Okay, we are skipping ahead to say holy freaking wow! So I've been wondering what it would feel like to play in the Snowmass downhill. I knew that there was a Liklihood that id come in a good twenty minutes behind everyone else, but I didn't mind. I just wanted to not race unless I knew I had the skills to get down the trail in one piece.
Standing at the start with the other women on their big burly bikes and watching the men get ready (by riding wheelies uphill in the dirt), and checking out the juniors going over the course in their mind with their coach, i started flipping through all I've learned in the last few weeks; action stance, balance, and cornering, I was able to hear Kurt's voice in my head, and Barnie, and Kyle from our rental shop who taught me how to do a sick manual, and Thomas, who taught me how to do it as a wheel drop.
But im already ahead of myself. Today, I drove up to Snowmass with all my gear, thinking that had I got there earlier, I would have raced. I wandered up to the finish in my flip flops, ready to help with timing or whatever else they needed.
Turns out last ride up the Gondi is 515, and Ranger Brett Beavers started harassing me to suck it up and go get on a bike. and if I hustle, I can get a preview of the trail and still get up there for the start.
I ran back to my car and threw my stuff on, every single piece of body armor I could find, covering all exposed skin. If I was going to go down, I wanted to take all my skin with me!
Four Mountain Sports, the awesome shop at the bottom of the Gondi got me on an amazing Norco DH race bike (the last in my size!) and I paid my fee and screwed my bib to the handlebars. As I was doing it, the butterflies (the giant, huge, angry, nauseous making) butterfly in my throat hit me hard. What the hell was I thinking!????
Yes, I can ride this trail. I'm not sure I can stay on my bike going this fast though... And the consequences of hitting one of these jumps wrong... I had to stop thinking about it. Kurt and Tucker rolled in and in tied me to go with them on their preview run.
Kurt was coaching the indomitable 10 year old Tucker Thomas, and aspen local who shreds at every sport he touches. I was pretty sure he was going to run me over or pass me in the air, but hey.
We hopped on our bikes at the top and I followed Thomas Parks, another aspen Instructor down the fire road to the start of the gravity logic trail faster than I've ever gone. Nice warm up. Oh god.
We bombed down the trail, I'm trying to ride hard and take note of where rocks have rolled down and a where dirt is loose. I'm trying to memorize the new line off the hard jump, the one that is high and lippy and tends to send you into a dead sailor rotation.
I lived, full of adrenaline, sweating that Stinky sweat of fear And breathing as hard as if I'd ridden up hill all the way.
And that was the preview! We loped back around and went back up to wait for the official start. I watched my internal experience closely, I was curious if it had changed at all.
Typically, I have huge heart thumping insanity, and I have to breathe slow and even, trying hard to bring my heart rate down. But by the time I get to the start, I'm yawning. I cant use this time to think about what I'm going to do, what my focus or task is, or I can't get myself calm enough to perform.
"you race in 5,4,3,2,1" said the start Marshall.
I do? I what? Here I am sitting on a big, squishy bike at the start of a huge new black diamond trail with no less than 16 jumps and huge burmed turns getting ready to race.
Whatever, time to pedal. I took off slowly down the govt trail, the rocks are huge and jagged and the first section is, for me, a exercise in trusting that the bike is going to roll over all of it, and not send me over the handlebars and onto my face,
I turned the first corner at a near stop, only to see Ranger Brett marshaling the first corner. "you better catch her, girl! Pedal pedal pedal!" I grinned at him, I can do this, I can ride this trail! I took off, Brett believed in me, I could get it done.
I tried to remember what Barnie had told me about racing, with speed, don't pop, suck the bike up under you And stay close to the ground, keeping your speed.
I love the table top jumps, the step ups are great, but the series of four step downs, I still need a lot of work on. Especially at speed.
Kyle from the rental shop had taken the time to go over manuals and wheelie drops with me the week before, and I was talking out loud in his voice through the whole section.
The second to last jump is the scariest, there's a huge compression, and it's really lippy. It steps up high, so it looks like you can just launch it, but if you release the compression and the wrong time, your front tire hits hard and you get bucked forward hard.
I thought about all Kurt had been working with me on, let the front tore off first, keep the compression on in the back tire, once the front is off, release the back tire and pull up on the front. Hard. Add a little forward thrust in the air to anticipate the abrupt front tire impact, and hope youvedone it right, or you are going over the other side in the loose dirt down the next turn on your face.
I stuck it. I gave a little weeeooooo! And pedaled hard through the rest of the course, two jumps to go, a nice table top, and then the last step up which sucks you toward the big aspen tree. But I knew the line, thanks to Young Tucker and his coach, and I pedaled onto the vista trail. Two more turns and we are home free.
I came out of the aspens and onto the dirt, and there were the other girls. I hadn't caught them, but I was gaining on them. I knew that Jessica was an accomplished cross country rider and that if she was going to crush me, it was going to happen, it was going to happen on the loosedirtroadto the bottom.
I put Barnie in my head. Clack em, Kate! Grow a pair and clack em! (yeah, I'll explain later...) tip it!
I got aggressive at myself and started coaching hard. "tip that bike over, girl and pedal pedal pedal!"
And I did.
And when it was all said and done.... I found myself handing out the free beer to the riders as I do every week (base camp in Snowmass is a wonderful sponsor for us and takes great care of the riders) when I hear my name announced.
In first place by 6 seconds. I'd won! Not only stayed on my bike and nnot finished dead last, but id won.
A hundred bucks and a big smile, the girls and I all hugged each other and promised to ride together this week so we can all work on the pieces that worried us or that we need to work on.
Thomas PArks won the men's division this week, and young Tucker... He came in second, only 19 seconds behind the first place winner, who is 14, four years older than him and a moto cross racer.
What an Amazing day! Thanks so much to aspen/Snowmass for putting this together for us, to the rangers for prepping it and making it safe for us, to the lifties for staying late, and to base camp for hosting the after party!
The last race of the season is next week... Come on out and play with us!!!
Photos by Kurt f. And Abbie Wade photography! Thanks guys! Abbie loves to shoot all kinds of action sports. To get great shots of you and your family having fun, visit her website by clicking her photo in the side bar. She's awesome, talented, affordable, and fun to play with!
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