Monday, July 20, 2015

So I Finally Had the Guts to Race at Nationals

This past weekend marks my first ever elite level national championships experience. Despite a kinda bumpy road over the past year to get here, I think things worked out pretty well, and by pretty well I mean I am over the moon happy to be where I am today! 

The probably too long version of how the race played out:
Start of the XC race, I'm to the left of Lea Davidson in the red. 
I was a basket case before this race, kinda blew my warm up, and had to work really hard to find some focus and calm as I sat on the far right side of the front row waiting for the start. When the gun finally went off all the stuff in my head immediately went out the window, it was time to suffer like a dog for 90 minutes.

I had a great start and hit the singletrack in 6th place behind 2014 national champion Lea Davidson. The pace was surprisingly easy up the climb on lap one, so I relaxed and enjoyed not being in the hurt locker because I knew that was coming.

The course consisted of a mellow-ish climb broken up into flatter portions on singletrack and steep painful portions on fire road taking you from 8,300 to 8,800 ft followed by a fun, twisty, technical descent. I was elated at the end of lap one to have stayed with the lead group all the way through to the bottom of the descent. I spent a good deal of the early season being dropped on descents in races, so keeping up with Georgia Gould down Shotgun (the really technical part of the descent) was very exciting. 

The remaining 4 laps were an exercise in exploring the pain cave. This is how pretty much every lap played out: Erin, Chloe, and Rose lead to the final painful steep part of the climb, Erin and Chloe start attacking each other at the top, Larissa gets popped off the lead group and rides like a crazy person down the hill to try and catch back up. 

By lap 4 I was off the lead group of three for good and starting to loose motivation/ having those thoughts that if Georgia (who was 20 seconds behind me) caught me I would be ok with that. At the top of the climb I glanced back and saw a flash of red charging up the climb, Lea was in hot pursuit! If two riders passed me it would push me out of the top 5. This was all the motivation I needed to absolutely destroy myself for 20 more minutes to maintain my position! 

On the last lap I focused on not blowing myself up too early while still riding hard enough to stay away from Georgia and Lea, and then at the very top I stood up and absolutely railed everything my legs could give to the start of the descent. At the bottom I was alone and crossed the line in 4th place. 

I'm proud to have finished Nats in the top 5, especially with all the doubt in my head and nerves at the start. I owe pretty much all the credit to the team of people around me, cleaning and maintaining my bike, feeding me, giving me advice, reminding me to calm down, cheering for me and encouraging me to keep pushing, without this team and the support Ridebiker Alliance has provided me I would not be able to perform at this level. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is seriously the dream I described to Brendan every night last year as I lay in bed. It's still kinda hard to believe that dream is a reality now. 

Thanks to everyone else who played a part in getting me to the finish line. Thanks for cheering, especially Cyrus Hembree because you made my day both in Mammoth and Colorado Springs :) Thanks Kappius Components again, I know getting me those wheels wasn't easy, but what would I do without them?! Thanks Cannondale Bicycles for giving me the opportunity to CHOOSE which bike I race on any given course, and to Damio and Don for keeping them running flawlessly. Thanks Kenda tires for making a tire that could handle the kitty litter scree of Mammoth so well, and not get sliced open on all the sharp things out there! Thanks Adam and Brendan for the feeds and for keeping me focused and centered, and to coach Matt for all the work you did to prepare me for this week over the past year. Thanks GU Energy Labs for providing me with the nutrition I need to perform while riding bikes fast, and to Crank Brothers for not only supporting me in general, but for making awesome pedals that just freaking rock! Thanks Sugoi Apparel for the sweet kits (I had a lot of doubt about creating my own kit, but I'm so stoked with how it turned out!), and Steve Blick for surprising me with the coolest looking/feeling new sunnies just before the race! 

How can I thank everyone who supports me enough? I feel like I can't, but just know that when I smile, either in a race or on a ride, it's because all these amazing people believe in me and that feeling is the best feeling in the world.