My Moment of Truth (and the longest entry ever)
Actually, more like two and a half grueling hours of truth. My first big pro mountain bike race. For the last month, all I had to do was think about the race and my palms would sweat, my heart race, and suddenly, I really had to find a bathroom. Yeah, I get that excited. I think I’m so calm and collected about this whole racing business, but my body tells another story.
The cross country race was a gas! But more-so in hindsight. During the race I remember being so tired I was worried that if I hit one more downhill rocky section, my arms would give out and I would eat rocks. Thankfully, I managed to stay upright and my worst peril was hitting a cactus when trying to pass someone. I’ve yet to pick out all the needles that broke off in my hand. I think it is funny that after my legs carried my body over thirty miles of dessert terrain, it was the muscles in my arms and back that were screaming at me. Guess I still need to work on upper body strength…it was a major limiter to me.
Okay, so this cross country race was what I considered my moment of truth. This is what I have been training for. They called up 72 women to the starting line, and being my first race with this category, I was called up way towards the back. I knew it would be important to move up as much as possible in the short few hundred meters before the start of the single track, so I busted my butt ahead of as many girls as I could, finding good lines and moving up to the middle of the pack by the time the trail went skinny. I was stoked! Riding full speed tightly behind a group made me blind to the trail though, and the next thing I knew, I hit a ditch really hard – enough to knock my seat loose and pointing up – a position I knew I could not ride in for the next 29.5 miles to come. So I had to move off the side of the trail to fix my seat. Standing there in the dust of the racers as they all sped by me almost gave me a nervous breakdown. I felt like my race was ruined because I was not smart enough to swap out my faulty seat post before the race (I’ve had the same problem before). Well, I quickly realized that that was a totally lame attitude to have. The repair took just a little over a minute to fix, my attitude about thirty more seconds, and I was back to full speed. I figured that if this happened to anyone who was actually any good, they would be back into the race in no time. So I tried to be that person. It took me about 10 – 15 minutes to get out of last place, and from that time, I made it my job to just keep passing as many people as I could. That is a fun way to race. I would catch someone, or a train, draft for a while, and pass. I was on the hunt. The only detriment was the times when it was tight and technical so you couldn’t pass someone going more slowly. Although, my body did enjoy the few minutes of relaxation when I knew it just wasn’t possible to get ahead, and I could just use the moment to catch my breath till it was go time again. Each time I passed someone, I was encouraged. I was happy to know that I belonged in that race. I have felt very sheepish and almost embarrassed when people ask what category I race, to have to answer “pro”. Of course I am totally stoked about it, but at the same time pretty insecure. I feel like I’m making a statement when I say that, but really I know I’m not even in the same league yet as the girls I really look up to. But anyway, it was great for me mentally – each time I passed someone my confidence grew.
After mile twenty I could feel myself really fading. I contemplated how tired my arms were and the reality that they really might buckle under a tough section and cause me to crash. That I was already not in a very impressive position anyway, so maybe I should just call it quits before the last lap. But I would never actually do something like that. I had the people at the feed station pour their cups of water on me as I rode by (it was in the 90’s, and cacti don’t offer much in the way of shade) and I passed a couple more girls, and that helped me keep going. It reminded me that everyone starts to fade after working so hard in the sun. So it was okay, as long as I just faded less than everyone else. And I really concentrated on my downhill technique so that my legs would absorb more of the shock and save my arms from going out on me. Two miles away from the finish I knew I could make it, so I put in a last ditch effort and passed two more girls before the finish. So even though my 45th place finish didn’t exactly put me on the next cover of VeloNews, there were 72 riders at the start, so I was happy with myself. And leading the race were Olympians and world champions, so I was actually pretty proud just to ride in their dust. I rode at a new level that day, improved my downhill technique, worked on my mental toughness, and learned I need to do more upper body work. And learned I need to hire a personal masseuse (in my dreams). And I now know more than ever to be fully, fully prepared – if something can go wrong, it probably will. And I also know that I belong in that race. I can do this!

Okay, the other half of the experience was a little less exciting. The night before the XC race was the downtown dirt criterium that started at 7:30 pm. Yes, that’s right, p.m. So I had to live with my nerves all day long. But I used the time to make sure I was perfectly prepared. But, of course, there is no such thing as perfectly prepared. My first “uh-oh” moment was when I went to put in my special night lenses in my new sunglasses. Well, apparently these lenses were made for someone with two right eyes. That makes no sense, but you get my point. It was only a minor annoyance, because at least my clear lenses would work decently for the night (the course was very, very dusty). Crisis averted. Well, then I go to turn on my Garmin bike computer and it would not turn on. In my frustrated state I could not remember how to reboot it, and randomly pushing buttons harder and harder and harder did not do me any good. It also did not respond to my verbal pleas for it to work. I felt so alone without my little computer. Oh well, I still had my legs and my bike, the two essentials. I did my warm up, got off my bike to stretch before lining at the start, and as I went to roll it forward – it would not roll! The front break was locked. I was in a frenzy! I tried to check the brake cable, but the race was ready to start at any minute and I didn’t have the time, or state of mind, to figure out what was wrong. I found that if I manually pushed the brake forward, it would release, but I would have to remember that every time I used the front brake that race, or remember to just not use it. I repeated this to myself about 10 times, but as soon as the gun went off, I completely forgot. It was clamped up just enough to slow down my momentum, but not so hard I couldn’t pedal. I completely forgot about the issue until the race was over and I was pedaling more slowly. And the race was short lived. They pulled everyone in danger of being lapped, and that turned out to be about 75% of us (to my estimate). The laps were very short, under a minute per lap. So given the amazing level of competition, most of us never stood a chance. And given the fact that I would have been pulled from the race anyway, my brake issue turned out to be a positive thing. Otherwise, I would have been in the race for a few extra laps and then got pulled anyway – just wasting energy that was better saved for the cross country race the next day. All in all, I just thought it was cool to get called up to the start line with the women I have read about for years in magazines. I was parked next to Kathy Sherwin, so we chatted, and Allison Dunlap was hanging out with her. And I even got a word from world champion Allison Sydor (okay, only because she had to squeeze past me when they called her up to the start). I was pretty stoked just to be there. I’m glad I have a wonderful husband who booked this whole trip for me.

As a side note to this already way too lengthy entry, I feel like I am satisfying my 12-year-old spirit with this experience and those to follow. After the first time I had to run the mile with my 7th grade P.E. class, my P.E. teacher, Mr. Leverson, (whom I loved) sent me a Halloween “candy-gram” complimenting me on how fast I had run. He wrote “you must have had the ghoul’s breath at your heels.” I had no idea what that meant. But I got what he was saying, and I remember that night dreaming of becoming a pro athlete. I thought that would be the coolest thing to ever do. But it never quite worked out for me to get to that level in mainstream sports. And now I’m kind of realizing a piece of my dream in what I’ve loved to do most since I was a kid – ride my bike. And that probably helps explain my love for cycling. That’s a small piece to my obsession. But enough already. I’m waxing cheesy, so it’s time to stop.

Lisa  – (11:38 PM)  

That was so nice to read. You are great. I will show Abby your pics She will get a kick out of them You know she has a bike a Disney princess one!! Good for you. Need to run Have thing to cut up in Lab in the AM. Good Night Love to you'all

Mrs. Anderson  – (7:55 PM)  

You know it is a good story when the content is not something you are too familiar with or that you have personal experience with - and yet you can't stop reading! Lorena you are a pro and I am honored to know you!

Snow Crew  – (1:35 AM)  

Great job. Keep on truckin!

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