I have never been SO tired and SO excited in my entire life! I attended the USAC Junior MTB Talent ID Camp at Garret College in McHenry, Marlyand and the week left me with smoked legs and the determination to improve my skills. I was very happy to have my girls from RedZone attend, as well as my nearby friend, Angelina Palermo.
To start off, the coaches were awesome! Head coach, Mark Orton of Speed Works Coaching, was so nice and easy to talk to. Camp director, Kristen Dieffenbach, was also super cool and funny. Pro rider, Ryan Fawley, was good at photo bombing our group pictures and he provided us with great tips to improve our skills. And, last but not least, Nick Fischer of Fischer Nutrition, fueled our bodies with the best food all week long and our taste buds were happy too! On Monday, we were given the layout for the week and I was so excited to finally experience a camp where everyone around me is there for the same reason : Their love of mountain biking.
The dorms were HOT. No air conditioning. No relief. No break from the sticky weather. Everyone had a rough time sleeping but my alarm went off at five thirty and we were expected to be down at six for an early morning workout and stretch session. I had dark bags under my eyes but this didn't decrease my excitement on my first day of camp. After that, we ate breakfast and made our way to the field for skills work. We were out there all morning until it was time for a delicious lunch. After lunch, we went on a mellow ride in the town of Accident (yes, that's right...) and got to know everyone a little better. Then it was dinner, afternoon discussions, and lights out at ten.
Wednesday followed the same schedule except we spent the whole day at Davis. We rode "The Moon Rocks" which was so cool and the girls got the chance to ride with Sue Haywood. Thursday's ride took place at Cooper's Rock which was one of my favorites. The last day was quite the butt kicker. At the end of Thursday I knew I was fatigued from the mix of very little sleep, hot weather, and riding twice a day. When I rolled out of bed on Friday morning, I knew I was up for a big challenge. We drove forty-five minutes to Big Bear and it was definitely my favorite course of the week. We were split into small groups and I was a little surprised to find myself with the top three fastest guys... But my stupid ego kept me from mentioning my dying legs and I was determined to show how hard I could push. The pace was fast but I always made up time on the technical stuff. I showed what I was worth when I caught up on the rockiest ups and downs. We were a little over half way done and my quads were burning like nothing I have ever felt before. My climbing became slower but my mind wasn't going to give up. We rode over twenty miles (after riding twenty to thirty on previous days) and my face was completely blank. I told one of the coaches that if I sat down to eat lunch that I couldn't guarantee I would get back up again! That last day of the most technical riding really tested my abilities. I surpassed the line I thought I couldn't pass when it came to mileage and four days of consistent riding. I came out of this camp knowing what I need to work on and how I need to improve. I took all of the coaches' constructive criticism to heart. I can't wait for next year!
The Bud Harris Oval in Pittsburgh, PA was one of the biggest training opportunities for me in the past few years. My mom would pick me up from school every Tuesday, starting when I was ten, and drive me there to gain valuable experience. I was always the smallest and youngest junior that participated and I was very intimidated. Luckily, I can say that the women there were very welcoming and they supported me by giving tips and being courteous. I want to give a big thanks to not only the women, but the officials and the marshals. When I first started racing there, I remember a marshal would always ride with me, tell me what gear to be in, give me a little push, and be super helpful. I learned how to be safe when riding in the pack and common strategies of a criterium. I got lapped multiple times in the beginning and slowly progressed each year. When I could finally hang onto the women and older juniors, I was able to actually be a contender. I continued to get stronger and think strategically. The third year was an amazing breakthrough. I was able to break away from the pack with a few of the other juniors and hold my own. When I look back, I can't believe how far I've come. I decided to sign up for a series pass and commit to an hour and a half drive after school every single Tuesday. With serious determination, I ended up as the women's overall series winner! After such a big accomplishment, I went back this year and entered the men's C race. I had no idea what to expect. At one point, the pack was holding an average speed of twenty five plus miles per hour for thirty eight laps and I actually held on. I wasn't a contender on the last lap but staying in the pack was an accomplishment all in its own. A big thanks to Pittsburgh for all of your support!
The most commonly used word at the race was definitely MUD. It rained off and on the whole morning in addition to the downpour the night before. This meant the course had tons of slippery roots and logs labeled, "Potential Bike Breaker!" This kind of course would show my fitness and how my training is working. The start was a long paved hill that led racers into the woods for even more climbing. This stretch of ascending could give me a good opportunity to put a gap between my me and my competition.
The sheriff blew the whistle and my adrenaline pumped as I weaved my way through some of the guys. I wasn't as far up as I hoped to be when entering the woods, but I knew I could make my way up. Before I could do this, a traffic jam occurred. I accidentally clicked my shifter and dropped my chain. I jumped off, expecting a quick fix, until I realized it was jammed. Probably a dozen racers passed me at this point and I didn't even know how far ahead the other women were. Luckily, a nice man stopped and helped me fix my bike and I was frantic to make up time.
It was hard to make up time on such a risky course but I continued to push more than what was safe. I was almost done with the first lap when I came up on a narrow part of the trail with a huge, wet root. I slid out and went tumbling down the bank towards the stream. (So much for making up time!) I crawled back up to the trail and realized something was wrong as soon as I mounted my bike. My rear wheel was not in place and it was jammed. Again, I thought this would be a quick fix, but the wheel was stuck pretty good. I loosened the skewer and tried wiggling the tire out but I just couldn't get it. A few guys passed and time was ticking away (again). Then, the same nice man stopped and came to the rescue. I thanked him five times and had no clue how far behind I was.
I was even closer to the end of my first lap when some grit flew underneath my glasses and started scratching my eye. I hit the brakes and rubbed it out with my jersey. I absolutely could not spare any more precious seconds!
The second lap felt like a fresh start. I knew the course much better and focused on catching as many people as I could. I attacked every hill because I knew they were my strong points and stayed steady on the slick, twisty stuff. I was riding smoothly and was about half way through the lap when I came up on a woman. I passed her and used my excitement to fuel the second half of my lap. I wasn't even sure if any other women had passed me back on my first lap, so I kept up my pace. The last mile was a flat, wide trail with deep peanut butter mud pits and I pushed through it as hard as I could. I didn't want my competition to pass me back after all I did. I finally spotted the opening at the end of the trail and crossed the line with mud flying everywhere. I found out that I cut about fifteen minutes off my first lap and won the Category Two Open Women!