Thursday, July 25, 2013

2013 National Championship at Bear Creek Resort

The thought of going to The National Championship was thrown around in the late fall of last year during the CX National Championship.  It sounded like a cool idea, and maybe I could qualify and participate which sounded like an even better idea.  Problem was that I hadn’t completed a Cat 1 race since upgrading a few years ago, so there was work to do for sure.  Either way, this race (along with several qualifiers) made it to my race calendar for this season.  I was even able to coax Joe in to believing this was a good idea.
Over the last several months I have heard how technically difficult the course at Bear Creek was.  In fact, I bought my Scott Spark, my first full suspension mountain bike, with this race in mind.  The insane number of engadgement points of the Industry Nine wheels helped quite a bit as well.  I had planned to make a trip to pre-ride the course, it never worked out.  Joe and I got to the resort on Friday early enough to make a loop before dinner.  All the reports were correct, this course was very difficult.  Rock gardens connected by short climbs left few areas to recover.   The resort had all the amenities and turned out to be a perfect place to stay.   Bear Creek would be an awesome place to come and trail ride on, still uncertain how great the trails are to race on.

On race morning, Joe decided he wasn’t feeling it and would be sitting this one out.  Can’t say I didn’t envy his decision a bit as I knew the tough task that lay ahead.  The race started like all other XC races, fast.   My field was deep with 43 racers, far more then I’m used to.  With the top 15 getting called up to the line, the rest of us were left to fight for the back of the line.  This meant some hard efforts to pass the slower riders up the first climb so we were not hindered too much on the descents that lay ahead.  My goal was to take it easy on the first lap hoping I would be able to make it up on the final lap when the traffic on the trail would be less.  I found myself not able to hang with the faster riders on the last mile or so of the laps which contained the most technical rocks.  I would gain several places at the beginning of the lap that contained climbs and dryer rock gardens only to be passed right back on these technical rock features.  Something I need to work on for sure. 
The race did not go as planned for me.  I could feel myself getting weaker at the end of the second lap.  I feel I missed my nutrition as I needed more water and something to eat as I entered the third and final lap.  I paused at the top of the climb on the last lap to grab some extra water from the aid station, but it was too late.  I have never cramped during a race as I’m always particular about my nutrition.  I pulled off the trail nearing the end of my final lap for a minute to stretch as I got some cramps in my hamstring.  After some easy spinning, the cramps subsided and I was back to riding.  I went down near the end of the final lap pretty hard just to add further insult from the trail.  I was concerned I had broken my collar bone or shoulder after the fall; turned out to be just some scrapes and bruises luckily.  I was completely spent at the end of the race.  Dehydration set in and I was having trouble seeing straight.  Hardest XC race I have ever had, no doubt about it.

Even with a bad race, the experience of Nationals was worth the trip.  After the Cat 1 races, we had time to eat lunch and climb back into the woods to watch the pro women and men’s races.  The crowds were electrifying! 

Huge thanks to Eric Schofield (who rocked a 3rd in his field!).  He helped both Joe and I with accommodations.  Also hope that Levi Thornton (from Fredricksburg) heals quickly.  I watched him crash right into a tree during the beginning of the first lap.  I stopped with him after seeing this till emergency personnel came, but it certainly changed my race into a less aggressive effort.