Posted on: October 15th, 2014
[ Images from the Race 3 and Series Awards presentation ]
Even thought this was my last downhill race of the 2014 season, it was definitely one of the most fun and challenging races all year.
Since the race was being held on a Saturday and everyone on the team wanted a full day of practice before race day, we all arrived at Snowshoe Thursday night, skipping school and work on Friday (for a very important reason, of course). My dad and I left Greenville around 6:00 p.m., and we reached Snowshoe around 1:00 a.m. About a month prior, I had received my learners permit, so with some Redbull and Starbucks caffeine, I drove for the last few hours of the trip. Mr. Doug Steele told me that 1 in 4 drivers in West Virginia hit a deer, and I nearly became a part of that statistic!
Friday morning, we all woke up early, ate breakfast, went through a bolt check, and hit the trails. Since I was racing in the amateur category, I had to race Upper to Lower Hairball, which turned out to be the most challenging course I've ever ridden. I spent Friday picking out lines and navigating my way down Lower Hairball. Seeing as it was my first time ever even riding the trail, I took it pretty easy, and I just tried to ride smooth and safe, along with trying a full run to get a feel for just how tired I would be by the end of my race! I had the privilege of taking a few laps with Rae Gandolf as well, and she helped me pick out some lines on Lower Hairball. Thanks Rae! I had a successful day of practice, and along with runs on the race course, I took some fun runs with friends as well. The only mishap during practice occurred when Josh crashed on Lower Hairball and split his eyebrow wide open; after practicing for the rest of the day, he went to get 4 stitches at the local hospital. He was still in good spirits, though, and optimistic about his race the following day. We were all quick to bed Friday night so that we could be ready to go Saturday morning.
Saturday rolled around, and we were all eager to complete our last few practice runs. After practice, most of us sat around at the pits with friends to keep our minds off of the race. I always struggle to eat lunch on the day of a race, but I managed to scarf down a PBJ and some crackers. We were all sitting around, anxious to finish our last race of the series and for some of us, the year. My start time was 2:40, so around 2:15, I pedaled around to warm up and then headed to the start gate. Before I knew it, the clock was counting down, and I was off! I felt confident on the first section, 10 Gallon, and I managed to get in a few pedal strokes up top. I flew down Judi Chop and the connector to Upper Hairball, entering the more challenging sections of the course. Both drops on Upper Hairball were smooth, as well as the small technical sections. By the time I reached Lower Hairball, I was feeling confident that I was going to have a good race run. I felt smooth on the first half of Lower Hairball, but there were definitely spots where I lost time, and I think more practice and time on the trail would've helped. I reached the lift line and took a deep breath as I headed into the gnarliest sections of trail. I navigated the rock gardens somewhat smoothly, but I did miss one or two of my lines, costing me a few seconds here and there. When I crossed the third bridge on the trail, I made sure not to tap my brakes in order to maintain speed for the drop. I felt quick and smooth over the drop, and I was feeling confident about the last technical section before the ski slope flat section. Unfortunately, this is where things went wrong. Coming into that last rock garden, I got off line and went OTB. I got up as quickly as I could, but I lost a lot of precious time because it was hard to regain my momentum for the flat section after the rock garden. I pedaled hard on the flat to try to make up some time, and the last woods section felt fast and smooth. I came out into the open, hit the last jump before the finish line, and pedaled to the finish. I came across the line with a 6:55, which I wasn't very happy with but oh well.
I liked having a Saturday race because afterwards, we could just goof off for the rest of the weekend. I rode lap after lap Saturday evening and Sunday morning with friends from all over: friends that were older, younger, in high school like me or with a full-time job. That's why I love the mountain biking community- I've met so many kind, interesting, generous, and down to earth people from all walks of life, and whenever we're together, we always have a fun time. Thanks to everyone who made this first full season unforgettable.
See you at the races!
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