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Rock Gardens & Rain: Rattling MTB Marathon 2021

Race Report:

This year's race was on Sunday April 11th and a small group of us from Syracuse headed down the night before the race. No one needed a four hour drive to Elizabethtown, PA prior to racing. Starting at 1am Sunday morning it rained and it rained. We had made the classy choice to camp in the parking lot and so when it started to rain, we knew about it. It deposited nearly an inch of rain overnight.

With the rocky, rooty course we knew it was going to challenge our bike handling skills. Thankfully the rain stopped prior to the race start, so we weren't actively being soaked during the race.

My day began with my two race day staples, a coffee from Dunkin Donuts with a caramel swirl and an everything bagel with cream cheese. Sugar, carbs and caffeine. It’s always been my race morning food and I’m reluctant to change it up when it’s consistently set me up well. Additionally I try to hydrate as much as possible with coconut water and regular water before the race start.

Adam (Ruszkowski) and Zach (Smith) started in the first wave, Open Men, then Shannon (Brown) in the next wave, Over 45 Men. Open Women went next. It was fantastic to see 19 women signed up to race Open Women and I think 14 showed up. That’s a lot for a mountain bike race and there’s nothing better than having a super strong female field. As you line up to start this race you see the first hill in front of you. A 1.8 mile climb to give you the feeling that your lungs will explode about 2 minutes into the race. My race started well, I've never been the strongest climber and so a few other women made it up the first climb in front of me. My strength lies in the technical singletrack, especially the descents. This is where I make up any time lost on those climbs.

This race had brutal rock gardens that stop many racers in their tracks, I love these and I'm not bad at riding them. Honestly if you can ride them all then you're in a great spot. While the slippy conditions added to the challenge, these did give me the advantage I'd hoped for and spent the race back and forth with the woman who eventually just beat me to 3rd place, Bryna Blanchard. She is a stronger climber than me but I was faster on the single track. So she'd overtake me on the climb, I'd overtake her on the single track. In the end she beat me by a few minutes, a sign that I need to continue to work on my climbing!

The race was a lot of fun. The challenge of the technical single-track makes the race go by so quickly. It's always great to be out there with friends and because our Syracuse crew all set off in front of me I got to see them all as I passed them. Both Shannon and Adam were both off their bikes, navigating those tricky rock gardens when I caught up with them and were both kind enough to quickly jump out of my way as I tried to catch Bryna.

I finished 4th in Open Women and 45th Overall. What excited me most about this was the 20 minute PR I posted from only about 8 months ago. I have worked so hard this winter on the trainer, at one point logging 100 straight days. That isn't fun but to see it pay off makes it all worthwhile. My next race is Trans Sylvania Epic, a five day stage race at the end of May.

Finally just a note to acknowledge the hard work of the race direction Ryan Fulton. He puts on fantastic races and has adapted so well to the challenges of putting on a COVID safe race. I know every racer appreciates his efforts.

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