Monday, March 29, 2010

2010 Pro XCT Fontana National

My weekend started on Friday, as the big race weekends often do! Justin and I had taken a half day at work on Friday to get out and pre-ride the fully marked course with new Pro only sections.

I was a little nervous, because we had tried out the one descent last year, at my Pro debut, on Friday before the races, and I had resigned myself to having run through the loose dirt and big rocks, but found out Sunday morning before the race that at the Pro Rider / Manager meeting they had taken it out for the women.

This year Justin and I climbed up the elevator/National climb and up top saw the Pro's hung a right down a big rock face. What! This section was killer. I thoroughly enjoyed riding it. Justin took off down the pro descent in front of me, and not knowing what to expect I figured I'd ride what I could and dismount when/if necessary. To my surprise there were 3 good lines burned in from the first big turn and somehow I picked a line that I cleaned without issue my first time through. Stellar! We finished out the lap putting in a few opening efforts.

All told we wound up making 3 trips up the elevator climb and doing the descent 3 times before calling it a day.  Still totally loving my Ergon GA1 grips.  They have been awesome this season.

 Geoff had railed a more central line and was supa fast, but I stuck with my slower safer line!

I felt good on the course overall and was looking forward to Saturday.

The drive home wasn't so stellar, and we were up kinda late, but I got a decent's night sleep and after some Kimo Bean coffee (I need more!) I was dancing full tilt boogie in the kitchen as I did breakfast dishes. Justin told me save it for the race! Tried to reign in the energy expenditure after that!

We got on the road early so we could set up our pit area, and it was about as we hit traffic on the 15 before 60 that we started to worry the Rock N' Road EZ-up tent hadn't stayed staked in the ground. We had locked the ez-up to Tim's VeloSport ez-up, which was not staked down. As we drove by the sports park we were happy to see that the tents were indeed still in place, sort of! Tim's tent had rotated around our tent, but they were safe and secure. Gusts of probably 30-50 MPH were blowing, and there was a big constant wind as well blowing from the NE. Made sitting outside the truck not super pleasant, so I just tried to relax and wait until it was time to head out for a warmup.

I was just getting out of the truck as I noticed a big commotion with the tent's. Two guys were grabbing them and I noticed Justin underneath one trying to hold it down with his weight. The RNR tent was upside down (stakes all pulled up), but miraculously in tact. Tim's VeloSport tent took the brunt, but was salvageable!

We brought in some brute force replacements and tied down our EZ-up with a heavy Park Tools bag, and the back of the truck. I think somehow the wind was picking up!

Bike, race ready!

Warm up was pretty brutal. Either a massive going nowhere headwind or a tailwind. Got in my efforts, though, and due to the dry air determined I'd start with drink mix but would most probably switch to plain water. I learned that bit of lesson from Sea Otter last year. Never come "prepared" without a lot of plain water also. I was somewhat stuck with drink mix and couldn't drink, so wound up pretty dehydrated and underfueled liquid-wise, and had had too much to eat snack-wise waiting for the race.

I had seen earlier (and assumed as much the night before) that my call-up would be way down the list. I think I was 15-16 out of 20 or so. I had actually really expected a bigger turnout at Fontana this past weekend for the Pro Women. Even though the turnouts have been low, the competition has been fierce. Super fast women out there throwing down, and the racing has been really really solid.

I got the last spot on the 2nd row of line up.

Luckily I had cruised around the start/finish before race start, so I saw the start/parade lap loop and got to practice that. Some tight corners where no one had ridden, so the dirt was nice and soft.

The bell sounded and off we went and somehow I found myself sitting in the top 5-6 women going through the chicane's. I was stoked because I know that traffic bottlenecks around the first tight 180 after the feedzone, and then on the short climb by the 4x track. It'd open a little for a short stint before the steep climb leading to the Elevator/National climb, and I knew that would definitely lead to some separation between the first pack and the chase group, and passing isn't easy on the singletrack at Fontana.

I held my position, and I think was in 4th or so on the Elevator. Most were walking the second steep pitch, which had been easier to clean on Friday. We hit the descents and were railing through the breeze, and then hit with a wall of wind on the pavement climb up to the water tower.

It was brutal. No rest at all. I think Lene, Georgia, Willow and Heather were up in front and at some point on lap 1 I saw Pua closing in on me and wanted to try to hold her off as long as possible. She got me I think either right before or right after we started lap 2. Kelli wasn't too far behind, but I managed to stay with her. We were really evenly matched for most of laps 2-4 going back and forth throughout the course. Somewhere I think on lap 2 or 3 in between singletrack sections Ty had called out that she was in 7th. I got 10th at Fontana last year and had been stoked, so sort of thought that it was pretty good. What! This is a race.

