Sunday, April 30, 2017

Race Day Adventures: Decorah Time Trials 2017

The Decorah Time Trials is almost like Christmas- it's the longest running mountain bike event in Decorah and is a mountain biking tradition.

Back in the day, folks would use the Time Trial to help gauge themselves for the upcoming race season. Folks nowadays use the event as a motivator to get out of the house as soon as possible to start training for the upcoming season.

The Time Trial may not have the same use as it did in the "good ol' days" but it does serve a purpose: Bringing folks together to have fun. The Time Trials isn't a "race" against others so much as a race against yourself. The goal is to complete the course with the fastest time (overall) or for your age category. You can be the first female across the finish, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll have the fastest course time. The riders are released at minute intervals.

The Time Trials are annually held on the last Saturday in April, rain or shine. Only a couple times has it been cancelled due to dangerous weather. Last year was a complete slop-fest....this year would not be as messy. (Thankfully!) 

This year, there was a solid group of high school youth that came to participate and race among the adults. (I certainly don't feel like an adult, so I'll just leave it at that.)

The kids race prior to the official race is always a treat. A young, local lady was first female and I got to see another wee lass roll across the finish line. It is so encouraging to see youth participate in this event at any age. It also is vital that we get more young women interested in participating. 
The volunteers at this event are fantastic, I mean, really- many are seasoned volunteers who annually donate their time and energy to help make this event go on smoothly. Ron "Chewey" Moffit is an excellent race director with his fun-filled energy. He can totally shoot the shit, but he definitely shows care and concern for wanting to make sure everyone has a great time- racers, volunteers, and spectators alike.

Well, now that I've shared all of the great things about the Decorah Time Trials, and why you should come check the event out next year- I'll get on with the Race Report.

Getting ready for the Time Trials on a physical and emotional level takes a bit of time for myself. The anticipation builds after the first of the year hits, and for me Time Trials is like Christmas. It's a day when we close up the shop and go out and ride bikes with friends. Weeks prior to the event I was studying the weather- really, it's a joke to do so, but I felt like it would be a great way to prepare myself for the best, or worst. Bike, tires, and clothing- three things that can make or break your experience depending on weather, trail conditions, and temperatures.

My goal for this year was to ride my full suspension, carbon, Salsa Spearfish by the name of Gaston aka BEASTFACE. I love this bike, it boosts my confidence, and I wanted to ride something a bit more lighter and nimble than my Beargrease. I had done a couple trial runs of what I thought the Time Trial course would be, and felt I did very well with the full suspension. Where I am not confident in going fast, I feel I can ride faster with the suspension vs. on a hardtail. 

As the days counted down, I did my best to rest up for the event. I have a hard time with rest days and have the habit of possibly over-training. I wanted to be bursting with excitement to ride and have strong legs to do so. I was already going to have a card against me and that was menstruation. I went into Time Trials knowing I would not be at my peak like I was a week, even two weeks prior and I would have to simply let that frustration go. Doing a race on your period can be brutal- especially when you go in knowing what you have the potential of doing yet your body just can't. I was past the point of being able to use it to my advantage and it was going to be what it was going to be.

Travis and I registered early, and unexpectedly were able to choose our start times. We opted for spots #11 and #12 which were early, but not too early. This way we could have the possibility of not having to pass too many folks and reduce the probability of getting passed multiple times. Also? I hate waiting.
The time came and it was off to River Trail while my mom, Stego, and Kenzie went to Death Valley to spectate. My nerves would ease up as we rode, I was dressed what I felt would be good for when we got going. A short sleeve jersey, a wind jacket, and knicker tights with tall socks. I wanted to be cold to start with the knowledge I would warm up with all of the climbing.

Pre-race meeting was over and it was time to head to the Luge. I couldn't stop my legs from knocking; the cool air was getting the better of me with just standing around. Soon it was time for Travis to take off, and I took my place behind him. I chatted with Spinner and the other volunteers until it was time for me to go! Damnit...I flubbed up almost instantly, but brushed it off and kept going. 
I kept telling myself to remember to not blow myself up right away, take it steady- I had a lot more climbing left to do and there wasn't any sense in wasting all my energy at the start. I came to the end of Luge, to a fun spot where I typically bomb down on my full suspension. I bombed as usual, came around the corner and BAM!!! My bars turned, my front wheel went out, and down I went. 
I felt my head smack the ground hard, my jaw slammed shut, my right shoulder and elbow area took a mighty blow. I heard O'Gara yell, "Get back on the bike! Shake it off!" With encouragement I got up, scurried, and kept going. I had crashed in front of my mom...and a dozen other folks. I was embarrassed and all I could think was "Crap. Crap. Crap!" I didn't need everyone to see that, and I worried about my mom. First time seeing me race and I take a digger in front of her. Ugh!

I made sure while I was riding to Rocky Road that I was assessing myself in the process. My front teeth were okay, I wasn't dizzy or woozy, and I had mobility in my neck, shoulder, and arm. I was okay, but I would definitely feel it the following days with how hard I fell. I found Travis further up on Rocky Road and told him why I was slow to get to him. I don't think it fully registered to Travis until later on how hard I had actually hit. There was mud on my visor that stayed with me until the very end.

We both had rocky starts to our start, and I did my best to push away all the down feelings and embarrassment and just keep going. I made some advances during my ride, which made me feel pretty okay- I questioned my ability to stay ahead. I had a hard time shaking off the fear of wiping out on corners during the race. I knew I had come down from Luge too hot and leaned too far in on a greasy spot, but it's hard to shake that worry of the same thing happening everywhere else.

