The World Championship: This race is the ultimate goal. This is what athletes all over the world suffer for and dream of.
This year, for the first time on the mtb, I got to be a part of the USA World Championship team. This is a dream come true.
The World Championship starts weeks before the start line, in many cases, even years in advance. Preparation is one of the most key elements to any race. I can say that I did every single thing in my power to prepare for this race. I showed up in Australia the most prepared I have ever been and that is how I felt when I took to the course for Monday’s preride.
Every obstacle, every corner, every line felt like it had something special to it. The dirt wasn’t just dirt, it was the dirt of the world championship. I was enamored and I was feeling good. Every difficult section just seemed to flatten out and smooth off as I rode through it. I walked away from Monday’s preriding feeling like I had finally arrived and it was at the most important event of the year. Even my teammates could see in my eyes the new confidence I had that was growing within. I couldn’t wait to get back out on course for training on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, we rode the course together as a team and slowly began to pick our way through one lap. We examined the lines and discussed the fastest options. We rode section after section discovering the best plans and gaining more and more comfort on the unforgiving terrain. Toward the end of the lap was the final obstacle, Jacob’s Ladder. This would be my demise.
Having ridden Jacob’s Ladder multiple times the day before, I felt calm and focused as I rode into the feature. This was a downhill rock garden with a steep drop-in that was also overflowing with jagged rocks. As I entered the drop-in, my back wheel slid and next thing I know I was vertical, still clipped into the pedals but hurdling toward the rocks for a belly-flop. I landed flat on my stomach and rolled and rolled and rolled. When I came to a stop, I was in shock. I was in disbelief. The wind was knocked out of me. I began to gasp for air, but breathing was just so painful. I had gone from a 10 to a 0 in one rock section!
Lea rode down the trail for help and Erin supported me as I just laid there in the middle of the trail. My hip was in agony, my jersey was torn, and I had blood everywhere. After some time had passed and fearing how long it would be until someone could get to me, I managed to mount my bike and slowly coasted to the USA Cycling tent.
The medical staff from USA Cycling was absolutely incredible. Quickly rushing to my side, treating me, comforting me, and evaluating me. Eventually, the physician decided I needed to go to the hospital to rule out a fractured pelvis. I was still in shock.
We arrived at the hospital; I was put on a bed and wheeled around into various rooms. My eyes were wet with painful tears and I gritted my teeth and tried to hold it in. Then I felt it…the moment when the tears were no longer pain but suddenly grief was present as well. I laid there with grief and felt like I was staring it in the face. Was this it? Was this the end of my World Championship story? Surely not, it couldn’t be. I began to pray. This race was out of my hands. I had entered the uncontrollable.
The Xrays were negative! I felt like the race was back on! The gears in my head began to turn again. I had to start to control the controllable. A CT-Scan revealed a large hematoma in my abdominal muscles. This is a large collection of blood outside of the vessels, in a place where it does not belong.
I was in pain, but I walked out of the hospital. My body didn’t know it, but my mind had already decided I would race this weekend.
My preparation was now different. I hobbled around and I focused on making normal and complete steps. I slowly began to pull myself upright painfully stretching my abdomen. USA Cycling took incredible care of me and took me to a Physical Therapy clinic on Wednesday for treatment.
For the next two days, the race was in my mind. I was imagining it. I was out-thinking the pain. On Friday I rode the course. If anyone asked me how I felt the only answer that I could give was “good.” I was committed to the feeling. I was verbalizing what I wanted to feel.
Saturday morning, I stood on the line of the World Championship race. I had overcome. My body had been through a hurricane but I was prepared to give the race every single thing that I had left…and I did. I fought hard from the start to the finish. Wearing the red, white, and blue was my chance to sacrifice what I had in order to race my best. I finished the race in 25th, but the place is just a number at this point. While my goal was a higher finish, I had overcome. Mentally, I had won the battle.
Preparation for these events occurs every morning when you get out of bed, but the good preparation can be shattered in a moment. An athlete must be prepared to control the uncontrollable. I am walking away from World’s a better athlete, more confident and with more experience under my belt. This event was such a positive experience and I can’t wait to use what I have learned each and every day that I ride.
Thank you so much to USA Cycling for having such incredible medical support. Thank you to the Clif Pro Team for taking care of me physically and mentally. Praise to God for miraculously healing my body enough to get me to the line.
Photos (above): Kenny When
Photo (above): Matthew DeLorme