There are few things I really truly excel at while on a bike, but one of them happens to be going uphill in a mostly straight line. Middle Mountain Momma has a lot of that, so I figured I might be able to pull off a better than usual finish for an Expert XC race. At the start, I recognized Misty Tilson, and expected her to be likely for the win. My plan was to stay with her as long as possible. We quickly dropped the other women in our class, and I kept her in sight for much of the first portion of the race and up the climb for the first few switchbacks. It was great following her lines on the lower part of the climb that was full of chunky rocks and mud. I always love following really skilled riders, and she is definitely one of them.
I was probably around an hour into the race when the leaders of the Sport Men’s class, who started 2 minutes behind me, started to catch me. Two years ago, they caught me much earlier in the race. Knowing they were behind kept me going up the climb when Misty was out of sight. Or maybe I was just trying to impress John, who I could see in the group as they approached. I was on the ridge and starting the descent before they got close enough to pass. I was hoping they would have caught me sooner, as descents pose a problem for passing. On the descent, I was behind a guy who was racing the XXC, and pleased with myself for keeping up with him, as descents are not my strongest area.
Eventually, the Sport guys caught up and a dude was right on my wheel. He asked to pass, and I was like “umm, I guess,” but there wasn’t really anywhere to do so as we were on the side of a mountain. Since there was another guy just ahead, I knew he wasn’t gaining anything by getting around me, so I tried not to worry about him too much. I’m not sure if he expected me to pull over, but first place was worth $300 and I was in second; I wasn’t stopping. He was still on my wheel when I washed out in a turn and he about ran me over. I found it ironic that one of the people he was running from was my husband. John stopped to check on me as I expressed my anger at closer-follower-guy. So be careful who you anger on the trail because their husband could be behind you. In the end, I finished ahead of that guy anyway (and John finished WAY ahead of him), and he apologized when I passed him walking his bike on the next climb.
I spent pretty much the entire race sitting comfortably in second place, which really minimized my desired to ride much harder than needed since I knew Misty was long gone. Cramps in my quads also minimized that desire. I think I really slowed down a lot on the second half of the course, but since my Garmin died the day before with a terrible high-pitched squealing sound and with what I assume to be the Garmin equivalent of the blue screen of death, we will never quite know for sure!
I finished the race in second place, and about 10 minutes behind first. While I would have liked to have been a bit faster, I am pretty pleased with my race. I was anywhere between 6 and 13 minutes faster than in 2012 depending on if you want to trust the results or my Garmin. I was always suspicious that my results were wrong, but my Garmin times were a little confusing as well since the auto-stop was on. So I just choose to believe whichever I like better. In this case, I like the 13 minute time improvement better than the 6 minute time improvement, so I am going to go with that.