|2008 S-Works SJ FSR with Ergon bling!|
I chose Stumpy to race, for the stability and extra travel. I raced her at The Pisgah Stage Race and was in awe how she responded to the technical terrain ... I can only imagine how a 2011 model would perform!
Upon arriving at the venue, it was 21 degrees. I must have muddled around for an hour or so, trying to figure out what I was going to wear. I started out with several layers, but as the sun rose and warmed the landscape, I shed most of it.
The start was Lemans style; I took my time and spared my ankles. I hit the first bit of single track probably in the top 30-40. It was a pretty mellow pace climbing Thrift Cove. I was wanting to go, go , go, but I also did not want to spend precious energy passing people or throw a stick into my derailleur. I do believe this 20 minutes spent warming up Thrift Cove was in my best interest.
As it opened up onto some double track, I was able to let the reins loose and fly. Indeed I did fly by a lot of people. My legs were sparkly and it felt as if there were no chain on the bike. I had not ridden the first section of Daniel Ridge since '08 so I did slow a bit to negotiate the tight, twisty turns and multiple bridges. But once out onto FS 475, I gunned it. One fellow I passed said I was in first place, to which I replied, "No, I am not. There are quite a few guys in front of me." He then proceeded to tell me I was probably in the top 20. I took that as a top 30-35; not bad this early in the race. I usually am pretty consistent throughout the entirety of the race, while a lot of guys seem to blow their stack about the midway point. I had multiple carrot opportunities in front of me.
|The top of Butter Gap Trail|
Butter Gap was a hoot. Having ridden it the day before, I was able to rail it, despite the leaves. There was one sketchy area where a natural spring follows the trail; it was slick and muddy, but I managed to keep the rubber side down.
|You ride down this rocky section; may not look it but traction is superb.|
Long Branch is a 2.5 mile climb back up to FS 475. Although super steep in areas, it flows well. I was able to ride it all, despite having a couple guys in front bobble. The next bit of fire road was climbing up to Farlow; all I know is that it is much easier to race up this steep section when you are fresh as compared to seeing it on Day 3 of the PSR. There were a few downhillers at the top getting ready to ride Farlow. As I passed one of them, I earned a new nickname, "the goddess of internal combustion." Quite a compliment, thank you very much Mr. Downhiller.
I do believer all the leaves on Farlow made it easier to ride. It made the trail appear smoother; I leaned back onto my rear tire and let Stumpy do the work. I did dismount in several areas, fearing death or dismemberment. Hey, this gal has gotta work come Monday! One guy on a Gary Fisher SS 29'r blew by me like I was sitting still. He was awesome! But I did ride more of it than during PSR. I also ran the hike-a-bike sections faster. I was able to hold my own within a group of guys during the hiking. Let's remember, I am having to push/carry a greater percentage of my weight than the men.
On the final descent down the last bit of Farlow and Daniel Ridge, I did let a few guys by me. They were rockin' it. I also had vivid memories of that dreaded sidewall gash at Berryman and did not want a repeat on this rocky descent. I stopped at aid station 3 and grabbed a bottle to get me through the last 10 miles or so.
I treated this last 10 miles like an XC race. Knowing that the last few miles were descending Thrift Cove Trail to the finish, I rode the last 7 miles like a scalded dog! After big-ringing FS 475 and Davidson River Trail, I TT'd up FS 475B and FS 225. This 4 miles of climbing I had done earlier this year while on a recon mission so I knew just how far I had to go. I put the hammer down and passed ALL the guys who had passed me on Farlow.
I did let Mr. SS Phenom by on Thrift Cove. This last bit of single track was over before I knew it. I could smell the hamburgers grilling on the final 0.5 mile descent. Oh, that was mouth watering! I rolled under the Finish line in 4:15:03 ... 1st lady and 18th O/A (out of 150). Whew! A perfect season ender!
Coach dialed me in perfect for the last two races. I am most grateful that I was able to perform well at both; that definitely gives me the confidence I will need going on into the winter preparing for 2011. Hmmm ... now I get to start planning my 2011 season. Exciting times ... exciting times indeed!