Every once in a while I wonder why I think it is a good idea to learn how to ride my bike over things that normal people would not think about riding a bike over, like lots of giant rocks. I’m not some daredevil type of person. I’m a cautious ‘fraidy cat. It doesn’t really make any sense. But yet here I am, in Davis, WV at the start of the Blackwater Classic.
While I am standing around at the start, I begin to ponder the irony of the fact that maybe it would have been a good idea to give some of these more technical races a go at the Sport level instead of just jumping in wheels first at Expert. Suddenly, someone yells GO! and we are off. With both feet squarely on the ground, I jump up in surprise and clip in and try to keep up with the rest of the Expert group, both men and women combined. Needless to say, the start is fast. I watch everyone slip away, even the one person I knew I could keep up with. Apparently, my legs are just not having it today. My heart rate was reaching it max, but my legs felt like they were merely puttering along.
The Sport riders went off just after us, so it wasn’t long before they were catching me and the rest of the Expert field. Luckily there was plenty of room for passing as they barreled around and I tried to keep up with the pace. This went on for a bit until I finally spotted the turnoff for the Expert course. It was a welcome sight, as I knew I would be alone and could take a breather that might save my head from exploding and convince my legs to stop holding back.
As soon as I made the turn I slowed down and tried to collect myself. I felt like death, maybe I would stop after 1 lap. I watched Sara ahead of me as she disappeared and I lost hope of catching her. I was currently 4th out of 4 for the Expert women, and I kind of knew at this point that my race was really over. That was probably the wrong thought to have, but I wasn’t exactly Ms. Positive at this point.
Luckily, it was soon time to climb to the Moon Rocks, so my attention would be focused on something other than self-pity. Up until this point, the trails were mainly smooth singletrack with a few rocks here and there, but nothing overly difficult. I got mad at myself as I had to dismount halfway up the short steep rocky climb, but I’m not sure I have ever made it the entire way up this climb. When I approached the Moon Rocks, I took some bad lines in the mud and found myself all gunked up with chunky mud, and I was on and off my bike through the Moon Rocks. I knew I would have to walk some parts of the Moon Rocks, but it didn’t help to keep the voices of failure out of my head. (To see some picture of the trail, visit this past post.)
After the climb up to and over the Moon Rocks, it was on towards Hoodoo Rocks and my favorite part of the course. This section has lots of rocks, and I feel totally elated every time I ride this section. As I got to the one really tricky rock garden, I floated right through on the line I had practiced many times before. Yes! I may have smiled for the first time. And then it was down the gradual descent through, up, over, and around rocks of all shapes and sizes. Soon the rocks were over, and it was time to fly through the last 1/4 of the lap. Well, fly may not be the right word. Other people may have been flying, but I was at more like leisurely stroll pace.
The second lap was much better, and even fun, imagine that! I debated conjuring stories of flat tires or bears to qualify my slow finish time, but of course I didn’t do that. However, at one point during the lap, I encountered a big fresh pile of poop right in the middle of the trail. It looked kind of big to come out of a dog, and since I hadn’t see any giant dogs around, my thoughts instantly went to BEAR. I giggled at the idea of a bear taking a poop right in the middle of the trail, but it turns out that it was in fact a bear after all. If I came around a bend in the trail and crashed into a bear taking a poop, that would surely be the story of the year. Luckily, that didn’t happen.
I maintained my place of 4th out of 4 throughout the race, but I lost to some pretty serious competition. Those West Virginia women really know their rocks. I was totally out of my league on a course that does not complement my strengths in anyway, but I knew that going into it, and that is part of the reason I was there.
As I pulled up at the finish, my first thought was, “That was about as hard as I thought it was going to be.” In truth, this race seemed almost impossible to me at this time last year, so even though I would have preferred to not be one of the last people across the finish line, I was secretly quite proud for doing the race at all.