I've had a lot of comments from friends, fellow racers and family on the statement, "Cathy ... of ..., MA was the women’s champion." Let me be blunt on this one - it's hard NOT to be the champion when you are the ONLY woman racing in the Elite category! That said, I did beat out the other 5 women who raced in the Beginner and Intermediate classes, and even a few of the Intermediate men.
Most importantly, this race was a BLAST! Last year, I raced here as a Beginner, and there were only two women in the entire race. It was great to see more women, and some talented racers in the Elite Men's category, including Paul Curley and our own Scott B and Mike! I'm going to do some arm twisting to see if I can get some more NEBCer's interested in participating next year - if you won't take my word for it, go read Scott's account of the race!
After last year's slog 1.4 miles up the Mt. Washington Auto Road with regular 'cross gearing on my bike, Mike changed out the gearing to be closer to a 1:1 - 34:32, and I used all of them (ok, only the easiest one)! It still amazes me how quickly you can leave the gate house, ramp up to 22 mph, and then lose ALL of that speed as the pitch kicks up. It really wasn't long before I was seeing a whopping 5.3 mph... It also didn't take long for Scott, who started 30 seconds behind me, to catch me and leave me in his dust (he would do the entire climb 3 minutes faster than I).
This year, the race was 1.8 miles. Doesn't sound like much, right? WRONG! That last .4 miles was brutal, both mentally and physically. The road had been steadily rising up the whole race, but in that last .4 miles, it got steeper, harder, colder, longer... I was never so glad to see a finishing line. It took me 18:15 to ride the 1.8 miles - and only 5 minutes to ride back down, brakes on the whole way! ;-).
This is the race of the year! What other race boasts scenery that includes the Polar Coaster, a giant cuckoo clock, Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater's pumpkin, the Old Woman's Shoe, the Crooked House, and Cinderella's Castle??? The sign out front does say 35 acres of all day family fun!
After hot coffee and a yummy sandwich in N. Conway (although red onions should be avoided on a sandwich pre-race), we headed over to Storyland to do a pre-ride of the course so that we had a chance to gawk at all of the sights. Once the racing starts, looking at cuckoo clocks and nursery rhyme buildings is not a good idea...
Since I was racing Elite this year, I lined up with the Elite men (11), the Intermediate women (there was only one), and the Intermediate men (20). That meant there was A LOT of testosterone on the starting line, and this is a VERY tight, VERY technical course. I was nervous, and when the cannon (yup - it was small, but man was that thing LOUD) went off, I was really happy to let most of the men get into the tight turns ahead of me.
I'll admit there was SOME complacency in my racing, knowing that I only had to finish to win. And I wanted to stay upright (the woman racing Intermediate crashed on the first corner going over the small railroad tracks). But, I still put in a hard effort, and still raced. And I had fun. The hard part though, was in getting lapped by the Elite men - especially in a tight section where they proceeded to cut me off going into a hairpin turn... More demoralizing? Getting lapped by your husband - twice ;-). While the Elite men circled the park 13 times in just under 45 mins, I managed 11 laps in the same time.
We were lucky with the weather, too. It was warmer this year than last, and just as we packed up and started the car, the skies opened. This race would have been NO FUN (not to mention downright dangerous) in the rain.
After a night of heavy rain, the sun shone brightly over Mt. Washington for the start of the 'cross race. We arrived early enough to go out and pre-ride the course a few times, and surprisingly, it was quite dry. The views were stellar, and I even got some great coaching tips from the Elite Kona racer (who finished 2nd). But most exciting to me was the fact that I RODE the run-up! Yup - last year it was a slog running up the hill, and this year, after the first lap, I was able to ride it every time - WOOHOO!
I was to line up with all the men (and the one other woman) again at this race. Mike and Scott were on the start line early, so I went over and joined them. This meant that I was on the front of the starting line! YIKES! I was nervous, and wanted to move back, but both Scott and Mike told me that I deserved to stay - just to make sure I could make it up the first little rise without getting in the way ;-).
On Go, I managed to stay with the lead men up over the first rise, and then many of them passed me in the barriers or on the first run-up (which was not rideable on the first lap because of traffic). I settled in after that, and for most of the race had "rabbits" - racers ahead that I would try to catch. I managed to catch and pass three men in the course of my 7 lap race (the men did 9, but I only got lapped by my husband once in this race). I finished tired and very happy with my overall performance for the weekend. I was also excited NOT to have tripped over the barriers this year ;-).
So, I won - sort of. Most importantly, I had a great time, improved over last year, and am looking forward to doing it all again in 2008!