Sunday, May 20, 2007

Escape From Granogue

The ubiquitous tower Cool Pete, looking better than he's feelin...we'll miss him when he moves to Cali.
Like I said, "Use the Force..."
Queen Beans (Deborah & Wendy)
So happy to see Michelle...yet another calming, friendly presence. 4th and 2nd Respectively.
Seriously, why hasn't the notion of Super Sport caught on???
Deborah (3rd) with little Ollie...and yes, Anne Rock!! Rock, Rock on!!
BP...taking a hard-won 3rd (Go, Dad!!)
The race:
After a surprisingly restful night's sleep, approached the estate with my stomach twisted in knots & tense nerves. Breathe.
Granogue always magnifies my anxieties by at least a million...I can't explain it.
Waiting in the "holding pen," tried to tune out the chatter around me ("I got 22 stitches in my chin here last year..." "Watch those slick roots..." "Remember that nasty crash at the start?")...tried really hard not to size up my competition ("There's 11 Seconds, there's badass Nikki, there's Trek Michelle...she's awesome, Wow that Sturdy Girl is fit...Damn, she was fast last year...That girl kicked my butt in cross..."). Ugh.
60 Seconds to go...Rain drops, of course. Of course it is raining at Granogue. Suddenly I actually feel better...it has to rain. Smile.
Siren: GO!
Mid-pack up the road, gain a little ground on the climb to the tower...Clusterfuck in the woods (first little piece of singletrack, rocky, rooty, a little off-camber), girls are jumping/falling off...try to stay upright, someone takes me down from behind...lots of cursing and unkind words.
Positivity.
"It's okay...relax, we have a long way to go. Relax," I say.
Hop back on & go go go...
First lap was a blur of slick roots, tricky rocks & near-misses. Negotiated what I will refer to as "Bob's Deep-Woods American Gothic" loop pretty well on lap one (except for those initial corduroys, as the girl in front of me bungled mid-way, and I'm thinking, "Commit, Commit!!")...after that, I tried to hang on to Lindsay & Nikki. The fact that they were even within sight kept me holding steady. Advanced a spot on the grassy climb, then the nerves took over for a bit on the singletrack. Intentionally took my time, thinking, "You've still got a lap...steady and smooth."
Amazingly, caught Nikki on the last rocky climb...we dodged back-and-forth a bit until chainsuck rendered her SOL (and eventually DNF). Still, I caught up to her and that was all the motivation I needed. "This is not fun," she said. So began a little game in my head as I struggled up the remainder of the climb, "More fun than childbirth..." push, push, "More fun than grocery shopping," dig, dig, "More fun than the dentist..."
Lap Two proved faster and trickier...Spot/Not-Quite-Bean's Bob & Jen cheered me through the dreaded inner loop (karma got me on the damn corduroys)...that section was all survival, zero finesse second time around.
Caught another girl on the grassy climb and surprisingly charged up to the wheel of "11 Seconds" Jody..."Wow, I am in it now" is all I could think. Stay cool, stay cool...the Jedi voice of a wise Caveman echoed in my head, "Press her..."
And press I did.
Overtook the line after she dismounted for a tricky downhill with a polite, "Excuse me.."
Then it was ON...I never felt this surge of competition in my gut before...it was weird.
Pushed and pushed...made it to the last long, rocky climb with a little gap. I knew I had to make it to the gravel first, but I could not bear to look back.
Hit the gravel and charged to the road...
There was my dad midway up the last gravel climb, cheering on my finish, "Come on, Kim...stay strong." "Dad, she's right back there..." gasping, gasping.
"Sit more upright, breathe...looking good. You'll feel better when you hit the pavement."
Then he said something odd, "Smile when you breathe..."
Oh, okay...
Hit the pavement and gunned it all the way to the finish (although what felt like a strong blast of power, probably appeared more like slow-motion misery, suffering, claw-my-way-up-the-hill with a last puff of pitiful strength).
Done.
Smiling, relatively unscathed (luckily, more bumps and bruises from clumsily pushing/wielding my bike than the ride itself).
Thanks to Fatmarc and the awesome crew that make Granogue such a first-class experience. As daunting as it may feel to race an unfamiliar course (somehow I block it out year after year...hmmm!), one thing is certain...I can always count on the fact that Granogue will remain a challenging yet, personally rewarding race.
If French Creek and Granogue are any indication, it's going to be an exciting & unpredictable season for the Ladies...
this is racing!