The Vermonter Or, Psyched in the XC

July 23, 2008 · Print This Article

By Shannon Edson
Berkeley, California

Well, Mount Snow, VT is a very long way from California. 

shannon in the xc On Wednesday morning, I embarked on what seemed like an epic adventure: I have a horrible sense of direction and I am a very nervous flyer.  Luckily, the first flight into Denver and the second into LaGuardia were relatively painless.  After six hours in the air, I was glad to be on solid ground and pointed in the direction of Allie’s house in Patterson, NY.  (Allie was nice enough to put me up for the night).

Amazingly, I made it to her house without too getting lost; although, I do have one complaint about  It would behoove the driver to know that he or she is going to cross a bridge.  This is kind of important information., just add a line that says, “Hey, you are going to drive over a bridge.”  As an English teacher, I have an interpretive mind, but for things like directions, I am pretty literal. 

But, I digress.  After a night at Allie’s, the downhillers and I packed up to drive to Vermont.  Inexplicably, Connie and I lost Allie and Kimber in the space of about thirty seconds and managed to drive an extra hour to the same location.  We were in good spirits though and decided that it was a good thing we were with each other and not with our husbands.  Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, we had missed Super D practice and Allie and Kimber were out walking the course, so we decided to get a bite to eat.  And so began the love affair with the Vermonter – the official sandwich of the US National Championships.  The sandwich is comprised of two slices of French toast, ham, cheddar cheese, apple, and maple dipping syrup.  Now, I ask you: How could this be bad? 

Anyway, after the sandwich, I was ready for a nap, but I needed to pre-ride.  The course was easily my favorite cross-country course of the season.  The climb was steep; the descent was rooty and rocky.  It hadn’t rained for a few days, so it was in great shape and my Maxxis Crossmarks felt great.  I rode the tricky sections a couple of times to figure out my lines.  Overall, I felt pretty confident on the course, but my body was pretty tired from the long travel days, so I decided against doing a second lap. 

The next day, I met up with Jen, and we rode the climb to the first singletrack.  My legs felt snappy, and my bike, thanks to Morgan Styer, our mechanic, looked and felt brand new.  Later, we went to watch Alicia Styer, an up and coming Velo Bella and Morgan’s daughter, race.  I’m so impressed with her.  As an eleven year old, she has a long and successful career of racing before her. 

Oh, somewhere between my spin with Jen and Alicia’s race, I had another Vermonter. 

Later that night, we had dinner at the condo and talked about the course and our goals.  Since I had traveled so far, I really wanted to have a good race.  I tried to tell myself that I should focus on having fun and not the result.  However, this is easy to say, but hard to believe.  I knew that I had done all the right things to have a good result, but I didn’t know how I would respond to the travel, the humidity, the national field, etc.  I spent a fitful night of sleep only to be awakened by the sound of thunder and rain outside.  This did not help to calm my nerves, but only increased my anxiety.  The course was going to be totally different now that it was wet. 

After a few hours of staring at the ceiling, Jen and I headed down to the venue.  Morgan quickly changed out my front Crossmark for a Maxxis Advantage, and I started my warm-up.  This turned out to be the perfect choice for the conditions.  I had decided not to wear my heart rate monitor.  Although I’ve worn it all season, I sometimes talk myself out of going harder if I see a number that seems too high. 

At 10:45, I was on the line.  I knew I had my work cut out of me.   Looking at field, I was glad that I didn’t have my HR monitor on because I knew my heart was racing just standing there.  The official went through the instructions, and we were off.  Up the first climb, I passed a couple of women and then encountered some traffic on the first singletrack section.  Women were off their bikes, and thus, so was I.  Finally, it loosened up on the long fire road and I started passing.  When we ducked back into the woods, I made a few mistakes, and a couple racers squeezed around me.  On the descent though, I started picking them off. 

Through the feed zone, I told myself that I just needed to make fewer mistakes each lap, and I would gain time.  The second lap was better than the first, but I still needed to concentrate on being smooth.  Into the final lap, I felt good and I was able to push it up the steep climbs.  My Kona Kula Lisa really is a mountain goat.  I cleaned the sections I had missed in the woods on the uphill and rode the descent more smoothly.  It only took me three laps to figure out that loop.  Before the course opened up out of the woods, I came within five seconds of Theresa Richardson.  On the flats into the finish, I gave everything I had to catch her, but I didn’t have the juice.  She ended up nine seconds in front. 

Overall, I’m totally psyched.  I ended up 25th of 36.  This is my best finish in a pro field.  As Johanna and I later discussed, it felt like we had people to race.  It was the first race of the season where I didn’t feel like I was hanging onto the bottom rung. 

Unfortunately, the next day did not go as well.  Instead of hanging onto the bottom rung, I slipped off.  I got pulled after six minutes in short track.  I guess this means that I left it all out on the XC course.  I didn’t feel too bad about it since I consoled myself with another Vermonter before I left. 

The Velo Bellas had a fantastic showing at Nationals, and I am proud to be part of such a talented, positive, and supportive team.   A big thank you goes to Alex and Morgan for fearless leadership and impeccable mechanic skills. 

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