Thursday, December 6, 2018

USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships - Snowshoe, WV

USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships - Snowshoe, WV - July 17-22

1st Place - National Title!
Top 5 Overall

Products used: 2018 ZeroUno Ambizone HT built and maintained by Riders Only in Jupiter Florida. Spaziale Diamante Handlebars, Seatpost, 25mmID Wheels and Ceramic Bearings everywhere. Castelli Custom San Remo Speedsuit. NewSchwalbe Racing Ralph and Racing Ray tires 29*2.25. Extralite 70mm Stem. Magura MT8 Raceline Brakes with Storm SL.2 160mm Rotors. SquirtLube Chain lube, Sealant and Barrier Balm. ND Tuned OVR Front Fork. SRAM 12 Speed Eagle drivetrain. Rotor Kapic 170mm Crank with 30t Q-Ring DM. Limar Helmet. Oakley Prizm Radar sunglasses. SelleSMP Carbon Saddle. XpedoM-Force 8 Ti SPD Pedals. ESI Fit CR grips. Clif Gels and Electrolyte drinks. Garden of Life supplements. Removu S1 Gimbal and a Gopro 6 to record the race course. TrainerRoad to train with on my Cycleops Hammer trainer.

We woke up early morning in Vallnord Andorra, just the next morning after the biggest race in my entire life. Hotel had to set us up with a small temp breakfast before regular breakfast hours. It was really awesome of them to do this. Last few looks around on the cold rushing river and we were off. It was going to be a very long day…

First was a drive to Spain where we were flying out from Barcelona and were having a connection in Morocco. Normally we will go direct but that was the best flight to get us on the National Championships site as quickly as possible and as close as possible to it. The “short” connecting flight was a little bit of a nightmare. When we were reaching higher altitude, we got into extreme turbulence's, probably the worst I ever experienced. The plane was being thrown left and right and up and down with great force for an endless what felt like about of time. It didn’t look good and I had no idea if we can get through it. We were literally jumping and getting air off the chairs and feeling lightness and being smashed back and to each side. All the children on the plane started screaming their lungs out and parents were just grinding the teeth as I was. I was also about to rip my husband’s shorts off I was pulling so hard on the fabric. It lasted for way too long but it stopped, it eventually stopped. We still had a long journey and had to fly over Gibraltar. Since then I could not relax even for the smallest moment and pretty much was counting every single second during the flight. We were approaching Casablanca now and the sky was just brown. It looked as a dust storm with no clouds, just dusty brown air all the way up where the clouds should be and all the way to the ground. I didn’t know if that would mean it would be a really rough landing but thankfully it was alright. Then we had the next flight on a Dreamliner all the way to DC. Most of it went smooth until the last couple hours. It still didn’t mean I was able to relax because I wasn’t. When we got to DC it was late evening and we still had a 4-hour drive to SnowShoe. It was another bag of problems considering how tired we were now. The dark, narrow, twisty mountain roads, sky full of billions of stars and our shutting down and over exhausted brains. It was really rough and we had to stop a few times just to pull ourselves together. Then we collapsed finally arriving sometime mid night at the race site.

This is exactly why I was not sure how good of the idea it was to even come here straight from Andorra instead of simply not racing at Nationals. 26 hours straight with no sleep, big time change and all this stress and travel. Not even to mention I just raced two days back in Europe the most important race in my life so far. But we went for it not knowing how my body will handle it and now we are here.

The next morning, I did my pre-ride and saw everyone out there. Track was very similar to what we had last year, minus the crazy rain at the moment, but it did rain the day before so whoever pre-rode yesterday was playing in mud. For me only those very shaded and my least favorite rooty sections were still wet, everything else was good to go.

I was different this time around, not the track but me. I actually didn’t hate it as much, I felt strong and confident on my least favorite section and made sure I can clear all those piles of slimy roots. The rock section toward the end didn’t bother me at all actually and I kind of enjoyed it. Everything in between was pretty fast, one super fun downhill section with berms that we all enjoyed so much last year and of course the climbs. For some reasons it felt like there were more of those this time around but really after what I saw and raced overseas those were really quite insignificant to me, almost like rolling hills than actual climbs, they didn’t bother me at all. Toward the end of my practice ride I started feeling them however in my still tired legs and body and though that maybe it was too much of the good thing and I should have not even ridden that much. But it was all done now and I was very confident with the course and ready to roll.

The race morning did come really soon, thankfully this time our balcony was overlooking a section of the course so I could just ride out from our room… That was neat and saved some nice time. I warmed up on and off the course with Ali who will be doing her first national event. We got really lucky this year, the weather did hold and it was beautiful and sunny the whole previous day and no rain predictions for today, so the course should be just perfect.

We got staged some 10-15 minutes before race start and lined up ready to go.

Some people in my class got race nerves and showed up really on the last minute. Glad you made it to the start line Kelly! 😊

I felt pretty good considering all the crazy hassle to get here this week and I was really looking forward to just make it happen.

Even though it was the only National Title that was still missing from my collection and it seemed to be for me the most difficult of all to obtain I was not stressed at all.

I was focused, composed, determined and just simply ready. I even smiled hard with having my husband on the side before the start cheering me on and goofing it out a little and doing little kangaroo hops with his big camera pack that was bouncing with him up and down… Loved it! But it was a go time, now or never!

