I’ve always felt that timing is a weakness of mine. I speak what’s on my mind and heart when it’s on my mind and heart. Sometimes it bites me. I’ve always admired people who can manage the perfect timing: The people who can read the situation and know when and where to ask the question or make their thoughts known. It’s something I’ve worked on but also something I’ve accepted about myself and learned to navigate life understanding that I sometimes catch people off guard. Timing my statements might not be my strength and it seems this weekend timing my efforts was not my strength either. That’s not something I will as easily accept. Patience may be a virtue, but calculated risk is often rewarded…
The course this past weekend was fast and flat. It dipped in and out of long, exposed single-track straight-aways. It was very different than any other courses on the pro circuit. With minimal climbing and minimal passing room, placement was going to be critical.
The day before the race we were only able to pre-ride the course one time because they had accidentally scheduled the enduro race during the same time as our pre-ride, using the same trails. This is something that is out of a rider’s control so nothing to stress over, but it also is a good reminder as to why we practice a course over and over again before race day.
As I lined up on Sunday, I felt much more calm that I did the week before. I felt like I had time and I knew I had the strength. I was coming off of a very busy week at team camp, that many people would say was fatiguing, but I felt like I was buzzing from the great energy of the team, staff, and support from CLIF bar and sponsors.
When the gun went off, we sprinted off of the line. My 2nd row starting position wasn’t that rough, but with the trail quickly turning and funneling into a singletrack, 50 racers all bottleneck and go single file within 45 seconds after the gun. I felt like I had a good start, but as people bombed up through the weeds and sticks on the side of the trail I knew I needed to constantly race to move forward and never settle in.
After a few minutes and when the trail opened up for a significant amount of time I went to make my move, I attempted to dart up the side, up the hill, around a few people. Right as I came up side by side with a girl that I was attempting to pass, she turned, looked over her shoulder and rode straight into me, thus killing both of our momentum and forcing us to run up the remainder of the hill. I’m not sure if the move was intentional, but it certainly did not help either of us.
As we ran up the hill, the group rode away. The group was critical because of the flat long straight sections going into the wind. The draft was a lifesaver. I knew I needed to be in the group so I buried myself and caught up to the pack. I made up a big time deficit, all by myself. I was so pleased with myself and with my fitness as I caught the group. It was the best move I made the whole race.
Unfortunately, as I caught the group I was too excited. I felt so strong. I was so pleased. I made it to the group and thought, “Is this really the pace?” “I can go faster than this!?” I should have just maintained the pace with the group for awhile but instead, on the place in the course that I had only seen once, I tried to make a move. I thought, “I’ll just go around the group and lead the way!” I moved to the right side of the group and started to move up only to find myself stuck in a 3 foot deep rut. I was stuck. I had to dismount my bike, pull it out of the rut, and remount all as I watched the group ride away. This is where patience is a virtue.
As I tried to avoid lecturing myself or getting too upset I pushed to attempt to make contact with the group again. I got very close. I made up a lot of time and was within about 15 seconds of the group. I thought, “I’ve been catching them this whole time, now I’ll just gradually rejoin the group.” I sat there about 15 seconds off of the group lap after lap after lap. Everyone was cheering, “You’re so close, you’ll catch them.” I knew I would and that is where calculated risk would have been rewarded. I should have pushed just for one more big effort to rejoin the group. It never came back to me.
Eventually, on the last lap the group broke up and when people were no longer drafting I was able to catch several individuals and have a great last lap, but my mistakes from earlier had determined my ultimate result. I finished 21st. It was a close race. 15th was only 1 minute ahead. Just think if I had played my cards better…
In an effort to keep this blog unfiltered, which is what I think keeps it relatable, I will say after this race I was frustrated. I’ve worked for a couple of years now to get to a point where I am strong enough to keep up and now that I am strong enough I make foolish mistakes. It’s irritating and I can only blame myself. That is what I love about this sport though, the fact that you alone are in charge of your fate during the race and I cannot point fingers at anyone else.
Upon reflection though, how cool is it to know that I am strong enough! I was frustrated but not discouraged and not disappointed. In fact, I am excited. I know that I am continually one step away from putting together my own personal best.
Up Next: Sea Otter Classic (Monterey, California) April 11th & 14th