Speed hurts - Beti Bike Bash

What do you do when lining up with national and world caliber athletes? In 2011 when I raced the Beti Bike Bash at Bear Creek Lake Park my answer was to be nervous and intimidated by the women surrounding me. I finished almost a lap behind the winners that day - and on that four mile course, that's a huge gap. It was the hardest kind of racing for me - all fitness and power and I was left behind in the dust at the start. Since then, I've embraced the endurance world of mountain biking, seeking out the challenges found in the miles and darkness. Still hard - but a different. And I didn't return to the Beti Bike Bash despite always being asked.

Sometimes it's worth taking a chance and seeing what happens. When I heard that the Yeti Betis were moving the race to a new venue in Castle Rock, I was intrigued. Not enough to jump in yet, but enought to investigate. I let the idea percolate, pondering making the drive up there. And then things came together  perfectly to make it happen. Moved some things around in my training so I could have a little taper and got ready for what I knew would be the hardest hour and a half of racing I'd done in a while.

Driving up with my mom who was racing sport gave me plenty of time to preride and check out the course. It wasn't the super easy, beginner friendly venue of Bear Creek. Plenty of climbing, tight singletrack winding through meadows and scrub oak, followed by off camber switchback descents into more climbing. It was fun - interesting. Not challenging in a technical, rock garden aspect but still a grown up course. It would be hard for sure - corners at preride pace would be sketchy at full race pace. And the flowers. The fields were full of flowers - explosions of color amid the green. But the reason for all the flowers? Our extraordinarily damp May and that rain left its mark on the course. Mud puddles - several of them. And they were deep. One was nearly hub deep on my Fate, and that was after the two creek crossings! I was splattered with mud and my bike filthy with just one lap! I finished my warmup on the roads to stay out of the mud and out of the way of the sport racers now out on course. 

"Feels like you're standing there so small - just a space between the stars. Don't be afraid to risk it all..."
Took the advice from the song and went for it.
Then it was our turn to line up. While not quite as star studded as my first race at the Beti Bike Bash, there were still plenty of fast women and big name riders like Erin Huck and Jenny Smith. But unlike last time, I wasn't going to be intimidated. I took a spot on the line, in the front row. The course narrowed quickly and getting a good start would be important. The countdown began and then we were off. Full sprint. I met my first goal of being in the mix with a strong start, entering the singletrack in fifth place. But that was only the beginning. I watched as Jenny, Erin and Maghalie rode away, but couldn't get on their wheel. Passing is still sometimes hard for me and it's even harder when I'm all out on unfamiliar singletrack. It took me a little and the help of a mud puddle to get around Emily and by then it was too late. The top three had ridden away and it would turn into a battle for fourth, fifth and sixth.

I was at my limit - and we were only 20 minutes into the race. Would I be able to keep the pressure up and the pace where it needed to maintain my fourth place? A job that was made that much harder by a slide out on one of the off cambered corners. It would have been nothing but a few seconds had my chain not been dislodged. The momentary pause to get it back in place allowed Rebecca to pass me and Kaylee right on my wheel. But that's part of racing. And now it really was a race as we all came through the first lap with 10 seconds gap. I used the double track to attack, gaining some time on them. With two laps left, it was going to be painful, trying to hold them off. Rebecca was on my wheel and I couldn't shake her. The punchy climbs were already taking their toll on my legs and I wasn't descending to my normal level. Add in the mud...

Ahh - the mud. Those puddles and stream crossings that had gotten me a little dirty on my preride? Well, at race pace - I was already filthy - and so was my bike. There were only a few good lines through the mud puddles and if you missed the line, you were in the mud. In a few spots, we were trying to ride through a meadow to avoid the hub deep mud - but even that was ineffective. One of the deeper pits got me every lap. I knew there was a line through it, but couldn't get it. On the second lap, when I bobbled the exit again, Rebecca was right there to take advantage of it. And down into fifth I went. And Kaylee was still just behind me - just outside of striking reach.

Oh crap, this is painful. How much longer to I have to ride? Thirty minutes?!?
As we started the third and final lap, I was still able to extend the gap to Kaylee on all the short little climbs. But she was still closing. It would be a question of if my legs could respond and maintain the power across the flats and if I was still smooth on the descents that would determine if I held onto fifth. I was at my limit - asking for more power from the engine room, only to be told that there was nothing left. Before the final descent, Kaylee made the junction. I was so tired that even the smooth, twisty off camber descending was getting to me and I wasn't as fluid as I needed to be. There was no way I would hold her off. Just before the final stretch of singletrack, she made the pass.  I tried to jump on her wheel - hoping that I could hang on just long enough to be in the mix for a sprint. That wasn't happening. The only response was a feeble attempt at an acceleration. I wasn't the only one who was fading though - Rebecca was just ahead. Kaylee caught her - meaning there would be a sprint for fourth. I tried, but could only watch as they rode away. A 25 second gap that was insurmountable.

2015 Beti Bike Bash podium - top 15 women
But sixth place was higher then I'd honestly anticipated finishing. And to be in the mix for a top five for most of the race? Even better. I don't race the short, hard cross country racing frequently and I was concerned that I wouldn't have the top end speed to actually be competitive - just like in 2011. But the speed was there. Maybe not as long as I needed, but there.

And finally this year... The Drag Race. Worth sticking around for and utterly hilarious. The guys took it seriously, with some very fancy outfits and some costumes that cannot be unseen....
The Drag Race La Man's start - they were just as serious as we were on our starting line!
Brave. Very brave - not only to be seen in public but on a bike in that!
Baby dolls, dresses and mud....


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