Roll up to the staging area after getting a good warm-up and look around, don't know anyone, talk to a few guys that pre-rode the day before and got some pointers on the course, and they go through the call ups for series leaders, not looking good, so the rest of us finally get up to the line and I am 3rd row. Not where I am used to starting, usually am on the front row and ready to rock out, now I would have to fight for a decent position. The way the had us staged was in 2 separate age groups lumped together, so wasn't really sure who I was racing against. The countdown to go, and we are off, now since it is a ski hill, and we are at the base of it, guess where we get to go, that's right, up, and up some more, the start is fast, short grass flat and then turn left and climb, was in a decent position by the top of the hill, maybe top 10, and once you get to the top, you have to come back down, really fast side hill singletrack downhill, into another left and climb back up, back down and then the final ascent on the frontside that would take us all the way to the top of the hill. Get up there, lost a few spots as I didn't know the course so didn't want to blow up too quickly, into the singletrack on the backside, and just hold my current position. The singletrack was a lot of fun, twisty, and rooty and rocky, my kind of course, but of course the local had the advantage, so I would end up losing a few more spots before getting to the rock garden. That was a blast, it seemed every spectator was there waiting for carnage, and you could hear the cheering from about 1/2 mile away. Small drop down, sweeping right and now you are in the rocks, thankfully there was a line established by this time from all the other riders before me and was pretty smooth, after the rocks was a set of 4 drops that dropped you back off on the fire road. Now we are about 3 miles into the 6.75 mile course, and I was doing my best to follow wheels, started to catch up to the back end of the Elite Womans field that started 3 minutes or so before us, and passing wasn't an option in most places, so you did have to wait some. One spot was a pine tree section that reminded me of Sugar Bottom for a short while, but that was quickly replaced with more tight twisty rocky, rooty singletrack. Before making it back to the lap line, you had a series of switchbacks that were just about180 degrees, and very tight making for some hard going for the 29ers, but as long as you took it wide you were good to go. One final double track climb and time to rinse and repeat 2 more times.
Feed zones was established at the top of the first climb, and was able to get my empty bottle to Salem so he could get it refilled for me before the last lap. By now the guys from the next wave were starting to catch up to us, and not knowing what class they were in I assumed they weren't with me as they were moving pretty good. Back up to the top and down into the singletrack, had 2 guys gaining on me at this point and told them I would let them pass when we got the chance, well I rode that section well and took till the next doubletrack before the catch. They go by and I try and hold their wheel the best I can, but that was a lost cause, and they were gone. Look up ahead and see a familiar jersey in front of me, and it was on the shoulders of Brittany McConnell from Iowa City. Couldn't quite catch up to her before the rock garden, went through there again with relative ease and was feeling pretty good, caught Brittany on a singletrack section, and waited till it opened up again to make the pass, exchanged a few words and kept on moving. It was pretty neat as half way through the course they had a neutral water station set up and had 12-15 people with water cups lined up handing them out to racers that wanted them, or they would splash you with it if you liked, so I would grab one at the first guy and drink that one and then grab another towards the end and throw that one on myself, was really refreshing as it was close to 85 degrees that day. End of the 2nd lap and I was starting to feel my legs just yelling at me telling me enough already, but had one more lap to go.
Start the 3rd lap and was able to get both my water bottles, so I had plenty of fluid to get me though, just didn't know if I had anything left in the legs. Climbing the 2nd hill on the frontside I actually dropped into my little ring and just sat there and spun, I think that is 1st time in an XC race the past 3 years I have used the little ring, only other time was the 24 Hour Race last year. Crested the hill for the last time and was back into the singletrack, rock garden seemed to come quicker this lap, was probably all mental but go there and flew down through the chute again, and was felling like I was ready for the race to be over. But alas there was still almost 4 miles of the race left and knew I had to keep on moving. Get to the feed zone and the 1st Place Elite racer flew by me like I wasn't moving, ok so he has made up a whole lap on me now, damn. I just keep plugging away knowing I just need to keep pedaling and not look back. The nice thing was you could tell when the Elite guys were coming because you would hear them talking to guys behind me, so about 2 minutes or so later 2nd place comes by. I did my best to stay out of their way, not sure if I ever stopped, but would get over and let them go. Final time through the switchbacks and you can hear the announcer at the finish starting to rattle off names of finishers in my race as well as the Elite's. Coming up that doubletrack for the final time was a relief, I was in pain, legs were shot, and I did all I could to not allow anyone to pass me. Finished.
Sat down on the side of the hill, layed down and was convinced I would just stay there for a while. Got up about 5 minutes or so later, and talked with Kyle, Robin, Kevin, and Brittany for a few minutes, headed back to the car to change and hangout and try and eat. They are really quick about getting the results in, so walked back over and saw I was 13th in my age group, and found out later that I was 44th overall for the Comp Class, a pretty good result as it was my first time racing at that level, and hoping next year to make it back up there to do some more WORS Races.
Next up Cyclocross Season :)