I can't remember who at that point was in front of me, but Kelli and I passed Heather at some point I think around lap 3 on the pavement climb maybe.

Lap 4 I remember looking up the Elevator and seeing Georgia. Kelli must've seen her also. We went around the descents and hit the pavement and as we both were gasping for air, being brutalized and tormented by the head wind Kelli said something like, "Georgia's right there." Okay then! I went. Or, I tried to go. The headwind didn't allow me much of an attack, but we did bridge the gap. Georgia hit dirt before we did, but we caught up and went around on a short climb a minute or two later.

The normally fun and flowy singletrack had a crazy headwind also, and around every corner there was another wall of wind to stop me in my tracks.

I was feeling really tired and burnt, but Kelli and I were racing head to head, and we kept putting in efforts. I think she knew I was getting water on the short climb after the cul-de-sac (really seemed like a super tactically astute racer), so put in an attack there. Justin was there last lap cheering me on and I pushed harder than I had been already and wound up gasping for air and feeling like I was hyperventilating. I tried to relax on the next short descent where I had crashed on Friday (in front of NED OVEREND of all people) and catch my breath again for the sprint across the flats.

I did wind up bridging a little of the gap Kelli had opened up, but she finished just ahead of me.

I pulled over at the finish line and saw some of the familiar faces of friends and acquaintices that had spent the last hour forty cheering me on in various parts of the course, ringing cowbells, and dealing with wind and blowing sand just to watch the Pro Women throw down. The cheers were amazing all over the course, from the start/finish line to the feedzone, up on the Elevator climb, down the Pro descent. It was so awesome to have people out calling my name, and cheering on all of the Pro women. Thank you so much to everyone that comes out to spectate. You may the experience more bearable!

Justin ran over and told me I got 5th. I didn't believe it! I was ecstatic.

Nancy, who had been near the pro descent for the whole race ran over and gave me a big hug. Nancy has always been an inspiration to me, and continues to be so to this day. The Denmother is still out killing it on the downhill race course. If you're in town, come show your support for women's cycling in So Cal this weekend at the Women of Dirt event.

I chatted with a few of the other pro women (Emily asked how my lungs/throat felt - burned!) and chatted with Colt for a few minutes before deciding a short spin was probably in order.

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Such a cool experience to have my first National podium at Fontana.

Saturday night we had a nice dinenr with my dad to celebrate, and then had to get home so I could prep more race/water bottles and get ready for Sunday's "triple": Justin's XC race bright and early; short track, and then Super D in the afternoon.

I didn't sleep much. The body was wired, I guess. Got up really early for breakfast and headed north. I wasn't feeling great, but figured I'd give it what I had, and Justin wasn't sure if he was ready or not!

He got warmed up and had some stress because I wasn't in the feedzone early, but got himself situated and got a spot on the front line for his wave. His start looked good and I cruised back to the feedzone to wait and get pics on lap 2.

Since he'd taken a full 24oz bottle the plan, I thought, was to pick up a freshy going on lap 3 for the rest of the race. 23 or so minutes later he came through yelling for water. I had the camera in my hand. No water. D'oh!

I'm not such a good feedzone support person!

I felt awful. I cheered on a few others racing, and stewed about ruining his race. I made sure to be prepared this time with bottles at the ready. He called out for water and the handoff went smooth. I wasn't sure, but thought he was in the top 3! Not many Cat 1's in front of him (maybe 3-4 at most), but traffic was building up with the various waves.

I emptied my water bottle to have a fresh bottle for him for lap 4, and lucky I did as he took it before going out. I didn't see anyone but Gary Douville that I reconized from his category, so knew he had to be holding on to 2nd!

I finished up feeding for Ryan H and headed over to the start/finish to cheer on Justin as he came through around 30 seconds behind Gary! Amazing! I was so stoked for him to have such a good race.

Since it was getting later in the day I wanted to head out on the road bike for an hour cruise, but it just didn't work out. I did wind up getting out for about 30 minutes as a pre-warm up, warm-up, then came back to get prepped for short track warm-up. The day had been fairly mellow. I wasn't feeling great, and the hot temperature made it sort of uncomfortable. I struggled a little to really stoke the engine in warm-up despite a few efforts, but felt ready to go when I got back to the venue. It was really warm, even standing in the shade waiting for call-up. It hadn't occurred to me at all, but realized as they called everyone up one by one that I'd be last with no real short track experience other than Bonelli 2 weeks prior.

