Of backache and heartbreak: Xterra Snowbasin. Pan-Am championships
The race I have been longing for, the race I have waited 4 years just to even sign up for..
I won't lie I am struggling to even write this post, but I know inquiring minds want to know and I might as well spill the beans.
After crying into my hotel pillow all weekend in DC at The Nation's Tri due to my bike never being delivered, I was in need of a pick me up something fierce. Okay I actually had a blast in Washington. I swam in my running shorts, tooled around on a city bike, ate inexpensive chinese food, and met some long lost relatives who turned out to be pretty kick-ass people, *hey oh!* but the hurt from my bike never showing up stung like breaking up with your first high school crush whom in adolescence you willingly admit to being your "soul mate" only to have your future dreams ripped from you in the form of a note before the start of 4th period. Forget you.
Back to Snowbasin...
I got back to my abode in Utah 12:30am Wednesday morning, shuffled off for work that same morning at 6am for a long work day. The rest of the week went about like that. Busy. I didn't get a chance to swim or bike since before the trip to the east cost, and my A race was knocking on my door.
I woke up Saturday morning a little less than prepared to give it hell, but after I got my bag together and arrived at the race venue the adrenaline had started to kick in getting me pumped. It was another split transition race, so the feeling of relief after getting both T1 and T2 set up and back to the swim start was more than welcome.
Home turf advantage
I have been swimming in the venue once a week for the better part of the summer. I lined up with my fellow Xterrians, got a good tune stuck in my head (thank you Scorpions), started my watch and the gun went off. The swim went about as expected for having been out of the water for some time, but the course was easy to sight and things went smooth. Through transition and on to the bike it was!
I finally had a chance to race a mountain bike venue I had pre-ridden multiple times to familiarize myself with. Once exiting T1 a short trail takes you to the main road where you ride just off the shoulder for 2 miles before crossing Ogden canyon into Wheeler. The level of competition here was real. I was surrounded by other incredibly strong cyclists and I was swiftly reminded that this was indeed a championship race. A few miles into the climb and things started going south.
The list of excuses scrolls though my mind like end credits in a movie, but like end credits in a movie nobody wants to stick around and hear me list off my sob stories. Unless it's a Marvel movie and you are waiting for the bonus scene post credits. Bad news guys, no bonus scene.
My back was giving me grief early on in the climb, and the more a climbed, the more my back began to tell me how it felt about biking today. This is where the credits roll.. trying to figure out why today. Labor intensive job? Sleep wrong? Bike fit? Whatever the reason, after the first climb I descended quicker than I ever have. I knew my usual strength of climbing was going to be a mute point today. So, focusing on everything I've been trying to better develop over the last year (mainly consisting of 1. Brake early, release through the corner 2. watch your exit and 3. stop being a bitch) my battle plan for the race took a major shift. The championship climbs for a few miles, then has a downhill section of single track that is partially flowy with a few small rock patches to keep you on your toes, followed by a daunting climb to Sardine Peak before coming down into Snowbasin resort. Trail profile here.
I was hoping at this point, to just race, and finish. No matter my position. The climb ahead was not something I haven't handled multiple times already, but I was aware of the climbing that it presents, and if what climbing I had done so far was any glimpse of the rest of the ride, I was in for it. After the short lived downhill of Middle fork, we started to climb. Mentally I tried to tell myself it was all in my head. That it was just nerves or stress. It was not working.
I must say, I admire those athletes who can wreck their bike, saddle back up and finish strong while blood drips down their thighs and onto their drivetrains. I really do. I'd like to think that in another circumstance I might have that much mental tenacity. This was not that circumstance. My ticket to Xterra worlds had been punched, which was more than I set out to accomplish this year, and I had nothing to gain at this race besides the simple pleasure of finally being able to compete at the venue I've so longed to race.
... and heartbreak
I pulled off at the sprint course trail split. Where sprinters have about 2 miles to transition and right before full distance makes the Sardine clim. After much deliberation, and with a very heavy heart, I decided to listen to my bodies voice rather than my head. I made friends with a fellow full course athlete pulling out for medical and we chatted our way back to the resort. I am thankful for his company as inside I was crushed.
Four years of eyeballing this event, dreaming of the day. One mountain bike built with my life saving to get here, Six mountain bike specific training races in prep, countless times I thought about the day I would race Xterra Snowbasin. Now in the past. Uncompleted. With a backache and a heartbreak it was the end of my season.
Tho this might be the end of my season, it is not the end of the story. Maybe there is a bonus scene at the end of the credits. It comes in the form of redemption next year. Ever more prepared and ever more excited. On to the next chapter, for it does not do to dwell on the rough road behind, but to fix our gaze on what lies ahead.