AKA – Things I learned and thought about in the last two days!
Day 1 – Practice
Arriving at the Ranch early in the day, all I pretty much felt at the start was excitement. I pre-registered (it turns out that if you register online the races are a little bit cheaper than if you register at the race), but I still had a couple things to sign before I was officially a racer! Plate #198, (OMG, I have a race plate) ready to go!
When I lined up to practice I felt unbelievably self-conscious, but it turns out that I was able to shed this particular issue pretty quickly. Everyone was there to race, and I had more or less stopped worrying about what everyone was thinking (except me…) by the time I made it to the gate. THEN the commissaire promptly told me to take off my headcam and the self-conscious feeling came back pretty quickly while I was walking my bike down and getting out of the way as fast as I could! (I forgot…oops!)
After that, despite the persistent rain and wind, I started hammering through the practice runs pretty well, picking my lines and trying to memorize the sections and corners. Early on I blew off the trail (Oh right, the NEXT corner is the fast one) and continued to struggle with a little section on the course (henceforth known as “that one jump section” or T1JS). I chatted with some really nice people on the shuttle bus in between getting shuttled by my super supportive boyfriend and brother, who we will henceforth call Rob and my brother.
I made a decision early in the day to race on Rob’s bike which isn’t the right size for me, and which I had less than an hour of ride time on; but felt a little bit faster than my old mongoose. In hindsight, I wonder if I should have just stuck with what was comfortable but who knows really. The Devinci Spartan is a beautiful bike regardless and has the advantage of being almost 10 pounds lighter than mine.
More riding, more people (seriously everyone was so friendly there and full of advice on which lines to take); by the time the women’s only practice section came up I was already pretty exhausted. I stood at the top and watched some ladies ride a sketchy corner before I headed up to the gate. The commissaire then informed me that this was a women’s only riding time and I would have to get off the start line. I heard Rob and my brother laughing (Go away, self-conscious) as I told him that yes, I was a woman. To be fair there were quite a lot of riders with long hair and jackets.
I made it through the day with only one minor crash (in which I ripped my favourite pair of riding shorts and got some quite spectacular “WHOA”s from the guys watching me) and a pedal strike; and finished off the day nailing T1JS perfectly.
Our campsite was a bit of a drive away and utterly beautiful, but, my gosh, the TRAIN. I actually went to bed early (9:00); despite all my nervousness, I felt ready to sleep. I started drifting off when I was awoken by what I was certain was the apocalypse. An apocalypse with a whistle. After that sleep became impossible, and my head became a whirl of uncertainty which refused to slow down.
“What if you crash?”
“The other racers look so good.”
Finally logic won out at around midnight and I tried to only worry about the factors under my control. I made it to sleep while visualizing the course. Then the only thing keeping me up was the locomotive.
Day 2 – Race Day
I started out the day with a nice breakfast, and put on some of my favourite music for the ride to the Ranch while going over my lines in my head. I also tried a couple mantras from blogs I had read online, trying to find that zen place, but that didn’t really work out for me.
I decided to ride both my practice runs as if I was racing, and crashed on T1JS both times, spraining my ankle the second time.
At the last minute I decided to ride 2 lines that I hadn’t tried before. The first one was only a small change, and the second was a line around the 3rd of the 4 jumps in T1JS. I really didn’t want to do this but I felt that crashing would be worse and the odds weren’t in my favour.
I spent the last half hour before my race cheering, chatting with more friendly people and rolling my ankle around to prevent it from stiffening up. (Rob fixed up the wheel and derailleur I smashed).
While I was in the race line I actually felt pretty calm; the other girls were quite friendly and everyone was encouraging each other. I thought that was pretty cool and setting a good example of professionalism, at the very least.
I slipped a pedal almost right out of the gate and ended up going around the first very easy corner bouncing around half on and half off my bike. I focused on riding my best, and was a little surprised that the cheering didn’t bother me at all (I’m not sure yet if that was because my ankle was taking up all the distraction capabilities; but everything outside of my bubble barely registered). I took the ride around at T1JS and did it a little sloppily, and messed up a couple other spots; but I didn’t crash, which was the goal! (It was one goal, anyway.)
It was a really good feeling to cross the finish line and I was actually surprised when they said my name and time (somehow I forgot about that part) – and I also forgot that they keep watching you after you finish; “She’s shaking her head, clearly not a good enough time!” It’s almost like they KNOW me. Or that they just know racing (and racers!) :p
If I wasn’t being hard on myself for not being better then I wouldn’t be being myself at all. In all aspects of life, I’m always going for progress. So in the name of progress, here are my
Personal Change Takeaways:
Keep in mind that these are my personal takeaways for myself. The nice thing about biking in particular is that different things work for different people. These are just some things I’m going to try differently or focus on more in my next adventure.
- Do not try to go as fast as you can on every practice run.
- Pick your lines early and try to ride them at least once before you ride them in the race.
- Do not obsess over one section and let the rest of the trail suffer.
- Don’t worry about the things you can’t control.
- If anyone reads this someday, feel free to make some takeaway suggestions!