Although it was my lowest place finish of the season (3rd), it really was my best result of the year. The USA Cycling Mountain Bike Marathon Nationals in Bend, OR had a stacked field of women including favorites Pua Mata and Kelli Emmett.
Pro Women’s Podium (L to R): Kelly Boniface 5th, Sari 3rd, Pua Mata 1st, Kelli Emmett 2nd, Serena Gordon 4th
With just a few weeks remaining before the race, MOOTS rider Kelly Boniface and I decided it would be fun to make the trip. Our moms weekend away. Securing a house through friends, we booked our flights, rented a car and made sure to keep up on the intervals. However, neither of us ever looked at the course info, weather in Bend nor many other details. It was quite a surprise when we arrived to a place more drought-ridden than Colorado with lots and lots of sandy singletrack. Isn’t Oregon wet with roots?
Arriving in Bend midday on Thursday, Kelly and I pre-rode the last 12 miles of trail – Tiddlywinks and Funner. There wasn’t much climbing but lots of swooping singletrack. Despite crashing a few times, I enjoyed the trail and was thankful the race would be spread out at this point to keep the dust down to a minimum.
With some beta from Colorado friends, we opted for a new section to pre-ride on Friday. It was another great piece of trail with small, punchy climbs and fast rolling singletrack. My borrowed bike was not running perfectly so we made a pit stop in Pine Mountain Sports. Marc got my bike running right with customer service all shops should strive for (Marc, I still owe you a muffin or beer). We enjoyed a great dinner made by our friend Rachel Hadley from Aspen who was racing as well, and then got some rest.
Coming through aid #2
Both Kelly and I were feeling okay race morning but not amazing. After a good warm-up and a Honey Stinger gel, we lined up at the start. I was thankful I missed the call-up as that puts pressure on me that I don’t really enjoy. Lining up in the second row behind Pua, Kelli and Kelly, I decided to stay with the lead group as long as I could. Pua settled in at the front as was expected, Nordic skier extraordinaire Evelyn Dong behind her, Kelli Emmett, then me and local Bend racer, Serena Gordon, vying for position. Although we lost the rest of the pack early on, the first three quickly lost dropped Serena and I.
Kelly and I on the first climb from the start
With a few minutes lead, the top three rode away and I was able to pass Serena on the first singeltrack descent. Serena caught me on the short climbs until I finally pulled away at about mile 14. From this point on, I rode completely by myself. About 16 guys passed me the remainder of the race but I wasn’t able to hang on their wheels as they went by. After some great riding on the Flagline Trail, I passed Evelyn on a road descent as she had flatted. I’d been catching glimpses of her but I don’t like passing people due to their misfortune. That being said, I knew I needed to take advantage of the fact I had not had a mechanical yet so I kept riding hard.
Enjoying the singletrack with a goofy grin
Heading into the last 12 miles, I got a split and realized I wasn’t going to catch Kelli Emmett. I settled into a comfortable pace making sure to race smart without flatting or crashing. With very few men catching me and no signs of women coming from behind, I began to slow with 8 or so miles left. I enjoyed the singletrack, relaxed and made sure to not lollygag too much. Coming across the line in 3rd place after 4 and a half hours of racing, I was psyched with my finish. Top three in a national championship with super fast women is something to be happy about. Yeah, I probably should have raced harder at the end but it was nice to end the mountain bike season with a relaxing finish. Kelly Boniface bonked hard at the end but raced well to finish in 5th place. Two podium spots for the moms!
Carbondale friend, Scott Leonard, finished 3rd in the men’s age group 35-39; Rachel Hadley of Aspen won the women’s amateur race (beating many of the pro women); Rachel’s husband, Shawn, finished 4th in men 40-44; and skimo buddy, Cary Smith, blew away the singlespeed race. Way to represent all of you! Results here.
This weekend is the last race on my schedule (at least for a few weeks) – the Golden Leaf Half Marathon in Aspen. Field is stacked this year so it should be very fun!