Greenbrier is one of the few XC courses that really suit my strengths, so I was hoping to do well at this race. Off the start, my goal was to stay close to the front and stay there as long as I could. Many people spend time worrying about going out too hard, but I do the opposite and use more of a go out hard and cling on for dear life until the end approach. Of course, I also don’t want to be the person who explodes into a million pieces during the second lap, but I don’t usually have that problem so I don’t usually worry about it.
I went into the woods in about 5th place, and we were in a close group. Towards the top of the first climb, a woman passed me. It seemed too early to worry about back and forth, so I was fine following her. That feeling ended quickly as we started going downhill. She was slow on the descent and we lost the group. I was not happy.
I passed her back after the descent and worked my way back up to the group. She did the same thing at the top of the next climb and we quickly lost the group that I worked to catch back up to. I passed her pretty easily in the wet rocks since she was even slower in the technical sections and worked my way back within sight of the other women.
Early in the second lap, I caught up to the women ahead of me and passed one on the climb, putting me in 4th. The woman I had been going back and forth with was close behind me, and she passed again during this lap. I was content to follow her since the back and forth was getting really annoying, but she soon slowed down to go around a mud pit while I zipped through the middle. Eventually she passed me again during the third lap, and I could not stay on her wheel. Looking back, this constant back and forth was probably a lot of wasted energy, and I would have been better off if I just followed her.
My teammate George had offered to hand me bottles during the race, and by the third lap I was nursing my second and last bottle so I would have something for the last lap. Last week, two bottles would have been perfect, but this week, not so much. But then there was George after lap 3, holding a brand new shiny bottle full of fresh glorious water. The bottle in his hand was like a glowing beacon of happiness. I gladly took the unexpected bottle and promptly drank about half of it.
Lap 4 quickly became miserable, but every time I would get demoralized I could at least have some water to cheer me up. Without that water, I think I would have just stayed strewn across the trail on the B*tch Kitten climb after I slipped out on a log and toppled over. I lost hope of catching the woman I had been going back and forth with all race, and hoped that I was far enough ahead of the next woman that I didn’t have to go any faster as cramps threatened my quads.
Without anyone around, and dodging the threat of cramps, I slowed down quite a bit on my last lap. I maintained my 5th place to the finish and about wanted to die when I crossed the line. It was a hard race, but it was great fun. I was happy with my finish, but after looking at my lap times I am a little upset with that dismal last lap. I certainly would have been a lot happier if did a tiny bit better, but I at least made it to the Cat 1 Open podium!