Monster Cross was almost too much fun, if that is even possible. I have never done one of these races before, but I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer to try one. Normally, I spend a lot of time alone during mountain bike races, or racing a small spread out field in ‘cross. In this race, there were people around the entire time, and it was great fun to be mixed in with the guys. The trail conditions were surprisingly dry, and the course was fast and fun.
I raced in the Pro/Elite field and they started us ahead of everyone else. I was happy for the separate head-start as it took some of the stress away from the 800 person mass start everyone else had to deal with. Apparently Jeremiah Bishop would be leading our “neutral roll out.” The start was fast and I don’t think it was neutral. I did my best to hang onto the back of the pack, but I quickly trailed off along with some others. I was paying too much attention to wheels ahead of me to notice who I passed in the start and who stuck with the group. I was disappointed that I couldn’t stick with them for longer, but considering the men who were leading that pack, I told myself that I should not be upset one bit.
Soon, Libby Sheldon caught me so I rode with her for a while. I knew that for much of the first lap, I would have leaders of the rest of the field blowing by, but that was actually to my advantage as it was a constant source of new groups to ride with. I went from group to group as people would pass. I was went back and forth with a lot of guys who didn’t seem to want to ride behind me, so I was content to sit on their wheels.
After the first 21 mile lap I decided that 2 water bottles was not going to be enough and that the 30 seconds to stop and refill would be better than the minutes lost from dehydration as the temperature rose to an unfamiliar 70 degrees. When I headed back out for the 8 mile lap I was back with Libby. I rode much of the lap with her until she eventually slipped away.
Heading in to the last 21 mile lap I was starting to feel how hard this lap was going to be. I had been riding almost disturbingly hard for 30 miles. My plan was to go out hard, see how long I could hang on, and suffer through to the end. I had nothing to lose, so it would be a good experiment. I was kind of hoping that the “suffer through to the end” part would come a little later than mile 30. I think it was during this lap that Gus Grissom caught me and I rode with him for a while. It was really difficult to have any idea of where I was, or how I was doing, but I figured that if I was riding with Gus, I must be doing alright. I managed to stay within sight of him almost the entire lap. Every time I could see him ahead it would spark a bit of hope that I was still doing OK and not falling apart too much.
When I crossed the finish line, I had no idea how I had finished in my field, but based on the people I was riding with, I knew I rode well and there was no way I could have gone any harder, so I was very happy with my race. John told me that I was 7th in my field (and overall women) and I was ecstatic because there was some serious competition. Getting an over-sized check made getting what is not usually a podium spot seem a lot more exciting. I will definitely be back to use my free entry for next year!