I was looking forward to racing on my “home course” in Colorado Springs for the US Cup finals and round 5 of the Pro XCT series. I got to sleep in my own bed which was nice and the morning of the race Ari and I jumped in the truck and drove down to the venue; one of the lowest stress race days I’ve had this year. I did a quick few laps on the course as part of my warm up and then it was time to go! It was pretty warm out and the course didn’t have much in the way of tree cover. I knew it was going to be a hot and dusty one. I admitted to Ben, my coach, as we were lining up that I didn’t feel that great. Something felt ‘off’.  I had been having some sinus/lung congestion since Wednesday and was starting to suspect that the cause was not allergies like I had been telling myself. He wisely said it was fine and there was nothing I could do now other than have a good start and go from there.  I followed his advise and surprised myself with a solid start. I was ~7th going into the singletrack, and through the second half of lap one, I was able to move into 5th. And, that’s where I was for the majority of the race; hanging out by myself in 5th…I was sort of expecting for someone to catch me, or even better, hoping I could catch onto the Luna train just ahead of me.

Unfortunately, going into the last lap, it was the former that happened. Actually, what happened was this: after lap 5 I could see that Dani from Mexico had gained on me and was now visible behind me. So lap 6 I picked it up a bit and I think put a little time on her. I had planned to really bury myself on the last climb and hopefully get a gap I could maintain throughout the rest of lap 7. As I cranked it up on the paved climb, my lungs started to get a bit congested. By the time I hit the steep, run-up section I was full-on gasping for air and getting dizzy. I bobbled the next little techy climb and that allowed Dani to catch my wheel. When I went through the feedzone, Ben said he could hear me whistling as I struggled to breathe through my tight lungs. On the descent, I let Dani go by so I could follow her wheel and try and recover a bit. That actually seemed to work and I was able to relax enough to get my breathing under control. Ok, game on! As Dani and I made our way through the back side of the course-I plotted my strategy….unfortunately, on one of the steep little rollers, I read Dani as going left, so I made a move to go right, when at the last minute she went right and I went into a ditch. I jumped up and back onto my bike, focused on catching back onto Dani’s wheel. This effort was too much for me and the lungs pretty much closed completely. Luckily, no one was behind me. I was able to make my way through the finish where I immediately sat down and motioned that I needed my inhalor as I was having a full on asthma attack. I haven’t had one of those in years! Fortunately, I had suspected something was going on with my lungs before the race and had given Ari an emergency inhalor to have on hand. The medicine helped almost immediately, but as an added precaution the medics set me up in the first aid tent hooked up to an oxygen tank. Sweet!

The next adventure of the day was waiting for me though as I was the random finisher selected for USADA testing. This was a fun couple of hours hanging out in the RV, willing my bladder to be full so I could empty it and leave. I guess I was pretty dehydrated because it took me forever (including one false alarm which was embarrassing) to pee. When I finally was able to provide a sample-it was a very disturbing brownish color. Yikes! I guess I was NOT drinking enough out there. Something to work on for next time.

Anyway, the next few days after the race my “allergies” turned into a full blown cold. My poor airways were pretty beat up and Monday at the office I sounded like a 50 year old smoker as I gave my weekly updates.