Exchequer Opener 02/26/22 – Gabbie Walmsley

This was my first race ever. I was nervous, but also excited to see everyone and cheer people on. Despite leaving at 11:45am, there was a huge line to get in, and although we were no more than a half mile from the check-in, it took almost thirty minutes to check in. When we finally drove up to our campsite, most of the team was already there and about to begin the pre-ride. I went to the bathroom to get changed since my tent wasn’t already set up, and when I got back, they were gone. I ended up missing the pre-ride, so I stayed back and set up my tent. 

When the group that had gone on the pre-ride returned, I played cards with Cate, Annika, and Sylvie. It was lots of fun, but we had to cut it short because it was time for dinner. We had spaghetti and meatballs, and honestly it was some of the best spaghetti and meatballs I’ve ever had. Kudos to the food prep team! After dinner, we had a team meeting and talked about team goals. As this was my first race, and I knew nothing about the course, I set two goals: have an average speed of over eight miles per hour, and finish under an hour and a half. Then, we had to wash dishes. This is where the chaos began. 

We started out by dividing jobs. For some odd reason, I thought it was a great idea to be in the line of fire and hold out dishes to be sprayed. Keep in mind that at this point, temperatures were starting to drop, and it was probably no more than forty-five degrees. That was probably a mistake, because after a few minutes, I managed to lose  feeling in my fingers. Excellent job, Gabbie. Really brilliant. It took us twenty minutes, many people swapping positions, and a few accidental squirts from someone manning the hose, lots of yelling at Neel, a couple of numb fingers, and washing a few dishes multiple times to wash all the dishes (there were around fifteen). However, it was really fun, and the whole team was laughing. 

After that, Yoann, Edda, and I took to fixing some bikes. Well, mostly Yoann and Edda. I was holding a lantern for them because I do not know anything about fixing bikes. Either way, that was also very delightful, and I learned a bit about how bikes work. It was fun chatting with them. 

After a chilly night camping, I woke up around 6:45. It was still very cold, but I quickly warmed up once I began moving around. I pulled on my race kit and headed down to the food tent. I had a bagel and some hot chocolate for breakfast.

Then, it was time to warm up. I put the rest of my gear on and did a couple up-and-downs on the hill our campsites were on. Luckily, now that the sun was up, it was beginning to warm up, and I’d say it was a solid 55 degrees. Not too bad. After a few laps around the campsites, Edda, Annika, and myself rode down to the start line so we could be in the front, since there were no call-ups. We saw other teams doing similar things. Around the start line, we kept warming up, and joined the people lining up once the front spots started getting full. That was when the sick, anxious feeling hit. 

I had missed the pre-ride, so I didn’t really know what the course was like. I overheard another team saying that “the course is really rocky” and that didn’t quell my already-increasing anxiety. I knew that once that race began, I would be fine, but in the time leading up to it, I was starting to feel sick. I also didn’t know how much climbing it would be, but I had heard that each lap was about 1,200 feet of climbing, totalling to about 2,400 feet after the two laps I would be doing. 

And then we were off. I started off in the wrong gear and fell behind immediately. But, on the turn up to the track, there was a bit of a traffic jam and people were crashing into each other. I managed to narrowly avoid this, and pulled ahead of a good amount of people. Once I got out of the more crowded parts of the track, I could go faster more easily, which is exactly what I did. Beforehand, Edda had told me that “Races are like practices, but just the sprinting part,” so I set a decent pace that I anticipated that I could keep at most times. Spoiler alert: There were definitely times that I did not keep this pace. However, most of the time, I did, which I was proud of. The first lap went by pretty uneventfully, but there was a steep downhill switchback. Not a fan of those. Throughout the trail, there were adults cheering you on, and towards the end, some kids from the other schools. It was really nice to see people lifting each other up, even if they were on different teams. I passed the Feed Zone, but didn’t stop, because I thought it would take too much time, and there was someone about a minute behind me. Once again, this was probably a mistake, because I did stop and take out my water bottle about a mile into the second lap, and she passed me. The rest of the second lap was similar to the first, but I never caught up to the person who had passed me. Then again, I did take an outrageous three minute water break, so she did finish a minute or two before me. When I finished, it was really great to be greeted by some of my teammates, who congratulated me on finishing the race. Even though I didn’t place well, I met both of my goals, which was enough for me when I had never raced before and where I didn’t know the course. 

The remainder of the afternoon was spent cheering on my teammates as I watched the freshman boys, sophomore boys, and JV boys take off. I did have to leave early and wasn’t able to see the JV boys finish or the podium, but we did very well in both events, so congratulations to all of my teammates who participated! Wish I could have been there!