Last week I signed up for The Subaru Cup Pro XCT, which sounds like a simple enough thing. It actually involved a few days of anxious emailing of officials, trying to get an upgrade to Category 1 for XC racing. Which also sounds like a simple enough thing, but several officials were out of the office.
So why the upgrade business now? Outside of Cyclocross, I haven't touched my license in a few years. I do two road races a year at most, I do endurance mountain biking (no categories), and the track I ride at isn't affiliated with the USAC. Basically, no one cares, and I'm down with that. However, the Subaru Cup is kind of a big to-do. In order to race with the women I felt I belonged with, I would have to take my Cat 3 XC mountain bike license up to Cat 1. Gulp. So I piled up all my most impressive-sounding results and sent them off, asking to jump up a few categories.
In the end, a few of the officials helped me out (I can't imagine you read my blog, but if you do, Thanks!) and I got a hold of the guy who flips the upgrade switch. Approved!
Throughout this process, though, I had begun to wonder what I was getting myself into. I was pretty sure I could hang with the top ladies (based on a couple of unsanctioned races and a half-finished race), but doubts started popping up. What if I had upgraded just take up the rear of the Cat 1 races? Some of the people I told about my upgrade problems seemed surprised at what I was aiming for. Hmmm...
Cale and I drove up to the race on Friday night to get a pre-ride in and set up camp for the weekend. I did one lap of the course and wondered again what the hell I had been thinking. I felt slow, I felt clumsy. Even my faith in my newly won technical skillz was wavering, which was a huge blow to my confidence (which I rather like having around for races).
Since I can tell this is going to be a long post, I'll just mention the camping briefly. Big storms with heavy rains both nights. Friday night was terribly windy, collapsing the tent in on us, and Saturday night there was so much lightening, the light from it would wake you up. Luckily we stayed dry, but for a few hours each night, it was hard to sleep.
Saturday morning dawned, as mornings do, and we got up to survey the damage. The trail (esp. rock gardens) was a little slick in the morning, but after a little while it dried out and was widely agreed to be better than the dusty conditions of the day before. Alright! I was still nervous and unsure as I lined up for the three lap race. If I was unhappy with the one pre-lap, how would I fare with three? We heard the Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! and were off, a long line of ladies snaking up the hillside. I was a few people up from last, where I usually start. After a minute, I started picking off the riders who had sprinted and blown themselves out a bit. I can't say much more for the first lap but that I kept picking off ladies. Many slowed on the hills or fell/dabbed in the rock gardens.
I started to feel the competitive spirit grow as I ate up ground. After two weeks off the mountain bike, things were clicking again. (Note to self, take a refresher before big races!) The course was much better as a race than a ride, like the pre-ride was. When I race I'm less cautious and will power over anything that gets in my way. While riding, I tend to analyze it before I take it on. See here, the eye of the tiger:
I was making my way through some singletrack in this state of mind when I looked up to see Claire and Andrea tangled up in one of the trickier rock gardens. April, the woman I was right behind and about to pass, stopped and got off her bike. This displeased me. She didn't ride through on the side they weren't sprawled on, and because of this, we both had to get off the bike and she got through and I got stuck behind Claire and Andrea, who were now up and blocking the trail. GRRR! I'm glad both ladies were ok, but I was upset that the ground I had fought to gain was now slipping away. It was a race, afterall.
Luckily, I was able to pass Claire, then Andrea, and then eventually April, who had gotten a little jump start in front of the shaky post-crash riders. It was on. I wasn't quite sure where I was, but I knew I was in the top ten, and I had no intention of letting that go. The whole race is a bit of a blur to me, but I think that's about how I finished. And that was good for 8th! I was and am very, very happy with this result. I don't think many people could deny, myself included, that I deserve to be a Cat 1 mountain biker. That's such a relief!
What's more, I wound up as Women's Cat 1 XC Midwest Champion in the 25-29 age group. The WORS website doesn't have the results up yet, but I think I beat 6 other women (a seventh is from CA) for this, my most impressive sounding and specific (region and age) result ever.
Not a bad trophy.
Next up, Short Track, Super D, and my latest crush.