Emily and Brittany escaped to the warmer temperatures of Austin, Texas to compete on the fat tires. They not only came away with new PRs, they also qualified for Leadville! Despite Emily’s illness, she still got 8th female overall! Here’s her recap.
On the morning of March 29th Brittany Jones and I embarked on a 100km mountain bike race in Austin, Texas: The Austin Rattler. Neither Brittany nor I had ever ridden a mountain bike this far before so we were both nervous and wondering if our legs would hold out or if eventually they would just turn into jello. I was especially nervous because in the two weeks before I had had the stomach flu and bronchitis and ridden my bike just once. I had originally planned two weeks of careful tapering but I had opted to just give myself complete rest to see if that would get me better faster. The night before I was still hacking up a lung, but the humid air of Texas seemed to be doing me good and after dosing up on Dayquil, cough drops, and caffeine I felt ready to ride!
The start was slow and crowded as hundreds of eager riders vied for space. I managed to pass a ton of riders and settled into a fast group for the first lap. The riding was very fast; mostly fire road and smooth single track. There was one especially beautiful section where the trail wound through a giant field of blue wild flowers. Most of the riding was non-technical but there was a fun section near the end that was essentially a natural half-pipe. It was really satisfying as a woman to pass lots of men struggling to ride through this technical section!
Each lap was 15.5 miles and after the first lap I realized I had gone out far too fast. I also had been so excited to be flying along I hadn’t spent enough time eating and drinking. I slowed things down a bit for the second lap and tried to drink and eat, although this proved hard because the pace was so fast and the trails were often bumpy and turned frequently, making it hard to eat and drink enough.
During the third lap, around mile 40, I hit the wall. My legs were constantly on the verge of cramping and I felt totally drained. I latched onto a group of faster riders and drafted behind them for the rest of the lap mentally talking myself through every pedal stroke. I stopped at the neutral feed station after the third lap and downed as much food and liquid as I could and took a few salt pills. Feeling a bit reinvigorated I began my final lap. I was totally fried at this point and knew it was a mental game. It was also becoming quite hot and humid as we approached noon, which I wasn’t used to. Plus, after mile 50 every pedal stroke I took was new territory since I’d never ridden more than 50 miles on my mountain bike. This lap was a test of my will power and I had to take all of the technical sections slowly because my legs were feeling so shaky, but I eventually could see the crowded finish line and knew I would complete the race!
My goal before I had been so sick was to finish in under 5 hours, I came in at a time of 5:02. Since I’d been so ill, I had just been hoping to finish and I was really excited that I had come so close to my goal while having bronchitis! I ended up coming in 9th overall for women and 2nd in the 20-29 age group. I actually qualified for the Leadville Race but had to turn it down because I’m starting medical school in Boston just a few days after and the timing didn’t make sense. Plus the idea of riding 40 more miles than I’d just ridden was mildly terrifying. Overall though it was an amazing race. I felt pretty awful after and on the way home I coughed up a bit of blood, which just goes to show I pushed myself to my limits. I’m really glad I did the race and I have all the more respect for endurance mountain bike racers!