This weekend was Round 7 of the GNCC series in Somerset, Pennsylvania. The Geico Mountain Ridge track has been known for it’s treacherous rock gardens. We drove into the track knowing this could be the weekend we do really well. I’ve raced 2 of the 6 rounds so far this year and had rough finishes due to machine issues. I know I have the speed to stay with the leaders of my class and finish in the top 3 at least.
We got to the track late Friday night and didn’t get to bed until midnight….a BIG no no for a night before a race. Needless to say I slept decent and was ready at 7AM when the alarm went off. This was the day I was going to finish. I dedicated riding this race to my best friend who passed away 8 years ago this month when we were 16. The pressure was on to do well. Not just for me, for her too.
I went and registered, went through Tech Inspection…everything was great! 9AM came and it was time to get geared up. As I put on my jersey, I seen the back…I had put stickers on it Friday night showing my dedication. “In Loving Memory…SLM…5/8/01…This Rides For You!” It’s for her this weekend, not me, I thought. I can do this.
As I went outside of the camper to take my quad to the starting line, I saw my husband, Nick, and our friend, Shawn, working on my quad. I must have looked as if I had seen a ghost…my seat and rear fenders off the quad, my battery torn apart…what the heck happened in the 20 minutes I had taken to get dressed? Thirty minutes before we’re set to start racing, my spark plug cap and coil…changed, fuel line…changed, battery voltage regulator…taken off and cleaned. I swear this quad was ready to go last night, no issues.
By 9:45, I was on the quad and heading to the line for the 10AM start. I must say I have the most AMAZING (not to mention supportive) husband ever. He rides the afternoon class, he has enough to worry about with his quad, but always makes sure I’m 100% before letting me go. I had to line up on the end…if I didn’t get a great start I’d be pushed into the outside of the corner…another set back to the morning. No biggie, this is the day I’m set to rock.
I said my prayers, got the pats, hugs and shakes from friends and fellow competitors. It’s race time now. The announcers screams “TENNNN SECONDSSS” into the microphone and I know it’s time to go. The green flag waves, I start and am off the line. In the first corner I’m 4th, my best start ever! Before getting into the woods I was able to pass another rider putting me into third…right where I want to be. I plan on pacing myself the first lap, learning the track and hitting the next laps hard.
Does anything ever go as planned? I fell victim to a rock/tree combo three miles into the 12 mile track. This weekend I was using my thumb throttle. I usually use a twist like the dirt bikes have. Mark this in the book for why you use a twist and not a thumb throttle. I clipped a rock which sent me into a tree, jamming my handlebar back into the right side of my body. My thumb throttle jammed my thumb so fast I instantly thought, I just broke my finger. I sat there taking off my glove and watched every girl in my class go by. How could this be happening? This was my race to win, my race for her.
My hand was already starting to swell by the time I got my glove off. For an instant I thought I was done..then I remembered, I’m a Pretty Tough chick. Broken finger, so what?! Maybe it’s just sprained! I got off the quad and pushed it back out of the tree with my left hand and body….got back on and started riding again. I could barely push the gas with my hand, let alone my thumb. What a long race this was going to be. Am I even going to be able to finish? I have to finish. This race is so important.
I rode, steady, not over my head, and came to the scoring barrels of my first lap. I saw Nick waiting and was so relieved. I pulled over, yelled “I think I broke my thumb!” threw my goggles at him and went back out. Lord only knows what he was thinking! I was 10th my first lap of 11 girls. Hey, not last, right?! Wrong. I’m not happy with that. I rode as hard as I could with the pain, coasting down hills, resting my right hand as much as I could. 2nd lap…still 10th.
I started my third lap thinking I was probably going to finish 10th. Then, I saw her…a rider in my class. She gave me a renewed strength to pass her. I quickly got by her to my surprise and I kept trucking. I figured I’d be lapped by the leaders of the race and this would be my last lap. I had 10 more miles to pick up spots. Hey, there’s another girl…wow, this pacing myself with a limp hand was working. End of the third lap I had moved up to 7th…with one more lap to go.
Now I know I’m on my true last lap. If I kept this up who knows how I could finish. I obviously was spent after that 3rd lap because when I hit the rock garden a little past the half way point of my 4th lap, I was toast. I no longer could hold on, I couldn’t push the throttle. Me riding became a huge effort in just staying on the quad. The girls I passed in the fast part of the track had now caught up to me, as I was going much slower now than before. My hand was blistered and cut from not wearing a glove, bruised from hitting the tree the first lap. I just wanted to cry…this was supposed to be the best race so far.
…And it was. I finished that 4th lap, never giving up, using my palm beneath my pinky finger to push my throttle that last half lap. And to my surprise, I only lost 1 place, finishing 8th. It totally kills me to know 5th place finished only 2 minutes ahead of me. I finished all 4 laps the leader of my class did. With a healthy me and a healthy machine, I could potentially be a contender for the championship in this class.
I spent the rest of Saturday icing a swollen thumb and hand, knowing it could potentially be broken. Sunday morning I woke up at the track ready to watch the bikes race, barely able to move my thumb. I guess I’m going to have to make a doctor’s appointment to get this checked out.
This weekend was totally about being nothing but Pretty Tough through the pain. And for Sheri, God speed my angel, I hope I made you proud.