I believe I left off my last blog in a dingy hotel room right before Windham Race the World. To finish that story, the pre-rides went so well that I went into the race feeling perhaps too confident. I botched the tech section on 3 of the 5 laps, lost a ton of time (and the race leaders), and ended up 5th overall in the pro race. Not a bad result, but my expectations were much higher than that, so 5th left me pretty disappointed… initially. The disappointment stems from knowing that I could race so much better than I did, and that somehow my mind and body refused to cooperate. Like the sociopath that I am, I’m taking it as experience and moving forward without rumination.
WWLAD? He wouldn’t ruminate, that’s for sure. We won’t do the things he would do, ‘cause you never go full sociopath, but we can take a lesson from his utter lack of emotion. Just drive on, driver.
Came home from Windham like an emotionless sociopath (thanks for the inspiration, Lance!) and already looking toward the next race. Since Race the World had been something like 6 or 7 straight weeks of racing and traveling, I decided to skip the XC race at Mountain Creek to recharge a little and get some training in before my #1 target race of the year: Belleayre Mountain. It’s my favorite race; the course is challenging but packs incredible flow with a ton of ugly climbs and screaming fast descents. Pretty much everything I enjoy about mountain biking is at Belleayre. Not only that, but it was one of the first races I won as a Cat 3, and then I won it again as a Cat 1 the following season. I thought it would be rather novel and fun to get 3 wins there in 3 different categories in the 26 months I’ve been racing via a win in the pro race this year. The question was, as it always is: “can I really pull that off?” The motivation was there, and I had been training like a mad person all year, I just had to execute and not screw anything up… which if you’re following me or you’ve seen me, is not an easy task.
So of course I couldn’t sleep the night before at all and off the line I missed my pedal like 3x up the climb that the race starts on. NBD! I’m learning not to panic when I eff things up. I mean, I eff things up so much that I really can’t panic about it anymore, it’s pretty much expected. I just kinda berate myself mentally for a few seconds and then try and recover as best as I can. So skipping my pedal I was thinking “You ******* ****!!!” but I did manage to get it in and then make up for the mistake by full throttling it in front of everyone to get into the singletrack first. Glad these things start on long dirt roads!!
I go into ST and there’s one hanger-on, and she’s not going anywhere, she’s fast and ferocious, not dropping off… and I’m having an asthmatic episode from going over redline to gain back the time I lost during the pedal incident. Trouble. I’ve had these breathing issues before, and really the only way to get the lungs to start cooperating again once the asthmatic gasping starts is to take things down from level 15 (out of 10) to level 5, but this wasn’t currently an option unless I wanted to get passed… and I was not going to lose this race. So I just suffered and gasped and suffered more until the first descent section, where I was unfortunately stuck behind two dudes who were not as ballsy as I would have preferred descending, but I did get a little gap on the chick behind me, and then furthered it by passing aforementioned dudes. And I was able to use the DH to recover my lungs a little, brought things down to level 8/9 coming out of it, and then continued to lengthen the gap.
Coming into that same section on the next lap, I full-throttled it. I mean, full on death speed. IDGAF speed!! It felt amazing to be able to do that, I’ve been working on descending a lot and I could feel the work paying me some dividends during the race. It helped me open up a greater gap and eventually win by 4 minutes.
I’m only a sociopath when I lose. When I win, it is so heart-wrenching to me that I am almost embarrassed by the emotion I feel. I usually go in my car until I get through it, so nobody has to awkwardly witness these outbursts. Why get emotional? I think it’s because I really break myself in two for this bike racing thing. I train relentlessly, I don’t eat anything fun, I drink disgusting weight gainer shakes every day, I don’t drink alcohol ever, I don’t go out, I don’t see friends, I’m losing my toenails (update since this was written: both big toenails have fallen off now)… I live like a hermit and then when all of that results in a great race performance, my heart explodes; I don’t even know how to emotionally handle it. Belleayre was no different. I wanted it so bad and it happened. It really happened.
So I had a beer!!
I mean, it’s the end of the season, right? EFF IT. I had a beer and a half.
It was good AF too.
And after a long season of getting my head kicked in by all these fast women and training and depriving myself, I got to stand on the top step of a pro podium. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled bigger. Starting the season with a top step, closing it out with one. Full,beautiful circles.
On the drive home, I ate a king-sized KitKat.
