Being patient is so so hard. It’s so hard to be here with all these other crazy fast American girls and not compare myself to them, to not think I should be performing as well as they are. It's easy to forget that this is a process and they were all in my place at one point, that they have up to 10 years more experience racing at this level than me. It’s hard to be content with a mid-pack result and forget that this is my first year racing in Europe and my first world championships. When you are crazy competitive it’s also hard to finish any race mid pack and to forget that mid pack in World Championships is mid-pack among the very best in the world… which is really kinda cool.
|SO exciting to realize this part of the dream!|
So although I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed with my finish yesterday, I’m going to try as hard as I can to focus on the positives from the day, and to learn from the things that went wrong.
At 2pm I rolled out the door of the hotel for the 15 minute spin to the venue. It was quite on the way over, warm and a bit humid. I decided early in the day to savor every minute, from kitting up, to my warm up, to the agony of the steep climbs on the course. My warm up was pretty spot on, and I even hit my max heart rate on my second all out minute interval, which felt really really good. Then we went to the ‘boxes’ where you wait to line up and there were TONS of fans lining the fence taking pictures and wishing us good luck, which made me feel really freaking legit. At the line I was pretty calm (almost spooky calm), not nervous at all, just really really excited to be there.
And then we were charging down the paved road out of the stadium! Being calm helped so much for the start because I was just in the zone, focused 100% on what was ahead of me and on the gas. There was an epic crash just to my left but I stayed collected, swung around it, and kept charging. The start was fast, but my legs felt good and as we entered the fire road climb on the start lap I was encouraged to see the front of the race (like the leaders) clearly, just ahead of me. I pushed up, and held decent position through the fire road descent and second climb into the first singletrack. By the end of the start lap I was in the late 20’s and somehow I would maintain that position through lap 1, crossing the line in 28th (I think).
|A very blury screen capture from the Redbull.tv footage of my 'Oh shit' face when the crash happened at the start sent to me by Danny Stuart!|
The actual laps were rough though. Because the course dried out before the U23 men’s race in the morning there were bigger ruts between the roots than there had been in training all week and I got bucked around a lot on the descents. I think it was also harder to stay smooth when I was completely gassed from the climbs, heart rate pinned, not seeing straight type of going hard. It was so physically taxing just holding on through the rough rooty down hill sections that I never really got a chance to recover, just pin it up and then hang on for dear life down. I bobbled a lot on the first two real laps, lost spots, and regained them on the climbs.
It was frustrating to loose spots when I lost a pedal, or rode sections poorly, but I was stoked to feel good on the climbs and would easily come around girls every time it pitched up for the first three laps. I felt good, like going hard, but good.
|Dude, not smiling!?!? THIS is how hard I had to concentrate!|
When I crossed the line at the end of lap 2 the announcer mentioned that I always smile when I race, and I was kind of freaking out that they talked about me, how cool is that!?!?!
Then a flip switched in my body and during lap 3 everything started shutting down. It began with noticing my heart rate was 191, high, but not a problem if you’re racing and on a climb. I was still able to push, but I wasn’t passing girls anymore and I actually started to lose places on the flat sections at the tops of climbs, while I gasped for breath trying to recover enough to safey descend. I could tell my descending was costing me time too, but there was nothing I could do but focus on breathing and being as smooth as possible. On the two steepest climbs I felt like I was having a heart attack, and although I wanted to stand and put out power there was no way my heart could take it. By the end of lap 4 I was so shot I was hoping to get pulled, but I wasn’t so lucky (or maybe I was very lucky that I didn’t get pulled :) haha). The last lap was agonizing. I wanted so badly to go hard, but my body was just screaming no. My chest and lungs were on fire and my legs could barely turn the pedals in circles.
|Strugging, but the cheering, in this spot from Bernard and Blick, still made me smile! Plus LOOK at those trees!!!|
Since only the follow moto was behind me on the last lap (everyone who finished behind me got pulled), and my body was barely functioning I decided to soak it all in and not freak out. The last techy climb, the really steep, rooty one (they were all steep and rooty but this one more than normal), was kinda fun because there were still fans packed along the course tape and they were ALL screaming my name. It was a pretty surreal experience, and when I re-entered the stadium the fans were all leaning over the barrier to give me a high 5 as I rolled in. It didn't matter that I was the last finisher, or that the podium was already happening, all these Czech fans still wanted a high 5 :)
I was pretty disappointed to not finish in the top 30 like I knew was possible on a good day, but I’m still proud to have finished on the lead lap, to have finished at all considering how badly it hurt. Other positives from the day; I set my all time high heart rate, 197 beats per minute, and averaged 189 for the first hour and 20 minutes of the race. I had an awesome start and the feeling of being able to just pass riders like crazy on the first two laps, I want to remember that good feeling :) I also want to remember the feeling of getting more smooth on the descents as the race went on, and starting to jump some of the ledges and rocks as the race progressed because I was loosing up and learning how to ride a bike :)
Overall it was an incredible experience. There were SO many people all over the course just screaming for us. So many of them knew my name, and their encouragement made the climbs so much easier (at least in the beginning). Traveling and staying with Team USA has been one of my all time life goals, so to have been out there on the course in the USA kit was unbelievably cool, if you told me three years ago I would be here today I would not believe you! I’m still learning how to race at the World Cup/Champs level, so this race was a great learning experience and the start was just so good, I want to remember that part always. My first world champs is in the books and I think I savored the experience as much as humanly possible!
I have about a million other thoughts/observations from the day, but I'll save those for another post!