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It's always bittersweet to end a series as fun as the Ascent Cycling series. Throughout the summer, I've been looking forward to 6:15 on Wednesday nights. No matter how crazy the weekend before has been or how hectic the upcoming weekend will be, on Wednesday nights it's been time to race my mountain bike. I've known there will some fast women on the line, plenty of speedy juniors to chase and the possibility that Russel, Cam and the rest of the really speedy local (and national) pros will lap me. I've also known that the course will be well marked and there will be enough volunteers to keep us safe. It's been guaranteed that Ascent Cycling will be there with tool and technical assistance for riders unlucky enough to suffer from mechanicals. There will be families represented - sometimes in every start class - from the junior cat 3 riders out learning how to race to the Cat 1 hammers looking to win. There will be plenty of spectators, with cowbells and heckling, and cheers for all racers. After five races, it's sorry to see all that end. 

In fact, the only question going into the races has been "how will my legs respond?" In the first four races, I was feeling spunky and ready to throw down some fast laps. Not this time. I have to admit - when I pedaled over to the starting line last night, I was worried. It's been a long season and I was feeling every mile from every race. Racing was the last thing I wanted to be doing at that moment in time. Add in the 90 degree temperatures and wow - I wanted to hide in the shade, drink chocolate milk and watch everyone else race! After my warmup, I was feeling a little better, but still... I knew that racing was the last thing I should be doing at that moment. Oh well - I was there, mental ready to go if not physically ready and it was time to ride.

We started in our normal spot behind the juniors. This time, I was in the right gear for the dash off the line into the single track. A good start and I hit the single track first, with a line of purple behind me. Onto the first short descent and little rock garden and my heart felt like it was going to pound out of my chest. It was going to be a long 60 minutes of racing... In the traverse along the lower meadow, and my legs were already in rebellion before I reached the first climb. Wow, it was going to be a really long 60 minutes of racing. Time to just ride my bike, try to reel in the juniors and keep my position in the women's race. And try to hold off Russel and Cam for as long as I could! Succeeded on two of the three goals! Caught a decent number of the juniors and held off a mid-race surge from WMBA single speeder Colleen C. However Cam and Russel both caught me on my third lap - freight training me on technical descent. Once again, hoping I didn't get in the way, I watched the dust clouds disappearing after they passed me. I still finished six laps despite how I felt - and it sounds like I didn't look much better. Everyone said I looked like I was hurting during this race. I haven't been that happy to see the finish line in a really long time.

And the finish line was where the party was at! Chocolate milk courtesy of Royal Crest Dairy proved to be a big hit - with lots of kids, many who racing in the 4:00 start and were proudly wearing series medals, running around with chocolate mike mustaches. I indulged in two ice cold glasses myself - perfect recovery after a hot, hard race! Between the GU snowcones last Bear Creek Race and the chocolate milk this time - Andy has really tried to encourage family participation. Between local races, courses (especially at Bear Creek Terrace) that are beginner friendly, the Ascent Cycling Series is a perfect environmental for all riders. I'm going to miss the fun of racing under the setting sun, in the long shadows and hoping the rains hold off. Next year - we'll be back for more. More fun, more hot laps, more riders duking it out.

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