Vicki enjoys the afternoon sunlight.

Vicki enjoys the afternoon Hill Country sunlight.

Although at the time I felt victorious, in retrospect I don’t think the mad dash from sidewalk to gate A6 early last Thursday morning boded well for the weekend in Austin, Texas, where I was headed for the Mellow Johnny’s classic and the start of the 2013 Pro XCT series. My brief triumph of the Albuquerque Sunport involved an opening-the-wallet-at-security-oh-crap-WHERE-IS-MY-I.D. moment, when I suddenly flashed back to my mad dash of a Wednesday the day before, when I had done a 6 am start to the workday, followed by a two-hour road ride with Get Out!, followed by teaching a 7pm spin class during which I nonchalantly tossed my jersey, driver’s license still in the pocket, onto my bag in the corner, followed by a sprint home to catch the second half of the Lobo men’s basketball game while I packed up, did laundry (contents of bag into machine), and printed out my boarding pass (duh, check the wallet!) before collapsing into bed.

Luckily, my housemate didn’t mind reaching into the laundry when I called him in a panic at 6:49am, and luckier still my husband Jeremy answered the phone and then drove like a (perfectly law-abiding) racecar driver to get back to me, standing at the curb, arm outstretched, ready to sprint like a 200m medalist all the way to security, through security (saying “sorry, missing my flight, sorry” all the way, of course), to the gate, and BAM! onto the gang way right as the last passenger in front of me stepped onto the plane. I tried not to do a touchdown victory dance, and no one onboard seemed particularly aware of my big win, so I just settled into my seat and fell asleep despite the morning’s quad-shot cappuccino already well-absorbed into my bloodstream.

Vicki is our British teammate (we are relieved to find she really likes coffee).

Vicki is our British teammate (we are relieved to find she really likes coffee). Photo by Dave MacElwaine.

So with a start like that, I felt a bit surprised to completely miss my next flight: specifically, the start loop drag race that commenced at 11:45 am on Saturday, March 2, at the Mellow Johnny’s classic. It felt like that bad dream where everyone else is racing their bikes and you are still struggling to get your shorts on. Hey, wait! Are we racing already?? Well, on the bright side, when you start that bad there aren’t any places to fall back into, so if you are going to move, it has to be up. The race had that pleasant feeling of steadily increasing speed, instead of steadily going backwards, which is easy to do at mountain bike races when you manage to start as fast as you are supposed to. And starting at the back let me feel a little more relaxed during the inevitable hey-I’m-going-to-fall-off-this-ledge-onto-your-head racer maneuver that is also fairly common in the first lap of a mountain bike race. It’s probably better to be the one being fallen on, and I appreciated being given the opportunity to catch her like a real Texas swing dancer. It was fun. I never did get to be the boy in those dance lessons, and I remember having many of the same doubts at my partner’s ability to catch me that were undoubtedly running through this racer’s mind. “It’s OK! Get UP!” I said, with an uncanny feeling that someone had said the same thing to me in a race before.

Vicki rockin' the ledges

Vicki rockin’ the ledges. Sweet photo by Dave MacElwaine.

Nina, well, not rockin' it so much, but smiling nonetheless.

Nina, well, not rockin’ it so much, but smiling nonetheless. Photo Courtesy of Dave MacElwaine

It’s good to get the first real XC start of the season over with, and while I’m not real happy with how I did, at least I kept pushing throughout most of the race. And I have a ton of notes on what to do better next time. The most crucial thing is probably just to keep the travel from distracting me from the job I am traveling somewhere to do. I was really off my game last weekend and can think of quite a few things to change for next time, starting with sticking to the routine that usually works best (and might not involve early morning flights after a tough week at work!). The day before the race was a tough day, too, and I just wasn’t able to get everything dialed that I needed to have dialed. Even worse, I really botched my warmup on Saturday morning by starting it late and not doing enough. All of these things are easy to fix, and it’s nice to know that the next race is quickly approaching to give me another chance. It was also very nice to race with equipment that operated flawlessly on the tight and rocky Texas Hill Country singletrack. My Scalpel 29er was a perfect ride for the course, and I had the perfect tire pressure for my NoTubes Gold wheels and their favorite Kenda Kozmik Lites to grip that dirt like mad. No problems there.

Nina tries to catch up

Nina tries to catch up. Photo by Dave MacElwaine.

Plus it was a beautiful day. What more can I ask for? Oh, maybe an espresso stop somewhere in the mega-cool town of Austin next time… and cute puppies at all future host houses, please. Huge thanks to Kenny’s sister Tamara, George, and Kona for the very great place to stay.