When I woke up on Sunday, I quietly sat on the side of my bed in my hotel room. Often times race morning is almost an adrenaline jolt out of bed and onto the next thing. I woke up a little early to soak in the moment.
I looked outside. It was sunny, but the ground was wet. A sure sign that it had rained overnight. The course was already incredibly muddy the day before. What tires would I run? What clothing would I wear? Questions tried to flood my brain, but I just took a moment.
I worked incredibly hard to be at this race. As did everyone who lined up. I think that’s special. The build up to this race, which would act as the Olympic Qualifiers for many countries, was very long. I spent an enormous amount of time training. I pushed myself harder than I ever have before and I can say that with absolute certainty. The part that is less seen or understood is everything else. All of the extras. The things we give up in favor of another workout. The people we lean on and those who pick up any slack we may have as we prepare for this moment. It’s a million little things. When I was named to the Olympic Long Team almost a year ago, I asked myself what do I want to do about this? I want to line up at the Olympic Qualifier knowing that I did every single thing in my power to prepare with the time I had. I sat on the side of the bed and I breathed. I had already done that. I was already filled with gratitude.
Now…it was time to race. I circled back to all of those other questions and analyzed every situation. Now was no time to do anything half way. I wanted every decision to be made to the best of my abilities. With mud clearly a huge factor in this race I lined up with a 2.4 Aspen in the Front and a 2.25 Ardent in the rear, of course, sealed with Orange Seal.
As I sat on the rollers inside of the box, I said a prayer of gratitude. I looked around at the 100+ women about to line up. Every single woman had a goal on their mind. The tension was palpable. It was go time.
I was called to the line in 73rd position. That’s the 9th row. That’s a lot of people who can make a mistake or hold me up. I knew that being calm would continue to be my friend as the race began. So, I eased off of the line. A small hang up happened to the sides of me, but I was able to use my calm to navigate around it. I knew I had about 6 minutes between me and the singletrack. That was 6 minutes that I could make passes before I knew that I would be hung up and probably walking.
Every minute that went by I was ratcheting up the pace and trying to get around as many women as possible. When I had only about 2 minutes to the singletrack, I was full gas. I knew I had to make as many passes as possible. When we hit the singletrack, it was just as I expected. Chaos ensued as we all dismounted our bikes and bottlenecked and jockeyed for position.
Throughout the next 5 laps on that course, I had an absolute blast. I enjoyed every moment of that race. The mud was agonizingly thick, and in other places shockingly slippery. I was covered from head to toe in mud. I knew I had sections that I was strong at, and others were the mud got the best of me. Nothing really phased me emotionally though. I just kept moving forward. I ran into a tree, I spent a lot of time running and on my feet in thick mud. I did not ride perfectly, but I don’t think anyone did in these conditions. It was a battle of wills and a battle of the least amount of mistakes.
When we entered the final lap, I was pretty empty. I had given it every single thing I had and it felt good to wring myself dry in that final lap. I crossed the finish line in 49th, much higher than I had started. Sure, I would have loved a better number and a better result, but that’s part of the game. I don’t think I’ll honestly ever be ‘satisfied’ until I’m at the front. But for today, I am pleased with the way I rode, I am pleased with the progress I made, I’m pleased with my calm in the chaos and I am always moving forward.