When we came to North 40 I found myself square behind another rider. The question came- "Do I pass now or wait until the Fire Road?" The rider offered us the pass and I took it with nervous welcome. Would I be playing leap frog or would I stay ahead. I pushed myself forward and hoped for the best. Really, that was all I could ask for at the time.


I didn't find myself emotionally in the best of places during my race- the gel that had been taped to my top tube had torn during my crash. Travis was able to retrieve it after it had fallen off my bike, but neither of us had a great way of storing it during the race. When we had come to the Fire Road to head up to Pines West, I was gifted about half of my gel- the rest had leaked all over Travis' leg. Honestly? If I had a full gel I doubt I would've done better. I would say the constant discomfort of my body was draining me physically as it takes a lot more effort to keep going when you're injured than if you're not.
Trail: North 40
Photographer Credit: Nick Chill
When we got to Dunnings and up to the Ice Cave loop, I was finding myself falling off the emotional deep-end. I was battling disappointment and frustration with my riding along with the aches and pains of my battered body trying to keep hold of my bike. It just wasn't what I was hoping for, but I would be damned if I would quit or let an imperfect ride stand in my way of finishing! I felt very humble. My body was starting to ache more and my bruised area by my elbow felt like it was burning every time my wind jacket brushed against it. I felt certain I had broken skin and was bleeding (I just bruised it badly.)

Everything was piling up and taking notches out of my mental game- I could feel myself wanting to break. I wanted to shed tears so badly, yet my mind was playing this: "Just keep it to yourself until the end. You can cry at the finish if you want to cry, but damnit Josie! Don't cry now!" (Because I was sure if I did, I'd probably crash into a tree!)

The loop in Dunnings was slightly different from what Travis and I had ridden, so it threw me for a loop. In true fashion, the folks who marked the course did a splendid job- so even tho I didn't know for sure what I was doing, I knew where to go.

Rattlesnake Cave trail was a disappointment to me, I had made it up the steep climb but messed up on the technical rocky section. A rider whom I respect greatly had come up from behind and saw my mishap. My heart dropped a little. In all honesty, I had several instances today where I rode imperfectly and had to hustle up this or that because I simply did not have the energy to pull a climb out. Again, more frustration.

River Trail was the biggest challenge- it's already though to ride fast because of all the twists and turns. It was more difficult yet due to the standing water in sections, my anxiety was up when it came to cornering because I didn't want to wipe out again. Finally, we exited the twisty section and made our way down the "runway" to the finish! I hauled as hard as I could, managing to get my front wheel off the ground just a little for show.

I had been able to hold out on my emotions until the very end- my cry was short and it happened more because of my mental state of having to hold together all of the discomfort for so long. I was grateful and thankful to be done. All I could think about at that point was a hot shower and some beer- and the wish for my racer's cough to go away. (That took several hours.)

In the shower I thought about the day and what it gave me in terms of lessons. I crashed bad, but I was fortunate to have not gotten seriously hurt and was able to continue and finish. I had my period, but I pushed thru and did the best I could under the circumstances my body allowed. It was, all in all, imperfect yet a perfect example of what I am able to do under less-than-ideal circumstances.

Had I performed flawlessly, I imagine I wouldn't have done a few minutes better than my finish time.
When results were posted, I was shocked, humbled, and happy- I managed to represent Decorah and get 1st overall female! Even with the crash, fumbles, and scampers up hills- I managed to do better than I hoped. I was relieved and happy! Last year I felt almost like a fluke that I had won...this year I felt that I most definitely earned it, even if my riding had lacked a certain luster.

I look back on how I was in my younger years with things that challenged me and look at myself now and wonder "Who the hell are you?" I was not someone who persisted under less-than-ideal circumstances, I usually would try to run away. I was definitely flight when it came to the "fight or flight" concept. My, how things have changed. Back then, imperfections in life would rattle me to the core and I could barely deal with it on an emotional level. Now? "Lil' Bit Don't Quit."

Mountain biking has changed my outlook on life- somehow I became a person who can deal with frustration a bit better than I used to. Not to say that I do not get upset over things, but when I'm on two wheels I can find myself literally rolling past those emotions. I became a person who can shake off embarrassing situations with a laugh; pushing myself past the "Why are you doing this?" and tell myself "It's because you can."

Thanks, Travis, for introducing me to mountain biking. Maybe not all of our moments are perfect on two wheels- but I can assure you that even when it's not I'm still grateful for you. I appreciated the company even tho I was so gassed I could hardly talk half the time. You can do amazing things, like say hi to people and give high-fives and stuff. I'm in awe of you and what you can do on a bike and in life.

Thank you again to all of the wonderful volunteers and to Race Director Extraordinaire- Chewey. Ya'll are awesome.
Thank you to the rad folks that showed up to ride bikes! You're the best!
Thanks to my mom for showing up to one of my races- I'm sorry I crashed in front of you. You apparently created a woman who can persevere.

Until next year, Time Trials! 

2 comments:

  1. I am very proud of your accomplishments & perserverance..

    xoxo Mom

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beautiful Josie! It takes courage to be this vulnerable. You are stronger than you think. You are certainly an inspiration.

    Claudia Andrews Kriemelmeyer

    ReplyDelete