One: Only Americans show up. I’ve started every race this year with (at least) a handful of people who speak different languages, ride at unamerican speeds, and enjoy things like public transportation and recycling their comingled containers- not so at Nationals. Only english-speakin’, burger-eatin’, red-blooded Americans are allowed, and for better or worse, this creates a nice sense of camaraderie.
Two: All the Americans show up. Throughout the season we tend to pick and choose races depending on our schedules and varying levels of burnout, meaning that any given event will include a shifting cast of characters. It’s accepted that everyone has to skip a race here and there, yet no matter how cracked your are or how many familial obligations you might have, no one skips Nationals. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m beginning to appreciate how rare and awesome it is to have almost everyone I enjoy being around converge on one place at one time.
That being said, the actual racing at Nationals this year was a little anticlimactic for me. The course was less than what I consider to be representative of Colorado riding, and my race was good, but not as stellar as Sage’s. My legs are definitely starting to come around, though I think Nationals came about a week too early for me. Considering last year’s debacle of flat tires and running practice, I was happy with a clean ride and a silver medal, but I would have been a whole lot happier with a win.
After the serious business of XC, the focus of the weekend turned to mountain bike appreciation. As tends to happen when I’m surrounded by friends, wearing a costume, and rehydrating diligently, I got peer-pressured into some things I hadn’t planned on doing- Sunday saw me sporting a headache and slated to race Super-D and Short Track.
I’ve never raced Super-D before, and watching the first LemMans start- a stampede of oddly-proportioned cyclists scrambling in the dirt to find their bikes before racing chaotically off for the hole shot- did not exactly inspire confidence. My own attempts at cyclocross mounts tend to culminate in dangling from the edge of my seat, bruising internal organs, and falling on the ground. I was also not looking forward to the running part- after all, my enthusiasm for bikes is due in no small part to my desire to avoid running at all costs. So, while I thoroughly enjoyed riding the lift with my bike, basically all the other components of Super-D, excepting the actual pedaling part, had me worried.
Luckily there was a random French man at the start leering at our spandexed butts, which allowed me to run really fast away from the line. Then I miraculously pulled off the best flying mount of my life and was holding a pretty respectable place going into the dust-obscured singletrack. Sadly, it turns out my Super-D worries were aimed in the wrong direction- I should have been concerned about the actual pedaling part. Maybe I was blinded by the awesomeness of my retro shades, but I suddenly found myself forcibly separated from my bike and sprawled on the ground, watching the wheels of the entire field roll past me at eye level. This wrecked whatever mojo I may have had, and I limped into the finish covered in dirt and feeling stupid.
I had no illusions about the Short Track. I’m horrible at short efforts on a good day, and considering the abuse my body had sustained over the past 48 hours, I was sure this final race would be nothing short of pure physical and emotional trauma. Therefore I spent the hours beforehand recklessly frying myself in the sun and eating things that I knew would taste horrible by the time I puked them up mid-race. Then I almost missed my start because I’d forgotten to put my number on my bike, and despite some enthusiastic high-fives with Heather over our last-place call ups, I was not feeling too optimistic. Once again I was wrong- I felt miraculously fast, and after a great start even managed to pass a few girls before getting lapped by Katie Compton who, even for her, was on an exceptional rampage. I don’t know how a human gets that strong.
So once again, racing a bike has taught me to have no expectations about anything because I am almost always wrong. Another Nationals under my belt and it’s off to the next adventure: Seattle.