My trip to the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships opened my eyes to how much more this sport has to offer. It's very clear that even after racing for 7 years, I am still a beginner with so much to learn.
The journey started mid January when I set a goal of winning the MTB National Championships. I did quite a bit of research on how to train in order to be the best you can be for 1 specific event. We call that Peaking. I created a periodization plan based on the recommendations from Joe Friel, the author of "The Cyclist's Training Bible - 4th Edition." I decided against a coach as I knew I'd be told not to race so much. Never going to happen. lol. The plan was to work on building a bigger endurance base then I've ever had. I was used to just going as hard as I could all the time until I hit the wall. This took a tremendous amount of patience as once the Wisconsin Off Road Series began, I was still in base land with little top end. I had to train through races rather then tapering for them as I needed to continue building fitness. I started the build phase late May, finally incorporating more interval training in hopes of ramping up to peak just in time for Nationals on July 20th.
Holding back fitness was really hard on the ego, I was used to coming into the regular season with all cylinders firing. I wasn't able to hold the speeds I had been able to in previous seasons. I was putting in more hours of training then I ever had and was slower. I began questioning if this was really going to work but stuck to it regardless.
I also knew it was going to be a hilly course and in cycling lighter bikers have more advantage as they are carrying less weight up every hill thus going faster and burning less energy. So I attempted to loose weight. Not a good idea trying to loose weight while you're in season. It's to late. I was at 133 lbs in March and hoped to get down to 120lbs by Nationals. I made it down to 126 but feel like I lost more much muscle then fat in the process and often trained / raced under fueled. As athletes we learn, revise and try again. Once season starts, fuel up, be happy at the weight you are. I'll be focusing more this winter on getting to that perfect race weight while building strength and power in the gym with a trainer.
Week of the event nerves were high, would the last 5 months of preparation be enough? So I had a beer with Gomez and Jesse, my comrades from the "Dose of Fat" Podcast on www.fat-bike.com. They are such goofs that it made it easy to relax. Chatted with George and Sarah Kapitz the owners and my biggest supporters from www.brokenspokebikes.com. They've had my back for the past 3 years and were just excited for me to give it a go. My bike, the new Santa Cruz Blur was in the shop early in the week for final touch ups and race ready by Wednesday. I had been putting in about 9-15 hours a week on the bike leading up to this week. Finally it was taper time, my legs thanked me for the 3 days off.
Ryan and I drove down Wednesday arriving early Thursday to prep and pre ride. Wisconsin pro and good buddy of ours, Ben Senkerik, let us stay in his room. We had front row window to the start line! The Snowshoe Mountain Resort was spectacular! It was based right at the top of the Mountain overlooking vistas in every direction. There was so much activity going on all around, cyclists from every mountain discipline racing, pre riding, cheering, meandering and visiting. Cycling village like I've never seen before. I'll certainly make it a week long trip next year so I can really take it all in. Maybe adding the Enduro, Short Track and Duel Slalom to my race resume. We'll leave the down hilling to the true tough guys/gals.
Pre rode the course Thursday afternoon. After the first lap I started leaning towards changing my goal from winning to surviving. The course was INSANE! AWESOME, HARD, EXHILIRATING, HILLY, ROCKY, WILD DECENTS, JIGSAW PUZZLES, TWISTY, SO GOOD. Many tried to explain what it was like but you just can't understand until you are there. I've raced on more technical courses but in long 30-50 mile settings where you sit in and ride. The difference here was that you had to handle all the obstacles while fully in the red. Course was only 4.5 miles long and we were to do 3 laps. About an hour and a half as hard as you can go. Started with a climb out of the shoot to a smooth run down to a road that led to the first section of single track. Normally a place where you catch your breath, not so much when it's a mile of tree roots tangled everywhere like a pit of snakes. Once out of the roots we had a gradual dirt road climb before our first fun flowy decent. A couple rolling hills led to a man made rock garden leading to the next long climb. We were blessed with a fast and flowy decent before starting the longest and steepest part of the course. You had to manage your effort on the climb because you needed something left to get you through the next mile of rocks safely. We'd pop out of the rocks and climb to the start of the next lap. This course made me feel like I was just a puppy in this sport.
I was stoked to have an early morning start the next day, I'm better then, in cooler temperatures. 60 of us lined up and I had racked up a good amount of points so got the call up to the front of the pack. Plan was to go out really hard so I could be the first to the roots and avoid any backups due to people getting twisted up and walking their bikes. Gun went off and I took the hole shot. Yes, made it into the roots first! Feeling good with Melissa Lumas on my wheel. I've raced her before, she is a super strong technical rider so I was hoping I'd get to work with her throughout the race. We were immediately off the front on our own putting a nice gap on the rest in the roots. We took turns pulling up the climbs / descents until we got the last steep climb of the lap. I pushed the pace and told her to hold on but she was worried about blowing up so backed off. It was just me through the rocks and past the start shoot. Was feeling really good about that! I might have a chance at this thing! During a climb leading to the roots I felt another rider on my back. She was with me through the roots and passed, where did this girl come from? Was she a young phenom catching me from the wave behind? I didn't even know she was in my age class! There were letters on our calves so that we would know who was in our division. Lesson learned as I wasn't paying attention. I really believed she was much younger than me. I didn't attempt at staying with her, I should have, big mistake. But maybe not, she had me by over two and a half minutes in the end. This is a huge gap. I am not sure I would have been able to stick with her at that pace for the 2nd and 3rd laps. Anyhow, I rode as hard and safely as could the rest of the race with no other girls in sight. I crossed the line in 2nd place.
Bonus on the day was getting to watch Ryan race! I convinced him to register the day before as we'd have to stick around until 7:30pm that night for podiums, he might as well! His race began at 2:30pm, with no race specific training he came in a smooth 8th in his age. Can you guess if he wants another crack at it?
This is an event you cannot miss. Do whatever it is you need to do and get to 2019 MTB Nationals. They change venues every 2 years so the new location will not be released for a few more months but I am told that they are usually held at ski resorts because they have the infrastructure and trails available to handle the crowds and the disciplines.
Thanks to everyone that has encouraged me on this journey. There were many days I questioned if it was worth the time, effort and sacrifices for just one race and all the positive reinforcement from friends kept me on track. I had a dream, committed to the goal, created a plan, stuck to it and scored a SILVER MEDAL AT THE MTB NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS!!!! I'd do it all over again. I am humbled by the experience and hungry for more!
Visit the USA Cycling Facebook page for dozens of rad videos and pictures: https://www.facebook.com/usacycling/
|Start of the 15/16 Boys XC Race - Record 104 racers!|
|Wicked start climb for the 17/18 Girls Division|
|Which line would you take?|
|The little guys can do it, you should to!|
|If you weren't completely toasted after this race, you were doing something wrong|
|Long climb to the Feed Zone|
|Cat 1 Females had 60 at the start!|
|True inspiration, Mr. Frederick Schmid won the 85+ Division - Completing 2 laps on this course!|
|Maneuvering through a mile of rocks|
|Ryan making friends with Midwesterners - Bruce Martens|
|Hundreds of spectators cheering during every race - Start of the Pro Men|
|Man Made Rock Feature|
|Try this when you're gassed|
|Mile of Roots to go|
|And that too|
|Top of the World|
|Morning of my race|
|Pro Women on the go|
|Silver for me|
|Really liked this girl's smile|
|So steep many had to walk|
|Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters|
|Mikey and me showing off our heavy medals|
|Over the roots and through the woods|
|Lucked out as my chain broke during my warm up, held the entire race!|