April 27, 2010

Bear Springs Trap - Oregon Mountain Biking is Rad!

Bear Springs Trap or Cherry Blossom Classic?

I just couldn’t decide.  When it came down to it, I wasn’t ready for a stage race.  I would rather go play in the mud.  So, Bear Springs it was.

When I picked up Matt at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, I didn’t feel mentally ready to race, my pre-race ride wasn’t exactly what I had planned, I wasn’t hungry and had a hard time getting myself to finish my breakfast.  It was race day, I needed to start acting like it. 

With Fox as DJ, we rocked our way through Central Oregon to the eastern base of Mt. Hood.  My mood changed and I was ready to go!  At 9:30 a.m. we stepped out of the car into the clear, not to mention freezing cold air of the National Forest. 

I always feel like I have so much time before a race starts, but by the time I registered, suited up, and took about a dozen trips to the pot-a-john, it was almost go-time. A quick ride along the opening loop with Mike and Matt and the race was about to begin.

All the Pros, Cat 1s and Single Speed riders start together, meaning, there is a huge group of people starting at the same time and of course, I wasn’t very proactive and got stuck toward the back.  I could see Alice and Lizzy and a couple of other Pro Women up toward the front.  I would have to get out fast if I was going to weave my way through the crowd and hit the single track with them in sight. 

Goal #1, keep Lizzy in within view for as long as possible.

By the time we hit the single track, I knew this was going to be a fabulous race.  The air was fresh, my legs felt good and Lizzy was right there.  I passed a couple of other women and a few guys and, unbelievably, was on Lizzy’s wheel.  She is a fantastic technical rider and I was really working to stay with her through the twists and turns.  When she passed someone, I had to do the same. 

Sweet, that wasn’t too hard.  Nice, Bishop. Just stay with it.

This dialoug repeated its self a number times; until, in a tight corner, Lizzy went down. Not hard, but she it the deck. 

You okay?  I asked as I rode by.

So now I was in front.  I wasn’t sure what to do except to ride – fast.  And fast I rode, as fast as I could, passing a couple more guys and trying to get a gap between me and the other women that, I was sure, were right behind.  The trail turned into a log climb/crossing and the volunteer yelled something about me being the second women.  About half way across the log, I heard the same voice say something about the third women. Lizzy was right there. 

Stay focused Bishop.  This race is so young.

I am not sure how many times Lizzy and I passed one another, maybe 3 or 4.  I would catch her on the uphills, she would scream by me on the downhills.  On the last technical decent, one full of tight switchbacks, Lizzy in her flowing proficiency of technical ability cruised by on a corner that I was carefully negotiating.  She was hooting and hollering and have a blast; I was just trying to get down that hill in one piece. 

Note to self.  Call that girl to ride, I need to follow her around. 

When I came out onto the gravel road below, I could see Lizzy’s blue Giant jersey way up ahead.  I put my head down and road as hard as I could.  I passed a couple of guys on that flat road, but couldn’t make up much time on Lizzy.  I was probably 2 minutes back.  Once the course re-entered the woods, I never saw the blue jersey again.  The trail back to the finish was rocky, rooty and super steep.  I kept charging forward, trying to ride the super technical riverside terrain.  I hindsight, I should have just shouldered my ride and ran that darn thing; I think I would have saved time.  I was feeling pretty bad about myself and my riding abilities at this point. 

Pull yourself together, come on, get it together, you can do this.

I caught up with a couple of single speeders and they were just walking their bikes so I followed suit for about 10 steps.  Enough of that…

This is bike race.  Ride your bike.

The trail climbed from the technical riverside up – steeply up.  I got on my saddle, got into my granny gear and started spinning.  My confidence was starting to come back and after I was able to make it around the switchback, I was back in the game.  I stood up, shifted and started moving.  The rest of the course is kind of a blur.  I remember a warning sign telling riders to walk their bikes over a super sloppy marshy bit.  I remember some horse fences and a volunteer announcing 2 miles to the finish.  I remember coming onto the gravel road where we started the race and knowing I was just about done.  I remember seeing Ben and Don sitting on the back bumper of the car, laughing and smiling.  I remember crossing the line – exhausted.

Bear Springs Trap was my hardest race to date; the first race I felt like I was racing.  I was exhausted and elated.  I finished 2 minutes, 27 seconds behind Lizzy.  6 minutes behind Alice.  In a race that took me 2 hours and 52 minutes, I felt pretty good about that spread.

I found Don and Ben and MattSome much fun was all I could say.

The whole Sunnyside Team was out at Bear Springs – well, almost the whole team.  It was awesome to see everyone in their team kits, smiling and laughing and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (Thanks to Team S&M for the fabulous post-race refreshments).

I have said it before, but I will say it again (and most likely not for the last time); Sunnyside Rocks!  We are teammates, friends and one another’s biggest fans.  Matt blew his crank off (huge wattage does this to cranks). I was tempted to stop and give him my bike (good thing I didn’t, as it would have disqualified us both). Bruce lost his front brake and stood along the course yelled encouragement as we passed.  Rich, track-junkie turned mountain biker ripped his rear derailleur off and was still at the finish line smiling.  Michelle, super fast roadie, jumped on 26-inch wheels and did her first mountain bike race, gaining valuable points in the team competition.  And the list goes on – but at some point you are going to get sick of reading, so I’ll wrap things up.

I love riding my bike and I love racing; but there is more to it than that.  I love being part of a team, a team that makes me a better cyclist and a better person.