Grand Finale of the Fall Season!

Sit tight because this one is NOT short (just a warning!)  Just a few weeks ago we raced out in Waco for the Bicycles Outback Blowout. The course was a shorter distance than the traditional xc mountain bike race, running 5.9 miles with around 800 ft of climbing per lap.  I was going to be racing four laps and Carlos, three.  It seemed like all 800 ft were on the last two miles of the trail on a section called “Highlander.” This section was steep and not to mention VERY narrow in most spots with a nice “little” ledge to  tease you if you had to put your foot down. The most ironic thing about this little section is that almost three years ago to the exact date, we ventured to Cameron Park as newbies in an attempt to ride the trails that we had heard were so awesome. If you’ve ever been there when it’s not marked for a race you will SOON realize that although it is somewhat marked similar to a ski resort, with green, blue, black, and double black diamonds, a green or blue can quickly turn into a fork in the trail. Many times there is no sign to tell you if by going one way you enter a black diamond or God forbid a DOUBLE black and what can seem like a death trap, or continue into a green, beginner friendly trail.  Well, someway or the other we got tangled up in this maze and ended up descending on Highlander without realizing what trail we were on.  I had a close encounter on that day three years ago when I crashed and was headed for that “little” ledge that I mentioned earlier and next thing I knew I was hugging a tree for dear life with my feet and bike dangling in the air.  Soooo as we pre-rode this course for the race and I recognized the ledges, the bridges, and the gnarly terrain, I quickly realized that this was THAT section that three years ago I couldn’t imagine why in the world anyone would ride it for FUN!!! Times like this blow my mind when I think about how far we’ve come and the place that cycling has taken in our lives. I sit back and know that I’m not in control, God is, because if I was there is no way that all this would be possible!

On the morning of the race we drove out to Waco, excited for the challenges that awaited us! Carlos’ race was a blood bath! The start loop had two 180 degree turns in it and guys were rubbing wheels left and right. One guy went down in the start loop and then another right in the entrance of single track.  Unfortunately Carlos was behind these crashes, but luckily he didn’t go down! Later in the race another guy slid out right in front of him and went down face first! Then, right before climbing out of Highlander toward the finish, ANOTHER guy went over his bars on a very tight downhill switch back and ended up going over the edge. Turns out he separated his shoulder.

So, after the gladiators were through with battle, only the strong survived, and Carlos was one of them! He overcame the obstacles and finished in eighth!

My race on the other hand went from only two of us being pre-registered to six of us on the line in a pretty stacked field. There was the handful of girls who are strong roadies, one of whom is a Pro for Team TIBCO, and then the few of us who primarily play and race in the dirt. Going into the trail Penny Ficker led out the first lap, followed by Jessica Rawlins, and I. Penny had the home trail advantage since she is from Waco.  Coming out of the first lap I decided to make the jump. I took the lead through the start loop and then Jessica took it going into single track. At the top of the first longer climb I decided to attack. I punched it and hit the gas. After that there was no looking back! My legs felt awesome, the weather was perfect, and I was focused. Two and a half laps later I rolled through the finish line in 1st with almost an eight minute lead! It was really good to see our training pay off, especially for my legs to feel the way they did on such a tough trail.

This past weekend was the final race of the Texas Fall Cup. I love how it ends at one of our favorite trails near DFW in Tyler, TX. Tyler is always a breath of fresh air with the tall TX pines and the beautiful terrain. 

We drove out there Friday to kick off our camping weekend.  Saturday morning was Tyler Speedwaves format. They seed us in a wave where the other riders, no matter what age, gender, or class, and are of similar ability to you based on your previous year of race results.  Then we take off in our wave for one super hot lap! It is the third year that we’ve raced this and it is always so much fun! Last year Carlos and I were in the same wave!  He finished in 2nd, and I trailed in 3rd. We had a feeling that they would put us in the same wave again this year and we were excited!

We woke up Saturday morning and Carlos headed to the bathroom to put his contacts on. As he walked back to camp I could tell something was wrong. One of his contacts had ripped and he forgot to pack an extra pair! This was NOT GOOD. He was forced to race blind. 😦 For all those that ride a bike, especially at high speeds, we all know that being able to see is pretty much at the top of the priority list, so this was really going to be a task! So, for the second year in a row we were side by side at the starting line. We took off and I stuck to his wheel like glue! It was pretty cool because that’s the view I have in every training ride we do! 🙂 For the first few miles I kept him in sight but couldn’t quite hold his wheel anymore. I made a small mistake and the two guys behind me, Billy and Tom, passed. I was now in fifth and not happy about that. I tried to keep up the pace and finally caught a glimpse of Carlos! Yay! I was descending on a long park road and he was at the bottom turning back into the trail. Once I reached the bottom I made the turn to start climbing and “snap!” My chain broke. Boo! Well, that was the end of my race so I hiked up the road and waited there for him to ride by with about a mile or so to go so I could tell him my race was over.  Once he saw that I wasn’t riding on his tail he knew he could back off for the loooong climb at the end and save his legs for the race tomorrow and he ended up in 3rd!

