A chilly morning. Ok, it’s hailing. This is still Tucson…right?! It’s 5:15am, I am loading up the truck for another race; this time still in the dark, but cold hail rains down from above. This should make for a very interesting race! Maybe 180 miles to the west, the skies are clear…yeah let’s go with that thought! Well, thank goodness! The sun comes up and the sky is blue as can be without a cloud in site as we near White Tank Mountain Park. The rain came in the night before and should make for a wonderfully tacky trail to ride upon.
Getting set up quickly and having a nice little spot near the lap-thru I’m sitting and chilling (maybe literally), cheering on my teammates as they race thru and chatting with Cassi. Trying to stay positive, thinking about the techy parts on the course and how I’ll flow right on over or down them. Getting in some extra digestible calories and fluid is part of my ritual. A banana and then some GU Chomps an hour or so before with lots a water. Fuel to keep the machine running.Warming up, it feels hard to get the fire stoked. It’s chilly, I have too many clothes on; but necessary at this point. I can’t seem to get my heart rate up and the body is even shivering a little. This is a bit ridiculous…its probably at least over 50 out! I get off the road and ride some side trails up and down and I start to feel a bit more relaxed and the legs spinning around better. Ready or not, it’s time! GU Roctane down the shoot! All of a sudden, the temperature feels perfect for racing. I’ve stripped off any extra layers and am feeling a better readiness. But, the start is not so good for me. A tad nervy after the last race start, I hold back a bit. The single track doesn’t start right away here, so I feel like there will be more time to get involved. But the legs whine. I mean not a little moan, but like we need to have some cheese and chocolate there is so much whine here. And I feel myself floating backwards, the wrong direction and behind. There are at least 5 or 6 women in a line all in front of me, this is not where I want to be. I push thru the utterly grumbling sticks I use for a motor and I finally start to feel a groove coming on. I pass. One, then two than all but Kata and Jaime (I’ve decided we should stop calling her HoneyStinger 😉 ). Kata says, “we just need to hang on”. Yeah, hang on…but I can be faster. I feel stronger than this right now. It’s just the beginning, but screw it, I’m going around. And pass Jaime on the first double track steady hill I did. Now, to be the hunted or the hunter…which is better? I’ll just keep riding like I’m behind. Hitting the first tech section, I glide right over without a single mistake. The guy (who apparently camps out at this particular spot the absolute entire race) is clapping, talking: “And. That. Is. Exactly. How. It’s. Done!” Yes, just like that. I pull away just a bit. Ok, don’t get excited. There is a fast, rolling section with a couple of short drops. I go as fast I as I can thru this, catching air more than once. Yeah baby! Fun stuff! Coming into the steep switchbacks, you can look back to see who’s behind you. They are both there, Kata very close, Jaime a little further back. Ok. Keep going. Hit the descent first…I will not get out-skilled this year! Down the backside, the left-hander has given me problems. My foot goes down, but it’s not a game stopper and I keep flowing. (Damn that left side of my body, tho! My brain just can’t seem to control it correctly). The rocky, technical descent comes next. I know how to ride this, I’ve done it before. Just focus. And I ride down with agility and maybe a touch of gracefulness (which if you know me, graceful is not my middle name). The camera guy of course it there, but this time I look good doing what I do. And I’m thru the tough section, no one has caught me. I was fast enough and skilled enough to stay in front. The rest of the lap is rolling, with a couple of short steep rises and some whoop-de-woos, should be fast, but the wind is starting to pick up. Not too much of an issue yet… I roll thru the lap zone and into number 2, slam a GU and am still ahead. Don’t know by how much, doesn’t matter, gotta keep pushing. I fall into a bit slower pace as my mind hits that ‘well-you’re ahead aren’t you-just ride steady’. And of course, not the mindset to be in during a race. The guy that talks too much is still at the tech step and I have to put a foot down. Ugg-sometimes your play-by-play is distracting, buddy. Ok, just go. I start to pick it up a little and my mind is in better condition. When I hit the switchbacks again, I can see Kata. She’s right there. I see not another soul behind her. Just not gonna get rid of this girl…Kata is my competition. If I don’t pick this up, she’s gonna catch me and then pass me. No. I want to win. And down thru the techy descent again, still hitting everything just right; but not with quite as much grace as the first time. Still ahead. Rolling whoop-de-woos and the double track out. Wind, yes, I feel you pushing back at me. Thru the lap zone, GU up and I hear people yelling for me. My motivation soars. Last lap. Leave it all out there. Ride til there’s nothing left.
I keep talking to myself. Maybe even out loud. ‘Ride harder. Ride faster. Ride better.’ Over and over. I push up thru the first hills again with more ease than the last lap. I get thru the first tech section without a missed step. I whirl thru the fast rolling drop offs proficiently with less effort. I hit the switchbacks. Dare I look back? Of course I have to. There is no one there. There is no one there! Ok, now I must push until the end. The climbing is almost finished. Hitting the descent again, still not smoothly getting that lefty, I make thru it all; but with absolutely no grace this time (that’s my girl!) and am actually slightly surprised I am still on my bike at the end of it. Rolling whoops, keep control. Be fast, but be safe and pay attention. The last double back into the venue, the wind has seriously picked up. I am by myself. No spectators. No other riders in site. I start yelling at the wind. FU wind! You are not gonna stop me! I am bigger than you, wind! That sure does make me feel better, but I’m glad no one was around to listen to it! I see the venue and people start to appear. I’m still ahead. I can do this.
I push into the finish, almost going down on the thick gravel as I round over the little hump into the finish line. Wouldn’t that be a kicker..crashing on the finish line (you should know it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done that, either)! But, it’s all good. I hear my name yelled out and I can’t help but smile. I won! I won my first Pro race! How exciting is this! Kata comes flying in just about 2 minutes behind me and lots of congrats go round both ways. Jaime comes rolling thru a few minutes after that. This has absolutely been a good day on the bike! At the start I had some serious doubts about how this was gonna go for me. But to feel that bad and then just be able to fall into that good groove…what an extraordinary thing. I love doing this! I am meant to do this! I can’t wait for the next one.
Team OVB had an awesome showing at White Tank today! With 4 podium finishes! Including Kit pulling out a 2nd place finish, Cassi getting on the podium for the very first time ever and Caiden at 13 winning the 15-18 age group! How awesome is this?!!
Next up is the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. What a new experience this will be. I’ve done this race for several years as a 5 person team, this year Kevin and I are doing a Duo. Keep an eye out for Mr and Mrs Utley, I’m sure there will be exciting details to follow!