I am the tortoise…and apparently slow and steady was enough to take 2nd again in today’s stage.
I almost wrote that it’s the stage I am most proud of so far, but it’s tough to tell. Every stage has brought such unique challenges that you almost can’t compare one to the next.
Today took some serious fortitude though…some serious resolve, and a little bit of believing in the highly unlikely.
As we rode off of the line today I felt decent…I mean we have been racing for a couple of days now so I don’t think anyone feels fresh. I was nicely around the racers I usually am, until one girl attacked. She went hard and I just didn’t feel like it was the right move. We still had almost 4 hours left of racing after all. I didn’t chase it. She got away. I couldn’t see her anymore nor could I see 2nd or 3rd for that matter. I was in 4th, but it was only 30 minutes into the day. There was a lot of trail left to cover.
The race climbed for a long time, ascending up beyond tree line. A couple of the climbs were so brutal it left many of us walking as we hauled our bodies and bikes up the mountain. It was incredible to be up there, where so few things thrive and to be pushing ourselves to our best and our worst.
As I crested one of the biggest climbs of the day, almost 90 minutes into the race a man told me, “Hannah, you’re in 4th, over 5 minutes behind the leader.” Gulp. That was a huge gap so early on. It seemed insurmountable for a moment but I had to try.
On the next descent I was able to get around 3rd and know that I was at least moving in the right direction. We went down huge expanses of snow which left us slipping and sliding, I got to ride right up next to mountain goats, and all the while I was taking mental notes to fully appreciate these incredible things in a few hours after the task at hand was complete.
As I rode I suddenly found the song “This Little Light of Mine” in my head. It seemed out of place but all I could hear through those words of the song was the message “Continue to Persevere.”
I proceeded to lie to myself for hours. She’s around the next corner, around the next, ok the next. Finally at the 3rd aid station nearly 3 hours into the event I was told that 2nd place was 2.5 minutes ahead. I was closing in, but that was still a huge bite to chew.
I felt like I was straining my neck around each turn in hopes of catching just a glimpse to make the carrot I was dangling in front of my face all the more real. Then, it happened. I was in pursuit. At mile 35, nearly 3.5 hours into the race I finally caught 2nd place.
Now I had to actually do something about it. She didn’t sit down without a fight. We only had 4 miles to the finish and each section of the trail was an opportunity to test our strengths and weaknesses. I had come so far, I was prepared to finish the test. As I accelerated up one of the final climbs and could no longer hear her breathing behind me I could hardly believe it. 2nd place was mine.
I finished 2:45 behind 1st place today and was 2:00 minutes ahead of 3rd by the time I crossed the finish. Still 3 more days of racing ahead, what more could be in store?
All Photos By: Bill Schieken (CX Hairs)