Screw expectations.

I opted to race my RSS29. I put it together on Saturday afternoon and hit up the mesa. I was so fired up about how fun it was I decided to take it to Matthiessen on Sunday. When I registered for the race late Saturday I was the third Cat 1 female. I figured I’d be on the podium no matter what as long as I finished. Not that I care but I was trying to fire myself up.
Riding a singlespeed the start is always a concern. Looking at how the race started I breathed a sigh of relief. I probably wouldn’t get dropped; it was just some tightish turns in the grass straight into the singletrack. That sigh was short lived when I found out they were doing a road prologue lead out. Boo. But whatever. Not to mention there were 6 of us!  My hopes of a podium finish faded, but I was happy to have more than 3 of us for sure. Racing by yourself is never fun and when not a lot of people are registered that's usually what happens.
We started the rollout. It was pretty tame on the initial leadout. But then it was game on. I was spinning like mad but couldn’t hang. Not even close. I watched the whole field pull away and disappear around the turn. When I made it around the turn there was nobody in sight. At this point the race was more of what I expected, me off the back. Haha. I had hoped to catch somebody as the race went on. It was a goal anyway. So I just did my thing and set out what I came to do, ride my bike. 
It was the first lap so I was getting to know the course. Before I knew it I was on Betsy’s wheel. Betsy and I always race well together, it can always go either way so it’s a good motivator. But she had been coming off an injury that happened in May so wasn’t feeling in the best of shape. We chatted and rode together for a while and then I passed. She was always good at coming back strong in the end so I thought for sure I’d be seeing her soon.Shortly after passing Betsy I came up on Gina’s wheel. I hung behind her for a bit unsure of what was going to happen.  I passed Gina. In hindsight I probably should have before I did, but again, expectations- I still had over 3 laps to go.
Hitting the monster climb heading out of the river valley into the finish I thought I’d have a better go than on pre-ride. I thought racing might give me a little more momentum. Nope. I was off my bike on that bad boy on first lap. I hate being off my bike. Peter, a fellow singlespeeder and Twin Six teammate and person who would eventually save my day, came cruising by running with his bike so I didn’t feel as terrible and it sort of woke me up to get moving a bit faster.Up the climb back on the bike to start lap two.
On Lap 2  I felt like I had a better feel for the singlespeed as well as the singletrack. Riding the rigid I felt a lot more flowy and confident. I surprisingly came up on 3rd place, Melinda. I don’t remember exactly where. I sat on her wheel for a bit unsure of whether or not I should pass. ALWAYS PASS RACHAEL, especially when you know some downhill singletrack is on its way. I’ve been racing way too long to think about such things. I know I entered a race but I wasn’t really planning on racing so it was a mental battle and I'll admit to being a bit nervous. Do I go for it and blow myself up and not finish? Or stick to my plan?
I finally decided to go around her on a short climb, with roots. My heartrate skyrocketed but it felt good to ride the trail the way I wanted to.The downhills into the river sections were a blast!!! I caught Bev on one of the downhill sections. She moved over to let me by. Sweet. I was in second place thinking there was no way I was catching the Mercy/Specialized girl. Those girls are always super fast.  Shortly after catching Bev she was standing on the side of the trail with a mechanical. I later found out she went slightly off trail and a log ripped her derailleur off. DNFs always suck.
I was now in first.
That was totally not expected. 
But I still had to climb out of the river valley and ride two more laps. I hit the climb and tried to ride as much of it as I can, but Bev rode by me easily up the climb as I ran/walked. I felt confident I’d catch up to her in the singletrack but I still had to stop for water.And here is where I’m not a racer. I hadn’t prepared to race at all. I had no food, no water hand up, didn’t bring my hydration pack, so I had a bottle of water mixed with racer food in a chair by the course hoping watered down my stomach would handle it. So I had to stop, throw my bottle out and grab a new one. Precious moments in a close race for sure as Melinda passed me as I was swapping bottles.I headed out onto lap 3. I really wished I had gotten into the singletrack first. I’m really good at singletrack. Being on the singlespeed behind people who aren’t as good is tiring. It’s all part of racing and I’m not complaining but it’s still the way it is. I should always be more aggressive and I’m usually torn. I don’t want to risk putting somebody in a tree so I can get one place higher. So I was behind Melinda for a bit and then we were both behind Bev. Now I have to get by two people and I suck at being aggressive. I should point out that believe it or not, I’m more aggressive than I used to be.  As I was planning on where I could get by them, as I didn’t think Melinda was going to give it to me, a guy came up on our wheel and said “whenever I can get by”, so I went for it as they pulled off a bit… I sort of felt bad about it but I was waiting for a good time to pass and that was it. I felt a tad guilty until I started railing trail on my own terms! ;) Even dropping the dude that called the pass. I figured they’d catch me at the climb. Again I tried to ride as much of that as possible. Ride, walk, walk, ride.
Here’s where the water thing screwed me again.  I need to eat on the bike but everything seems to cramp my stomach, including the water mix I grabbed last lap. I couldn’t finish the last lap with no water and a cramping stomach so I came into the start area asking if anybody had water. I stopped at Peter’s little area and asked if he could spare some. Obviously not expecting me, precious time was ticking as Melinda passed me as I was waiting for water. D’oh! Though I thought that was way better than having nothing. Peter’s water mentally saved me as I was convinced I wouldn’t finish not cramping without it.
I fumbled with the water bottle not wanting Melinda to get too far away. I passed her in the grass open field. I wanted to get some water in me and just picked a terrible moment. I was flailing in the singletrack with a full bottle in my mouth and screwed up two turns costing me precious time and energy. Rigid was starting to take its toll as well as the singlespeed. Little climbs became a bit steeper and longer than they were the first three laps. Roots seemed bigger. I definitely lost a bit of the flow.I tried my hardest to gain as much time on Melinda as I could because I knew she could ride the climb out and I couldn’t. The bottom singletrack I was behind another rider that wasn’t going as fast as I’d like but fast enough to where I couldn’t get by especially since it was pretty technical down there.When I made it to the climb I started running up and saw Melinda getting ready to make the turn to start the climb up. At this point I was a bit deflated, but only in terms of placing. She passed me riding as I was off the bike.  And that’s how it ended. Second place.
And I thought I’d be last. Pffft.
It was a super fun race. Probably the most fun I’ve had in years. I lost out on taking the win because I didn’t prepare for the race. I’m fine with it as I did exactly what I came to do- ride my bike and have fun. The only thing that was different was I actually was competitive and ended up doing very well in the results.I guess my fitness isn’t as terrible as I thought. However that was a great course for me to come back on as I felt it favored my handling skills over my fitness. Those are the courses I really enjoy.  I still have trouble with riding between trees. I always have but it's a bit more mental now with all my vision changes I think. I sort of close my eyes and hope for the best. There are other things I have issues with like not seeing trees to my right usually. My poor right hand gets bashed a lot. But considering where I was six weeks ago, I'm good. When I look back on the past few weeks there were moments of panic, being bummed and frustration. But the hard part seems to be so far behind me now. Racing yesterday made me feel a lot better about my everything.