Katie has always had an affinity for bikes and dirt. She purchased her first Mountain Bike last winter and managed to get sucked into the Pro category at her first race, read on to see how she faired.
I’m a lover of the bike, the wind in my ears, the calming hum of the chain, and the sizzle of tires on pavement. Do you know what’s not a pretty sound? The sound of the chain slapping your bike as you fly down what appears to be an ever-steeping descent towards your impending doom. She’s over reacting you’d think but in reality I’m on my second lap of the Rocky Mountain Endurance Bear Creek Race and I’m death gripping the bike the whole descent.
It goes without saying that I was in over my head, and I was really glad that head had a helmet because I was about to get my money’s worth out of this Rudy Project helmet. I think this deserves some back-story and a slight indulgence to my fear.
I’ve been cycling for a lot of years and until recently I’ve done my best to keep my bike out of sand, and other things like large rocks. I also tend to avoid large ledges, drop offs, jumps, and anything else that will involve me having to implement the jujitsu tuck and roll. This spring all of that changed, and after seeing that the mountain biking was prime in my area; I could no longer resist purchasing another ride.
Shortly after purchase I found that while I was an a surprisingly good ascender my descent skills left something to be desired. Be it a mental block, or the caveman thoughts in the back of my brain holding me back from my certain death, I just couldn’t get comfortable going downhill. I was fearful that at any moment the bike was going to give way and catapult me into the coyote pits on Green Mountain.
Fast forward to race day. I’ve arrived at the race and I’m talking with a few teammates and one of my friends sidelines me and says ‘There are no other girls signed up for the Pro Category, you could get in the money!’ I went up to the registration tent and begrudgingly switched my registration to PRO. PRO, what the heck was I thinking? As soon as they gave me my number I began to have nothing short of a minor acute panic attack. Did I really just do something this stupid? This is my 10thride and I’m starting in front of the Men’s 19-39 field. Something about this whole situation just got a lot trickier.
By the time I got to the start I was coated in a layer of panic, misery, and not a shred of optimism. I was pretty darn sure I was going to get run over by the wild pack of dogs behind me and if nothing else be a total inconvenience. When the gun went off, I did my best to keep up and hold my line. I felt like a child, learning everything again for the first time. This suddenly felt like my first time on the bike, and I was taking a crash course on not only how to ride this bike, but how to keep it together during a race.
I’d love to say that this race took a sudden turn for awesomeville but, in reality it was a page out of Calvin and Hobbes, and I was doing a lot of ‘character building’ on this course. I’d learn that water is a necessity and not being prepared or having practiced using a bottle on a mountain bike can be a tough learning experience. I would eventually come to learn that at 6’2” a dropper post is a big help on the descents and has added to my confidence when descending. Lastly, I learned that I’m capable of a lot of things; one of them is completing a mountain bike race without completing bashing my body to a pulp. I managed to stay on the bike the whole race and I even managed not to anger too many of the wild dogs behind me.
Mountain biking may not be for everyone but as I reflect on my season, despite how nerve racking and nauseous it made me feel this was a highlight. I got out of my comfort zone, I learned new things, and I also managed to have fun (despite my earlier comments about character building). I highly recommend doing something you’re not 100% sure you can complete, and do something that scares you, you just might find it’s so much more fun than you ever thought it could be.