Next race: Fair Hill, the MASS Series final and my last XC race of the season. Someone pointed out to me that I was leading the series overall by a couple hundred points. Sure, I didn’t notice that, LOL. That’s cool….. I didn’t really expect it to stick, because they almost always drop one or two races in a series, but the site was a little confusing because a few of the races had been cancelled; it said they were counting 7 races. The woman in 2nd place had won every race she did, but hadn’t done enough races, which technically put me at a higher overall score than her. Can XC racing really be that unfair? I mean, she quite clearly deserved the series overall. I felt that I would be a **** to win the series just for having done one more race than she did… but that said, it was exciting to see myself in 1st and it would have been sick to win that series. It’s the most competitive series around, has the largest fields and the fastest courses. Who wouldn’t want to win that? I tried not to have any expectations and to assume that they would adjust the points accordingly, but a small part of me did hope that I could get the W overall, even knowing it would be totally unfair. LOL! Human nature is whack.
So I went into the race thinking I’d just race a very clean, easy race. It was a long one, 28mi, and I wanted to make sure I finished without issue so I wouldn’t screw up any series overall standing — whether it was 1st or 2nd, a DNF wouldn’t help the cause. We took off the line on a long, fast dirt road prologue and, while it was fast, those dirt road efforts don’t feel like much to me (as long as I don’t skip my pedal on an uphill) since I spend so much time on a road bike. I could ride dirt roads at that speed forever, so instead of pacelining with the rest of the women, I kinda hung out on the other side of the road so that I could make sure I didn’t get caught behind anything stupid and that I could maintain my own cadence and speed efficiently. I find it exhausting to slow down and accelerate with a crowd. When it was time to go into the ST, I ducked back into the line in 4th position, with nobody behind me; the four of us had dropped everyone else. Once again, hanging with the lead group, so obviously it was only a matter of time before I did something dumb to lose them.
And then I crashed. On my face. LOL!! Sigh. Goodbye, lead group!
After that, I just rode fun endurance pace alone. I had brought music with me knowing the race would be a long one and I’d probably be solo for most of it, so I popped one of the headphones in (always leave one ear open so you’re not that ***hole), vibed out and had a good time riding some awesome trails.
Somewhere during that 28mi I passed one of the girls ahead of me as she was standing on the side of the trail. I asked her if she needed CO2 or anything, but she said no and I moved on. Wasn’t sure what was going on with her, but OK, now I was higher up in the order. That’s coo…..
I paced myself until my computer said that I should have around 2mi to go and then I decided to gas it, a) because I was bored with riding fun endurance pace and b) because going fast is freakin’ fun. So I’m gassing it and enjoying the fact that I’m going to be done soon, coming up on the 28mi mark, when I come to a race marshal who tells me that I have another 2mi to go…. Dafuq!? OK… gas it for another 2… but a slightly more tired sort of gassing. I finished feeling pretty good, not wrecked at all. In the end, I think I should have raced a little harder to close out the season, really end it on a high note, but I ended up 2nd in the pro race, my highest MASS result yet, so I guess all’s well that ends well.
And then the series: after the race, we figured out that the Series was counting best 6, which put me in 2nd for the pro overall and the woman who actually deserved first in the winning position. Initially, I was a little disappointed (I feel like a **** for that) but I quickly brought myself back into reality and became extremely happy with the result. I fought hard for that, and it was real. First place would not have been real; it would have been a glitch in a flawed points system. I don’t want to win that way. Part of the reason I wanted to race MASS was that the bigger fields meant that I’d actually be earning whatever place I took, not getting it automatically because nobody else showed up. It truly was better to close out the season this way, and the woman who won is incredible, really incredible. I am really glad she got it, in the end. Sometimes, life is fair.
So 2015 race season all wrapped up in a nice package, 2nd in one of the biggest XC racing series on the east coast, 1st in my A race. I have no regrets, no should-haves, nothing but positivity moving forward. I am more in love with the mountain bike than I have ever been.
And now I can actually ride it, every effin day. In-season, we do a lot of road bike, building the engine, getting that upper-end huge for racing. Now it’s chill mtb time, hours and hours spent in the woods, trying to up my technical game so that next year I don’t crash every time I’m in a lead group. Hours and hours in the woods enjoying everything I love about the bike, ripping through dirt in hyper-drive, drinking Red Bulls (I’m addicted), dubstep throbbing through headphones.
2015, you have been a good year.