I arrived at the start of Middle Mountain Momma with my husband and our friend. We had lots of time to get ready since the race didn’t start until noon, and with so much time, I did not know what to do with myself. With all that extra time, and since I was a little nervous, I was doubting every decision I made. “Should I bring my pump or my CO2?” I asked. I was concerned that maybe my new tubeless tires that I had yet to ride, might not be holding air even though I had no reason to think that. “Should I bring more than one tube? Do you think I need my water bottle too? What tire pressure should I run? Should I take a map?” I had way too much time to think, and it felt like every time I looked at my watch it was STILL 10:30. “OMG is noon EVER going to get here?”
Finally, noon did arrive. I cautiously lined up with the Expert women, hoping maybe no one would really notice me if in case, all the Sport women passed me. “Thirty seconds,” said the race director. Those 30 seconds before the start are always so long. Finally, we headed out for a very sensible start. There was no sprinting to be the first one to the singletrack, as there were, after all, only 4 of us.
As soon as we entered the woods, we started climbing. I stayed at the back of the group, but was pleased that the other women didn’t shoot of the front and out of my view in the first half mile of the course. After some time, the first two ladies started slipping away, and I passed the women in front of me. Soon after I passed her, I was by myself and I couldn’t see anyone ahead or behind me.
The first long climb up Middle Mountain wasn’t too bad, long but never too steep. I climbed steadily, and tried to keep my heart from feeling like it was going to shoot out of my ears. After some time, the Sport Men started coming around me. I tired to keep a steady pace, but it was hard to keep my heart rate down. It just felt higher than it should because I did not feel like I was going that hard and my legs felt fine. I didn’t even want to look to see what my heart rate actually was because I thought it might only freak me out.
The top actually arrived sooner than I thought it would. The top portion of the descent I felt pretty confident, but as I started to hear some people coming up behind me, I pulled over to let them pass so I didn’t hold anyone up. I had good timing because after that it got sketchier and a bit steeper. The descent wasn’t bad, but I was a bit more careful. Some dude however, came barreling down behind me, sat inches from my wheel, and almost crashed into me when I had to steer around a giant downed tree on the trail. He finally charged around me and then around the lady who was doing the XXC in front of me. I heard similar stories of his obnoxiousness from other people in the race. I’m pretty sure he didn’t win any prizes, and the people who do are always much nicer about passing.
I felt a little discombobulated after the descent, but I think it was more dehydration than anything. I have trouble being able to tell how much I am drinking from a hydration pack, water bottles are much easier. I started drinking more, and tried to recombobulate myself for the next climb.
The next climb was shorter, but significantly steeper than the first. I had been focusing on the shorter part and was thinking maybe I could go a little harder here. I rode up a pretty steep section where most people were walking, and that was about the time that I thought my entire body might explode from climbing. I thought my eyes might pop out of my head and my arms would shoot off my body. After that, I walked the super steep parts.
It was around this time that I realized that there was certainly a possibility that I was not having a “good” day. I wasn’t really sure how I was supposed to tell if I was having a good day or not. I am usually that person that has crappy training days but can pull a good race out of almost nothing. But other than my history of good races, there was really no reason that I should be having a good day. I had not slept much over the past few days, everyone in my office was getting strep throat, and I felt terrible most of the previous day due to the lack of sleep, a lunch that wasn’t filling enough, and snacks that were not stepping up in the absence of my lunch.
Despite the strikes agaisnt me for the day, I still didn’t really feel like they were making a huge difference. On the second part of the climb, I stayed behind a woman I had been going back and forth with. I was faster on the climbs and she was faster on the descents. I think I was probably annoying her sitting right behind her, but I was finally able to get a steady rhythm down that didn’t make my head want to explode. The next descent was difficult. Lots of switchbacks that I did could not even comprehend how to ride. I get that you turn, but the logistics of such sharp steep turns on the side of the mountain did not come easily to me.
Finally, the big climbs were behind me, and I only had about 4 easy miles to the finish. However, my body was starting to feel like I was made out of nylon stocking that were stuffed with peanut butter. I kept pedaling along with my peanut butter legs, a little disappointed that at least 2 Sport women passed me.”Sandbaggers,” I thought.
But then, I spotted the woman from earlier up ahead of me. We were on the last short climb. My competitiveness kicked in, and I started to push to catch up. She let me by without malice and I charged forward. As I continued, I started to recognize the section trail, and I knew I could push as much as I wanted to the end because the hardest parts were over.
I came into the finish with a time of 2:53 and 3rd place. Before the race, I stated that if I was anywhere close to 3 hours I would be ecstatic. Based on last years times, I did not even think 3 hours was a realistic goal for me. First and 2nd place were about 13 minutes ahead of me and 4th place was 17 minutes behind me. Since this race was kind of a test of the Expert field outside of the comfort of my local races, I felt pretty happy with where I finished in the field, even if it was a small one. I was even happier when they handed me a $75 check at the podium!