I woke Saturday morning to the sight of clear blue skies and was thankful that it seemed we would have a spectacular day for racing. We were shuttled to the venue and I decided to do my warm up on the trainer. With all the crowds and not knowing the area very well, I figured that was the safest option. Plus, I hardly ever am able to transport a stationary trainer with me to a race venue so this was like a novelty and it made me feel cool:) I got a good warm up in and then went to the start area to wait for call-ups. My starting position was actually 58th, out of 60 something girls. My goal for the start loop was to move up as far as I could and not let anyone get by me. Honestly, I was hoping to get into the top 40, and then pick a few people off per lap. I did a pretty good job squeezing into a relatively good start position. When the gun went off, everyone did the usual surge forward with jockying, franctically trying to move to the front. It was the most aggressive start I’ve been in. At one point a Polish girl grabbed my waist and tried to pull/push me out of her way. I used my elbow to knock her hand off me, focused on my goal of not letting anyone take a hard earned spot away from me.
There was a sharp downhill corner halfway through the lap and I was shocked to see how many people were bungled up at this section. There was no way through, so I got off my bike and tried to run. Which I wasn’t able to do very well due to the congestion. Tried to keep my cool and maintain my focus, only to run into more congestion at another not-that-difficult section. When I came through the start/finish I saw I was in 48th. I was hoping for a better spot and the wind sort of blew out of my sails. But then Sandra Walter, a Canadian racer, sped past me and I snapped back into it realizing there was a lot of racing left to do. I picked up the pace and was able to pass a few girls, only to get stopped behind a girl who had to dismount after a water crossing section. This made me more determined to pass as many people as possible before the single track climb up to the first steep, muddy descent. Unfortunately, I think I was little too aggressive and carried a bit too much speed rolling off the log drop and wasn’t able to stay in control on the muddy chute. I wiped out pretty hard, but wasn’t really hurt (one nice thing about mud). After checking that my bike was still functioning I ran the rest of the way down the hill. When I tried to clip in for the next rooty section, I found that my cleats were solid with mud and I wasn’t able to get into my pedals. More running and uncoordinated riding until I was through the tree section and able to roll while stomping the mud off my cleats. I lost about 5 spots through that ordeal, but I caught a few people again on the climb and before I knew it, we were heading out for our 2nd lap. I was about 4 minutes off the leaders already and was in 47th place. I was pretty frustrated with my lack of coordination and was determined to have a smoother 2nd lap. Lap 2 was better, but still not as smooth as I would have liked. 3rd lap was pretty good and my 4th and ultimately final lap was the best lap of the day for me. I ended up getting pulled with 2 laps to go. I was really disappointed to get pulled. Mainly because I was just starting to feel good! I tried not to be too bummed out, but kept re-living how strong and comfortable I felt on the climbs. I stuck around to watch the finish and was super psyched to see Georgia win another Bronze medal and Lea finish not too far behind her in 8th place. I was proud to be wearing the same jersey!
The feelings I came away from that race with were excitement, a little bit of disappointment, but mainly a whole lotta determination and motivation. I know that I’m strong enough to have finished much higher, there are just some finishing touches I need to work on in order to get up there.