Monday, February 27, 2017

Mellow Johnny's Classic 2017

It's race season again, which means it should probably be blog season as well! I've neglected writing for a while, simply due to being overwhelmed with other things, but big things are on the horizon for this year, so no time like the present to get back in to the swing of things.

This season, not only am I lucky enough to be back on Maverick Multisport's age group squad, but also have the extremely fun honor of racing mountain bikes with the Austin ladies of MOD Cycling. This women's developmental team is in its first season, and we have a very strong group of women racing XC this season.

At our second team race (the first being the Dirty Dozen in Warda a few weeks ago, where all teams earned podium spots in their respective races!) we took part in the Mellow Johnny's Classic at Flat Creek Crossing Ranch. Those who have never been to Austin and the surrounding Hill Country might not realize it, but there are miles and miles of world-class Cross-Country (XC) mountain bike trails here, and Flat Creek Crossing might be one of my new favorites.

I entered the Cat 3 women's 30-39 race and lined up one of five women, with about double that in the 40+ group chomping at the bit to start one minute after us. I had not been able to pre-ride the course, but gathered some intel from riders who were Cat 1 and 2, who let us know there was some mud and slick parts near the creek, but the course was otherwise dry and ready to shred.

The whistle went off and, having scoped out the start area, I knew I had a short section of jeep trail to get as far ahead as I could before we hit single-track, where it's harder to pass. Only one other woman in my group pulled ahead of me before we go there, and when she whizzed by and hit a jump before tearing off, I knew I wouldn't see her again until the finish line, unless she somehow had a mechanical. However, I hit the single-track in second place with a significant lead, and was determined to keep that spot.

The trails had a lot of really fun, really technical downhill portions that are my favorite type of riding. Steep enough to get speed, but dangerous enough that you have to pay attention, balance, and make sure you don't go end-over-end on a ledge. There was also a lot of long climbs, though only a few that were so steep I had to walk. We've been doing a lot of skills work at our team practices, and I could really feel it paying off as I kept hearing our coach in my head, "shift your weight, shove, dance with your bike." I was getting up and over things with a lot more ease than I used to, and if my new 40T cassette had made it in time so that I wasn't racing with only 36 teeth in the back, I may have been able to do more!

The course was about 8.5 miles of creek crossings, rocks, fast flat paths through the Cedars, and fun rocky downhills. Every time I heard the whirl of a free hub behind me, I feared it was my competition catching up, but mostly it was either the super fast ladies in the 40+ group, or the awesome, fiercely competitive under 18 girls.

I finished the course in about 1:08, a little slower than I anticipated, but thanks to a couple of walking breaks where I just couldn't muscle my way up, it was expected. Thankfully, it was enough to secure my spot in 2nd place by about 10 minutes, which is a hearty gap! I maviewed my heart rate profile and saw I'd been close to my max the whole time, which means, hey, I was at least RACING as hard as I could for sure!
de it through with only one big bruise on my shoulder from a run in with a tree branch, and a LOT of mud on myself and my bike. I

The race was a ton of fun, and I'd love to do it again. Mountain bike racing, much like XTERRA, is full of fun people having a great time, and typically none of the pretentious attitude that comes with road racing sometimes.

Jenn avoided the mud on her skin thanks
to her knee pads
 This is my first season racing mountain bikes and so far I've been having a blast. I'm trying to get as much time on the trails in competitive situations as possible in preparation for XTERRA Worlds in Maui in October. If I'm going to spend all the money to get out there, I figure I don't want to come in last!

Being on a team that is local and gives me friendly faces on the trail is also awesome. We don't have sponsors or anything official (except a really cute banner for our Academy EZ up tent!) but what we do have is a great time and a love of women on mountain bikes!

I'm so grateful these cool ladies let me join them on the trails, and I look forward to more MOD jerseys on podiums all season!
Podium finish!

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