The Month of Mud is a local mountain bike series full of great people, fun courses, and good vibes. Way back in 2009, a little shrimp of a mountain biker showed up as the youngest racer. And that little shrimp was me. I remember receiving disapproving looks as my dad wrapped me in various places with bubble wrap before racing on what some people call one of the rockiest trails in western Pennsylvania. Some might call this scenario child abuse, but I was more than ready for the challenge. At the finish, a man looked at my dad and said: "How did you get her (pointing at me) to do that (pointing at the rocks)?!" My dad simply replied: "She got me to do that." With support from "The Sheriff," or the "father of the month of mud," I began to make my mark in the sport of mountain biking.
As I made my way through the ranks, I finally placed second overall in the Beginner/Sport category when I was ten. I had some good, young female competition and I was excited to finally be in the mix.
I developed an interest for cyclocross, which was the reason I was absent from some of the M.O.M. races in 2010 and 2011. After realizing mountain biking was my favorite, I came back in 2012 to win the overall women's sport category at age thirteen. As you all know, there is only one more place to go... the EXPERT category.
The first race was Brady's run; non-technical and lots of climbing (good for me). I had no expectations for my first expert mountain bike race other than beating my time from last year. Well, little did I know there had been a course change! I was pacing for 1hr 15min of racing (not the 2 hrs it would end up taking me.) At the start, I was climbing the never-ending start hill but I was on the wheel of the first expert woman. Out of fifty-six starters (mostly men,) I was in the top ten at the crest of the hill. I. Was. Flying. And then, it all went downhill from there (no pun intended). I was so excited to be in such a good position, I pushed WAY too hard and blew up BIG TIME. I ran out of water; I was starving (apparently that breakfast wasn't enough); and I had the feeling we all dread. You know when you feel like you're pushing your biggest gear you have and then you look down to see that you're struggling to push granny gear. The pictures show it all.
The second race was at Moraine State Park which is probably one of the most technical places on the East Coast. And if you know me, you know I LOVE rocks! After the last race, I knew that if I wanted to do well I was going to have to slow down the pace and stay steady. I tried to use my technical skills to my advantage and push on all the climbs. I battled back and forth with third place for most of the race until the oddest thing that has ever happened to me in a race happened. I was descending on the most technical part of the course when I went to press my shifter and my thumb was paralyzed. This is no joke! I was so tense that my thumb was stuck and it wouldn't do what I was telling it to do! And sure enough, the fifth place girl (that's you AP!) passed me and I ended up fifth. It was a big improvement from the last race. I was still learning strategies for these longer and faster races so I wasn't disappointed at all.
Up next is the North Park Cyclocross race. I knew this was an opportunity to move up in the standings. I had a great start and never let up. I knew I wasn't going to beat the women who were stronger road racers, but I battled for third the whole time and ended up finishing fourth. It was a very successful race for me because I stayed on the gas the whole time and knew I couldn't have gone any faster. This result tied me for third in the overall standings and I was pumped for the last race of the series!
The final race was a Super D at Ohiopyle. In order to get bumped up to second in the series, I literally had to win this race. Realistically, I was just hoping for a top four finish. It was FREEZING so I focused on my warm up and went to the line feeling ready to roll. I started fifth (with one minute in between each person) and I quickly found myself passing the fourth starter within the first five minutes. We played cat and mouse all the way until the jump where she bypassed it and I launched off like a human cannon ball. It was so much fun! It was smaller than the jumps at my house, so it was no big deal. With extra motivation from passing the previous rider, I was pounding every climb and mashing every downhill. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I was coming up on the third starter! I never thought I was capable of making up this much time in such a short race and a new goal was forming in my mind. I let go of the brakes and went a little faster than I felt was safe (hopefully my mom doesn't read that!) and right when I didn't think I could handle any more excitement, I passed the second starter! As I crossed the road, my parents informed me that the first starter was about ten to fifteen seconds ahead of me... SAY WHAAAAAT?!?!?!?! There is no way I was going THAT fast! My wobbling seat which had lost a bolt during the race couldn't stop me now. And there you have it. My first expert win.
FUN FACT: I ended up 15th out of the 76 total starters!
So now what? Most people think my goal for next year would be to WIN the overall Expert Women category but, let's face it, that would mean having to beat Betsy - so I thought I'd set a more attainable goal for next year: Beat Dave Friedman at Ohiopyle. Yeah, I said it. It's ON.