Rock Star Diana Delivers the Win at Blue
Jamis Bicylces H2H Chain Stretcher 4/27/14 Blue Mountain, Peekskill NY
Race Recap–Diana Clark
The day had come. With a successful, yet unplanned racing season behind me, the first race in a series I hope to do well in was here. And perhaps the toughest one in the series, Blue Mountain. I have always had a love / hate relationship with Blue. It was one of the first technical places I took my first Superlight over ten years ago. I crashed leaving scratches on the frame. Another time I slid down a fire road with my bike underneath me after hopping a log. The front of my brakes lost all of their paint. This place not only tests your technical skills, but also your navigation skills. There is a great map, but good luck matching it to the ‘trail markers’ that are pretty much non-existent.
I’m usually never nervous for a race. I’ve been riding a long time and know that I simply will get in there and do my best. Although we ride with our friends and there are dozens of people at these events, racing is a solo sport to me. Once you get into the woods, it is you, your bike, and the course. I had ridden parts of the course the Monday before the race and knew, to some extent, what I was in for. I had ridden some lines that surprised even me, it was tough but this is my gig, I love rocks. But, then it rained. To quote the promoter that morning, ‘it rained cats and dogs here last night so many places are slick, be careful’. Ugh. 14 miles on nail biting, teeth grinding, I hope I can stay on my bike racing. Sweet.
I decided not to spend the night close to the race so I could sleep in my own bed. Working nights has my schedule completely screwed and I wanted to lessen the chances that I would have a horrible nights’ sleep. I prepped my bike and all my gear the night before. I woke up at 5 and was on the road by 5:45am. I was the first to arrive and walked slowly to gather my registration packet and number. It was a chilly morning but it was beautiful. If there is one thing I can give Blue, it’s the beauty. A pond, small streams, a beautiful forest. I took that all in enjoying the silence that would soon be shattered by nervous racers. Others began to show up including none other than Shoogs, it was so good to see a familiar face. I grabbed my number and went to get ready. Time flies in the hours before a race. More friends began to show up; the camaraderie that comes with racing is like nothing else, I feel like all of these people are family. The mutual respect you have for each other for participating in these events may be unspoken, but it is always understood. It is one of the things I love about racing. I gathered my things, and went to warm up a bit.
I entered the first fire road start and my gears weren’t working properly, I couldn’t get into my lowest gear to spin the hills. Shit. I headed back to the car to lube the chain. Off I went again and met up with my best race bud, Lisa. We rode together for a bit. I was in a good place, I felt calm, and just knew I would be careful, walk stuff I couldn’t ride, and race smart. With 20 minutes before the start, we headed to the line. More friends. We found the group of girls and began to line up. I usually never scope out my competition but today was different. I just wanted to get a visual of who was in my class. I began looking at numbers and realized there were probably only four of us. I took a mental note of them, made small talk with a few, and wished them all good luck. There were about 12 total in Cat 2 between the two age groups.
Game time. We get to the front and I can feel my heart rate quicken. I wonder if I’m in the right gear for the fire road. Ah, who cares, I’ll figure it out. We get the count down and off we go. MUCH to my surprise, I’m in the perfect gear and literally sprint off the start taking the lead right away. I hit the fire road and begin to gear down for a techy gradual climb. I can’t get into gear. F&$@&. I’m forced to walk and screw up the girls on my tail, I hate that and feel horrible. I get back on my bike and into the wet, muddy mess we go. We are all together for a large portion of the beginning. It is a slow grind through the first few miles of on the bike / off the bike. THAT makes me more tired than anything. I’m walking stuff I know I can ride mainly because there is a chick in my line. Oh well, I’ll get it on the next lap. We start to spread out and into Ned’s we go. There are two lines, I take the longer, yet smoother one. I make the bottom but feel the effort is too much after the sprint and I come off the bike to walk a bit. I get back on and see her. One of my competitors is just ahead walking. I put my head down and pedal. I make the rest of that hellacious climb and pass her. I never see her again. With that in mind, I know I am probably in a podium position. It chases me through the rest of the race.
I work my way through the rest of the course. It is without a doubt, a true test of handling skills. I walk things that make me nervous, it is just not worth it to crash. I ride things that surprise me. I rode well considering the nerves of racing and less than optimal sleep the night before. My bike continues to give me issues but I make the best of it trying not to break my chain, ‘Chain Stretcher’ is the perfect name for this race. I hit the road to enter my second lap and grab a Gu. I hear a familiar voice behind me, ‘let’s go Di’…it’s Shoogy, thank goodness. He gets on my wheel and tells me he got off course and took a DNF. He sees I’m struggling. He gets in front of me up the fire road climb and tells me to follow him up it, I so needed that. My gears mess up again and I’m off the bike. Off he goes wishing me luck. I’m alone for a bit and then they come…the beginners had just started. Great. I make the best of it and get out of their way even offering them pointers of which line to take. They have fresh legs and are bouncing with enthusiasm, it was cute I pick my way through my second lap entering the hurt locker. My calves cramp when I put my foot down, my lungs burn, and my upper body is feeling the effects of navigating over non-stop rocky terrain. I walk quite a bit not wanting to screw up the race. Even the fire roads were unforgiving. I get to the finish and cross the line. Whew!!! It’s over and I DID IT!!! I had no idea where the other girls were. I knew a few from the 40-49 class passed me but my competitors were nowhere to be found.
I find some friends and chat a bit. Within minutes the results are posted. I think to myself, that’s weird, we can’t all be in yet. I look and it has me first. Holy shit, did I win??? I’m bewildered. I want to cry, but I just don’t trust them. As quickly as they are put up, they are torn down. There’s a mistake. Ok, I think, hang in there. I go to change and grab a recovery drink. I head back and Lisa is in. I’m SO proud of her for doing this race. She has come a looong way in dealing with rocks and I was elated to have her there with me. We chat a bit and results go back up.
I look and I’m now last, WTF. I look at the lap numbers and it has a 1 next to my name. I was so delirious that I couldn’t figure it out. They never got my second lap time in!!!!!!!! AHHHHH!!! It was too late and within seconds they were announcing podium positions. First place was given to the real second place as I stood there confused. IT CAN’T BE RIGHT!!! I approached her and asked if she remembered me passing her on the hill, she did. I had to have been first. She graciously handed me the medal. We went to the timing people together and it was figured out, they simply didn’t get me crossing the finish the second time. Way to screw up my moment people!!! The promoter apologized and did the awards ceremony again. What an emotional roller coaster. In any event, I finally won a race, and a tough one at that. I couldn’t be more proud of how far I have come, the training I have put in, and the bike I had a hand in building.
I also owe MANY thanks to the people that have been by my side throughout this adventure, Lisa for being my trusty travel bud, Jen for the amazing coaching, the entire Live Love Velo team for their support, encouragement, and friendship, Sharon for treating my injuries, Shoogs for advice and encouragement, Paul for help building my race machine, Bike Junkie for years of support, and my many, many friends that have been on this journey. This is sure to be a great season, I am eternally grateful to have found this sport.