And we were off. Right from the start we were going to the uphill on the dirt and some grass which become steeper toward the top and would determine who will go first to the next fast part of the course. We were all very even along the way and on the last few feet or so I felt I had to push even harder to make a move. It worked out and I fought my way through the front and next big downhills with berms and fast gravel path that lead us to really awesome, flowy and fast section with few spots where you could get some air if you really wanted to. Then there was a gradual uphill, steep tiny climb that checked everyone’s legs and bike down to the most dreaded rooty section. It had to be at least 0.5-mile-long, but I never bothered to check, it simply felt long and way longer than that. I was doing really good here and knew that this is where I lost my race last time. I was not going to let it happen again and was aware I have to stay in front and if I do, I should be good for the remainder of the lap. I did hear definitely a set of wheels behind me but I didn’t know who it was. I just kept on being as efficient, smooth and error free as possible. I started passing riders in front from other classes, that was good. Some people would fumble in front and actually mess up my lines, or they would simply slide off the root and fall, put the foot down and all the good that is associated with this crazy section. This did affect my riding slightly but not that much. I cleared it all, did come out of those mean roots on the bottom of the dirty and still muddy double truck in the lead. I put down the hammer, there was no stopping me now. I felt strong, surprisingly really strong and was not planning to slow down any time soon.

I managed the climbs so well, the fun section was just a blast and it made me forget I was actually racing, the rocks were just an awesome challenge as well as little timed down flat man-made rock garden. It was all good. I did cross the first lap with a nice lead and jumped strong into the second. It all went pretty well again, more passes, more people that I knew from classes before. Throughout whole lap I rode with confidence and set pace that was powerful but not overwhelming, I was not going to trash myself here, I was just set on a very manageable effort that possibly could be bumped up if it was really needed. I just wanted to be steady. It was all working out really well. It was good to see myself going by so many riders in the XC race, usually in the past it would not be the case.

Being called queen of endurance had a reason, and also me trying to win the XC title for some time now and always being so close but never close enough had a reason too. I am more than happy to bring it all to this change, to the moment where I don’t have to look at the weaknesses and feel like I can’t do good in something because my body just doesn’t choose this distance as a preferred one. I decided to fight it off and make it also one of my strengths. It was definitely working and I for sure proved it just two days earlier in the massive and stacked to the roof race.

So here we go, we are on the second lap and it is a swap bottle time. Too bad my Pax decided to position himself nicely to snap a cool picture on the little rock garden which was unfortunately located few hundred meters down from the official feed zone. The sun was out and I really was getting thirsty and was looking forward the bottle and it didn’t happen. Now I went to final lap three with no drink and knew that the feed zone is sadly toward the end part of the lap. It did for sure occupy my mind for a long while, since I felt that I already had enough obstacles put in place for this race that really, I didn’t need another one. Being dehydrated, overheated on top of just plain exhausted and sleep deprived was just too much. But I had no choice but just stay calm, keep on working and look at the big picture.

After all it was a last lap and I had a good lead. I saw a lot of people struggling on the climbs, they were for sure getting to everyone now. Everyone was trying to just manage the energy the best way they could. What was funny when I was going through the rock sections there was a lady in pink in front and I don’t know why I kept thinking she somehow could be in my class. I was determined now to speed up and catch and pass her as soon as I could. By the time I got to her I smiled to myself realizing she was just completely different person from some different class who started at a completely different time than me long ahead of me. Either way my class or not I had to pass and from there coast to the finish line. On the way making two more spots overall in the process before crossing the finish line.

And finally, it happened! The history had been made once again and now the way I wanted it, the way I imagined it quite a few years back when we said to each other with my husband Pax. “How cool it would be to have three National titles in three different disciplines”.

So, it was that phrase that started this all, this little quest for something that only made sense, mattered to both of us and really no one else. And because we felt it was going to be cool when it happens.

And it did!

We attended the award ceremony at night and watched some other races. We admired the mountains, the views, the fresh air, the wildflowers around. Each time I looked I wish I could ride mountains more often.

We left home the next morning but it happened to be very overcast and rainy day. It makes for cool, gloomy and reflective right but sadly once again not for the best flight home.

For those who get bored with my plane travel complaints might end here but for those who enjoy my misery please continue!

We took off in DC and it started well, but it was not long into the flight when captain said “flight attendants take your jumpsuits” or at least it was what I heard. I saw flight attendant rushing by me to the back and was thinking that pilot has a great sense of humor and imagined it as some James Bond or Mission Impossible scene when everyone, by everyone I mean the whole crew will jump out on us and leave us here. Later on, we were informed that we were going through bad storm cells. Few minutes later captain announced “flight attendants take your jump seats”, since he said it some eight more times during the flight. It was clear now that crew was here to stay! Yey. But the flight was still too stomach turning. We were supposed to land in some 15 minutes and I didn’t notice us descending at all. I knew we supposed to be on the east coast over the Atlantic and when we pulled up flight data on our GPS we realized we were in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico! Holly cow, apparently, we were zigzagging and flying for an additional 45 minutes in order to avoid all the storm below. When we finally landed and started driving home it was an end of the world downpour that we had to drive through. We were told we were last plain allowed to land in Ft. Lauderdale and my neighbor told me that at our house there was a hurricane like storm and winds and she had no clue how we were flying in this and getting home…

But we got home, safe and sound…

The trip all over the world and back was eventful, exhilarating, exhausting, soul defining and something that will stay in our history books forever.

All of it is not an easy process and takes a lot to make it happen, but we could not have it any other way around. I am so happy that Team Mucha had another fantastic adventure under the belt!

Now it’s official, 4x National Champion!

Thank you to all of you who followed my crazy journeys and cheer me on!

Until next time!

Thank you goes to:

ZeroUno Bikes, Spaziale Compositi, Riders Only Bikes, Castelli, Magura, Removu, NDTuned, Limar Helmets, Schwalbe, Rotor Bike Components, Squirt Lube, SelleSMP, Trainer Road, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Garden of Life, Kuat Racks, Oakley, KMC Chains