The start of the Brookside race was a long, straight road section with a short hill before dumping racers into the grass course. With lots of rain in the days before, the course was slippery but not muddy. There were plenty of off-camber turns and a long, sloping downhill section to keep racers from zoning out. There was one set of barriers and a long stair section in front of the brick Brookside community center building. The course was a bit more technical in my opinion than Bloomingcross.
I had a slightly better call-up (starting position) this time based on my previous race. I started in 20th and, knowing an all-out sprint off the start is not my strong suit, I held my position on the road section. I pushed a bit harder up the hill before entering the grass and held my pace as best I could. I passed on the straight stretches and ran the first off-camber S-turns since I knew that it would be a traffic jam. I gained a couple of positions there and pushed hard on the straights. In the first lap, I questioned whether I was pushing the effort too hard. I felt like I was on the verge of puking too early, but I was also passing racers in front of me consistently enough to just swallow that feeling and trust that my body would hold on. On the stair run-up section, I passed several others. It helps that I’m ultra light and also that I have a running background. I was really pleased with my remounts (especially considering my Bloomingcross mishap). I definitely just decided to commit each time, nuts be damned. And I was smooth and never hurt myself on the remounts.
I was floating better through lap two as I was more alone. I have no idea what position I was in, but I could only see a few other guys in front of me on the course. The S-turns were smoother this time around and I rode right through; it is so much quicker with no one else in my space. As I approached the stair run-up, some guy yelled at me and the mountain biker behind me “Four guys and only one spot at the top!” I knew I was in the top 4 at that point and did my best to just continue on with my pace – redlining but not puking. It’s a bit of a razor’s edge at this effort, and I don’t necessarily know what I’m doing here. So I just remained calm and tried to shake the guy behind me. He was part of a Cincinnati team. On the long sweeping downhill turn, he tried to pass me on the outside, lost control, and his front wheel slid out. He went down hard and slid under the tape but quickly got back up, so he was okay. I knew he wouldn’t catch back up to me as long as I stayed upright.
Starting lap 3, I was really wishing I understood the rules better. Are we doing three laps or four?! I had no idea. I knew if we were doing three laps, I would finish super strong and have some kick left. If we were doing four, I was screwed. There was no way I had a fourth lap in my legs. I was heaving. There was another mountain biker with me now and we kept switching positions. One of us would end up in third and the other fourth. We were fighting each other and every time I jumped out of a corner, he would match me. I felt strong, but I could tell he did too. I passed him on a straight stretch, and he got me around the next corner. Knowing my bike handling skills are sub par, I let him lead the last half of the lap. Damn, I wish I knew if this was the last lap. Looking at my watch, I was fairly certain this was it. I held onto his wheel and knew that I had to make a move at the last set of barriers, have a flawless remount, and then once we got off the grass onto the road, it was going to be a sprint to the finish. I am going to puke. Approaching the barriers, he was in front of me, and we were flying. I dismounted, and trying to save time from lifting my frame with both hands, I tried to loft my bike up with both hands on the bars. Unfortunately, like the beginner that I am, it didn’t work. My front tire was fine, but my back tire slammed into the rear barrier. BANG. I was hoping nothing broke, I jumped the second barrier, and we both remounted quickly and pedaled out. Two tight corners, and then we were out on the pavement. Our front tires were parallel to each other. I heard the announcers screaming “IT’S A RACE OF FAT TIRE VERSUS SKINNY! WHO IS GOING TO TAKE THE LAST PODIUM SPOT?!” I was pedaling as hard as I’ve ever pedaled and I could see my tire was about an inch in front of his. 50 feet to go. I shifted. Inch and a half. 25 feet to go. I was spinning out and had a gear left. 15 feet to go. I was too afraid of mis-shifting and just pushed for everything I had, spinning like mad. I was looking at his tire and as we crossed the finish, it was so close I had no idea who was in front. We were both heaving. “I. Have. No. Idea. Who. Got. It. Do. You?” He said he thought I got him. I sat my bike down and tried to calm my breathing. My quads were on fire.
Finally, the announcer said that skinny tires got it! It was so close!!! But I edged the other guy out and made the podium. It was an intense finish, but we both finished in 26:29.