The Vermonter Or, Psyched in the XC

July 23, 2008

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. 

Chasing Satisfaction

July 9, 2008

By Shannon Edson

Shannon DescendingI can think of better ways to prepare for a big race than a move across the country, but sometimes, you have to sacrifice perfect pre-race conditions for convenience. Thus, after a few days of packing up the house in Fort Collins, Tim and I set out on our cross country move to Berkeley. Our first stop was Park City for the Deer Valley NMBS.

First of all, we love Park City, so it wasn’t too much of a bummer for Tim or me that we were to spend three days in the Disneyland for adults. The mountain biking is great, and the downtown is lined with beautiful homes and restaurants set against a lush, green backdrop. It was the ideal first stop on our trek.

After seven hours in the car, we arrived in Park City on Thursday afternoon. We checked into the Courchevel, which is a condo right at the base of the venue, and I headed out for two laps on the course. The conditions were perfect. The loop was comprised of a smooth, tight and twisty descent sandwiched between two gradual climbs. With only two rocks and lots of turns on the descent, it wasn’t really my type of course, but it was fun and the purple and yellow wildflowers lining the hillside were beautiful. The pre-ride went well. I did one easy lap and one race pace lap, and my legs and lungs felt good. Having raced at Angel Fire, I wasn’t really worried about the altitude.

I did another easy lap on Friday with Tim and spent much of the day reading and resting. I have to keep my mind occupied or else I will work myself up with worry and nerves.

Saturday rolled around, and I felt pretty good. I had a successful warm-up, and the temps were supposed to be a little more forgiving than the days prior. At the line, I was pretty nervous since this was my first NMBS race as a pro. Although it was intimidating, I was racing against most of the women from the MSC circuit. My nerves subsided when we were given the signal to start.

Shannon climbing Given that I was starting from the back row, I had a decent start. My legs felt strong up the first climb and I hit the singletrack in a good position. A few women squeezed around, but I caught back up on the long descent. On the second climb, I didn’t feel as strong; I couldn’t get it going again. I think I’m better on long, sustained climbs. The girls I had caught on the descent climbed away from me, so I tried to settle in and “limit my losses,” as Tim says.

On the second lap, I caught Lindsey, and as soon as she was out of sight, I crashed on one of the switchbacks. It wasn’t bad, but it took a few seconds to right myself, my bike, and my frame of mind. Into the final lap and covered with dust, I caught Joy and rode away from her on the climb out the feed zone. I could see one other woman ahead of me, and I tried to catch her, but she out descended me to finish 22 seconds ahead.

Despite the crash, I rode pretty consistent lap times and was not disappointed with my effort. I say “not disappointed” because I’m not satisfied with my race either. My cross-country coach in college said that she could count on one hand the number of “good races” she had had. I think this means races with which she was fully satisfied. I think I hold a similar number. Maybe it is the space between disappointment and satisfaction that keeps us racing and aiming to improve. I finished 28th overall, and I am now motivated towards moving up and closer to satisfaction.

Shannon finished

Photos by Christopher See. Used with permission, all rights reserved. Clicky for more Photos from the Deer Valley XC. Mille Grazie!