Get Dirty: Short Track
Six races down, one to go, and I have not managed to squeeze out a single race report. So this will be a mish mash of highlights from the last six weeks.
The most exciting part of dirt racing for me this year, is being joined by my awesome partner Jess, who has been ripping it up every week in the beginner field, dodging junior racers and keeping the rubber down (which is more than I can say).
I mentioned this past winter that I was thinking of going to one of the women's Dirt Series clinic weekends and before I knew it, she had bought a mountain bike and decided to come along!
As a result I usually warm up for my race by running around the course taking pictures of Jess and cheering her on. It doesn't make for the best starts, but my superpower is that I (usually) get better as the race goes on.
The first week, the course was incredibly challenging due to a running race that had taken place the week before while the infield was totally muddy. The course was choppier than anyone could remember it being, and I was thankful for my full suspension for sure.
The most memorable moment of week one was Virginie from the Cyclepath team, shouting 'on your right!' in the first minute of the race and trying to go by me when I was pretty much hugging the red cones that dictate the edge of the course. As a result, she ended up off course and nearly ran into a tree. I chuckled and rode on. She's one of the fast girls, so she got me soon after but I wasn't giving up my line for free.
Week two, the course smoothed out and I was having a more competitive week than usual. A Cyclepath rider again tried to cut me off--what is with that team? I had no chance of catching her, but I did end up chasing down my neighbor Sharon and making it stick. I felt really great about it until the race ended and I realized she was riding single speed...
Last week was pretty good. The course was challenging but fun, and I actually had a few women around me--some I was able to catch and some not. My field (Cat 2, 35-44) is usually pretty small and mostly made of women like teammates Sage and Eileen who I'm never going to catch--and the rest of us who duke it out for the last 3-4 places of the race. It's definitely more fun when I have someone to chase, even if they're not in my category.
My biggest goal last week was to out gun Erin Barker, who catted up to the 2's so she could loan out her bike during the beginner race. Erin races on the road and I'm pretty sure Erin is a much stronger rider, but I have better technical skills. I was a little alarmed when she passed me up halfway through lap one. But I didn't panic and got her back with a tricky pass on an off camber decent in the infield.
"Dammit Kronda!" she said as I went by, but in a friendly way. I managed to make it stick and counted it one of my best races so far.
This week, the course was wickedly technical with a LOT of loose ground and freakishly steep, short climbs *and* drops with hairpin turns at the top/bottom.
Jess was bummed to miss out on the women's pre-ride clinic before her race because of a mechanical problem.
"What am I chopped liver?" I said.
"No, but you don't talk about stuff while we ride."
"I can say stuff!" I promised, But really, I think sometimes, especially in mountain biking, women talk too damn much.
Off we went and I did call out little bits of advice on which lines might be better during the race, what bumps to avoid etc.
When we got the infield, things got dicey pretty quick. Pre-riding is always harder than racing because we're going slower and a lot of the technical sections require speed for successful navigation. Also there is a TON of traffic because people from every category are out on course, so there was a lot of stop and go as we waited for juniors or slower folks to move out of the way.
Towards the middle of the infield, we went up a short steep hill, onto a tiny table top and then a 90 degree left hander that lead, as far as my brain was concerned, right over a cliff.
A cluster of riders had just gotten up their courage to go down it, just in time for me to reach the table top without stopping. Had I been alone, I might have stopped to contemplate the short but incredibly steep drop, but Jess was right behind me and I felt the need to set a good example.
So I kicked my rational brain to the curb, made the turn, dropped my butt back behind the saddle and cruised on down the hill like it was nothin'. No time for triumph though as there was another loose 90 degree turn to negotiate at the bottom.
I made the turn and looked back in time to see Jess cruise down as easily as I had just done.
Huh. Talk is cheap.
I told her how impressed I was. Over the last six weeks it's been awesome to watch her confidence grow. In the first week pre-ride, she was extremely hesitant on technical sections she now rides with ease. I can't wait to see what happens after the Dirt Series clinics!
The rest of pre-ride was uneventful and confirmed the sadistic tendencies of the course designers. The weather was hot and the field section was on the west side of the infield which meant a nice meal of dust for anyone not in first place!
Later, at the start line, I muttered, "Take your last breath now ladies."
And we were off.
This was the best start I've had in a short track race so far. Usually I go for the hole shot--not the one you're thinking of--the one in the back that opens up after all the fast girls have literally left us in the dust.
But today for some reason, I pushed a little harder and was amazed to see that halfway into the lap I was still with the pack! OK, it was the back of a very long, stretched out pack, but a pack none the less.
I even managed to pass a few women in the grassy section. Go me!
Then we hit the infield and it pretty much all fell apart from there. There were heavy duty traffic jams in every technical section that left no room to ride. If only I could have squeezed through, I could have gained a few more places over women who didn't make it over some of the humps. Instead I ended up off and on the bike three or four times in the first lap and losing a bunch of places because I sucked so hard at getting back on the bike and getting moving.
Pretty soon I was back in my no-womans-land with not even a tempting carrot from another category to chase. So there I was, minding my own business, heading around the inside line on a far corner when, BAM! I was on the ground before I could even process the fact of my wheel sliding out from under me.
My first thought was, 'dang, I haven't even healed from my last spill! I guess I should just give up on having any skin on my left knee, at least for the rest of the summer. I got myself upright, put my chain back on, but the wind was definitely out of my sails after that.
Even though I wasn't racing terribly hard after the crash, the dust was epic and there was a brief section where I almost choked on my own spit. I was happy there was no one around me while I hacked away through a corner and down an off camber decent. I got things under control but I was very happy that Tim wasn't anywhere near with his camera!
The bloody bandage that was now hanging off my knee made me look much more injured than I was so I took comfort in looking tough. My cheering section in the north bleachers made the last couple of laps a little less awful as well.
I've never been so happy to be done with a race. It was definitely the hardest one so far. I shudder to think what the course designers will come up with next week, but I'm definitely looking forward to the big finale relay race. We've turned enough road warriors to the dirt side that we'll easily be able to field an all Sorella team of ten riders.
Should be epic.