Pictured above is my 11 year-old self enduring the pain that the Windham World Cup course inflicted on every racer that dared to go Zone 5 on its turf. Notice that my little index finger couldn't even reach the brakes; so I used the next best thing : two of my other fingers that were supposed to be steering my bike. My tomato-like cheeks were proof of the scorching hot conditions and the gradual grinds amplified the elements. Although I look like I was on the verge of upchucking, it has been one of my favorite courses to this day.
A lot has changed since my first World Cup experience in 2010. When I was 11, I entered the 12-34 Cat 3 Women Citizens race. You know that song, "One of These Things is Not Like the Others, One of These Things Doesn't Belong . . . ?" Standing at only four feet tall, I had to constantly assure people I was in the right category. There was no way that I was doing the quarter mile kids race after I just rode the entire race course with Georgia Gould and the Luna Chix the day before. I was obviously at the bottom of the barrel, so my parents sat me down and made sure my expectations were, let's say, realistic. All they wanted to do was protect my fragile ego and they felt that telling me that I wasn't going to win was the way to do it. As it turns out, telling me that I may get last resulted in me defying the odds. This race was a turning point for me. Oh, you're probably thinking because I won the 12-34 category as an 11 year old . . . but that wasn't it. It was the first race that I would cross the line in front of my mom. It turns out that a fragile ego was hurt that day - it just wasn't mine : ) The innocence of my early adolescence led me to believe that I was, indeed, a "World Champion" after winning. I looked at my parents with a furrowed brow as they laughed hysterically. The podium ceremony was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I was star struck watching all the big names get bombarded with media and flashing cameras. I anxiously waited for my turn in the spotlight. The commentator's booming voice announced, "That's a wrap for our World Cup podiums. Now onto citizen podiums." People fled in every direction until the populated hillside was barren. Just me, my parents, and a few citizen competitors were left standing. Despite my height deficiency at the time, the top step put me on a level playing field with my competitors. I sheepishly put my hands up as a lonely flash emerged from my mom's point-and-shoot camera. You would have never known that thirty professional photographers were crowding the front of the stage only a few minutes earlier. I might not have been a World Champion, but my slightly less glorifying win motivated me to get to the next level.
Four years later, I'm 15 years old and racing in the 12-34 Cat 1 Women class. It was going to be one of the longest races I've done (4 laps, about an hour and 40 minutes), so pacing was going to be a huge factor. I lined up bright and early at 8am and took the hole shot immediately. I was actually holding back because I didn't want to burn up; so I was surprised to find that I had a big gap going into the switchback climb. I maintained my position for the first two laps; however, at the end of the second lap, I wrecked at a feature called "Kabush Falls." My foot clipped a big rock that separated the two line options and I landed at the bottom of the steep grade. My bike smacked the back of my legs so hard that they seized up, forcing me to sit on the trail for a good minute. I dented my helmet, ripped my skinsuit, and blood covered my leg. I've experienced this kind of impact before, so I knew that I needed to force myself to get back on the bike and allow my calves and hamstrings to loosen up. The tightness would only get better the longer I rode. Coming through the feed zone, no one knew if the woman ahead of me was in my class or just another pro in the field that I caught up to (because she had an odd number plate.) I felt like my pacing was pretty accurate and I pushed the climbs since I had a lot of confidence on the downhill. Unfortunately, at the end of the last lap, I crashed on a sketchy 90 degree gravel turn at the bottom of the "Mini Wall." I wasn't going too fast - I just didn't have enough strength left to maintain control. Most of the impact went to the left side of my face, scratching up my Oakleys and bruising my chin and jaw. I was horrified because I felt something rolling around in my mouth! Nervously, I spit it into my glove. Head turned and only one eye half open, I realized it was only a piece of gravel. I tasted blood but I was ecstatic that the fortune my parents spent on orthodontics was not in vain. That relief alone was enough to power me through the finish. With almost everything bleeding and aching, I rolled across the line in 3rd.
I'd say my last race of the season was a success. I felt strong and threw down some hard attacks. I would have never been this consistent without the right hydration and nutrition combo. Osmo and ProBar kept me fueled through one of the longest efforts I've done so far. If you want piece of mind when it comes to race nutrition, check out both companies and experience the benefits yourself.
Thanks to Adam Morka for the great shots!
After I wrote the article, I met many more little rippers! Here are some cool kids that I had the opportunity to hang out with at nationals!