Up at six a.m. to feed the pets, I started having second thoughts. After a stretch of warm weather here lately, I woke up to below freezing temps. I really just wanted to crawl back in bed. I didn’t though, and after loading up my stuff I hit the road. It was cold.
As I headed E/NE away from Charlotte, I saw the temps drop down to 22 degrees at one point. Resiting the urge to turn around, I starting thinking about what I would wear during the race. I knew that I would warm up quickly, and with a little over two hours of driving time I had plenty of time to go over everything. As I got closer, I started to get nervous. I hadn’t “competed” in XC in about three years, although I did race in one last year just for fun. I told my nerves to shut up, and suddenly I was in the parking lot.
I walked up to the registration area, grabbed my number plate, and started getting dressed. I ended up with a light DeFeet base payer, arm warmers, knee warmers, and my really cool new Trail Ninja socks…
I was pretty chilly, but spinning around the parking lot and up and down a big hill started warming me up pretty good. Soon, it was time to line up. That’s when the nerves really got to me. I looked around at my competition and wondered why I was there. I got that negative shit out of my head and started going over my plan…
“Don’t get caught up racing. Put in a good first effort, settle in, and don’t worry about chasing anyone down.”
When it was our turn to start, we sprinted up a big, steep hill. With only one gear, I had no choice but to fly up it until I could find a spinny pace. While I was doing that, I realized that I was out in front. Shit. I didn’t mean to do it, but it worked out that way. Suddenly, as the hill crested, one guy shifted into a bigger gear and flew by.”
“Don’t chase him down. You can get him later.”
I didn’t listen to myself and immediately took off after him. The road leveled out and I was spinning my ass off. With my heart rate through the roof, I entered the woods first, with second place (and everyone else) right behind me. I knew I was gonna blow up after that effort, so I kept pedaling and waited for the inevitable. I was still working hard, and building a small gap.
Suddenly, I felt really good.
My heart rate slowed down, my breathing evened out, and I felt like I had a ton of energy. I put the hammer down, and after each switchback climb I could see that I was pulling away from the group. Entering the first technical section, I cleaned it and added even more of a time cushion.
I knew that I couldn’t keep that effort up. The crash was coming, and I started to worry about when it would. So, I just pedaled harder, figuring that I would use what I had while I had it. The funny thing was, the harder I worked, the quicker I recovered. I cleaned a few more rocky sections, mashed up some climbs, and sprinted away on the flat, twisty sections. I saw no one from my class, but I was passing others that started ahead of me.
Who the hell was I? Why wasn’t I dying out there? I was working hard, and feeling better as the day went on. After finishing that first lap, I felt even better. I concentrated on building a bigger gap, and trying to be careful as I rode my rigid bike over some of those nasty rocks. About halfway through the second lap I started to worry. Did I take a wrong turn? Am I now in last place? Why the hell am I feeling so good?
Who gives a shit. Keep riding.
Up the last big set of climbs (Charlie’s Mountain I think) I was hammering knowing that I was almost done. That leads to the Mega Jump section, which is like a cross between Warrior Creek and a big ass pump track. I flew through there, hit the jumps and even doubling a few. I was on the home stretch, and before I knew it I was at the finish line. I was confused, so I asked the race officials where I placed.
I was shocked. Really. I know I’ve been working a little bit on my fitness, but I didn’t really expect to win or even get on a podium this season. But I did.
After a day of working hard and getting the shit beat outta me by rocks, I took home a pretty cool rock of my own.
And I won a Maxxis Ikon. Rad.
This was my third race there. The first two back in 2011 and 2012, I got third place (and smaller rocks.) It’s been a while since I’ve been on a podium, and honestly this one felt pretty damn good. I worked hard, rode smart, and walked away feeling pretty good. What a way to start the season.
I dunno. Maybe it’s a fluke. I got lucky. Whatever.
Who gives shit.