About 15 minutes before start time, I flung my Camelback onto my back, and it promptly started to leak all over me. Unable to get it to stop leaking from its mystery location, I tried to forget about it as we waited for the start. It was sitting with water in it in the basement for who knows how long, so I wasn’t sure why all of a sudden it could not contain its contents. At the beginning of the first climb, a helpful guy behind me said, “Hey, do you know that your Camelback is leaking?”
WTF? I thought, I am obviously covered in water, “Umm, yeah,” I replied.
“That must be cold.”
Thank you Captain Obvious, but I’m more concerned with running out of water than being cold, I thought to myself. I figured that if I drank the water, it could not leak out. So I drank until it reached a level where it stopped leaking. Success.
Slowly more and more people passed me as we made our way up the climb. It was a bit of a busy night and morning, as we packed after work and drove 3 hours Friday night, arrived in a rain storm, tested out sleeping in our new van for the first time, and made breakfast in the cold wind. I chatted with various friends on the way up the mountain, which helped distract me from the fact that I wanted to lay down on the trail and cry a little bit. Not a good sign for so early in the race. Or wait, it was just a ride. But it’s always a race, even if it isn’t. But I didn’t want to race anyway, so I was totally on board with using the “ride” excuse.
As soon as we hit the single track I started to perk up a bit. Then I started catching people. Then I started passing people. Then I started dropping people. Baby snakes. The guy behind me complimented my descending on Festival trail. It’s not a technical descent, but having been there just a few weeks earlier, I knew that I could just let the bike fly. This wasn’t the first time a guy complimented me on my riding skills mid-race, and I used to get a little offended as I knew the compliment would not be offered to a male rider. However, I have realized that many guys have never actually ridden with a woman who can kick their butts in a rock garden or drop them on a descent. So now I am proud to educate them help earn a bit more respect for the other women out there.
37 miles were counting down very quickly. Back across Narrowback, down Tillman West, and suddenly it was time to climb the road, and then up Hankey to Lookout.
If you have never pedaled yourself to the top of a ridge in Virginia, I suggest you get to it. Blue sky to your left, blue sky to your right, and the mountain dropping off to the valley below on either side. The pain of the long climb fades away, and it is impossible not to be happy as you roll up and down across the ridge with your head in the bright blue sky. The juice is worth the squeeze. While I haven’t ridden in an abundance of different regions, I have made it to enough destinations out west to know there is nothing like an east coast ridge line. They quite literally do not exist the same way in other places due to differences in topography. I looked around, I enjoyed the view. Through the leafless trees, blue mountain ranges extended in the distance. Soon it would just be a tunnel of green.
I later found out that my friend ahead of me only beat me by three minutes. Perhaps I could have enjoyed the view just slightly less, but it was just a ride right? No regrets.