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1 September 2008  |  Race Reports

NMBS Series Finals: Brian Head, Utah

This is somewhat of a rant- but there are race reports down there somewhere…

After only a few days at home, I headed down to Brian Head, Utah for the NMBS series finals on Friday. This was the day before the short track race, and it ended up being one of those awful, stressful travel days that can make you really lose it. Of course, my lack of time-management was really the problem, which only served to make me more frustrated with myself. Anyway, I started off my day right- waking up at 5:30am to have enough time to eat breakfast before heading down to Denver to catch my 8:30am flight. I guessed I was lagging a little bit, because I arrived at the airport shuttle parking lot only 1 hour before my flight. I figured I would be fine as long as everything went smoothly. I figured too much.

I managed to get on the shuttle bus with the driver who’s just taking his time, chatting everyone up, not in any rush at all. Then of course there were the delays due to the Democratic Convention (didn’t figure that into my plan at all). I arrived at the United check-in to find long lines at every counter. I asked one of the agents if there was any way someone could help me, please? Even though I obviously mismanaged my time? If I promise never to do it again? She was very nice and tried to help me, but I had missed the cut-off to check my bag. She printed out my boarding pass anyway. “Just go ahead and try to carry it on,” she told me with a wink, “you should be fine.” This is the best and worst thing about airports: the people that work there have the power to make your day magically better or astronomically worse. They know this. I had luckily stumbled upon one of the kinder souls, and I thanked her profusely as I grabbed up my “carry-on” bags and headed down to security.

One of the benefits of having “premier” status with an airline is a shorter security line- in theory at least. As I stood in the premier security line, I watched as the “regular” security line moved quickly by. My line wasn’t even budging. I figeted, hoping the long line of people in front of me would spontaneously vanish as I checked and re-checked the time: 30 minutes until my plane takes off and I haven’t even taken my shoes off and pulled out my little zip-lock of 3 oz liquids.

I don’t want to be that person asking to cut ahead in line, but I can’t help myself- I’m going to miss my flight. I politely ask the guy in front of me if I can get in front of him. He tells me with a smug smile that his plane leaves soon too. Just by the way he says it, I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t. Luckily, a nice couple at the front of the line has heard my pathetic pleas, and they let me get in front of them. I’m standing there with my ID and boarding pass out and ready, but I take one look at the guys checking IDs and I’m pretty sure my lucky streak has come to an end.

I now see what has been holding the line up. This guy. He’s one of those people who take their jobs VERY seriously. There are 4 elderly people in wheelchairs in front of me, and he is scrutinizing their IDs under all the fancy lights, checking and double checking all the info. I can’t help myself, “I’m sorry, my plane leaves in 20 minutes, is there any way you could check my ID really quick?” He doesn’t even look at me “I’m sorry ma’am, I can’t show any preferential treatment, you have to wait just like everybody else.” I’m pretty sure he is talking slowly on purpose. He finally finishes checking the IDs and I hand him mine. He takes a good long look at it, under all the lights, re-checking, re-checking again. I almost lose it, but he finally hands me my ID back, and I head to the X-ray machine.

My bag gets pulled aside- of course. Since I was planning on checking it, I had my toothpaste, shampoo, etc in it, and now some TSA guy was slowly poking around, looking for the offending stuff. I grab my toiletry bag and pour out the contents, “Here, I’ll throw it all away!” I said, as I set aside all the liquids/gel/paste items. “I can tell your in a hurry, ma’am, just make sure you put all those in a plastic bag next time.” “Ok thanks!”

I run with my bag down the stairs and onto the train to Terminal B. I call Waldek and tell him I am almost there- can they hold the plane? He tells me to hurry, the gate is all the way at the end of the Terminal. Of COURSE it is. I finally get to Terminal B. I run up the stairs, lugging my bag behind me as people watch me warily from the escalator. I sprint down the moving walkway, silently thanking whoever invented luggage with wheels- GENIUS! I arrive at the gate and Waldek is standing there, laughing as I run up, panting. I gate-check my bag and we get on the plane. I can finally take a deep breath.

We arrive in Las Vegas, pick up Katerina and a rental car and start the 3+ hour drive to Brian Head. Our rental car’s windshield is making a loud whistling noise. Of course it is. We get to Brian Head and I go grab my bike from Dusty (he brought it down for me so I wouldn’t have to fly with it- a good idea since I don’t think I would have gotten a bike box through security as a carry-on). Chris gives my bike a quick tune up and I head out to pre-ride with Waldek and Katerina. Since the course is one big 27-mile loop, Zeph gives us a ride to the top of the first climb, cutting off about 30 mins of ride time.

I am immediately suffering from the altitude- even though we are going downhill. I am also getting dropped, although this is nothing new- whenever I pre-ride anything downhill with Waldek and Katerina, I end up off the back as they rip the downhills and I ride like a scared child. The course is fun though, and it’s a nice change to be riding 20 minute downhills and climbs.

