Trying to keep the rubber side down…but not always. MBAA race #4.

In the world of racing, we must always make room in between the good days for those not-so-good days. Why, you ask. To learn. To keep the head and ego grounded. To keep things from becoming stagnant. All of these are real reasons to that we still may want to say, screw that, I want them to all be winning days! But, alas, the world and the athlete are far from perfect and we can not live inside the little Walgreen’s world that lies beyond cell phones and super highways. So this is a new story, where the excitement turns a bit towards disappointment and the ending is not quite so full of smiles, but that’s ok because there is always a new day to follow, with a new story and another ending.

The morning is chilly. The dirt freshly sodden by the last evening’s rain. The sun mostly hides and it’s one of those days when you can’t decide how to adequately dress for the occasion. I feel good, decent at the very least. Ready to get out there and slightly nervous about the technicality of today’s course. I’ve trained for this. I’ve ridden all of it. There is nothing I can’t do out here, so just keep it positive and all will be well. I let the thoughts of how I’ve been riding during the past week, the slightly “off” feeling, the too much use of my brakes on yesterday’s ride, slide deep into the back of my head. I had intervals to be done this week, also, will I be tired? Only time will tell.

Today’s race at Estrella Mountain Park showing a huge turn-out for the women’s field so far into the season! Something like 60 women and junior girls have come out to race. I think that’s awesome! I think MBAA and the usual suspects of women’s racers have done an excellent job this year of encouraging femmes to saddle up and get on the start line. Keep it up, Ladies! Also, in the men’s races, OVB had some podium winners with young Caiden still crushing the age groupers above him and Kit literally running his bike with a failed tire across the finish line for 3rd. Great job out there, guys!

Look at the mighty turn-out for the women's start! Yahoo!

Look at the mighty turn-out for the women’s start! Yahoo!

The line up is a good one today. Five Pro Women here to compete! I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to test myself against the likes of Chloe Woodruff and Krista Park. Now this is exciting! I have already decided, I will just hang on to them for dear life. I will ride well today no matter what.

And the whistle blows, the start is fast..very fast.  Chloe is up front immediately, followed by Krista and then myself. There is a climb briefly at the beginning and then becomes rolling for a time after. I climb along with them, they pull away just slightly on the dips. I am working my ass off from the start and the next I look up, Chloe is off the front and gone…gone. I stay up with Krista and decide I can pass on a long grind. The trail is in good shape. Its tacky and the usual sandpit on this climb is packed down and easy to ride on. The trail winds around and I blow a couple a curves too wide, come on Beth, get it together. Krista is not far behind me so I keep pushing the pedals to try and pull away enough to maybe, just maybe, stay ahead on the upcoming descents. Hopeful thinking. Then, on an only slightly technical step up, I come off. What the? Krista clears it and I get back on the bike pedaling up behind her. I am right on her wheel on the steep ascent to the saddle, happy to be able to climb at least as well as her, just to have her blow me away on the technical descent. For awhile, I will see her up ahead, thinking maybe I can catch her on the uphills; but I’m not handling the bike well and can’t make up enough time to get there. The first lap, I clear all the tech areas after the saddles. There are two rock drops one right after another with a bit of a left hand curve following, I remember doing these several times in my pre-ride practice. I make it over both with less than graceful skill and completely using up all my suspension (kabunk!) in the process. I don’t like the feel of that… I make it thru the lap zone still only 1:30 behind Chloe who is killing the field out front, and I’m happy to be where I am at the moment. Lap two, ok ok. I seem to be technically handling things a tad better. I quickly make it around the twisty section and clear the obstacle I missed on lap one. Still climbing well. I pass two of the super-strong marathon women and almost immediately after, I’m OTB and on the ground. Yep, the rock drop. Second one, I don’t know what happened. Maybe I didn’t get back off the seat far enough, I’ve again run out of front shock travel. In the split second of a seemingly slow motion scene, I was off the rock and heading into a ditch and over the bars where I believe my face somewhat broke my fall, bike lying on top of me. Another split second, I’m on my feet with bike in hand. I can hear riders coming behind me. Ok, teeth all in place. Bike seems in working condition. I’m standing, so must be ok and I get back on the trail. But I’m slow. Oh my word, I am slow. At first I’m still going thru my body and bike while trying to refocus on the task at hand and figure out what’s actually happened. Then I can see my nose appears strange, trying to look at it cross-eyed while keeping myself upright on the course. I take my glove and wipe across my face…blood. You’ve got to be kidding me. I’ve had enough experience involving my nose last year when a PA at work had to pull out an inch long cactus spine which had been festering there for a week; I am not happy this part of my anatomy has fallen victim again. I’ve now fully lost my focus and I never do regain it. I can barely navigate the trail. What is wrong with you? Seriously, what is wrong with you? I keep riding. I want to quit, but I can’t, I won’t, allow myself to. Even if I finish dead last, I will finish. On the last big climb of a jeep trail towards the finish, I see Kata closing in behind me. I don’t know if I can hold her off; but I need to try. Thru the lap zone, our last lap is shorter, but called the Tech Loop for a reason. I hold Kata off until one of the nasty little step ups and my mind is no longer willing to allow my body to even try. I come off the bike. She’s off too, but now close enough to speak to me. “Are you ok? What’s wrong?” A genuinely concerned sound in her voice…I must look like I’m struggling. “I’m just riding like crap today, that’s all.” I don’t look at her and let her go around. And furthermore, I can’t even get back on my bike. My chain is hanging there without any slack. I’m on an uphill and I can’t get enough momentum going to make up for it, when I finally manage  to get going again, I can hear the chain slapping against the frame. Oh my.  The technical, rocky descent is now intimidating to me and I’m off my bike at any sign of danger. I want to cry. I have ridden all this before…but I just can’t do it today. I get close to where the tech loop rejoins the long loop and I feel I’ve completely given up on actually racing today. I have kept up the mental strength to continue on, but now I just want to finish without killing myself in the process. I hope that no one else comes up behind me. The Cat1’s are still back there. Jaime Brede is still back there. Maybe I can still finish a disappointing 4th. I make the final climb and descent back to the finish; for a fleeting moment my heel gets caught in my tension-less chain. I lacklusterly roll thru the finish line, body slightly battered, ego bruised and confidence broken. The whole OVB Team is there still, waiting for my arrival, most of whom finished racing before I even hit the start line. They cheered me on at every lap thru, even as I was falling further and further behind. I am so grateful to be part of this supportive team. Kit takes my bike at the finish, Kevin brings me some water and everyone is asking questions. I smile thru my frustration and defeat and say my handling skills were simply not up to par today. On this day, I had a chance to shine and prove that I belong up riding with the big girls and what I put forth was a mediocre and weak performance. We all have off days, this was certainly  one of mine. Solely because I didn’t ride well in one race, doesn’t mean I’m not where I belong, it means I’m human like everyone else on the field. At this moment in time, I need to pull myself out of my failure, move on and use it as experience to improve for another day. As much as I’ve advanced well beyond where I was a year ago on my technical and descending skills, I still have a lot of work ahead of me. I am fit enough and strong enough to hang. I have nailed down my nutrition, with GU its right on every time. I must keep my head in the game and continue working at the rest. My next big chance is coming up…Bonelli is this next weekend…back in the saddle.

Notice some missing travel there... (photo by Nick Skaggs)

Notice some slightly less travel than should be there… (photo by Nick Skaggs)

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