Sugar Hill XC draws some of the regions fastest racers. It is fairly common to have multiple pros show up to deepen an already fast field. Last year I paced very poorly and limped in for 22nd place. This year I was hoping for a top 10 finish, but having raced Willowsford the day before, I was thinking that would probably be unrealistic. I did everything I could to rest well and let my legs recover so that I would have something to give. None the less, my coach Chris Beck, pulled me aside before the race and set me straight mentally. I was not there to train, I was there to race to win. Feeling tired I was fully ready to just enjoy myself; Chris set me straight. This is racing: RACE.
The race starts with a brief section of road that funnels into a hard climb where the whole thing blows apart. I immediately realized that even though my heart rate was plenty high, power was lacking from my legs. I came over the top in about 14th, very unusual for me.
The race is run at Patapsco State Park and has a good mix of technical and super smooth trails. The first few miles are fairly smooth and the pace was full bore. I was quickly on the back of a group of two and we rode together for the first lap. About 2/3 the way through you hit the most technical section of the course. It is a rock garden that was muddy, and immediately after you hit a climb with massive roots you have to navigate around and over. It pushes your heart rate to its absolute limit. It was there that I lost contact with my group and began my solo ride.
I was trying to stay very conservative given my condition, knowing I would be racing for over 2 hours, you must pace extremely carefully. I rode steady and alone for the next lap and a half. Towards the end of the second lap, I was feeling very steady and good. There is a long series of climbs and that is where I saw the next guy up the trail. Just then, I came up on Beck. He gave me the split up to Colin Becker of Old Line Velo, and got me motivated to bridge up. I thought it was going to kill me, but I was able to pass Colin right near the top of the climb. I pushed hard as I passed to deter him from getting onto my wheel.
Shortly into the last lap, a spectator gave me a split of 13” up to the next guy. I began catching glimpses of him through the woods and my motivation was on. It took me 4 miles, but in almost the exact same place I caught Colin, I passed the next guy to drop into 12th overall. I ripped the rest of the course trying to hold my spot and finished in 2:03, almost ten minutes faster than last year. Winning the day before, and still pulling off 12th was great. I was happy with my performance.