By Thursday I was buzzing with excitement as it had been not far from a year since my last race, as the race approached I was starting to get a bit nervous - I must be faster than this time last year? but what if everyone else is? Also had some pedal worries - been trying clipless on the mtb but wasn't overly confident with them so I brought the flat pedals and spare shoes with me just in case!
We arrived nice and early so I got my number sorted and signed on before doing a practise lap. Did a lot of the technical bits with one foot unclipped but decided I needed the spds for the bumpy lap of the field, as well as the final climb. Had some water bottle issues as my frame is too small for a proper bottle cage, and my side entry cage didn't stand up to the bumpiness, after a bit of a panic I was reminded that it could just go in my back pocket - phew - panic over!
So, to the start - to ensure we were reasonably spread out before we entered the woods we did an extra lap of the meadow, I was very conscious of not wanting to start too high up the field (so i didn't get in the way of the really fast people), and didn't want to overdo it on the first lap either!
I found some people I recognised from last year, and was going to stick with them for a while, but after no more than 30 seconds decided they were too slow and quickly passed them, and some of the men. I then stayed in the same position for the next 2 laps, didn't see a single woman (I was well ahead of the slow people, but couldn't see the fast ones!) so was just riding with some of the men, tending to overtake them on the open bits, but letting them pass me again as they caught up on the tighter stuff. The course was getting more and more dusty (apart from the random bog!), nearly had an off going round a particularly tight off camber corner which had developed a thick layer of sandy dust, but I kept it together! I finished my second lap, resigned to finishing where I was and was relieved to hear the bell as the heat was making it really hard work! Didn't give up though, and knowing it was my final lap I really went for it on the open bits, perhaps could have carried more speed through the woods on the final lap but my legs were dying, and I was conscious of the slippy dust (didn't want a big crash just before my exams start!) I turned the corner for the final climb and there was someone just ahead of me, I assumed it was a man (hair was tied back, and was sporting the kit from a local team which is nearly all men), but decided to go for it, as I got closer I realised it was actually a woman (oops!) so I carried on with my sprint, surprising everyone watching, as well as myself, with the power I had left to take 7th place from someone who had beat me every time we competed last year!
So I finished 7th, much further ahead than the people I was competing with last year, and only a few minutes behind the next bunch of people (comparing last years results at the same course to yesterday shows just how much I've improved -yay!). I'm really happy with that and and raring to go next week to see if I can improve even more!
Full results can be seen here: http://fnssmtb.wordpress.com/results-2011/2011-1-daventry/
A few pictures taken by my dad can be seen below in my flickr stream, hopefully get some of the official photos up once they are published too!