First and foremost, I'm sorry for the delayed post. My free time has been limited due to something that doesn't even exist. Yes, you read that correctly. According to my most recent Algebra 2 lesson, imaginary numbers are a "thing" and the only people that use them are engineers. So basically, I'm straining my brain to learn something that I'll need to know on a test that will get me into a college where I will absolutely, positively not major in engineering . . .
That's enough math talk for the day. Let's cut to the chase. For those of you who don't know, the Month of Mud is a local mountain bike series in western Pennsylvania. However, an unusally warm, dry Fall made it the month of imaginary mud this year. The series is unique because it consists of short track, cross country, Super D, cyclocross, and (in past years) a mtb time trial. This series is close to my heart because it was my very first mountain bike race / series back in 2009 (take a walk down memory lane here). I got second overall for Expert Women last year, so I was determined to come out on top this time. Being that my training is on the conservative level at this time of the year, I knew I would have to dig deep to come out ahead of anyone training specifically for the series.
Race #1 - Moraine State Park XC (14 miles / 1 hr 36 min)
This is the most technical of all the courses. I knew that I had the skills to ride the entire course, but morning rainfall made everything very slick and dangerous. This meant I had to change my game plan. Instead of attacking the technical sections like I usually do, I decided to ride conservatively in the sense that I chose to run many sections as opposed to riding and possibly sliding out and damaging my derailleur. Jill took charge from the beginning and held a commanding lead throughout the race. Hannah and I were like a slinky. . . together, apart, together, apart . . .
I based my nutrition on how long the race was in previous years; however, times ended up being approximately 20 minutes longer than usual due to slick conditions. It wasn't a great feeling when the Osmo I had been sipping from my Camelbak disappeared and my last ProBar Bolt had made it's way into my mouth with a third of the race still to go. The course was mentally and physically exhausting, but the strength training I've been doing helped my upper body endurance. I believe I held a good steady pace for the length of race, but Hannah's end of the slinky beat mine to the last step. I was happy that my bike and I finished without any mishaps and was motivated for race #2.
Race #2 - Brady's Run Short Track (6 miles / 54:12)
This course was completely opposite of the first one - short, non-technical, and fast. There weren't many opportunities to pass and it would be difficult to catch anyone who got away. My strategy had three parts: get into the woods with as many men in between me and my competitors as possible, ride as hard as I could, and win. I shot off the line like a rocket and made it into the woods about 4th in a group of 25 men and women. I led the women for the entire race and finished up with a win.
Race #3 - North Park Cyclocross (45:21)
You know how they say trail mix is just M 'n' M's with obstacles? That's how I felt about the cyclocross race in the "trail mix" of disciplines in the series. They just had to throw it in there so the "Cross Queens of western PA" could thwart my spot in the overall standings. Well ain't that dandy. I decided it would be a good idea to take my dusty cx cross bike for a test drive, but when my elbow stopped my leg every time I made a turn, I realized my growth spurt had destroyed the small chance I had at a level playing field come race day. I anxiously waited to compete in a 40 minute steeple chase against some freakin' fast ponies - on my mountain bike.
On top of that, I soon discovered that the course required mountaineering skills. As if the nearly vertical "climb-up" of death wasn't hard enough, two barriers were placed directly after it on the hill. A second set of barriers were placed not too far from that. The course was short, so we ended up going over those obstacles 9 times! I could almost hear the ironically cheery voice of Effie Trinket from the Hunger Games saying, "May the odds be ever in your favor!" I had to channel my inner Katniss Everdeen and defy the odds! On the bright side, the course actually featured some singletrack and logs to satisfy the mountain biker in me.
Long story short, my Zone 5 fuse was a lot shorter than I predicted and I felt like I was suffering as much as a tribute in the Hunger Games arena. After a battle with Stephanie for second for most of the race, she gunned it with two laps to go and my legs couldn't respond. I felt her blow by me and, in my mind, I was standing and sprinting to keep up. In reality, I was spinning granny gear and going nowhere. I fought hard to the end and finshed with a third place. I would rather headbutt a cactus than do that race again. Without further adieu, here are some photos of me having the time of my life. Enjoy.
