At about 10:45am yesterday I decided to line up at the first US Cup of the year, and give the 6 lap race in muddy conditions a shot. I had just pre-ridden a lap of the HC course, and although my arm and side hurt, the pain seemed to be a result of road rash being jostled rather than the sprain. I knew that if it got too bad my team supported the idea of me dropping out, but I also knew that if I could pull off a top 10 finish I would at least earn valuable points which could help my World Cup starting position.
The sky started to open up as we headed to the start line, and I was pretty anxious because I had a hard time warming up/my body didn't feel right. I tried to push the negative thoughts out of my mind though, and when the race started it was the typical shift in focus from what if to full 100% concentration on the task at hand. My start was slow, and by the first long climb I was sitting mid pack, in a field of about 50 women from all over the world. It hurt, and there were crashes, running, slipping out in the mud, and riding around fallen riders. By the end of lap 2 I wanted to quit. Everything felt off, my arm hurt, and I was already working so hard but not yet in the lead group.
Incredibly enthusiastic cheering from Scott (the man behind the concept of Ridebiker) as well as the other awesome SoCal fans kept me going though, and somehow by lap 3 I had made contact with the lead group of 7. This was remarkably encouraging, but as soon as I got up there, Eva Lechner attacked the climb and I lost my grip. Any other day I would have loved to dig deep to respond to the attack, but flat legs and a body struggling to recover meant it wasn't in the cards, and I spent the rest of the race battling for the last spot in the top 10 with Lea Davidson and Kate Courtney.
I ended up crossing the line in 10th, and although this isn't my best result in a while, I am more proud of it. I don't necessarily consider myself adept at handling hardship and adversity, but this test of my ability to push through despite the pain, the discomfort and the flat legs, and to achieve the goal I set myself for the race was pretty meaningful in the end. I would have much rather been healthy and in 1 piece with no massive holes in my body or sprained joints, but despite all this I stuck it out and saw it through. Heck, even having the nerve to line up at the start took a lot of courage.
Overall this race was one heck of an experience. The slick mud on the course, the rain and cold, the huge international field and the slippery off camber descents along with the issues going on in my body made it one for the record books.
Today, Sunday, I am doing my best to recover. My legs have never been so sore after a race before (prob because my body is working at repairing skin and sprains, so my muscles are taking a back seat), and even my hour recovery spin was difficult. Soon the road rash will be a scab, then a scar and the bruising and swelling in my elbow will be gone, and all I can hope for is to come back at it swinging at Sea Otter next weekend! Until then, a nap :)
Oh and if you want some more, here is a video highlight reel of the race!
All Photos in this post are courtesy of Bryant Mena, who was killing it out there with the race photography yesterday!