So, this is my first mountain bike race of the year. Well, ever, really. I had high hopes for this day but knew my fitness was severely lacking. Kept telling myself just go out and ride your ride, if it turns out to be a race for last place then it’s still a good day. There were three people that had signed up, as much as I should be thankful to be out riding, I still want to win. I got pre-ride the course which gave me more confidence. Thank you Julie. I needed her direction, pointers and wanted the good company. After we did, I now felt the self-imposed need to get on the podium. There are potentially only going to be 4 of us so I had a decent chance.
Sunday morning. I didn’t really sleep well the night before. I kept playing the race that hadn’t happened yet over and over in my mind. My wants had grown into an obsession. I was trying to form strategies with myself for an event that I’ve never done. So, what I came up with was be the first one in and pedal like hell to stay there. I only had to go 8.2 miles, I can do that. So, I had made up my mind that is how I am going to approach this race.
I arrive at the registration area and the first person I see is an USAC official and she tells me was “I don’t know what race you are racing, but there are a BUNCH of really fast Cat 3’s signed up for this race.” For that second I almost felt like I had been punched in the gut, I actually had confidence that I had a chance to do well today, a chance to step up on the third place podium. My mind started swimming, but I put on my smile and said I was so glad to see so many women out racing. I proceeded to register for my race. It didn’t take me but a few minutes to come out of it. I knew if I didn’t get out of my head I wouldn’t be able to perform. So, I went back to my rookie strategy. Be the first one in and pedal like hell.
Now registration is complete, my bike is prepped and I’m as ready as I’m going to be. I do some warming up and make my way to the staging area. Still not knowing just how many a ‘bunch’ is, I decided not to care. I tried to have friendly conversations, but I was still freaking out a little. Our time was up, it was time to race, and there ended up being 7 of us. Not the ‘bunch’ I had psyched myself out to believe but enough. Now I had to come in ahead of 4 others to step up on the podium. The whistle sounded and we were off, I was able to position myself to be the first one in. First part of my strategy complete. Now I have to stay there. I rounded the first corner where there was a junior that had fallen over trying to negotiate with a log and lost. I fell right into him. Nowhere in any of my scenarios did this take part. So, there’s crash number one. No injuries yet, but I’ll get to that later. I was up and off again. Completely unaware of what or who was around me except the trail and trees immediately in front of me. I’m pedaling like hell. Second part of my strategy was in full swing. I’m about 15 minutes in and realize I’m breathing so hard I’m starting to get dizzy. At this point I don’t hear anyone behind me. I finally snapped myself back into the world or maybe I was brought back into the greater present knew if I didn’t slow down a little I was going to fall over. So, Im barely into what I thought was an 8 mile race and my fingers are starting to tingle. So I sit down and just pedal. I calm myself and then go again. Telling myself out loud just ride your ride. You would have thought I was riding some ultra marathon and had to pace myself for the next several hours, not minutes. This time not pedaling like hell but trying to stay consistent. I still don’t want to be caught. At this point I’m by myself so I just go. I finally found a groove and relaxed a little. Until rounding a corner when I see spectators cheering me on, I look at them for a second and BAM there was a tree just waiting and it successfully dismounted me. I never even saw it until I hit it, but I hop back on my bike and I’m on my way. The rest of the race went pretty well, once I settled into it. I was able to power through the rocky parts, which each one gave me a little more confidence.
I glanced down at my garmin for the first time since the start of the race and I had gone 4 miles. I told myself “okay your halfway there, you can do this.” Then glanced at it a couple more times. When I hit 7 miles in and still hadn’t seen any other ladies I told myself “you may have a chance, you only have 1.2 miles to go” then a very few short seconds later I saw a spectator he yelled “good job only 2.5 miles to go!” I was like WHAT? Are you sure, no way. I said out loud “how far?” because I was sure I didn’t hear him correctly and he repeated 2.5 miles to go. Ok, I got this, let’s go. I’ve ridden these trails longer than 9.25 miles many times, this is just another day, but I was starting to breathe really hard again. Most of the hard sections were behind me, I just needed to maintain on the uphill and keep my speed on the downhill. I can do this.
I will never forget the feeling of popping out of the woods headed for the finish line. It was the first time I had looked behind me because I didn’t know if I needed to start pedaling like hell again, but I didn’t see anyone and I must say I was really relieved. I see Julie and Amy B. ahead. I was so excited and couldn’t believe it. I made it through, I did it. I made it to the podium. Thank you Wyco, thank you Julie for the coaching and pointers, thank you Amy B., Julie, James and Zach for being there for me at the finish line. It is a small victory but huge for me.
Now for the injury report. I made it through the race pretty much unscathed with the exception of the couple mishaps at the beginning. My only injury came as I was stepping up on the podium. I stepped towards the back only for it to tip which resulted in me stumbling off. Yes, I fell of the podium. So, I won’t be remembered as the one that won the women’s cat 3 race, I will go down in history as the one that fell off the podium. Hey, at least my name is out there .