Race Report: The Olympic Long Team Training Camp and The Cactus Cup

I feel like this whole 2+ week trip down to Arizona really ended up being one big surprise of unexpected (and exciting) opportunities that exceeded my original plans.

Training Camp

I packed up the truck and drove from Salt Lake down to Tucson 2 weeks ago for a Training Camp with 3 other members of the Olympic Long Team. This opportunity to train together was pretty much unprecedented. In my career, I’ve never had the opportunity to train with other women at this level and at this capacity and when asking the other women at this training camp (many of whose careers more than double mine in duration) they had the same limited experience training with other women.

This is for a variety of reasons. One, we all live in geographically very different locations that makes it hard to meet up. Two, we are competitors and it can be challenging to train with, push, motivate, and encourage the same people that you hope to beat on race day. Three, it is challenging to make all of your training plans match up. With different strengths and weakness, we all are constantly working on and training for different things. Then to add to it all, Covid was an additional obstacle this year.

These women made it happen though. Inspired by and planned by members of the Olympic Long Team themselves we had very strict Covid protocols, quarantines, and two tests in order to participate in this camp together and I think all of us would do it again.

It was an incredible week, pushing each other and forming connections that will better all of us. It takes a lot of security and confidence to be able to motivate your competitor. It takes a lot of love to look at the person you want to beat and say good job if they best you in a workout. For a week, we all did that. We have the entire World to race against, and for us, the women of USA, we just want to see as much red, white, and blue on the podium as possible. We hope to hoist each other up there. The stronger we make each other, the stronger we make ourselves.

Throughout the week, I had many great workouts. I was really pleased with where my fitness was and how I was able to stack up and hold my own in each of the workouts. I left the training camp more confident in my abilities.

As we all rolled down the trail at the end of one of our final rides together, I had a thought that really struck me. At least one of us will be going to the Olympics. Whether that is me or not, I had the opportunity to train with, challenge, and motivate an Olympian on the way to the Games. How cool is that? The younger version of myself is smiling.

The Cactus Cup

 After training camp, since the drive from SLC to Tucson is so long, I decided I would stick around to do a local race: The Cactus Cup. I think everyone else had the same plan. What started out as an opportunity to get some race experience, ended up with a stacked field of incredible talent. That’s the best race experience I could think of.

My team, The Orange Seal Off-Road Team, also made the trip out to support the race and I had an opportunity to do some filming with them in the days leading up to the event. Can’t wait to share that soon!

The Cactus Cup featured several Olympic Hopefuls, other professionals, national champions, and very worthy competitors. The race was 3 days of racing: A 5.6 Mile Time Trial, a 40 mile Cross Country MTB Race, and an Enduro.

The time trial began on Friday night and was a good leg opener. I made some mistakes and got out some race jitters and posted a time that kept me in contention in the overall standings. I knew that Saturday, being the longest race, would have the biggest impact on the overall time.

Saturday morning, in Arizona, we stood on the start line as it started to rain. It kind of made me smirk, I’ve raced 2x in the last year and it rained both times. As we headed out onto course, the pace was solid, but with such a stacked field, it would take more than ‘solid’ to break it apart. We had all of the heavy hitters together for almost 1.5 hours before the moves really started happening.

I had a couple of tactical errors where I was in the wrong place at the wrong time when I got separated from the group. I had a moment of frustration, but then that was it. Just a moment. I was back in race mode. I had to keep moving forward. Two hours into the race I was riding with another competitor, and we were 5th and 6th place. As the miles continued to tick down, I saw an opportunity to attack with 7 miles to the finish line. I knew it was a bold move, but I wanted a little hint of boldness for my day. I attacked and didn’t look back. I wanted to go all out to the finish line, just to see what I could do, and because every second counts in the overall standings. I never would have thought that I would round the corner in the finish chute and see 4th place just seconds ahead. I stood up and sprinted for it. I finished 4th! That was rewarding for my efforts.

The final day on Sunday morning, we raced the enduro. This was just a couple of fast segments that were more sprints than technical challenges. I had fun and enjoyed a new style of racing. After 3 days of racing though, the times were so tight, I still didn’t know where I stacked up. I finished 5th in the overall standing, just 3 seconds behind 4th!

It was so good to be back at the races and I’m excited to see my fitness on a good upward trend. Historically, the first race of the season has always been challenging for me. I always find that first race to be such an obstacle, so to have overcome that obstacle with a top 5 in a stacked feel, I’m excited to see just where this upward trajectory can land me this season. I’m excited to see what God has in store.

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