I wasn't too stoked on my start line position, but took it for what it was worth, and before I knew it we were off and I was one of the stragglers.

As we hit the big 180 I was forced to dismount and the pack was gone leaving a few of us behind. We managed to catch near to the tail end, but lap 2 the same thing happened. I wasn't feeling it at all and was wondering how long it'd take for them to pull me. Justin yelled out as I went by near the start/finish to not stress about it. So, I didn't. Instead I decided to change my mood and instead of making tactical errors and putting in efforts to pass where it was a wasted effort I sat in until I knew I could accelerate away a little. I was way back in the group, but was starting to make some passes. I passed one group, and then pretty much put in a solo effort for about 3 laps before catching on to the tail end of Pua, Emily, and Judy. Judy nearly went down and was off her bike on one sharp turn and I couldn't go around, but passed and had a bunch of cheers/yelling my direction to make the catch to Emily and Pua, so kept soloing. Pua got loose around the same corner on the bell (final) lap and I wanted to hold her wheel. We both shifted into our biggest gears with the finish line in sight and she got me by about 2 bike lengths or so.

Probably should have started out with more oomph for a higher finish, but I was stoked that I was able to come from behind and found out much later in the day that I'd finished 9th overall.

I should've taken some time to spin around, but I just wanted water. My throat and mouth were super dry. There's no time to drink in short track, really. I had one small sip on the final lap after the feedzone just for hoping for an extra oomph!

Oops. I pedaled around here and there watching Pro Men's ST and chatting with Christina of the now infamous Cougar Class (way to go 1st place!) and then cruised around. It was about 4pm when someone said to get up to Super D, so I smashed myself trying to make it up to the start and not miss it! The pavement climb was super hot, and I got up there all sweating and hot, and stood around in the shade chatting with the pro ladies. I think everyone is usually pretty tired this time of day over a race weekend. We were 2 hard races in, hot weekend, lots of wind. We knew the start antics would be "fun".

They had us line up our bikes leaned against the water tank fence, and we had to run from maybe 30-50 yards back up the pavement and then hop on le mans style. I've only ever done one super D previously (Bonelli), so had no idea what to make of the running start. I was either last or close to it after we started, and I think was sitting 4th or 5th on the singletrack as we climbed. Sue led it out with Krista, Kelli and Amanda right there. I think Kelli went around before the second singletrack section, and I managed to get around Amanda, with Sue and Krista ahead. I felt "off" throughout the singletrack section. Just couldn't get a rhythm, and then I dropped my chain entirely off. Luckily I didn't have to stop and fiddle with it. I downshifted on the front and it picked it back up and off I chased.

I saw Sue and Krista on the short climb after the cul-d-sac and knew I had to settle or make a move. I bridged the gap and was on Krista's wheel as she went around Sue, and as I tried to hold her wheel I just kept going around and led into the next singletrack. I hit the flats, put my head down and just motored with everything I had left. I knew I was sapping the tank to make that last little rocky climb, but I needed a gap. I looked under my arm and didn't see anyone immediately on my wheel, so just kept it moving. I knew someone was close behind as I dismounted on the rocks, but got back on it and took 2nd.


I was pretty spent after that, so should've spun down (again), but just sat on the grass in the shade drinking water. Did that for the next hour or so listening to the DH podiums (so stoked for Roger, Nancy, Traci, and everyone! WTG peeps).

Overall, it was an amazing race weekend. I was glad that I signed up for Short Track and Super D since I think it's good practice getting in the hard days back to back. I do need to find a way to get in more spinning time between/before the races, though. Volume was super low for me this weekend.

I'm definitely learning a lot, and fully enjoying each race this season, despite how utterly brutal both short track and super d have been! I'm loving the ride and can't wait to see what's around the corner.


Stephanie said...

Great RR Allison!! I feel like I got filled in on all the details :) Wish we could have been out there to cheer you on!

Carney said...

Congrats!!! Way to kill it!

Ryan Weeger said...

Congrats again, youre going places for sure! Watch out Todd Wells @ specialized!

Zippy said...

Nice job! I'm so happy you guys are having such a great season. It makes me wanna race my bike instead of Xterra!

Vu said...

Good race report Allison. Good thing your EZ up didn't go flying away during the middle of the night.

Thanks for pointing that out on my garmin data.