike enough to know I can finish a downhill race, but that’s about it. Then, last weekend, I won a race by 0.99 seconds. That’s way too close. I realized I needed to work harder, pedal more, be in riding shape, be faster, be better. It means I have to manage my time better so I can do lunch rides during the week. And I will. Because I like to win.
Or is it because I hate to lose? What’s that they say? 2nd place is 1st loser.