Last weekend was my first Triple Crown. Three events in one weekend! It was held at the Massanutten Ski Resort in Virginia. I did the Super D and Short Track races on Saturday. Then I did the Cross Country race on Sunday.
I was very pleased with my result. I found that I was strong for all three events. I don't think the final event suffered as a result of the earlier races. I bet this weekend catapulted me to a new level of fitness.
I got 6th place out of 10 women in my first Super D race. I learned that I need to work on controlling my nerves because the race is very short, so any mistakes can hurt your time greatly. Still, I'm happy with my result. I was racing Pro's and other Cat 1 women, and I still held my own.
I got 3rd place out of 6 women in my first Short Track race. It was fun and action packed. We did 8 laps on a .5 mile course. My effort level was even throughout the whole 19 minute race. I felt awesome on the bermed curves and I finished with a smile on my face. It was great to stand on the podium and win cash and some cool swag from Vee Rubber. More on that later…
Lastly, I got 5th place out of 14 women in the cross country race. This makes me very proud because not only was my spot better than my normal mid-pack finishes, but it was after racing all weekend! It's so gratifying to see how far my fitness has come since I began training with my coach in November. I remember those days of being last place again and again, so these accomplishments are very sweet.
I'm going to describe the race weekend over the course of multiple blog posts because there was so much that happened.
So, I got done work on Thursday and then hurried home to do my easy paced ride. I squeezed in some core work and then spent the rest of the evening preparing for travel.
George had to dj at the bar, so I ate a pre race dinner alone. Chicken, sweet potato, baked potato, steamed broccoli, carrots, snap peas, and red peppers, along with a salad made of arugula, tomatoes, goat cheese, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.
I gathered clothes, bike gear, supplies, and the bikes. I packed as many things as possible into the van. I went grocery shopping for fresh fruit and veggies to bring with us. I picked up our order from Action Wheels (Accelerade, Cytomax, Hammer Gel, and Sport Legs).
There was so much to do, and I got to sleep after midnight just as George got home. There went our eight hours of sleep leading up to the race… Oh well. At least we'd be able to sleep well at the resort.
Friday morning, we got ourselves out the door as quickly as possible and began the 5 hour trip to Massanutten, Virginia. Our plan was to check in around 2pm and get in a preride of the Super D course before the shuttle stopped running at 5pm.
Traffic and bathroom breaks pushed our arrival time back, but we still rolled into the resort grounds around 3 o'clock. The resort was huge, complete with houses for people who live there permanently. We checked in, drove past the police station (Yes, the resort has it's own police station), and then drove for 15 minutes to get to our building. Did I mention the place was huge?
When I called to ask about the shuttle, I was dismayed to find out that the shuttle had stopped running. The website wasn't clear about this. The hours that were posted online were actually the bike shop hours, not the shuttle times. The employee at the resort bike shop was helpful though, and explained exactly where to go in order to do our practice run. We would have to park at the race start location. We could enter the woods and ride the marked course down to the bottom. Then we'd have to see if we could catch a ride with any of the guys who were setting up at the start/finish area. The bike shop guy assured us that everyone was doing this and it shouldn't be a problem. As a last resort, if we couldn't find a ride, we could just take the fire road back to the top. That would be 1,100 feet of elevation, by the way.
George and I decided to plan for the worst. We didn't want to expect strangers to drive us back up the mountain, so we made the decision to ride our bikes back to the top. We'd just go really easy, and stop and take breaks if our heart rates got too high.
So, we drove up to the top of the mountain and got out our Super D bikes. For this rocky terrain, I was planning to ride my Specialized S-Works Safire. It's got 5 inches of travel and it's built for descending. George planned to use his Specialized Stumpjumper, also with 5 inches of travel.
We got suited up and started out on the course. The first half mile was slightly uphill. It was very rocky and our hearts were pegged immediately. We went back and practiced a couple sections. I felt a little out of sorts. I'm not used to jumping on the bike and riding through a boulder field. The rocks were like ax heads, baby heads, and basketball-sized boulders. I had to pick my way through, never really getting going, just powering over and around the rocks.
Then the hard part started. I practiced the uphill jagged rocky section, followed by the stacked boulders. These were actually quite smooth. You just had to commit. Then you weaved around a few trees with some car sized boulders on your right. Then the Waterfall Drops began. I went around the first one, but the second one had no "go-around". It was scary. It was about 4 feet down. The rocks were intimidating and if you fell to the left, you'd fall about 10 feet.
Right after that drop, there were two more. They were a little shorter in height, but there was time to clip in if you didn't do the whole section in a row. I just couldn't get the courage to do the first one. After riding at it and stopping in fear four times, I decided to run it in the race.
George had me practice where I'd dismount and how to run down the steps as quickly as possible with my bike. I was pleased that I did it pretty fast, almost as fast as when George rode it. Because riders would have to continually pick their way through the rocks, nobody would be doing that section very quickly.
We got moving again and began riding the next 3 miles of the course. First we did the fast, fun downhill switchbacks. I was using a Hutchinson Piranha tire in the rear. This tire rolls fast and grips fairly well on rocks, but it wasn't holding on to the loose gravel and sand in the tight curves. I kept feeling the back end of the bike break away. I decided to change the tire to a Specialized Captain when we got back to the room.
The fun stuff continued and I had a ball trying to keep up with George as he flew down the mountain. I tested the bike in the curves, trying to see how far I could lean it. The shocks handled the rocks very well. We came to a brief uphill section and the bike did what it does best… Kept the tires in contact with the ground even as I went over all sorts of rocks.
George went up over a huge rock pile as I prepared to go around it. Just as he came off it, I heard his tire give way. The sidewall bead had burst off the rim and the sealant was leaking out. We stopped and he added some CO2 to fill it back up. The seal held and we continued down the mountain.
The last half mile of the course was super fast. I was able to open it up fully… maxing out the hardest gear… no brakes… Flying! We finished on a fun set of bermed curves and then rode down the gravel road to the finish line.
We met George, the race promoter and chatted with him for a bit. We didn't feel like we could ask him and the man sitting with him for a ride. Everyone in the area seemed busy, so we said our good byes and began the long ride back to the top.
We kept our heart rates low and got off the bikes for about 10 seconds every five minutes or so. It seemed that spinning easy meant that our bottoms rested heavily on our seats. If we'd have put some effort into pedaling, the constant tension in our legs would have kept our butts back on the seat a little more. To ease the pressure on our nether regions, without using too much leg power (and thereby tiring ourselves out for tomorrow), we found that frequent breaks helped.
Back at the top, we chatted with a nice family who admired our bikes. Then we went back into the woods to take another run of the upper rocky section. I'd hoped that I'd feel inspired to ride the Water Fall Drops, but when I approached, I chickened out once again. Well, I'd be running that part for sure now…
We went back to the room, got cleaned up, and procured some dinner from the resort restaurant. After chowing down on some fish, rice, and veggies, I helped George clean up the bikes for tomorrow. We went to bed early and got a full night of sleep.
Check back to read about our Super D races! I've got a video!