Standing on the line on Friday in the Short Track race my stomach was in knots. I wasn’t nervous that I wouldn’t win, I was nervous because I knew it was entirely possible. My goal to win both races started the day after nationals in 2015. As I stood there in 40 degrees in rain with my support crew holding umbrellas and giving me all the last second necessary items I thought. I thought about how many times I had imagined winning this race. I thought about every morning ride I did. I thought about waking up and turning on my bike lights and finishing my work out before most people woke up for the day. I thought about all the LT’s, Vo2 max, and long hot rides that I endured. I thought about all the late night homework sessions, and homework done on the car and in the bus. I thought about all the tests I took early so that I could leave for the races on the weekend. And when the gun went off, I didn’t think.
I did exactly what I have practiced and imagined. I started in the 4th row and in one lap I had moved all the way to the front group. As I found myself getting toward the back of the pack of 4 girls driving the race I decided to blast straight through and never look back. Starting with a small lead of about 10 seconds, I rode hard and harder every lap securing a lead of 46 seconds to earn my first title of the weekend: Collegiate Short Track National Champion!
Saturday morning when I woke up the first thing I did was dart to the window like a kid on Christmas morning. Just as expected a sheet of snow had been placed over the ground…all I could do was smile. This would be a true race of attrition. Preparing for the temperatures of 28 degrees with a wind chill factor of 18 I warmed up on the trainer and felt jittery with excitement to brave the elements that would be presented to us.
Starting front row as the reigning national champion felt like a magical place to be. Going from the gun I secured the first place spot as I entered the single track and then I sat up a bit. I floated about 15 seconds off the front so that my lines remained untraceable but I could relax and ride the elements. I took careful note of the ice and mud and tried to take special care of my mud lathered bike. In the large climb I finally put the power down and I extended my gap getting me out of sight. As I rode through the snow, the wind ripped the air from my lungs, my hands were all but unusable in my warm winter gloves and my toes were so frozen that I felt like they would break off if someone stepped on them. I suffered…and it was amazing. Crossing the finish line in those conditions was an incredible feeling because not only did I win the race but I beat the elements and I preserved. I get to call myself the Collegiate Cross Country National Champion for another year.
A huge thanks to everyone who made this weekend possible. (Check out my sponsor page). In addition, a big shout out to my coach Chris Mileski for preparing me for the weekend and for driving to the top of a Mountain in West Virginia to support me. Shout out to Clayton Otto for coming to watch me race and being my mechanic and training partner all year. Shout out to my mom for coming to watch me race and keeping me calm and focused. Thank you to Lindenwood University for having an unstoppable cycling program, and last but certainly not least, thank you to the CLIF PRO TEAM. Without Clif I can surely say I would not be where I am today.