After a bit of an off month I was eager to get going again and the Kenda Cup XC race in Big Bear was the perfect platform for that. I went back and forth about pre riding but in the end opted for a day trip so Ben (boyfriend) and Freddie (puppy) could join me. I felt pretty good going in to the race other than a bit shaky. My tummy was doing flips but thats usual for me before any race. However this was different….I made an emergency stop to the bathroom in Ghost Town, CA, and thinking I was in the clear we continued our journey. HA. After making the turn off at Barstow that urgent feeling returned with a vengeance. F*ck. There is literally nothing on this road for miles, nothing in the desert but dusty shrubs and cactus. But this was an emergency. I don’t feel I have to talk any more about said emergency, but rest assured I was a little nervous about how this was going to impact my race…
We rolled in to Big Bear and I registered for the race while Ben got the bike together and Freddie let himself be heard by barking at bikes. The nervousness built and after a couple more bathroom trips I rode up to the start. Its around a 15min ride from the parking lot to the start, however the course was now changed and it was much further up the road than I thought, luckily I had left myself plenty time and arrived with enough time to stretch off, practice a couple warm up hill climbs and chill before my wave set off. I recognized a couple faces but was also glad to see new faces.
The race started and I took off up the hill. Its fairly normal to start with a sprint but I quickly found myself alone and pushing up the hill. I didn’t worry though because what goes up must come down! XC racing is full of intervals where you blow up then kind of recover then blow up again. It was pretty hot out but I had a full bottle on my bike and another in my back pocket. I had quickly scoffed a gel before the start and had one more in my pocket also. I continued pushing and finally the downhills started. However, with the lack of rain the corners, downhills and fire road were all pretty loose and I seemed to be losing control of my front wheel a lot. I slowed down quite a bit thinking I had a comfortable lead but before I knew it I looked back and I had a couple riders hot on my tracks. A couple more uphills put some distance in again but sure enough with the downhills they were on my tail again. One girl in my age group past me and we shared a couple words but my heart sank a bit. DONT GIVE UP. We came into a switchback section but the trail was loose, dusty and tight, and with another rider hot on my tracks I wadded up on a corner and went half OTB. Luckily she was able to pass without incident and I collected myself, ego bruised. I couldn’t understand why I was having such issues, but then it clicked! Although I was trying to keep my weight back, in my nervousness I had a death grip on my handlebars causing my front wheel to give out on every corner. After I made the necessary correction I coasted around the course! I found myself actually laughing out loud at my mistake and grateful to be back on track riding smoothly. It was too late by this point to make up the ground for 1st place but I could hold onto 2nd.
I had now gone through almost all of my nutrition but I still had 5 miles to go, I had been guzzling down my fluids, but it wasnt enough. My Right Quad cramped up so hard I almost fell off my bike. It eased off but I was very timid to put much more power through that leg in fear it would cramp again. Finally I got to the last downhill stretch and with memories of riding this section the year before was surprised at how much better I was able to handle the descents, technical spots and corners. I rode into the finish line absolutely beat but honestly so happy.
So many emotions and thoughts go through your head on difficult races: ‘you’re not strong enough’, ‘you don’t belong here’, ‘your legs are empty’, ‘give up now’, and the most important one that screams louder than ANY of them….
‘NEVER GIVE UP!!!!!’