Some days your legs just don’t show up, for absolutely no reason at
all. Unlike on the road, there’s no place to hide in a mountain bike race. No teammates to sit behind; no wheel to draft. It’s one of the most frustrating things in the world. I went out to Wisconsin feeling strong and climbing well, but come race time it felt like I was pedaling in triangles and going nowhere.
The Wisconsin Off-Road Series (WORS) is one of the largest race series in the US. The Subaru Cup was their first shot at putting on a national-level event and they did a spectacular job. The XC course was a 6km loop winding all over Nordic Mountain – mostly twisty singletrack in the woods (thankfully, as it was hot as hell and a billion percent humidity – and, like Josh, I wilt like a little flower in the humid heat).
We’d poked fun at the Wisconsin alpine “mountain”; boasting 250 feet of vertical with two chairlifts, but the course designer had done a good job winding all over the mountain using every possible foot of elevation. After three laps of attempting to make my legs work, Georgia Gould was closing fast and I was mercifully pulled.
Short track, aka “the Hurricane of Pain”, was the following day and my legs felt a little better, perhaps opened up by the XC the day before.
It was a typically disgusting MTB short track course, with 100 feet of climbing in a 3 minute lap. I got a great start and maintained contact over the hill, despite being in full fight-or-flight mode and suppressing the urge to throw up. I managed to settle in behind Chloe Forsman and a Trek girl for a couple of laps. By then, I was feeling a little cooked and Chloe was just warming up. She took off, along with the Trek girl, and I chased fore a few more laps before Katie Compton was breathing down my neck and my race was over. I was joined in short order by almost all of the rest of the field, as Katie went on to lap all but 6 other riders by the finish.
The Super D was a couple hours after the short track. For those of you unfamiliar with what super D entails, it’s basically a mass-start downhill race with some climbing thrown in. Typically it’s a 7 minute race in which both downhillers and XC racers compete. The race started at the top of Nordic Mountain and ran one of the XC climbs in reverse. Due to the tight nature of the singletrack turns, it was hard to make much time on the descending, instead the time gaps would be made at the climb from the bottom up to the finish — which, while relatively short, when placed at the end of a 5 minute pedal-to-the-metal downhill, hurt like hell.
Because of the number of competitors, they decided to split the field into two waves of approximately 10 riders. I lined up next to Super D Queen, Kelli Emmett. She got the holeshot into the singletrack, with me right on her tail. Kelli bunny-hopped the first rock garden, which seemed like a great idea, so I tried to follow suit. Coming unclipped mid-air, I managed to tap into some ninja skills and land one-footed to recover without losing all of my speed or going off into the woods.
I’ve heard that athletes are great liars – your brain needs to lie to your body to convince it to go harder and faster when your muscles are already screaming. It’ll convince you to push a bigger gear; get out of your seat and hammer; it’s only 10 seconds more…
By the time we hit the climb, I was employing every trick in the book up that final climb to keep pushing in the third race in two days. I finished second in my heat behind Kelli, third overall, for my first podium in a national-level race (admittedly, some of the other pros headed for the airport after the short track). It was a great way to finish a less-than-stellar weekend.