Friday, October 25, 2013

RACE REPORT: Inaugural Ninja Night Race

Post-race portraits by Matthew Hulet 

October 24, 2013 will go down in history as the night of the very first USAC Sanctioned Night Race. Kudos to the organizers and thanks to the sponsors, it was an awesome time.

I was doing my best to contribute to the set up in some way all afternoon (though apparently my pop-up tent skills need work ...) so I didn't really get a chance to pre-ride the course. With 40 minutes til "go" I hopped on my trusty steed and quickly went over to the second half of the loop where I heard there would be baby heads and water crossings. 

I quickly found myself alone on the trail, in the dark, with a pack of coyotes for company. Oh yeah, important to remember: I'm Scared Of The Dark. And the toothy things in it. 

I pedalled back to the start/finish area at a rate a little higher than "warm up," which by now had a very festive vibe about it. The Tamale guys had arrived and Zumwalt's was providing an awesome neutral support service. They pumped up my tires and threw in a derailleur adjust while they were at it! Thanks guys! 

Chatting on the start line
It's been awhile since I felt in any way racy, but with a pile of base miles under my belt I'm finally starting to feel at least fit again so I was stoked to be on a line. Coach Richard, Ninja Boss, said "Go" and I WENT. 
... disappearing into the night off the start
Had a really fun start, and took the hole shot too. My first time through the single track wasn't pretty but it seemed to be effective as I held the lead until the second half of the first lap. That's when Lisa Hauck went by me. I hopped on her wheel, happy to hide behind her on the open section of the course. She started pulling away and I thought, that's okay, I'll get her ...

Which is a great reminder. In racing, NEVER wait. 

So, Lisa had a great race. She just kept pulling away ... away .... away ... and she was gone. Just a tiny red blinky, teasing me in the distance. (At least I think that was her ....)

For the second lap I just aimed to keep it steady and clean and even managed to stay on the course. By now, the categories were mixing up so I was riding in a constant state of readiness in case the light coming up behind me belonged to another female. With only a few minutes of racing left to go, I was feeling pretty comfortable in second. That's when Amy Comalli got around me. 

Awesome ride for her, but I sure felt that. 

I couldn't let her just have it, so I pushed with whatever I had left after an hour of dust clogging my lungs and my heart setting new records. Turns out it really was hers, but I was delighted to watch her headlight make more than one pass over her shoulder on the lookout for me. 

So I rolled through as the third fastest female of the evening feeling pretty pumped. At the awards, I got a surprise --  I actually WON my category so I got to stand on the top box anyway. Hurray for age groups! Which by the way, if you noticed the podium at the event, each box had the Japanese character for 1, 2 and 3 lit up with lime green cellophane. Pretty jazzy. Results are here.
Surprise! I win, kinda

I won a cool Ninja cup for my efforts, and enjoyed a delicious tamale which was included with each riders' entry fee. I even won a raffle prize --  a giant bag of HEED which I can't have thanks to wheat allergies, so I got the added joy of giving it away to someone else. 

All in all a super fun night. Can't wait for the next one! 

Some Ninjas, standing around. Check out more event photography by Pink Shorts