Soldier Hollow UCI Stage Race

The last 10 days have been an absolute whirlwind. Starting with the Whiskey 50 Fat Tire Crit (see last blog) on Friday, April 26th, I’ve raced 6 times in the last 10 days. After the 4+ hour race in Prescott, Arizona last week I flew back to Utah to compete in the Soldier Hollow UCI Stage Race.

This race featured 4 days of racing from Thursday through Sunday. Each day featured a different type of event to test the competitors. Then, based on the placement, the riders were awarded points for each day. Ultimately, the rider with the most points at the end of the 4 days would win the entire event.

Thursday: The Time Trial

Thursday evening started off the event with the time trial. In the time trial, each rider would start on their own with a separation of 1 minute in between racers. Each rider would have to race the clock without the knowledge of the speed of other racers in order to attempt to have the fastest time on course.

I was excited about this format of racing. I have never done a time trial before, but I have always considered myself an excellent solo sufferer. I’m good at racing against myself, especially since I have always found myself to be my own biggest critic.

I stood on the start line, tucked away in the tunnel. I listened to the beeps to send me off. It would be 4 low beeps, then a high one. I’m thinking to myself, “Be ready, start fast. Don’t be afraid. Every second counts.” Beep, beep, beep, beep, BEEP! I was off, except, I missed my pedal. I missed it again, and then one more time. I haven’t made that mistake in a long time. I shook it off quickly, only mildly embarrassed at my common but poor mistake. I made a mental note, “If I lose by 5 seconds that is why.”

I was focused on the course, trying to take every perfect line. I quickly caught the girl who started before me. I thought, “I must be going fast if I already put a minute into this girl.”

It was a constant battle of pushing to your limit, starting to make mistakes, pulling back, and then pushing yourself just a little bit harder. The descents were fast, with sharp corners, and missing a corner could cost you the whole race. My internal dialogue consisted almost entirely of, “Come on Hannah, just a little bit more” for the entire 25 minute race.

For the time trial my time put me in 10th position. A good start, especially because it left me room for improvement.

Friday: Short Track:

Thursday night into Friday morning was a long one. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt sickness come on so quickly. I woke up every 2 hours feeling sicker and sicker, struggling to swallow, with congestion I was struggling to breathe through. Around 3 am I decided I was too sick to race. It simply wasn’t possible. I slept for almost 11 hours and when I woke up the idea of missing out seemed even more impossible than racing with this condition.

I dragged myself out of bed to breakfast, and after about 20 cough drops, a couple ibuprofen, airborne, a saline nasal rinse, and an entire box of tissues, I was on the start line finishing my final cough drop as the national anthem came to a close.

It was all or nothing at this point. There was no point in suffering through this pain if I was going to give into it during the race. As I sprinted off the line, I was instantly wheezing and my nose was running down my face, but these things faded into the background as my mind became more preoccupied with closing gaps and responding to attacks.

Lap after lap I found myself in the lead group. The cheers of my mom, friends, fiancé, and manager kept me moving forward. With only 10 minutes left in the race I was still in the lead group. I was falling off of the back though, and then fighting my way back up to the pack. I was so close, straining to stay within striking distance. Eventually, I finished 9th. An improved placement with a worsened health condition. It was described by people who know me well as one of my best races to date.

Why did I race so well in such a poor state? It could be a lack of pressure. It could be my mind was too preoccupied to worry about unnecessary things. I think it was complete and total reliance on God. Sometimes it takes things falling apart, and our true weakness and humanity to show in order for us to allow Jesus to completely take the wheel (or should I say handlebars?).

Saturday: Cross Country:

After such a great result on Friday, it seemed like there was no question but to weather the storm even though I was under the weather.

The Saturday race would be 6 laps around the race course featuring multiple line options, a drop, steep climbs, weaving descents, and rock faces. We would conquer all of those things in just 90 minutes time.

As we sprinted off of the line I could tell that my congestion was limiting my ability to really dig deep into those higher intensities. Instead of panicking I made a quick adjustment. I would grind it out. Instead of sprinting and slowing to match the speeds of the group, I would race one aggressive pace from start to finish.

The strategy paid off. After one lap of the race I found myself with one other rider, a rider who I have looked up to for quite some time. I was so pleased to be racing with her that I just wanted to stay with her ‘for as long as possible.’ As the race went on however, I found myself riding away from her on the climbs. I was feeling strong. With 3 laps to go, I made my move and I set my sights higher. Throughout the race I moved forward, getting stronger as I went. I once again finished the day in 9th. I once again proved to myself that I am capable of so much more than I know.

Sunday: Marathon

Sunday would be the final day of the event. 37 miles, with almost 6000 feet of climbing, and all to be completed in just over 3 hours. While it felt like my health was slowly starting to improve, I also knew that I had asked a lot of my sick body in the last few days. 3 hours of my nose running down my face seemed like the ultimate ask for my body already fighting an internal bug.

Regardless, I had come too far and raced too well to turn back. We rolled off the line, and my body immediately moaned at the effort. I spent the next 3 hours pushing through each pedal stroke, fighting my body and mind, and telling myself over and over, “It’ll get better.” I don’t know if it got better, but I got closer and closer to the finish.

I didn’t feel like myself on that final day. I felt like my body was giving into the illness, but my mind was willing me forward. I once again finish 9th.  I once again finished better than I thought I would.

Conclusion:

I exceeded my goals this weekend. I finished 9th in the overall standing at the end of the week. That met my goals and more that I set before I got sick. So what has this shown me, I am capable of more. If I can reach my goals when I am sick, then I am ready to forge ahead and create steeper goals. This race reminded me what I am made of. It reminded me that I am resilient, and I (with my village) can overcome anything.

Soldier Hollow 1
Photo: Kenny Wehn
Soldier Hollow 3
Photo: Kenny Wehn
Soldier Hollow 2
Photo: Kenny Wehn

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