I had been looking forward to the Hoo-Ha for quite a while, but as it was approaching, the sh*t was hitting the fan in many other areas of life. The landlord side of me had a vacant apartment to deal with earlier in May, the proposal manager side of me had a big proposals popping up like mushrooms after a rain shower, and the home owner side of me was in the midst of living through the renovation of our only bathroom and living in the earlier mentioned vacant apartment and sleeping on an air mattress. This had all been making it very difficult for the bike racing side of me to be very productive, and my last two races showed it. During the week, deadlines shifted at work and squashed my plan of leaving early and making it to Saturday’s Enduro race. A tropical storm also didn’t help, as I had little interest in camping in the rain and it’s hard to shell out money for a hotel when you have both home renovations and an empty rental property. By Friday, I was still so unprepared for the weekend that I didn’t even have a clean bike kit to wear. I decided to skip Saturday’s events and just make the day trip for Sunday’s XC race. Disappointing for sure. Being a semi-responsible adult has many drawbacks.
Waking up on Sunday morning I had second thoughts about racing, but then any time I wake up much before 7:00 I have second thoughts about it. I gathered my gear, made some food, and hauled all of my stuff down the stairs of the second floor garden-style apartment, across the courtyard, and down the block to my car, all while thinking about how I can’t wait to move back into our house because carrying my stuff this far is seriously a pain. Late as usual, I sped my way across Arlington to carpool with my friend Marc, and we headed out.
At registration, the volunteers handed me my number 13 name plate. I’m not superstitious at all, or not really, or maybe only for some things. I love black cats, and I hate saying “bless you” when people sneeze because I highly doubt the sneezer is going to be taken over by evil spirits. So I did not turn my number upside down as advised by my friends. A short time later, I pulled my jersey on and realize that it is MY HUSBAND’S jersey and not mine. Nothing I can do about it now, so I embraced the men’s Medium jersey and enjoyed the extra pocket space.
Finally, I got myself together and made my way to the start line. The field was looking a little sparse as I guess the rain kept some people away. We only had 6 women, but it could have been worse. I lined up next to Sue Haywood, chatted a bit, and we were off.
I soon realized that I did not reset my Garmin after my warm-up. I made an attempt to reset it while riding, decided not to, and followed the pack. The start seemed easier than my past two races and I resisted the urge to sprint up to the front. I looked down, and my heart rate was saying that I was going plenty hard, so I just followed along with the speedy women while feeling oddly relaxed.
The course was different than last year and we rode many sections in the opposite direction. I was really looking forward to a familiar course, but it was not to be. The trails at the bottom of the mountain were wet and slippery with several creek crossings and rock bridges. With the wetness and the men’s classes coming by , it was hard to settle in. As we started the long smooth climb up the mountain, I saw another women ahead of me. I dug in and appreciated my new Air 9. It was just flying up the climb with each pedal stroke. As we approached the rocks at the top, I was right behind her. We were on and off our bikes a bit and back and forth, but eventually I passed and stayed ahead. I pushed through the technical sections as I knew that was my ticket to staying ahead.
I was in 4th place going into the second lap and ready to push even harder on a less crowded trail now that the Sport race was finished. About a third of the way into the second lap I was going down a descent, hit a rock with my back wheel, and heard the hissing of escaping air. I pulled over and tried to get my Stan’s to seal it, but it would not seal. I decided not to waste any more time waiting for the hole to seal and decided to put in a tube. Marc was right behind me and pulled over to help. His presence was probably what kept me calm enough to change it somewhat efficiently. It’s not like I even thought that I had a chance at podium or anything at this point, I was just looking forward to the chance to not be last.
Two women passed me while I was changing my flat. I caught one but not the other, and I finished 5th out of 6. I was disappointed about the flat, but only because I was finally having a good race. I would have welcomed a flat in one of my last two races because it would have been a nice excuse for my slow times. Anyway, I am sure I have gained places in many races due to other people’s flats, so it was my turn I suppose!