Day one was a learning experience. “How did you finish,” Coach Lundgren asks as I’m slumped over on the ground. “Ninth out of fifty-five,” I say. He tells me this is great for the first day, we don’t need to be on the podium yet, it’s still early. What he doesn’t know is that I found myself at the front of the race early on, and I didn’t know what to do. I sat in, I watched, I wondered why we were going so slow. Never did I think that I was in the top 5 after the last CX season I had. He tells me that I need to not sit in; I need to go for it. Tomorrow, just go for it.
Day Two: It had rained the night before the race. As I’m pre-riding the course I try and decide what line everyone will be taking through the mud, and I practice taking the other line. Today’s course is different, it’s more technical. As a mountain biker, we wait for conditions like this to slow everyone down. Well, everyone but us.
The whistle blows, and I manage to get into 5th or 6th position going into the straight away. We hit the mud and I take the line nobody wants, straight through the mud. That decision puts me into 3rd and I’m starting to feel nervous. We put a tiny gap in between us and the rest of the field, and I start telling the ladies we need to move. We come up to the incline before the log over, and the girl in 2nd goes to the right and end up dismounting. I take the left line, through two trees, and I never see her again. Heading into the woods with the girl in 1st, I tell her, “we need to go faster, we have a gap, let’s go.” The girl tells me she can’t, so I pass her and destroy myself to try and put as much distance between us.
I’m going into my second lap and James is yelling that I have a 16 second gap. He starts telling me that I can’t let up; I need to put as many bodies between me and the rest of my field. So I start picking off the 45+ riders that started in front of me. In my head, I’m going over what James told me this morning. Drill the first two laps as hard as you can, and then reassess when you get to the next. I go into the third lap and I decide that I’m going to push it just as hard, don’t let up. James yells out to me that he can’t even count the seconds between me and 2nd, so dial it back and ride smooth.
I really wasn’t sure if there was going to be time to relax so I tell myself that I can sit on the floor and rest in 20 minutes. It’s just a regular interval. You can do anything for 20 minutes. The junior boys pass me over the barriers before the final lap, and my teammate Eric yells out to use them for the last lap. But they dial their pace back and I start yelling at them that they need to go faster; no time to play games here. We go through the woods and I run into Jenny and Christy, who are in 1st and 2nd in the 45+ Category. Christy is waiving me by, but I decide playing it smart is more important.
I go over the barriers for the last time, and I’m finally able to look back and see not a single soul behind me. Holy crap, I did it. The pain face turned into a huge smile as I rounded the final turns before rolling through the finish solo. In that moment I realized I did it. I did it alone, by myself, with no help. I went out of my comfort zone, risking complete failure, and I succeeded. Twenty-four seconds separated me from 2nd place, and I did it by myself.