The butterflies started early for me - about 1:30 am. I was awake every half hour worrying that I had to be up and out of the house by 6:00 to get to Janet's to get down to the venue in time to pre-ride the course. Not a great start, but it was what it was...
I managed to get in a pre-ride before the course closed for racing, and it was a lot of fun. Uphill pavement start to a 90 degree right turn (over a curb) onto the first grassy section of the course. This section included some tight corners and a somewhat greasy off-camber section, before some long straights, more 180 degree turns and a jump off the bike for the first set of barriers. Back on the bike into the "whoopdee-doo" section of the course. Literally, this was like riding a roller coaster - lots of short ups, followed by quick gullies, interspersed with tight turns. Out of here into the only real climb on the course, cross some pavement, a few more dirt turns and a downhill into 180 degree turn to concrete stairs. Off bike, run stairs, back on bike on long, straight pavement section. Would be a good place to recover, but I used it as an opportunity to pass (if possible) or to draft. Right turn around a tree onto a rooty path that paralleled the pavement, down a steep-ish stuttery hill into another 180 degree turn up to dirt stairs. Off bike, run up stairs, back on bike to the "gravity cavity" - an off-camber, left-hand entrance into a downhill/uphill, around a corner, back down, around another corner, up and around the tree. Now there was a long straight away that had a slight rise (and by lap 3, this rise was PAINFUL), down along the water, some more switchbacks, onto the pavement, uphill, back down and into the final run-up/stair section. Down over some REALLY slippery roots, and back through the start/finish.
Any of you who raced at Nationals last year will remember this - there was a blizzard people! Not this year. We had an overcast day with temps in the upper 40s, low 50s. Now, for all of you from warmer climes - this is MILD! It meant not having to wear a jacket or tights... It also meant that the couse was DRY!
At GO, these women went out like there were rockets attached to their bikes. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I heard a WHOOSH sound from the back of the pack. I think I knew I was in trouble early, but I thought I could manage and push through.
For two and a half laps, Janet and I were together, stuck somewhere in no man's land. I knew we had passed some of the other women, but I also knew that a good portion of the field was ahead of us. Janet passed me and said "Let's go", but I didn't have much more to give. I stuck with her for another lap, hearing from the sidelines "Go get her wheel", "She's right there, you can catch her". What they all didn't know was that I was going as hard as I could, and she was just having a better day than I was.
As I was coming up the start/finish stretch after my fourth lap, the leader of our race, Wendy Williams, passed me. I could have done another lap, but wasn't really too sad when they told me that I was finished . The net was that the results don't show well (22nd out of 25 starters), but I actually felt pretty good. I started and finished; didn't finish last; and I had a great time. It was humbling, but in looking at the results afterwards, there was only one person who finished ahead of me who had not all season (at least for the local racers) - Janet!
Cris finished fourth, landing her on the podium! In another National Championship race, Julie Lockhart (another teammate) became the Women's 65+ National Champion! We were all so proud of her for her accomplishment - she has been out to EVERY practice and clinic all season, most of the regional 'cross races, and even calls me when it's pouring out to see if I want to go out to practice. I only HOPE that I have her energy and enthusiasm when I am 65 (BTW - they had to create a new category for Julie - they had previously never had someone in her age group race at Nationals!).
Here is a link to video from the race (thanks to Janet's husband, Juan): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kTnq6-bHpo