My turn for some "Dirty" racing. I went out for the first time to the Tuesday night "Dirt Derby", a timed race consisting of laps around a super-fun, super-fast 2 km course. Lots of tight turns, short climbs, thrilling drops, and if you get off the beaten path, loose dirt. I entered the 20-minute women's-only/beginners race - there were three of us in this category.
It was an inauspicious start. I arrived early to get an easy lap in and figure out the course. I rode toward the field, made a right turn on some extra-soft dirt and ended up on the ground with Superfly on top of me. This resulted in a dirty knee, dangling shifter cable, askew seat, and some giggling from me and I'm sure anyone that had noticed.
That was my only fall, although I got close a couple times during the actual race. I still have a lot to learn about this surface.
The women's race started a couple minutes after the group of beginner guys. One lady took off like a bat-outta-hell, but I caught and passed her in the first lap. The other woman stayed on my tail and pushed me the entire race. After the first lap I wondered how I would manage breathing this hard for the whole 20 minutes - it was surprisingly difficult to keep air in my lungs and still push up all the little hills.
So I concentrated on recovering just a tiny bit during every little drop and also in the tight turns. The turns were really interesting - some were better taken on the inside, others had an outer line that was easier and faster. One turn in the middle still perplexes me, hopefully I'll figure it out eventually.
During my first lap I caught up to this little kid named Noah. We were on a narrow beaten-down track in the middle of a wide road full of extremely deep, soft dirt. The kid was doing his best but he's really slow. I decided to try to pass - huge mistake. I slid every which way, somehow managing to stay upright (or at least not more than 45 degrees from upright). Finally I got off the bike and ran, jumped back on, and got by. Sorry Noah!
I had no idea how long a lap was taking me, or how many laps I'd end up doing. All I knew was that I was getting just barely enough oxygen to sustain this aggressive (for me!) riding and to stay in front of the woman in blue whose name I believe is Katy. At the end of lap two I begged under my breath for them to ring the bell so I'd have only one lap left. No such luck!
During the third lap I heard them start ringing the "final lap" bell for other riders. I had to start focusing on not getting sloppy on the turns, as my legs were starting to feel tired. What?? Legs, you can't possibly be tired after less than 15 minutes!
I approached the top of the hill for the end of lap 3 where they rang the bell for us. "Keep going?" I asked - oh yes, you have one lap left. Oh my heck.
Somehow, knowing exactly how far to the finish really helped me relax. I found myself clicking the back ring into one gear harder and leaving it there for the whole last lap (although I geared down in the front ring for a couple of the bigger hills). My breathing stabilized somewhat and I felt more in control. Katy was still right on my butt.
Coming along the stretch where I had ungracefully passed Noah, I found another slow rider. Usually one to learn from my errors, I followed his wheel and reflected on how nice it was to be able to breathe again for a few seconds. Once around the corner and onto the wide open hill, I zoomed by and resumed my quest for the finish line.
Somehow my legs and my lead held up, and I finished first female. Too funny! Katy and I congratulated each other, then I did a bit of cool-down before heading home, chuckling about the strangeness of it all.