The Summerset shootout was my first race last year moving into the Cat 2 (sport) class. I finished pretty respectably in 9th or so overall and 3rd in class. It was my kickoff to what may be the best season I'll ever have. Things would definitely be a bit changed up for this year's installment. Not only would I find myself up in the Cat 1 class doing more laps, due to flooding, all of our laps would be on the northern section of trails which happen to be all of the climbing. 7 laps of the north side was the call for around 20.5 miles of racing with steep, tight, and technical singletrack punctuated with a small road section where the big motors could really crank it up.
As we lined up for the start, the field looked pretty small. I was surrounded by a good number of teammates flying the Rasmussen flag. Fine by me, I thought as it meant I didn't have to contend with as many fist fights getting a good position in the track. I figured with a good sense of the trails, I'd have something of an advantage over the out of towners and I wasn't looking forward to attempting passes on the north side. Someone raised the question to see if all the course reroutes from the beginner and junior races had been pulled. The answer was affirmative so we set ourselves and took off. The opening road section strung out the pack slightly and I headed in about mid pack. The leaders were pulling away just a bit when suddenly I found myself right back among them at the entrance to the first climb. Sure enough, not all the course markings were pulled and one of the leaders had wrapped caution tape and a metal stake up in his drivetrain causing all but a couple to stop.
We hit the first climb and I felt pretty decent having gotten a fair warmup in. I was chasing Alread's wheel and when he bobbled one of the steepest pitches and had to put a foot down, I road around him. The leader's had checked out by this point and I settled into my pace. Unfortunately, the north side doesn't allow you to recover anywhere on the singletrack. If you're not climbing, you're descending through some fast and rough sections with lots of little tecnhnical challenges that keep you tense. I wrapped up the first lap in a shade over 18 minutes. The lap went pretty well and although it was hot, I felt good. Laps 2 and 3 ripped off pretty equally in time, but by the end of lap 3 I'd been passed by the lead sport rider, Neil, who was absolutely crushing the course.
Running on empty
By the start of lap 4, I was paying a toll for my pacing. I'd been going harder than I thought and my body was most definitely letting me know. My time dropped to over 20 minutes for this lap and I began to wonder if another DNF was on the horizon. I really didn't want that to be on my record, but the demoralizing nature of the course was pounding me into submission quickly. Another lap and another minute slower. By lap 6 I was pretty sure I was last place in the expert field and desparately just trying to finish out. My slowest lap was 6 at just over 25 minutes. I walked pretty much all of the bigger climbs (4ish spots) on this lap. I was feeling pretty low. Lap 7 I got a shade more energy and dropped back into the mid 23 minute range as I only walked 1 or 2 of the climbs. I finished DFL in the expert field, but I finished.
Completely out of gas:
The UGLY side of racing:
I managed to finish 3rd in class because the others in my class DNF'd. At least I made it to a podium spot... I've got to say that my goals and expectations for the year have made a pretty big flip flop. I've gone from thinking I might be a mid pack rider to just hoping I can finish the alotted number of laps and retain my sanity at the end. It's been a huge leap for me this year. I'm definitely going back to the training drawing board come fall/winter, but for now it's hold on and run with it. I appreciate all that my sponsors have done to help me get this far- Rassy's, Ergon, and Oakley, but now I need to get my engine up to snuff.