This summer my training continued as much as ever, but my racing was put on hold for a bit. Not that I can complain though, because during the race season I was working full time as a mountain bike instructor for a girls summer camp. I was able to start a mountain bike program and share my passion for the sport with the next generation of female cyclists. Luckily, the director of the camp was supportive enough to give me time off to travel to Snowshoe, West Virginia for this year’s Mountain Bike Nationals. On Thursday we arrived a few hours early to have time to pre ride the short track course and get ready for the first race at 4pm. I was excited to be back at the same venue that I raced collegiate nationals at, and the course was only slightly different. The main difference was that the conditions for this race were hot and dry, which was a huge improvement from the collegiate race’s snowy mud conditions. I was anxious to prove myself at my first open nationals event, and on the start line I watched my heart rate climb from 110 to 165 before I even started moving. When the whistle blew, I exploded off the pedals and got into the lead group around the first corner. This was the Cat 1 17+ Short Track race, and we were racing for 20 grueling minutes plus 3 laps. I pushed hard to get to the technical rock garden before it got crowded, and was able to ride the garden clean and stay in the top group. After the first climb however, the top 4 riders began pulling away, and rounding the next lap I made a wrong move and took a fall on the rocks. I was able to get back up fairly quickly, but not before being passed by 2 riders right behind me. A few laps later another rider had an unfortunate crash, and the gap between myself and the front group was widened as officials made us dismount our bikes and walk around the medical team responding to the racer. Short track races mean going as hard as you can for the short time that you’re on course, and I was giving it my all as my heart rate climbed up to a new high of 208 bpm. Everything between the first two laps and the last was a blur, but I remember sprinting to the finish and hearing the announcer say that I was in the top 10. I was thrilled to have finished 9th among some fast women, and was also thrilled to be able to finally catch my breath after an intense effort.
The next day I got up bright and early for the Cat 1 Women’s Cross Country race. After a good breakfast and final warm up on the course, I felt ready to tackle the race. The mountain had other plans however, and the skies soon opened up to dump a thunderstorm on us just minutes before we were to line up. Because of the lightning and poor conditions, the decision was made to postpone our race for an hour until it was safe. We huddled under shelter and tried to keep stretching and stay warm despite the wet and windy weather outside. Soon it was time though, and we took off our rain jackets, ate our final pre race fuel, and lined up for the call ups. In my age category of 19-24 year old women, there was only one other racer- Sydney Wenger, the newest King College rider. We lined up and acted like it was any other race with rows of contestors, and when the whistle blew we both sprinted as hard as we could for the wholeshot. Sydney was on the trail first, and I kept on her wheel as long as I could through the tough rooty sections and the technical rock gardens. The course was shortened from 3 laps to 2 because of the conditions, so it was a short and fast race through the mud. After 10 miles, I was disappointed to not have finished first, but also honored to have gotten second to such a fast rider. I had a top 5 fastest time among 19-29 year old racers, and am looking forward to future years with more racers present. Today I am resting and getting ready for the U23 cross country race tomorrow morning, where I am sure I will be faced with another exciting, challenging, and rewarding effort.