Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Back in the Saddle (to find out that I’d never really been in it)

By Chelly Richards

Dark Mountain, Wilkesboro NC, July 9, 2006

Grad school and I didn’t mix very well. I don’t regret getting my masters degree, but I sure was bitter all the way through. School gets in the way of the better things in life and that just seems wrong to me. The last race I did was my first crit about 2 years ago. It monsooned, I was dropped in the first lap, and then I crashed. Looking back, I see that I was about 10 lbs overweight, probably depressed, and definitely not riding enough.

Now, fast forward to the present. Two months ago, I did two very wonderful things – I graduated and I moved to the North Carolina mountains. The first time I rode up the hill to my house it took me 24 minutes. Last week, it took me 16! I decided it was time to pick up where I left off – racing mtb in the beginner class – and entered the next race just down the mountains from us on some of the best trails I’ve ever ridden in Wilkesboro, NC.

I got there early, suited up in my Velo Bella kit, and started my warm-up routine - which I made up as I went along. I was plenty warm and still spinning around the field when I noticed my race all lined up at the start. I rode up the line with about 1 minute to spare. I said hi to everyone and we were off.

The race started by circling around a grassy field before going up a steep hill and into the woods. Almost immediately off the line, I realized that I would need to pass the girls in front of me and that made me feel good. After I got around them, I was riding behind the two girls in front. I wasn’t hurting at all and so I felt even better. I decided to hold my position and pass them on the climbs in the woods – since climbing’s my new thing, you know.

We hit the steep climb into the woods and I make the rookiest mistake I have ever EVER seen (and I’ve been riding for 3 years now). I shift, look down to make sure, and I’m in my big ring! I shift down quick and drop my chain. Okay…I hop off quick to fix it and find that the chain is not only dropped it’s…twisted and tangled? The mess on my bike looked like only magic would have caused it. Had one of my competitors hexed me?

I didn’t know what to do. The race cost me $50 so I wasn’t about to pull out before I even made it to the trail.

The 40+ category passed me before I got help and they started 2 minutes after us. Darrell wasn’t anywhere in sight and my chain wasn’t budging. Finally, some other guys there to watch their girlfriends decided to help me (even though, it was technically not legal). They decided that they needed to take my right crankarm completely off my bike and one guy went to get his tools. Then Darrell ran up and wiggled it back and forth until the chain came free. Minutes went by and about 4 of us were covered in grease before I was off again.

I decided I had to at least catch one of my competitors. I caught three of them and it felt so good! The second one I caught on some double track right next to an aid station and the guy standing there got a picture of it. (Gotta get that one.) The third one I caught in a section of the course that was also used for the downhill race. For the first time in my life I felt like I could race. I could pass people and then jump away from them to make sure they didn’t try to pass me back. Before, racing for me had been about not getting lapped by the men’s race! I ended up in third place, ten minutes behind first and seven behind second. I think I could have been up there with them.

We’ll see! Next race is in two weeks!


At 9:09 PM, Blogger Alex said...

totally cool! Too bad about the chain, but shite happens!

At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Kate said...

Congrats to you for such a great finish in such adversity! Looking forward to reading about your next race :o)


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