Tuesday, May 1, 2018

I Guess I Just like 5th Place: Whiskey 50 Thoughts

There is a loose, steep 1 mile long climb near the end of the EpicRides Whiskey off Road named 'Cramp Hill'. It always seemed tongue in cheek, like a problem the amatures would have... until I found myself in my 44 tooth cog crawling up the rocks, being ever so careful not to set off the cramps in my quads and hammies on Sunday. The threat of my muscles seizing up and screaming in pain stalked me for the last 10 miles of the race, as I desperately fought with every ounce of my will to maintain my 5th place position. Sofia was hot on my heels and there was no room for errors or cramps to slow me down!

Boy building bikes. 
The race really started on Wednesday night when Brendan and I stared building my 2018 Felt Edict. I didn't really know I was racing until about Wednesday afternoon, so it's an understatement to say it was a stressful week. We left Orange County at 10pm Thursday night with the bike still not finished... but that's another story for another time.

Proof I was with the leaders for at least one lap :)

Friday evening the Professionals are required to do a 20 minutes + 3 laps fat tire crit to determine call ups for the big event on Sunday. This is the part of the weekend that scared me the most, since I hadn't raced a crit in 2 years, and lining up with so many ladies who race the short, intensely fast xc and short track races meant it was going to be WAY out of my comfort zone. Somehow though I finished the crit on the podium... much to my surprise. It was a huge confidence boost to find myself with the lead group on lap 3 and 4, climbing the ridiculously steep hill with Annika Langvad, Chloe and Erin, it was pretty cool.

On Sunday morning I knocked out my warm up and hit the start line smiling, feeling ready and excited to suffer/shred bikes on rad trails. After all the cowboys in Prescott fired their rifles (and I bit my tongue to not make a corny joke about getting shot) we rolled out of town, 40 women all hoping to land a spot on the podium, big check in hand. The group stayed together for the 8 mile fire road climb, but right after I got the nerve to tell (my herione) Kate Courtney that I liked the article she wrote for EllaCyclingTips on body image she launched a savage attack, splitting the group in two. Although my first reaction was to try and go with the 4 leaders, I quickly realized I COULD NOT ride that fast, and considering the race was around an elevation of 6,000 ft, I had to be smart about pacing.
Ok, ok, I know, taking pictures during races is no bueno, but THAT IS THE WORLD CHAMP!!!! #starstruck
After briefly settling into the chase group pace I accidentally rode off the front and found myself alone by the first big descent. On the way to said descent the course took us down a trail with a series of crazy fun drops and it was thrilling to launch the Edict over them with wreckless abandon. I am already dying to go back and ride that trail some day, it was insanely fun! Somewhere around here I started to question if I should continue solo or wait for the riders behind me (so we could work together on the long fire road descent into and out of Skull valley) I dropped down into Copper Creek contemplating my options, descending cautiously enough, but letting the Edict float over waterbars ad having fun pushing into turns.

As I began the climb out of Copper Creek I looked up from my Clifbloks and saw Kate! She must have had a mechanical or something, but then I looked up further and saw the LEADERS!!! WHAAAAA How was I within sight of Anneka, Chloe, and Erin!? This was motivating! Maybe too motivating, because I proceeded to blow myself up on that climb trying to catch the world champion and the two fastest American World Cup Racers (for proof check my QOM on Strava haha)
At the top, when we hit aid station #1 I was 30 seconds back, the top 3 ahead of me, getting to work together on the descent, which had a HUGE head wind) and Kate just behind me struggling to get her tire to hold air. I was in the WORST position possible.

Photo: Bill Freeman the light God
So I did the only thing I could do, I dropped into Skull Valley alone, pushing hard the whole time into the headwind that made the descent feel more like a climb. At the turn around I was able to gauge my advantage on everyone behind me, and then focused on maintaining (an unattainable) pace for the hour long climb out. The first half went ok, then the power started to slip, then it slipped some more. When Kate caught me I made a valiant effort to pull her closer to the leaders (who, btw were still just 30 seconds up the road from me) but I blew myself up even harder, and when I pulled over she shot past me, not even willing to let me sit in for a second.

My pace dropped more and more over the course of the climb, but looking back I was reasonably sure I had a buffer, and once we got to the top I could coast in for 5th. At the top though I looked back once more and saw TWO WOMEN headed up the fire road in hot pursuit! PANIC ensued. The only option was to #sendit, sage advice I got from the fanny pack of Luke, a kid on the Laguna MTB team, down every inch of the descent and destroy myself on every climb.

And that led me to cramp hill, where I proceeded to lay down the hammer and emptied every last drop of effort I was capable of. I could still see the two ladies chasing me on cramp hill, but I decided to not look back again until the pavement and focused every ounce of my attention on slaying the last fun, techy, rocky, jumpy trail on the course. The Edict ate up the technical trail, we floated over rocks, hucked drops and thrashed turns. I felt like a Goddamn shredder, although I was entirely spent and cramps were sneaking in on every part of my body, it was the most gratifying end to any race I've ever done. When I hit the road for the last 5 mile stretch into town there was only a rando dude behind me, #sendit had worked!
I'm so stoked I could float away on the wind with this huge piece of foam core!
This year's edition of the Whiskey was one for the books, for many reasons, but mostly for the intense pain I was lucky enough to endure, and the resulting pride I was able to take away from having fought the hardest I've ever fought for a result. Standing on that podium, the epic wind doing everything it could to rip my big check from my hands, I think I felt 10 times more joy than any of the 4 ladies who finished ahead of me. What a day, what a whilrwind weekend, what an EPIC race.

Then I jumped off the podium, ate the best burger of my life at Bill's Grill, and we drove straight home, arriving by 9pm, bedtime.

Black and blue buffalo burger = why I am going to move to Prescott. 


  1. Awesome read... I enjoy your writing almost as much as I enjoy watching you win.

  2. I love everything in this post. Actually I am searching a bit about this and also will be grateful if anyone let me know about the famous lighting raceway NJMP