Now that I had a broken chain, and he had a missing contact we decided to make the hour and a half drive home to pick up extra contacts and buy a new chain. The drive over and back seemed so long, and it felt like nobody behind the wheel had their head on straight in traffic. We were both frustrated and it was hard to see the positive in the day. We talked and realized that it’s better that all this happens on a race like this and a day that we had the time, than for everything to go wrong on a race where there is a little more on the line. Finally, around 4:30pm we pulled into our camp site and enjoyed the rest of the evening by the fire with close friends.

Sunday morning we woke up around 6am and kept our eye on the radar because the entire day was predicted to be filled with showers and thunderstorms. Our start time was 11am and it just so happened that there was a 90% chance of rain at 11, 12 and 1! We really weren’t sure if the weather would hold out, so we started tearing down camp before the rain hit. We just kind of waited it out as it drizzled here and there. At 9:30 we drove closer to the start area and suited up. Although the sky was filled with dark clouds, it still seemed like we could miss the rain! Carlos and I warmed up on the start loop a number of times and on our last run through my bike wasn’t shifting properly. I dingled with the cable a bit and it just wasn’t helping. Literally about five minutes before go time I stopped at a Richardson Bike Mart tent and there was a mechanic there to figure out the problem. My shifter was getting stuck so he put a little lube and showed me what to do if it happened again, just as a quick fix to get through the race.  Luckily the lube did it’s job and I am oh so grateful for the last-minute help!

It was only Melanie and I on the line and last time we raced each other it was pretty tight! Because of the high chance of rain, the race director decided to shorten the trail into two loops, “A” and “B,” and have us do three laps instead of two. This was like music to Carlos’ and my ears because we have always said it would be super cool to have a race with just “A” and “B”.  The start was the same as the day before, on a park road, then turn onto another park road, haul butt for a little bit and then turn into the trail on a loop called EZ Loop. I caught my pedal, and took off hard. After making the first turn I looked over my shoulder and I already had a gap! I went into EZ loop and kept the same pace as our warmup. I was so excited to know in the back of my head I was going to get to ride loop “A” three times!!! Just like Waco, I was really feeling it! I never knew what kind of gap I had, I just rode hard. I finished the race in 1st with a nine minute lead and ended the Fall Cup in 1st Overall for the Pro Women!

As I rolled across the finish line I went straight to Carlos and asked about his race. He wasn’t sure, and he thought he was possibly in 5th. After talking to a few guys and the results were posted, he finished in THIRD!!!! I was sooooo excited!!!! I was excited because he is so due, and so deserving of a podium finish like this! His field is large, and EXTREMELY competitive, yet such a great group of guys, with so much experience and so much talent. He jumped into Cat 1 quickly, and not really quite knowing what he was getting into. It’s hard enough to control your bike and the crazy thoughts that go through your head, while adrenaline is pumping and then hit a trail at race pace, then add elbows rubbing, and tires touching into that mix along with a whole lot of testosterone and it’s a completely different ball game than almost any women’s race. So he went out, with clear eyes, not to mention awesome new Oakley Windjackets, to keep the cold air and wind from blurring his contacts, and a clear head. He rode just like any training ride, fast, smooth and steady, and came out with his best finish yet…and it’s only the beginning!

This weekend was the grand finale to the Fall Season! Not only was it Carlos’ first podium finish, but he also came in 6th Overall for the series!  The Texas Marathon series might be a coin toss for us, but after a week or two of a little R & R, we’ll be ready to hit it hard! We’re walking away with our chips in hand, and no doubt that we are not the ones in control!  THANK YOU so much to Team PACC, for the support, the cheers and the awesome team spirit! A HUGE THANKS to all of our AMAZING sponsors, most especially to Comedy Defensive Driving, for believing in us and making our dreams a reality, Elete Electrolytes for helping us keep that important mineral balance, Honey Stinger for keeping us fueled, Schwalbe for keeping the tires rolling, and ESI Grips for pimpin’ our bikes out! 2013 here we come!

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