As I sit here on the verge of what I HOPE isn’t the flu, I think back to the first cross race of the season. I wasn’t fully aware of the journey I was getting ready to embark on. I had no clue how to train properly and no real goals, other than not coming in last. The past 3 months have made an impact on me that I can’t quite put into words. I’m not the same person I was…and I’ll never go back.
MSG and Mars Hill put on one hell of a suffer fest. I’ve had two weeks off since Louisville and spent most of it working while attempting to stay on top of my training plan. My initial thought on the race was this: “If I can ride Louisville, I can ride anything”. My coach decided to rip into me as he heard me comparing the two. “This course will murder you!” During pre-ride, I understood what he meant.
I’d love to see the elevation profile for this course…crazy steep! I was concerned about my gearing and my lack of bunny hopping skills in the woods, so I opted for the mtb option. Jamie decided to ride hers and offered to let me use it for the Cat 4 race. It goes against everything I personally believe in, but I had to think about my series points and how I could have the upper hand. The mtb was my upper hand.
I took the first (and only) opportunity to pass someone about 2 minutes into the race. We had a fairly long climb right after the start and my mtb gearing allowed me to motor past her. I just had to keep her there…and I haven’t been good at this all season. Once I made it through the woods, I had a chance to have a little fun and recover. The downhill section was SWEEEEEEEET. I knew I had a chance to lengthen the gap, so I pedaled hard and enjoyed the ride.
My heart rate was through the roof and I had vomit chunks in my throat. I honestly didn’t think I could finish the race and was hoping I would black out so I wouldn’t have to. I will not quit a race voluntarily, but at this point I would have been happy with a mechanical. The taste of blood in my mouth was forceful and I just knew my head was going to explode…but it didn’t. And the race went on…
I managed to keep position and finish with two chicks behind me. Nothing special by any means, but I did gain series points in my favor. I’m a sucker for competition.
NCCX State Championship was the following day and I had zero expectations. I was happy the Mars Hill race was behind me and looking forward to a much bigger field in Charlotte. 26 other ladies would be joining me for one of the most enjoyable courses I’ve raced all year. Jeff Welch put on one hell of a show!
I got a shit start and got pushed out of the front group. We immediately hit the run-up (which was steep as hell) and I took the inside. The top was an epic junk show. Chicks and bikes everywhere. I threw my wheel out in front of a small group of girls fumbling around and immediately jumped on my bike. Bug or windshield…it’s your choice.
The course was a fun, twisty and technical roller coaster ride. The sand pit was smooth like a baby’s butt and I busted right through it. There’s no better feeling than riding the sand pit with people cheering all around. The woods were tight and the barriers were FAST. I nearly ate one when I came off the bike a little too hot. Just ask the leader of the men’s Cat 3 how fast the barriers were…haha.
I was feeling pretty good considering how hard I raced at Mars Hill, except for the pain in my left leg. I’ve been having issues with it blowing up and I’m certain it has to do with my fit. It’s OBVIOUSLY off. Anyway, I was riding strong until I ate shit. I came around a fast, off-camber turn and apparently hit a hole. My rear wheel spun around like a top and I flew over the handlebars, twisting both ankles and taking a shifter to my quad. I screamed like the lead singer of Gwar. I just watched all my hard work fly by me like I was sitting still. Oh, that’s right…I WAS sitting still.
I shaved 30 seconds off my last lap because I had to bust ass to get my position back. I played cat-n-mouse for a while and settled in to wait for my big move. As I climbed out of the woods, I saw my mouse drop her head…done deal. I stood up, ripped through my gears and took off. That was the first time I had ever waited patiently to pass someone. Tactics and training actually pay off. I finished 16/27.
I’m stoked again. My hard work is starting to shine through and my strength is improving. I am no longer a “One Lap Wonder”. I can hold threshold for an entire race…what a concept! Granted, I’m a little ole Cat 4 racer, but I’m getting better every race. I could actually be good at this.
My non-cyclist friends often make comments about me being this amazing bike racer. I laugh hysterically because they have no idea. I think it’s sweet they think such great things about my cycling, but I know the truth. I urge them to check out the truly great athletes and have their minds blown. I don’t ever see myself in the ranks of Katie, Katerina or Georgia, but if I can be better than I was last time….that’s winning.