Running out of air

'Nooooooooo, not again!' is what was screaming through my head as I felt my rear wheel rim slamming...

July 19, 2006

'Nooooooooo, not again!' is what was screaming through my head as I felt my rear wheel rim slamming against the rocks under my deflated tire. Uggghhh…… as much as I love mountain bike racing it is SUPER frustrating when a mechanical prevents you from obtaining your aspirations. I'm sure about every other mountain bike racer can relate to how I have felt after my past two cross country national races. At the national race in Sonoma, California I felt pretty good and was maintaining a good position when a pssssssttttttt sound came rotating through a gash in my tire. Since this was my first flat in a race I was frantic about changing it. As I ripped open my seat pack all my tire levers and CO2 cartridge went flying into knee high weeds. Sweat poured down my face as I searched for my missing tools, eventually I found them and was able to gather some sort of control so that I could at least get down the hill. I knew I had to be in last place and wasn't sure if I should even continue to race. I decided to continue. 'I didn't travel all this way to DNF' I thought to myself. I had flash backs from racing in Madrid, just trying to catch as many women as I could.

During the three weeks in between Sonoma and Brian Head, I rode with friends on new trails that wound around, up and over the high San Juan Mountains. I absolutely love riding in the high country. Other than feeling dizzy due to lack of oxygen, the wildflowers are absolutely beautiful. The air (what is up there) is so clean and fresh and the trails are tacky and fast. What more could a person ask for? Along with exploring new trails, I participated in a regional road race located in Salida, Colorado. I had a great time competing in the three day stage race. I felt awesome and it was a perfect training tool for my up coming NORBA races (Brian Head NORBA and Snowmass NORBA).

On my way to Brian Head I picked up my teammate Jen at the small Cortez airport. We chatted all the way to Brian Head ski resort located in Utah. As we approached the ski resort we noticed how a huge amount of the pine trees are dead on the sides of the mountains. It was really weird to see such a vast amount of dead trees. They weren't charred black so a fire didn't kill them. Later I found out that due to the continued global warming, the temperatures are not dropping low enough to kill some kind of beetle that infiltrates into the tree which in turn ends up killing the tree. I have to say it is really sad to actually see the effects of warmer global temperatures.

We arrived on Thursday and intended to pre-ride Friday. Noel, Jen and I (the lone representation for Velo-Bella Kona) woke up on Friday to black skies and drizzle. We drove to the course to find the weather even worse at 10,450 feet. The rain came dumping down with thunder rumbling every couple of minutes. At that point we didn't want to risk our lives to see the course. Luckily, a couple of hours later, the storm calmed down enough for us to sneak in a view of the second half of our loop. The course started on a 2 mile, 13 % road climb and turned onto a gravel road climb for another 2 ½ miles. Once the course turned into single track that is where the fun started and didn't end until the finish line. I loved this course. The only thing Noel, Jen and I were worried about was the high possibility of racing in 40 degree rain on some pretty slippery rocks and roots.

Race day came and I looked out the window to see brilliant blue skies 'yessss!' it was going to be a good day and I was ready to give it another effort as I felt like my fitness was good and my training was on track. I was able to climb with the top ladies up to the dirt road and then I started to drop off once we hit the gravel road. They were all still in sight until the course turned into single track. Usually I don't feel the most confident with my descending skills but this time I felt comfortable descending at high speeds. Everything felt on, my fitness was good, my descending was solid and I was in good position for a strong result and then the dreaded psssssttttttt sound came squirting through my rear tire. 'Noooooooo, not again'. This time I was a little more in control and was able to fix my flat in a reasonable amount of time. While changing my flat about 15 racers passed me which is always hard to stomach but what can ya do. Nothing except get back into the race. Even though everything didn't go as planned I had a fun race. This is by far one of the best courses that I have raced on. It was challenging but not to the point that you want to throw your bike of the cliff. Climbing through Aspen trees and traversing across a ridge are always great characteristics to any mountain bike race course. At the finish line my parents were there to greet me with smiles. I wanted a better result, especially since my parents were there to watch my race but I gave it my all. Next time.

I hate to say it but I should have listened to my husband. Right before the race I had my pep talk with Tom and he said "siz, you have to make sure you have enough air pressure in your rear tire if you have to use a tube, or else you are going to pinch flat!". I should have listened.

Jen and I drove back to Durango on Monday. We decided to spin our legs out after a 7 ½ drive back. I was so excited to show her the rim trail that overlooks the town and Animas River. I was flying around the familiar trails with Jen on my wheel. We dropped down into Horse Gulch (a popular network of in-town trails) on a fast rutted out trail. Next thing I knew Jen's front wheel was trapped in one of the ruts. She flipped over the front of her bike, fast and went down hard on her left shoulder. Luckily our friends rode by just as I was running up to see if she was okay. We needed a ride to the hospital.

I am writing this from our condo in Snow Mass and Jen is sleeping on the couch with a new titanium plate and 5 screws in her left clavicle. Jen had surgery yesterday afternoon by one of Aspen's renown orthopedic surgeons, Dr. Clancey. She is a tough cookie and she will get through the recovery to be back on the bike just in time for cross season.

The cross country race is this Saturday for one last attempt to place in the top ten. I am hoping that luck will be on my side and no mechanicals haunt me. At the same time I hope my legs feel as good as they did last weekend. I have to say I will be excited when the finals are over because that means I get to see Tom! We couldn't wait until the end of the Vuelta to see each other so I bought a ticket to fly over this Monday after the Snow Mass final NORBA races. It will be nice to be with him for a week before he enters one of the hardest bike races. He has been training relentlessly as he has been named the leader for the Vuelta. Tom has never let anyone down and I know it won't be a first this September either. Tom's determination is infectious and the time apart has slightly disintegrated that energy within me. Needless to say I am very excited to fly over to Spain and spend time with Tom in the Pyrenees. I will be there to support him and I can't wait for his pure talent and hard work ethic to shine this September in the Vuelta de Espana. Don't forget to cheer him on!

Till next time,
Kristin

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