Race #4 - North Park Cross Country (17 miles / 1 hr 51 min)
Out of all of the races, this one was the longest and most competitive. For me, the length was really challenging because I have a tendency to use too much throttle at the start and I find myself running on fumes the last third of the race. With this in mind, I had repeat my game plan over and over. I knew that I would be more successful if I aimed to just stay with my competition rather than trying to open up a gap.
A good start was still crucial since we had to funnel into the singletrack immediately after the paved road climb. Once I established a really good position entering the trail, I settled in and wondered how far back the other ladies were.
It was only a matter of time before they caught me . . . But I didn't panic like I usually would have. I let them pass me and aimed to stay glued to their tires for as long as possible. I was actually very surprised by how fast they were pinning it on the descents. I began to question how long I could maintain their pace, so I backed off knowing that I had a lot of race to go.
It was definitely tough for me to hold back and let my competitors gain on me, but I knew that I needed to reserve some gas for the second lap or I would be in big trouble. I rode solo for a long time, catching glimpses of third here and there. On the second lap, I gave it my all. It was one of the most memorable efforts I've ever put forth and I really tested my limits. In the end, I did not catch my opponents, but I wasn't too upset because I knew I couldn't have pushed any harder. At the same time, my fourth place result put me in a pretty suspenseful position going into the finale . . . I HAD to win the last race to take the overall series title!
Race #5 - Ohiopyle Super D (41:41)
The tiebreaker. The finale. The ultimate showdown! The final race couldn't have been any more suspenseful! I crushed this course last year and I was hoping history would repeat itself. I was sweating nervously on the line. Oh, not about the race. I was preoccupied with the fact that I was getting my wisdom teeth removed the day after the race. I shook my head to clear the embarrassing visions of a drug-induced Veda speaking jibberish like in all those YouTube videos.
I was staged one minute behind my biggest competitor. I knew that if I made up enough time to just see her, I was already winning, so that was my goal. The course was physically demanding with the long, loose descents and punchy climbs. About two-thirds into the race, I launched off the A-line jump and found myself right behind my competitor (she took the B-line). I already made up the minute separation, so I was confident that I could at least stay with her for the remainder of the course. But things started to go downhill (literally and figuratively) from there. Suddenly she was out of sight and I panicked inside. I knew I would beat myself up afterwards if I allowed the gap to grow after I made up all that time. I pushed as hard as I could and kept my eyes peeled for her. As I neared the end, I could only hope that she didn't reestablish the gap. I crossed the line and, without a moment's hesitation, stuck my face in front of Mr. Bywater's computer screen . . .
Veda Gerasimek - 0:41:41
Hannah Brewer - 0:41:17
"Aw man!" I grumbled with frustration. I guess my homemade pumpkin cookies weren't a big enough bribe for the Sherriff. Maybe I'll give him the whole pumpkin next time.
I got second in the series . . . Again . . .
A lot of people would say that second is the first loser. In reality, you either win or LEARN. Winning is relative and the stars do not always align at the right time and place. Sometimes your opponent is more skilled or faster or simply outperforms you. In that case, second is a great accomplishment if you gave it your all. I'll never strive for second, but I will accept it, own it, learn from it, and use it as fuel. Just ask Dahn Pahrs, he knows what I'm talking about!
DNA Cycling - A humble thank you to DNA Cycling for not only supporting the Whole Athlete / Specialized Team, but my individual goals as well. I am honored to represent such a high quality and personable clothing company.
OSMO Nutrition - I have always been amazed at how effective your products are. OSMO has made a huge difference in my performance as an athlete. Your products have been a complete game changer for me.
ProGold - A big shout out to Progold for keeping my bike running smoothly throughout the whole series! I cannot imagine how many mechanicals I would have if I didn’t use your products! You are a life saver.
Probar - My taste buds would like to thank you for providing healthy and delicious fuel for my body on and off the bike . . . I am addicted to the Berry Blast BOLTS!