If I was going to California for a second time, I couldn't act like a newbie. That meant I had to channel my inner west coast doppelganger.
“I'm so stoked to shred some gnarly gnar! It's going to be so epic and rad!” #shredthegnarnia #gnar #shred #gnarly #rad #stoked #epic #totally #didisaygnar?
You know what, I think I'll just stick to being a Pennsylvanian . . .
So, this year I had the privilege of attending the biggest cycling festival of the year. . . The Sea Otter Classic! I knew I was up for a big challenge when I saw the roster of girls in the 15-18 Cat 1 category. Not to mention a whopping 3,400 feet of climbing! I was eager to see where I stood among some of the best girls in the country. I put quite a bit of pressure on myself since this was my first big race representing the Whole Athlete / Specialized Team. All of the sponsors were going to be present and I wanted to represent well.
I pre-rode the course and, I have to say, it really exceeded my expectations. Aside from the road and gravel sections, the singletrack was fast and smooth, and the top of the course was truly beautiful. I was jittery with anticipation of getting on the start line!
Fast forward to race day: my pre-race rituals went smoothly and I set out to get a good warm-up. I lined up behind my teammate, Haley, and we formed a peloton as we raced around the Mazda track. We got onto the rolling gravel section and I surged with the top half of the group. A few mini attacks took place and I hung onto a wheel. As we entered the singletrack and made our way to the feed zone (about 12 miles in,) I found myself going a little too hard to stay with this top group. I let off the gas a bit, but I was still in the mix. This is a strategy I have been trying to execute ever since I made the transition from the shorter junior races to the longer Cat 1 courses. Throughout the race, I paid close attention to how my body was feeling and how much gas I had left in the tank. I planned to go hard in the beginning to see what the pace was like and then settle into a rhythm that would leave just enough energy to go full force the last two miles. The front of the pack surged on, but that didn't discourage me. I focused on eating my PROBAR Bolts and drinking my OSMO whenever possible and I mashed up all the short steep climbs. A Bear Dev girl passed me and I latched onto her wheel. I noticed that she was holding a really good pace, so I stayed with her and we took turns drafting the entire race. I was feeling strong and I waited for the perfect opportunity to go on an attack to put some distance between us right before the finish. When I saw that I only had about two miles left, I attacked on the longest gravel climb. Once I crested the top, I carried my momentum into the downhill and tried to expand the gap. Then, the last switchback climb hit me like a brick wall. I had no recollection of this climb. I expended all of my energy on my attack and now my gap was becoming smaller. How could so much climbing be packed into the very last mile of the race!? I gritted my teeth and passed multiple riders walking their bikes up the really steep parts of the climb. I looked back and saw the Bear Dev girl too close for comfort. I put my head down and would not relinquish! She passed me and I had nothing left in the tank. I sprinted across the line, finishing in 8th out of 14 girls. I found out that the girl I was battling with finished less than a minute ahead of me, so I was definitely upset that I timed my attack a little too early. I was also informed that my preride was way too hard and that I had the potential of a top 5 finish if I would have gone into the race fresher. I feel good knowing that I committed to my plan and have even more potential.
I want to thank the entire Whole Athlete crew (coaches, mechanics, and sponsors) for the valuable learning experience that I will implement to improve my racing in the future.