Friday, July 20, 2007

US Cross Country MTB National Championships - Mount Snow, VT

I just got back from doing another one of those weird races where I felt good but just wasn’t going good. What is the deal? Well I can and will say that my rib today was NOT helping the situation…

The Pro Women had to do 3 laps on a course that was rapidly detiorating. It was a peanut butter fest out there requiring several dismounts off the bike and then pushing the bike through a huge vat of thickened super chunk peanut butter that clogged everything including gears and ears.

After a 20-30 minute climb up Mount Snow on some very technical and fun singletrack we had 10-15 minutes of pure descending through the most roots you have ever seen in your life. On the descent of the first lap things started out that you would hit the slimy roots that were covered in slick mud with your tire, roll over it and drop A LITTLE onto the pool of thickened mud before you hit the next slimy root and did the same thing. But on the 2nd and 3rd laps that change dramatically - you would then hit the roots with your tire, roll over it and drop into a HUGE deep hole. It were these HUGE holes that I would hit time and time again on the second and third laps until I would land just right enough on the front tire to send a knife pain into my ribs. This would result in a holler/yelp, then I would back off completely and start feathering the brakes on the way down for the next 5 minutes until I gradually got up enough mental strength to let –er – rip again. Basically I became a sissy for 5 minutes here and there over the course of the race. What can I say? Pain will do that to a person I guess. It was a struggle. I lost a TON of time on the downhill which isn’t my style at all. Such a dang bummer.

After thinking about it I realized that I haven’t felt this kind of rib pain in the last couple of races that I have done (Snowbird, UT and St Felicien, Quebec) on the downhill because at Snowbird, there was just a smooth fire road descent and the other World Cup didn’t have pits like the ones that developed on the 2nd and 3rd laps here. Oh well. Kind of sad to me in a way but I know once the rib is completely healed (I am on 4 of the 12 weeks of the healing process) I will be able to do my thing completely and without worry of re-injury or searing pain. Nothing is worse than having those thoughts go through your head while in a race either because there is no doubt that is DOES slow you down.

This something that is new to me (being injured) and its something that I need and am trying to work through. It’s tough, not fun and it’s quite a challenge but I am learning with each day on what to do to get through. It’s hard and I respect all those athletes out there that have come back from an injury because I now have seen to an extent what they go through and what it takes mentally.

Speaking of that “if/when” thing that I just wrote….I have been competing and racing MTB bikes since June of 2000 and this is my FIRST “substantial” injury so far. You play with fire enough and you will get burned I am sorry to say. You just don’t know when it’s going to happen and how bad I guess.

Another lesson learned this weekend………before the race my coach, Alison asked if I had my shoes ready with spikes? “Ugh spikes???? Come again?” Yet another thing that I didn’t even think of. So lucky for me, an hour before the race, I ran into the nicest guy from Boulder, CO named Mike that was under the Titus tent. He kindly offered me HIS spikes from HIS shoes. He even took on the whole swap himself while I readied myself for the race!!! What a guy. Then afterwards he gave them to me to keep! It will just be another small thing to carry with me that makes a world of difference in a race when it’s muddy. Now the other small difference in a race that I need to have is happy ribs.

Here is the rest of the scoop on the race. It didn’t rain, things turned to peanut butter, it was a sunny day for the 2pm start and we had to Cyclocross it a third of the way up the climb on each lap because the mud was so thick that you would slip out therefore making pushing (vs. riding) the best option. This meant that calves and legs were cramping, lower backs were hurting, shoulders were killing, etc from pushing your bike up a mountain through thick peanut buttery mud. Our bodies are only used to riding I swear and the better you are riding......the worse you are at everything else.

There were no incidences, and for the most part I stayed upright really except for an occasional bobble or two which is amazing given the balance I had to have in the sections where I slowed down to a slugs pace to compensate for the jabbing pain in my rib. My tires did pack with mud going up the hill and down the hill in a BAD way leaving me essentially with a bald tire. My fault- bad tire choice even though the tire I had on there was perfect for the conditions 24 hours earlier. Live and learn I guess but you do what you can with the tools and time that you have.

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