My brake is rubbing a little bit. My brake is rubbing A LOT. My brake is making me insane, but I am going to ignore it. It’s better when I am going downhill at least- I’m trying to be positive. My shifting is messed up. My shifting is REALLY messed up. I am going to ignore it. I can’t ignore it. I don’t feel like messing with it. I mess with it a little, and it gets a little better. I find a gear that works and ride in that gear for the rest of the ride. I’m annoyed at myself for getting so frustrated with something so dumb- I should just settle down, but I really can’t wait to get off my bike. My brake is rubbing. I get back to the trailer, so happy to see Chris. He can fix everything. I am tired and in a pretty foul mood. Dusty and I go get some dinner, and I become a little more human. I can’t wait to go to sleep and wake up to a new day- I’m done with this one.

Short Track Race Report
I had a good start, got the hole shot and was on my way to winning the first-lap $40.00 prime when I misjudged a turn and almost went off course through the tape. It was a pretty awesomely-bone-headed move. Katerina and Lea pass me as I struggle to get out of the crud on the side of the course and back on the trail. The short track is hard. A pretty large group of us stays together for the first part of the race and there is a lot of surging and sitting up. I am not feeling very aggressive and am pretty happy just sitting in for this one. My lungs hurt. The woman in front of me lets a gap open, and I stand up and dig a little bit to close it down. We are only about halfway done, and I am suffering. I have to stand up a few more times to get back on the group, but I can manage it. With 3 laps to go, there are 4 of us at the front: Katerina, Lea, Kelli and me. With 2 laps to go, Katerina and Lea start attacking each other, and Kelli and I get dropped. I don’t have it in me to try to close it down this time. I sit on Kelli’s wheel for a little bit, and then I go around her. She puts in a big effort and comes around me before the last downhill. She comes out onto the pavement first and we sprint, but she gets me by half a wheel. I’m not too upset though, I worked hard and suffered plenty.

XC Race Report
Heading into this race, I had to think about the overall (since it was the series finals). Katerina and I were pretty close in points, and I knew that if she won, I would have to finish at least 4th to hang on to the overall. So anyway…
The whole weekend there was talk of a huge storm coming in on Sunday afternoon during the XC race. This could be a huge problem because there are parts of the course that are very exposed, and you get so far out there that there is nowhere to bail out if the weather gets dangerous (the up-side and down-side of the “one-big-loop” format). The organizers had a back-up plan: in the event of terrible weather we would race two laps of the beginner-sport loop which was shorter and not as exposed.

As race time approached, the sky looked pretty ominous, but we were told that everything was going to go ahead as planned, except for one thing- they were going to start the pro men and women together. Sure enough they called up the top 10 men and then the top-10 women, and then some men, and then some women. We had a neutral start up the first paved climb, and it was pretty weird, riding with all of us together in one big group. The pace started out pretty easy, and people were joking and chatting, but as we headed up the climb, the pace ramped up little by little until I was popped right near the top. I saw Katerina up ahead, but I was tapped and could only watch as she pulled away.

Then Monique passed me. I turned onto the dirt road climb and Lea, Heather and Willow passed me. I couldn’t even grab a wheel as they went by. “There goes the overall,” I thought, but I managed to stay pretty close to them- only a few seconds back. Right before the the singletrack Jenny came past me too. I was looking forward to the downhill and a little recovery time. As soon as we started downhill, I started to feel a little better. I caught and passed Jenny, then caught Heather. I rode behind Heather for a while, asked her if I could get by, she wasn’t too keen on letting me by, so I had to wait a bit until there was a little climb with enough room to pass. I passed her and caught up to Lea. We caught Willow and Monique right as we headed into the first feed zone. Monique went to the front and was pulling hard up the fire-road climb. Willow dropped off a little at the top of the fire road, so it was just me, Monique and Lea. Monique had a few seconds on Lea who had a few seconds on me, but as we started up the steep singletrack it all came back together. All of a sudden I started to feel a little better- I felt like I could push the pace for a change, but I waited a little bit and tried to recover a little before making my move. At the top of the singletrack climb, I put in a big effort and passed the other two. I rode the next long downhill by myself, but I guess I was slacking because as I came into the feed zone at the bottom of the downhill, I heard something behind me. I turned around to see Heather and Willow only a few seconds back, and Monique and Lea not too far behind them. Dang it!

I knew I was going to have to push hard up the steep climb out of the feed zone. I decided to not look back anymore and just focus on making it to the finish. I was getting lightheaded and a little dizzy and I was suffering a lot but still felt like I was going SLOW. I ground it out to finish in 2nd place, completely exhausted, but with the overall series win. I was definitely happy to have been able to pull that one off, especially with so many women riding so strong that day. That was by far the most competitive NMBS race I’ve done in awhile.

After the race, Katerina, Waldek and I headed back to Vegas to spend the night in a hotel since our flights were in the morning. Now I have 10 days at home before heading back over to Europe for the World Cup Finals- my last MTB race of the season!


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