Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Warrior Creek

I actually wasn't planning to race Warrior Creek this year. But it turned out, I was already scheduled for the day off of work, Chris wanted to be my race partner, we came up with a great team name, and the race director let us in off the waitlist. Too many things were aligning perfectly for me to miss out on this race.

I wasn't sure how I would hold up 6 days after finishing Cape Epic. My legs were definitely still feeling heavy, but I was kind of excited to just race hot laps and not have to worry about pacing myself for a 6 hour ride.

Last year, Jeff and Chris teamed up to race in the duo category. Their team name was "Team Beat Carla." I was riding solo. They beat me by a whole lap. They even had a podium at end with champagne. This year, Chris and I decided that our goal was to beat their duo time from last year. And win of course.

Last year's cooler and champagne podium

There was some concern that the race might be cancelled or delayed due to rain the day before. Luckily, the trails dried out and the race was scheduled to start on time (or a little later as people were still at the registration tent when the 10am hour rolled around). Jeff, Chris, Reedy and I drove out together from Chapel Hill. We got a champion's breakfast of Chick-fil-A on the way there.

It was so much fun seeing and catching up with all the friends we normally see and hang out with at endurance races. Dunlap, Dillon, all our friends from the Wicked Wash team, Jeff Clayton, John Haddock.

Chris lined up to race the prologue. He was about 5 rows back from the leaders. The trick to getting in the front row is not to line up 1/2 hour before, but to casually roll up 5 minutes before the start and make a new row in front of the official starting line. Lesson learned for next year.

Chris was off and by the time he finished the short prologue loop was up in the top 10 heading into the woods. I cheered everyone on and then went to make sure my bike was actually working. The hubs on my hardtail were broken so Jeff helped me build up my full suspension bike the night before the race. Shifting seemed to be working well, and I got the seat height adjusted. I rode up to the start line to wait for Chris to come in.

There was a $50 prime for the 1st rider across the start/finish line. I knew we were going to be trouble when Byron Rice came through in 1st without a single other rider in contention. He was riding in the co-ed category with his partner, Zoe. Zoe took off, and I sat waiting for Chris. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 minutes went by. I stopped counting after 5. It was an eternity. From my first lap, I knew this was not going to be an easy walk in the park.

Finally Chris came through, and I went off as hard as I could. We were in 5th place in the co-ed category. I started my first lap contemplating not even making it onto the podium. The good news is, I love the Warrior Creek trails and now that we live kinda close to area, I felt like I knew the trails really well. "Cx pace," I kept telling my self. "Don't ever sit." My legs were tired, but I still felt like I was flying along a roller coaster. I definitely spun a little bit up the hills instead of attacking them like I normally do, but I felt that I was keeping up a good pace. The entire 1st lap, I just concentrated on picking off as many people as I could. I caught and passed everyone except Zoe, and managed to get Chris into 2nd place for the start of his 2nd lap.

Chris went off, and I hung out with Janis at our tent site. It was one of those days that was chilly if you were in the shade (esp in sweaty gear) but a perfect temperature in the sun. The guys on the other top co-ed teams were really fast. We were back in 3rd place again for the the start of my second lap. But I noted we were only 4-5 minutes behind Zoe/Byron. We were definitely making up time on them. Doing some quick math in my head, I figured we might have a chance of catching them before the end of the race.

My second lap was even more fun than the 1st. My legs felt good, and I was determined to try and catch Zoe. I kept pushing and telling myself she would right around the next corner. There was more traffic out on the course for the 2nd lap as riders were getting more spread out, but for the most part, people really nice about moving over and letting me pass. Around 4ish miles from the finish line, I actually caught up and passed Zoe. I put the hammer down as much as I could after that to try and get Chris as much of a gap as possible on the guys heading into the 5th lap.

Chris took off. I yelled to go as fast as he could. He probably didn't appreciate that much since we were both already going as fast as we could. But anyway, he put down a killer last lap and didn't let any of the other co-ed teams pass him. Which meant that I got to start my last lap in 1st place. My goal was to keep the pressure on, but also to ride smart and not crash or get a mechanical that might cost us the race. Mission completed. One the best parts of that lap was coming into the last bit of trail and seeing Jeff and the Wicked Wash guys drinking beer, yelling and cheering for all of the finishing racers.

I was definitely exhausted afterwards. We enjoyed the post-race bbq, a celebratory beer (Chris forgot the champagne to celebrate our podium), and sharing race stories with everyone else. After a slow 1st lap due to a leg injury, Jeff finally got himself into race mode and had an amazing 5th place finish in the SS category, which was his 1st race ever on a SS bike. Too bad they didn't go 5 deep on the podium because that would be have actually been the best part of the day. Congrats too to Gordon and Haddock for actually making it onto the SS podium, to Jeff Clayton for winning the masters race, to Dillon, Keith and Dunlap for 1st, 3rd and 4th place finishes in the men's solo, Angelina and Sarah for 3rd in the women's duo and to Chris for finishing 3nd in the women's solo category.

This year's real podium!

We ended up beating Jeff's and Chris's duo time from last year. Their time was 6h 44m 11s. Our time this year was 6h 30min 43s. Last year, not a single co-ed team did more than 5 laps. This year, the top 4 coed teams finished 6 laps. It was super fun to be out there racing against other really strong women riders. I really can't thank the race director enough for continuing to put on this race. It is a fantastic event, the trails really could not be any more fun to ride and it brings together so many great people. I can't wait to come back next year.

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