If you’ve been following along at home, you’ll know that I’ve been able to get back to a lot of things after Ankle Fusion #2. Most things are pretty ordinary, like cleaning my own house, cooking, doing laundry, and bringing 5 gallon jugs of water up the stairs¹. (Okay, so the whole “5 gallon jugs of water up the stairs” thing is kinda hulk like and less ordinary than the others.)
Anyway, I am *SO* very grateful to be able to do those things, but there’s also this part of me that loves challenges and adventures. Which brings us to the really cool thing I’ve gotten back to:
MOUNTAIN BIKE RACING!
After five long years, I started racing again at the second race of the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series, The St. Croix Woolly. I finished the race (which was awesome) and I came in 78th out of 80. Not too shabby for a girl that’s sat on her arse over the last few years healing from those ankle surgeries. Plus, it felt great just to be on the race course again! My second race was in Mankato and I finished 84th out of 91.
Right before my race in Mankato, I started a part-time job. How cool is that??!? I was working AND mountain biking! Although, truth be told, when I started working, my race training took a back seat to things like sleeping and recovering from being on my feet for over four hours each day. One wouldn’t think it would be that big of a deal, but trust me…it was² a HUGE deal.
So without any time spent riding my bike or any sort of training at all, I finished absolutely last on my third race (Dirt Wirx) 71st out of 71 – but it was still one hell of a race WEEK! I continued that whole zero training thing onto my next race (The Cuyuna Crusher) and was lucky to beat three other racers. Both Nathan and I took a break from the next race and because my body was still having a really hard time adjusting to working, I passed on racing the following race. Instead, I focused on just trying to get out on the bike a few times.
It was hard feeling so exhausted and then forcing myself to get out and ride, but with the support of my family, I was able to get out on the trail several times before the next race: The Red Wing Classic
Here’s where I’d love to tell you that I got first, second, or third in my age group, and that I came home with a medal, and I’d post pictures of me standing on the podium, but I didn’t get 1-3 in my age group. (Which is needed to get a medal. There aren’t “participation” trophies in mountain bike racing.) I got 68th out of 76 overall, BUT it was by far the best race of my life! I was FLYING through the single track at amazing speeds and everything just felt right. Instead of posting a picture of my on the podium, you get a picture of me feeling AWESOME!
And that brings us to yesterday’s race: The Great Hawk Chase
I had no idea why they called it “The Great Hawk Chase”.
I’d never raced the course before so it didn’t occur to me that it was named after a hawk because you CLIMB AS HIGH AS A FREAKIN’ HAWK WOULD FLY before you get to come back down!
On the way up the “hill” on my pre-ride (the first time ever riding the course), I was convinced there was no way I was going to be able to do the race the next day. I don’t think I’ve ever been more physically challenged in my life. But then you get to that sweet down side of the course and it flows so perfectly, and the berms are amazing, and you get one of the biggest highs you’ve ever had in your whole life. So I thought, “What the hell. I can do two laps of this!”
And on race day? All I wanted to do was quit.
I can’t even explain how hard it was to get up that hill. Grueling. Insane. Unrideable. I don’t have the words. Even as I flew though the sweet down side of the course, I really didn’t think I could go all the way back up again. At the bottom of lap one, I even told Nathan I didn’t think I could do it. Oh hell, I didn’t WANT to do it. He encouraged me to keep going, that I could do it. All I wanted to do was stop, but I just couldn’t get myself to stop pedaling.
After trudging myself all the way back up that hill for the second and final lap, I finally hit the sweet down side again. I let go and was totally in the zone. I was carving corners and berms. I pumped through the pump track portions. I was so high on life. I was unstoppable.
Then I came up on this totally amazing double berm. I railed the first one! I railed the second one!
Until the end of it.
At the end of the berm something went wrong and I hit the ground harder than I’ve ever hit the ground in my life.
I was messed up. My head. My hand. My forearm. My back. My hip. Holy crap…
I cried just a little bit and shook myself off. I picked my bike up, got back on, and ever so gingerly…started down the trail again. I had slowly ridden just under a mile before I found the flow of the trail again.
Determined to finish strong, I gave it everything I had for that last mile. I ended up 77th out of 84 and it felt like the worst race of my life.
I’ve spent most of today taking it easy, resting my bruised body, doing some light stretching, tending to my wounds, and?
Looking forward to the last race of the season: Single-Track Escape
¹That whole “taking care of your house and being able to do chores” thing might not seem like a big deal, but until you’ve been laid up or suffered from a chronic illness/injury, you really don’t know how exciting it is to be able to do those things again.
²For those of you that are coming back strong from being laid up for awhile, be nice to yourself. Make sure you KNOW that you’ll need extra time to adjust. It’s not in your head. It’s real. Take the time and be kind!