The course at Westview HS was flat, hard-packed, and fast. In short, a terrible course for singlespeeders.
Still, I'd signed up and Mielle had given me a ride so there I was on the starting line.
The sad part was that I was the only singlespeed woman in the entire field. No one else had signed up for the category.
At a State freaking championships.
Did they know something I didn't?
Teammate Erinne asked if she should race singlespeed with me -- I'd mentioned I had a few zip-ties with me (OBRA allows racers to choose a gear, then immobilize their derailleurs with zip-ties and race in the singlespeed category, a sensible rule for amateurs since not everyone owns a dedicated singlespeed bike).
I shrugged. "I dunno," I said. "You could, but wouldn't you rather beat women your age in a real race? Plus, your field's still pretty small and you're strong enough, you could make a podium anyway. I'd enjoy the company but it's your call."
Erinne opted to race her age group with derailleurs. (She later told me she was glad she did.)
We were off, and I learned quickly that flat courses are the bane of singlespeeders. Not super-technical, just flat and fast and, well, sort of roadie-like.
Just to be clear, parts of the course were actually fun to ride, especially the part that zig-zagged through the trees that ringed the soccer field (and which was put in the make the course "technical"), and the off-camber descent that everyone barreled down with glee. But the large back section of the course, what looked like a farmer's field just outside the fenced school grounds, was a mowed strip of bumpy, short grass with tons of hard-packed washboard -- and this was the worst part of the course for a singlespeeder. (Granted, lots of racers complained about this section, but at least they could shift when the going got rough.) Erinne passed me on the course and yelled, "I understand why everyone else is racing with shocks!" I laughed in spite of myself and we kept racing.
I was surprised at how strong my legs -- and my resolve -- were. My legs kept turning the cranks with strength and power, even as I gasped for breath on the hot, mostly un-shaded course. And there was never a doubt in my mind that I would finish. I just kept plowing along, breathing hard and telling myself "I can DO this". And I did. In forty minutes, I completed four laps of almost 1.5 miles each, on a course that absolutely sucked for singlespeeds. For my faith, and my efforts, I won the OBRA Champion's medal for Womens' Singlespeed. And unlike the mixed feelings I had about my third-place finish last year (when there were three women in the category and my bronze medal was a foregone conclusion if I only finished), today I pushed myself SO hard, and felt so strong, that when I finished, I felt like a real bike racer and felt like I'd earned my damned medal. No prize is ever so sweet for a bike racer, I think, than to feel like you've earned your race.
A big shout out to Erinne who, in spite of crashing into some thorns, still pulled out a second place finish in Masters' Under-35 category. (But of course. She's SO strong!) Whoot!
(Erinne and I basking in our little hardware haul)
Congrats also to Pal Mielle, who raced -- and won -- her age group, and then turned around and raced again in a Cat 1 field and dominated that, too. I suspect she will be invited to cat up soon if she doesn't just go ahead and ask to. (Winning two state titles is a nice way to celebrate your birthday weekend, yes?)
(Mielle and I share the top step of the little podium for fun)
Rest day tomorrow, then my final short-track race of the season at PIR on Monday evening. I may have precious little left in the tank after today's effort, but I don't care. I'll ride my brains out and have a grand time. If you're in town, come and join me. The fun starts at 6 pm and concludes with the "very short track" team relay race at around 8:15.