A few months ago I decided to start thinking about potentially maybe doing a mountain bike race around here called the Couch Potato. Before I signed up I wanted to go out and ride some of the trails in Pisgah to make sure I wouldn’t completely embarrass myself. There were some trails out there that are way above my 8 months of mountain biking pay grade and I needed to see if I could work some of them (not all of them mind you). And right after I did, the race sold out. Typical right?
I mentioned to a friend that if she heard of anyone wanting to sell their spot for the race to let me know and hopefully I’d be able to grab it. Oddly enough – a few days later she did hear of a spot and I ended up getting it 😐
Full panic mode set in at that point and I was like “I just made a huge mistake, I’m going to be last, oh fuck”.
Instead of curling up in the fetal position and giving up – I grabbed Dwight and off we went to work Butter Gap and don’t let that name fool you into thinking it is anything like butter. We spent a good amount of time trying routes, retrying routes, riding the stream crossings and more. I felt pretty good about it at the end of the day. A few days later I went out to Pisgah to work the Daniels Ridge problem and felt pretty good about it. I was actually starting to have some confidence about this mountain biking thing!!!
Then I got some horrible news the week of the race. No, not Trump winning the election (which was horrible all unto itself) but that someone very close to me was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer – that was fucking everywhere. The world stopped that week. There wasn’t any eating, sleeping, working or riding my bike. There was a lot of crying, staring blankly into space and Googling. When Dwight got back from his work trip, I told him I wasn’t going to do the race. Not even close to being mentally ready. He was nudging me into the “just get out there and do it but not race” direction. Then we had dinner with my friend and her husband the night before and they had the same take on it. Maybe it would be good to ride off some of the sadness….
Off I went….. I had a plan to start out in the back and hopefully just finish in a respectable time. I was also going to have Dwight wait for me at the bottom of Daniel’s Ridge so we could ride Butter Gap together. My nerves were pretty shot to shit and I wasn’t sure if I could ride it or if I was going to be walking it.
I implemented said plan and it was somewhat of a success. I started in the back, but kinda wishing I had started closer to the front because I was able to ride a lot more of it than the train of cyclists walking ahead of me could. Oh well.
Take Away: Start in the front.
When we got to the top, I was able to ride all of the bottom part so I was pretty happy about that. I met Dwight and off we went on the gravel climb to Butter Gap. I was already staring to bonk from the whole not eating anything for a week so I tried getting in some blocks. I realize now that there really wasn’t much I could have done to counter the deficit I was already in. We did end up making it to the top and I rode most of Butter Gap. There were a few guys that were off their bikes at times I had to walk around, but for the most part – I did much better than I thought I would. Granted, my nerves had me literally shaking but I did it. When we got to the uphill part of Long Branch, I just kept riding. Even things I thought I couldn’t do the last time we went up it since I have a bad habit of not trying things “I think” I can’t do but I really can.
Take Away: Just ride the damn trail and get out of my own head.
At this point I was cooked. The gravel climb up to Cove Creek almost broke me physically and mentally. I had nothing left in the tank. I was slamming up against that proverbial nutrition wall and I was mentally done. I took in a few more blocks before heading down Cove Creek since I was low sugar type of shaky. I’m not sure how Strava had me PR’ing Cove Creek because I wasn’t riding hard, but it did so – yay!
I finished — and I wasn’t last 🙂
But in all seriousness, I’m glad I went out and road the race. What I thought would be a defeating day mentally, actually turned into a day that gave me more confidence. Who da thunk?
Take Away: Sometimes we are stronger than we give ourselves credit for.