Susan A. CRUSHED the first mountain bike race of the year….all 60 miles of it and landed on the podium. Even after racing 60 miles, she still supported her other teammate doing the 30 mile race. Truly inspiring ride for the day.
I was undecided; race 30 miles or race 60 miles, after all the last time I raced 60 miles, let alone rode 60 miles on my mountain bike was two years ago. Then I read a Facebook post made by Vera, “to live every day and enjoy everything you have”. So the 60-miler was it, heck why not! Saturday was shaping up to be a beautiful day and as it got closer, I started to get nervous…what was I thinking signing up for this? I am not in the right kind of shape…I have no clue how to race this kind of event. But I reminded myself that life is about living and to believe in myself.
The morning of the race, I got a text message from Rachel saying that she was going to be at the race supporting her boyfriend and that if I needed anything to let her know. I was planning on going with the flow and if necessary using neutral support, however having her there for feeding and moral support gave me a huge sense of relief. I did a 15 minute warm-up with a few hard efforts, then headed over to the start-line. I was nervous yet calm, as I knew the effort wasn’t going to be all out from the start.
The start was on a gradual uphill paved road for about 250 meters before we hit the singletrack. The whistle blows and Cristienne Beam (Tough Girls/SCOTT) takes off like she was shot out of a cannon. Holy crap! I quickly joined her, because I wasn’t going to let her get away. The pace was high and the two of us were caught by Laura (unattached). We found ourselves pulling away from the rest of the group. I guess was wrong about the pace!
After a few miles, I found myself in the lead and pulling away from the other two racers. I thought: Am I going too fast? Am I going to bonk? I had no clue what to do or what to expect. I chose to go with it and just see what happens. I had about two miles left of the ten mile lap and I was still in the lead. I thought well, okay, let’s do this one lap at a time. The goal for the first lap was to cross the lap line in first place. I did just that for first lap and then the next three as well. I felt great for the first 30 miles, I was riding strong and technically sound, but I really wasn’t sure what so do, how fast should I go or not go? I had no one in my group to chase down.
To keep my speed up, I started focusing on men in front of me and trying to catch them and repeating the mantra “out of sight out of mind”. At times, I would catch my mind wondering, thinking about all kinds of stupid things and not the task at hand, but I quickly realized it and redirected them. I tried to focus on positive thoughts, like I am strong, I am good at endurance events, I know how to ride my bike. But I also, had keep my skills dialed in by reminding myself to keep my chin up, look where I want to go, keep my grip loose, etc.
The course had several punchy climbs, a few short climbs, but mostly it was twisty-turny with loose gravel on top of hard-packed dirt. It is easy to go too fast and find yourself off the trail wrapped around a tree or headed down a ravine. While the course isn’t technical in the sense of big of rocks, drops and tree roots, it does require skill and the ability to control the bike at higher speeds to prevent crashing when going fast into a corner. It is mostly about tire pressure, weight distribution and finding the right amount of speed to go fast and stay upright.
Around mile 42, I started to get tired and found myself looking behind me a lot to gauge where the other racers where. Going thought the feed zone and approaching the beginning a lap five, Rachel said, “I think you are in first”, I said.” yes, I am”, but I knew my lead was about to be challenged. I tried to keep pushing it, but eventually I was caught and she said “wow, I thought I was never going to see you again” and then said, “ keep it rolling, there are a few close behind”… I was tired and speechless, but appreciated the encouragement. I stayed with her for a bit, but was starting to make several mistakes, almost crashing a few times. Although I surprised myself that I was able to make the save each time, and keep from crashing. I backed it off a little, otherwise I was going end up off my bike in the dirt. While it is frustrating to lead a race for two-thirds of it and end up in second place, I am very proud of myself and what I accomplished, both mentally and physically that day. I took a chance, relished the moment and had a successful outcome and that IS living.