A little bittersweet lining up at the MTB Marathon National Championship this weekend. This is a race that I’ve always wanted to do so I was absolutely thrilled to finally tow the line. At the same time, it would be the final race of the season, which is bitter-sweet in and of itself.
If it were up to me, I would race every weekend year-round. I love to line up and give it everything I have. More racing means more opportunity and opportunity is one of the things I value most. Somehow I don’t think my body would allow a race every weekend and as I lined up this weekend, after battling a head cold much of the week, my body reminded me just how hard I have been training and racing this season (or two- given the covid year).
My body felt tired but my spirit was high. One of my favorite things I’ve heard from racers at the top level of this sport is that you have to learn to race when you’re not 100%. It’s pretty freeing to just open up your mind and discover what might be possible for yourself on that one day.
On the cool, fall morning we lined up to race. I wanted to set my mind right from the start and I went hard off of the line almost as if to tell my body, this is what we’re doing today. I felt strong at the start but didn’t time my effort perfectly and entered into the singletrack in 4th.
For the first 10 minutes in the singletrack, I felt relief. The course was littered with rocks of all shapes and sizes. Big flat rocks, pointy rocks, jagged rocks, loose rocks, and rock slabs. I think the favorite description I heard was it was as if someone took a bunch of dinner plate shaped rocks and just stabbed them into the ground. I had no idea how much reckless abandonment we would ride these with but I felt calm and collected as we began the descent. In fact, I felt like I could go faster and I began to think about when I might be able to pass.
Then, I don’t know when it happened but suddenly I discovered that about a 15 second had formed between the top 3 and myself. I didn’t want to panic, I just wanted to ride back to the group. I stayed steady and that gap remained steady for quite some time. Then it began to grow.
I stayed focused and strained my neck around every corner hoping that eventually I would catch a glimpse of them up front. I knew I could keep my pace but I wasn’t sure I could will out a whole lot more. My body felt like a tube of toothpaste you your squeezing and rolling and desperately trying to get out just a little more. There more moments in the race that I felt like I didn’t have much more to give then I could find just a pick more. I fought and persevered all the way to the finish and came across in 4th.
4th at the National Championship. I think that’s something to smile about, but I would also be lying if didn’t say I would have loved to squeeze out a little more but I think that’s something to smile about as well.
It hurt to ride up the final climb feeling empty but when I crossed the finish line that same feeling felt incredible. It’s great to finish the season knowing that I gave it everything I have…this year.
I’m more excited than ever for what’s in store next. It’s time to rest up, get married, take our honeymoon, and then start building for next year. My dreams and goals just keep getting bigger and I wouldn’t have it any other way!