Standing in the start box at the World Championship is a surreal experience. The tension is palpable. I took a moment to look at the athletes around me. Everyone looked incredibly nervous. It makes sense. Every person who is standing on the start line at the World Championship has dedicated a tremendous amount to be there. Every person has put in countless hours training, sacrificed, prioritized, and has a big village of people cheering for them. It’s funny how these things that prepare you and should give you confidence that you are ready, can also be the things that make you feel the most nervous. Usually I would be trying to swallow my stomach out of my throat, but this time, I just couldn’t help but smile. I felt calm. I felt happy. I feel an immense amount of gratitude.
When I lined up for the short track, I still couldn’t get the smile off of my face as they said “The race will start anytime in the next 15 seconds.” Then the lights turned green and I got to race in my first World Cup Short Track…and at the World Championship nonetheless. It was so much fun! The action was jam packed and the emotion was high. Just seconds separated each rider. My heart was pounding at a million miles per hour because I was working hard but also because every single movement had an outcome. On one hand, just a few seconds was incredibly motivating because with a good line or a burst of energy I could move up quickly in the group. On the hand, one mistake meant finding yourself several positions back.
I experienced both out there, which made for an exciting race. Off of the start line, I felt like my senses were on high alert and I was looking way ahead. I saw and anticipated a crash in the first corner and was able to navigate around that chaos. Then in the uphill rock garden we had a traffic jam and I was forced to run my bike. Every lap there was one big climb and I knew that I could lay it all out on that climb so I just kept committing and it paid off. My call up for the short track was 37th and I crossed the finish line as 23rd in the World. I fell over after the finish line, painfully caught my breath, and then was immediately back to smiling.
After a great short track, I was excited for the XC. I was also nervous, because it had become obvious to me that anything is possible. I was open to all possibilities. Once again I channeled my inner joy and found myself smiling on the start line.
I was called up to the line with plate 59 so I knew that I would have a lot of positions to make up. The start was absolute mania! Less than 100 meters off of the start line there was a left turn and then an immediate right turn. The whole back of the race got stuffed up. It jostled around and I felt like I was one of the last coming around the corner leading up the climb (but I didn’t dare look backwards). We were going agonizingly slow up the climb. There was nowhere to go and no way to pass. I just kept telling myself, breathe easy, rest, the time will come. After about 3 minutes in the race we came up to the main rock garden. Straining my neck and looking up the course I could see that the riders were all in the line waiting in turn to run the rock garden. In those types of situations, when so many riders are attempting to do an obstacle at once, one rider will make a mistake and then everyone behind has to adjust. I tried to push my way through and then I just decided to hit the B line. It was a wise decision. I passed about 5 riders as I took the long way around the rock garden but avoided more waiting in line.
The next lap was a lot of the same. In the forest section of the course, the congestion was crazy, but I think my smile and joy kept me calm and a good head on my shoulders as I moved forward without panic. When we had 4 laps to go I was finally able to get some space to let it fly. I had my plan and I was able to execute lap after lap, passing 2-3 people on my favorite climb each lap. I felt strong, consistent, and in control. Even as my legs and lungs burned I was begging for more time as I kept moving up through the field. When the race came to a finish I crossed the line in 36th. I moved forward the entire race. 36th in the World. I’ll take it. It’s been a season of continued progress and taking one step after another. Progress is all that I’ve ever required of myself so I will continue to smile as I head into the next World Cup this weekend in Lenzerheide, Switzerland! Let’s see what we can do!