MSG #7 & NCCX #3

A week after Granogue I wanted to keep the momentum of good feelings and racing going but I didn’t race.  There were no events within a reasonable driving distance and “real” life was getting in the way, big time.  Racing is hard to balance when you have a job, but much worse when you don’t…and WANT to work but can’t find anything…forget something challenging, fulfilling, with insurance benefits, vacation time, that pays over minimum wage?  Nevermind a job that caters to a demanding race schedule…

After living in Asheville for over a year I failed to find work that was sustainable and local; I had two great jobs that I enjoyed but they required a lot of travel and cost me way too much money and energy.  While unemployed the stack of bills became overwhelming and we narrowly avoided getting evicted; I actually questioned if racing was worth continuing at the same time I was having my best results ever.

However, the career dreams I had in college have shifted with the economy and are on hold as well.  Considering the job market, it might actually be the best time to focus on bike racing and not have regrets.  Every adjustment I’ve made thus far to support racing has paid off, and there is still a long way to go.

Thankfully I found a contract job in town that is flexible and supportive of my cycling dreams and schedule; I started to work with and for wonderful people and finally felt like I live in Asheville.  Some friends from the shop in Madison came to visit on a whim and we spent three straight days on our mountain bikes and camped in the heart of the Pisgah National Forest.  I missed trail riding, friends and suddenly my heart was not so heavy, more hopeful and I prepared for the next weekend of local racing.

The Mud, Sweat & Gears never disappoint; they are fun and nearby (all are in close vicinity to Johnson City, TN).  #7 was over the border in Bristol, VA.  After a bit of confusion and directions from the craziest man ever (between the chewing tobacco and heavy accent I couldn’t understand much but, “cut ‘er LOOSE!”).  Dave, our friend Drew, and I arrived at the new venue.  The course was really fun and challenging; it had rained a lot so the ground was soft and just a power suck.  I put all of the stress out of my mind and into the pedals:

the wooded sections were awesome. photo: David Lehn

The bike was feeling great and I had a chance to test my new Shimano XC60 shoes.  After using the same pair of shoes for years I am taking some time to mentally adjust to a completely different brand and fit but my first impressions were very good.  They are light and stiff with a comfortable, roomy upper and excellent tread pattern.  Plus they look nice and match my bike!

I unfortunately wasn’t feeling as great as my equipment; my stomach was really upsetting me.  I had a decent gap and tried to keep picking off the Cat 3 men ahead of me.  Then my rear tire started to feel kind of soft and I did something strange and jammed the front shifter for the first time ever so I was stuck in my small ring.  The sun came out and it warmed up a bit so I kept plugging away, hoping to finish the race…

photo: David Lehn

I was able to hold it together for the win and would have finished fourth in the men’s race.  It took no time for Dave to fix my shifter (user error?) and we realized that my rear tire was definitely leaking air.  My bike was in better shape but I was not; I started to feel really sick and was in a world of pain for the rest of the night, only able to stomach soup.

The next morning we left bright and early for Boone and the 3rd race in the NCCX series.  I must have had some sort of mild food poisoning or a bug but I felt much better and still wanted to race.  It was Halloween weekend and regrettably I had too much going on to figure out a costume (so lame!).  Nearly 30 ladies toed the line:

photo: the Gruppeto Project

Then, at the last minute they decided to do call ups.  Since I hadn’t done the previous series races I didn’t even make the first two rows!  Funny that I’d had a better starting position at the international races, but it would be fine.  The course was very twisty and I knew the race would bottleneck into the first series so I braced myself for patience as we started.  I like to start strong so patience is sometimes lacking…

photo: Eric Webster

I managed to find some space and weave safely through the field.  By the third turn I was leading and found a 20 sec. gap after the first lap; surprising as the NC state series has very strong fields.  I loved the course and there were no sections that I didn’t look forward to.  It was mostly flat with two run-ups in a row; the first was off-camber but rideable and the second was very steep!

photo: the Gruppetto Project

descending to climb again. photo: the Gruppeto Project

photo: the Gruppetto Project

I had a good race where I was kind of in the “zone” and had a good rhythm through all of the twists and turns.  My bike was perfect, no leaking tires and the crowd was loud and fun.  Most importantly I was having a blast though I was dehydrated and my legs were starting to cramp.  I had a safe cushion for the lead and was able to push myself to build on it through the end.

I’m happy that I could stay positive on the bike during tough times and the weekend provided some validity that I was headed in the right direction, one step at a time.  Thanks to everyone for the support!

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