And just like that…..we are into the off season! Iceman snuck up on me pretty fast but I knew I wanted to do this race because the atmosphere from last year was incredible. I wasn’t able to end my season here last year, since I still had to Zwift race the Monday following and do El Tour Tucson but this year I was wiser and knew that a proper Michigander always ends their season after Iceman!
I had a lot going on leading into this race. I had a family death the week prior and honestly wasn’t sure I would be racing. Prepping for a race becomes less relevant when things like this happen and the priority becomes family. Thankfully, my work was very supportive and I was able to get bereavement time to be with my family and that really helped me as I mentally processed things. My family decided to come to the race, my cousin was also racing, so having everyone there made the day even more special.
Once I got the green light from my family to race, I tried to change my mindset and headed up to Traverse City the Wednesday before the race. This allowed me to pre-ride all of the course and even though the course was going to be much different on race day, it’s still good to try and see all sections of the course. I felt there was more single track this year compared to last year, which I knew would be a weakness of mine but I had come a long way from last year. I really did not enjoy the finishing section - naturally says the gravel racer about a mountain bike with tight single track, ha! But as always, I threw myself in and just chopped my bars down a little bit for the tight section at the end. For me, I knew I just had to show up with the skills that I currently have. You can’t force those things no matter how hard you try - trust me, I know this….
I felt the start of the race was pretty mellow compared to last year. Maybe this is more experience on my end or maybe it was the smaller field overall. Almost immediately there was a selection of 5 riders which really surprised me. We were going pretty hard, but I felt this was manageable. The 5 riders were Alexis, Savila, Rose, myself and Julie. The first section of single track was really mellow, more flow trail so I had no issues keeping the same pace there. The very short new trail that was added on shortly after had me gap about 5s from the pack which was easy to bridge back to. From there, the pace was pretty consistent but as we entered the next section of single track I was sitting 4th wheel and I couldn’t keep the same pace. I fell back maybe about 10-15s and this is when I really had to start working to chase back on. Julie was initially on my wheel when the chase started, but with a strong crosswind and not much draft directly behind me she fell off my wheel at this point. Eventually I caught back on shortly after Broomhead and Alexis made an attack almost immediately when I caught back up to the group. This may have been for position headed into the upcoming single track, or possibly tactics to make me hurt knowing I had just chased back on. Either way, I was able to hang on and entered the single track after Sand Lakes with the lead group. We got caught behind some men, but eventually they let us pass. An initially small gap opened up from my wheel to Roses and the man behind me was yelling to let up on my brakes, etc. He was trying to help me relax on the trail, but it was honestly stressing me out. This section was a blur to me and definitely where I lost the race. The guys went around me at one point, but then when the second section came one of the men was slower on the climbing and I tried to get around him a couple different times. It was frustrating to say the least. I did indeed catch back up to them later, but was so gassed from my effort earlier and then got gapped again on the next single track. It was a bit demoralizing for me and I found myself getting very mentally frustrated. It’s frustrating to have the strength but not the skills. It’s frustrating to race in a way that isn’t efficient - just powering my way through as much as I can without the skills. That power has allowed me to climb to this level, something I’m usually proud of and thankful for. But today all I wanted was more skill. You always want what you don’t have. I even wished I could trade 10w of my FTP for some more skills. It’s in these painful moments in a race where we are chasing and hurting that we learn a lot about ourselves. For me, I learned and saw first hand how much my lack of skills bothers me. It lost me any chance of contending for those top steps. And yes….I know those top 3 women are actually legit mountain bikers. They friggin shred on the single track and are total badasses. Comparison is the thief of joy. I know all these things when I sit and logically think about it but I still want to be better. I’m a competitive person, regardless of who my competitors are.
I think for me the root of my frustration comes from a lack of patience on these skills. I can’t gain these skills unless I dedicate more time to mountain biking and skill work, and that hasn’t always been an option for me juggling multiple jobs, crazy hours and limited time. It takes time to work on these things and I’m really thankful next year looks different and I can have more time to do those skill sessions and keep working to be better.
As for the end of my race, I knew I had secured 4th place. The top 3 were too far ahead to catch (despite my lack of trying to motor back) and the next woman was several minutes back. It had been a frustrating day on the bike for me, but once I started to see the crowds that started near Anita’s Hill my perspective changed. So for anyone reading this and that took time out of their day to be out on course - thank you. I was reminded of the thousands of riders who had been in my same spot earlier in the day. I thought of the many other riders who may have shared in my frustration. This gave me a new perspective out there. I found myself smiling and although my tank was empty I felt a second wave come across me. The people got me through the last 5K of that course and I remain thankful for this race experience because of the community. As I entered the final stretch of the new single track before Icebreaker hill I dreaded this section as it was really slippery and tight. The crowds were yelling and for full transparency I felt really uncomfortable here. I thought, “oh great my crappy trail skills are on full display here, how the hell am I a pro rider?” But despite my insecurities at this moment, as I exited the trail in one piece, I just didn’t care what anyone thought of me. For me, I knew the rest was manageable and I was near the end about to see my family and friends and close out an incredible season of racing.
For me, I know the work I have to do and anyone that knows me can attest that I do not shy away from the hard work. I’m excited for next year’s opportunities and the additional time I will have to dedicate to learning. More importantly, I saw my lack of patience during this race and the amount of frustration I had when my weaknesses were on full display. So patience is another goal of mine - working on giving myself grace and respecting the time it takes to get to this level. I can’t expect to compete with those women in anything technical and that’s okay. Instead of being frustrated and wanting more of myself, I choose to be inspired by them. I choose to respect the process and celebrate my small victories - even though I’m not where I want to be doesn’t mean I haven’t come a long way. This applies to many things in life and as always, the bike highlights that. What a wonderful vessel for this lesson of patience in my life.
Distance: 29.3 miles with 1700ft climbing
Place: 4th Pro Female, 80th overall out of 3,542 total riders (men included)
Location: Traverse City
Tire: Maxxis Race Rekon 2.4’s (16/17psi)
Nutrition: Solely liquid calories and carbs with a shorter race, used Flow Formula 90g per bottle
Coach: Lucas Wall with Develo Coaching