The Whiskey 50 was tough. But so am I.

This year’s Windy Whiskey 50 is done and dusted. After an incredibly hard four hours of racing yesterday, Noah and I hit the road for the nine-hour drive home. By the time we pulled into our driveway just before midnight, I was an emotional mess. Still dirty, physically exhausted, scratched and bruised, I’d boarded the post-race carnival ride rocketing wildly between feelings of empowerment to utter failure. 

I know that all racers, pros and amateurs alike, have experienced that strange mix of emotions I went through yesterday - that feeling of pride in your accomplishment mingled with a tang of despondency that your overall result doesn’t accurately reflect the work, the grit, the passion, the perseverance, the sweat and the blood that went into pulling it off.

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After a very strong start to my season, the Whiskey was tough. I had a hard crash, I made some mistakes, I rode by myself in windy conditions for the bulk of the day, and the course didn’t suit my skills. But after a good night’s sleep, I've filtered through my emotions and find myself really pleased with how my legs and determination held up yesterday. While there are always (always!) places to improve, I’m still stoked about the outcome and know that my performance on that tough course was a really strong one.

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I finished solidly mid-pack in probably the most competitive pro women’s fields I’ve ever raced in. On paper, 18 out of 40 looks subpar to me, especially considering I placed 11th at the Whiskey last year, but my pace was faster this year on a course that suited my riding style far less. On the drive home, I struggled to reconcile a strong performance with a result that sounds less than stellar. I know that I am continuing to get faster and fitter. My early season races are an indication of that, and my strength and skills on the bike are still on an upward trajectory. The Whiskey 50 was a challenge, and while it may have pushed me outside of my comfort zone, it definitely is the encouragement I need to continue doing the hard work necessary for growth. 

My hope for this weekend was to race to the best of my ability, and I did that. I stayed focused through the road portions of the course, I climbed strong, I gritted it out and finished that hard race even after crashing. It was a challenge, but I’m incredibly proud of my performance and I can’t wait to see how this race impacts my drive and growth in the next few months.

You’re welcome to read on for a little more detail about our weekend in Prescott, but if you stop here, I hope you take away some encouragement from a girl who has only been riding for a few years and racing professionally for two. Bike racing is tough. It’s tough to leave it out on the course and to cross the line somewhere in the middle of the race pack, even when that pack is comprised of world champions, national champions, and the country’s most talented riders. It’s tough to reconcile a strong personal performance with a mid-pack pro result. But you know what’s tougher? Not growing. Not challenging yourself.  Not putting yourself in a position from which you can get stronger,  faster and more experienced. I’m excited to see how I progress from this, and I am ready to work hard for my next races. Ride on! And if you're so inclined, read on for the weekend details and a closer look at my race:

Between live music, a huge bike expo, and three days of racing, all of the events orchestrated by Epic Rides have a great vibe, and I was excited to spend some time in Arizona with Noah. We pulled into the wonderful town of Prescott last Friday just in time to check into our hotel and head out for the Fat Tire Crit - a lung burning 20 minutes of racing through the historic downtown “Whiskey Row.” I kept the knobby tires on my bike for the crit, started in dead last (oops!), and spent each subsequent lap passing ladies and grinning for the crowds of spectators. Following the crit, we hit the trails for a beautiful sunset pre-ride. It was Noah’s first time to the area, and as he was racing the 30-mile course on Saturday, we wanted to get a feel for the terrain and make sure our bikes were operating smoothly. 

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I spent Saturday cheering for the 30 and 50 mile racers. I was so happy to be riding between points on the course, looking for Noah, catching up with friends, and exploring the expo that I probably overdid it a little - my legs were fairly tired - but seeing Noah have a strong 30-mile race and cheering for all those on course was my favorite part of the weekend. He ended up taking 17th out of over 1,000 racers doing the 30-mile course! After watching him take on the race,  I was eager to get on the start line the next day, knowing that my goals were to race to the best of my ability and disregard the rest.

Sunday was my race. The pro women took off at 8:40 and the neutral rollout lasted until the road turned to gravel. I lost the lead group fairly early but felt great climbing until the course turned to singletrack. Uncharacteristically, I struggled a bit on this portion of the course - I  was riding my hardtail, and had trouble staying focused on the terrain with the amount of back and forth passing taking place at that point in the race. By the time the group of ladies had thinned out, we were back on the road and I focused on climbing strong to the top of the Skull Valley out and back. I spent both the 10-mile road descent and subsequent climb out all by myself, buffeted by winds but focused on turning my pedals. By the time I passed Noah on the way back out, I’d caught a few racers, and after downing a gel and getting a fresh water and smile from him, finished the remainder of the road climb feeling strong. 

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I was feeling great when I hit the final singletrack portion of the course. But after a few minutes of fun descending, I crested a small uphill only to be taken out by an enormous gust of wind. I lost control of my light bike on the loose course and went down hard. Between catching my breath, readjusting my brake levers, and attempting to pick up the yard sale of gels and water bottles I’d left scattered in the dust, I’d lost quite a bit of time. Worse, my confidence was rattled, and I spent the remainder of the race gritting my teeth through the soreness in my body and descending with far less gumption than I normally ride. Two of the ladies I’d passed earlier caught me at this point, and by the time I hit the road to the finish line, I knew they had put too much time into me for a sprint finish. 

I crossed the finish line in four hours, sweaty, exhausted, with blood all over my legs and a few tears in my eyes. It was tough, but I raced to the best of my ability and know that I have a lot to learn from yesterday’s performance. Here’s to training hard for the next one! As always, thank you for the support from my husband Noah, to the crew at Epic Rides for putting on a stellar event, to Noah and my friend Dirty Biker for the photos, and to the folks at Pivot, Ergon, Enve, and MRP, who ensured I was on the best bike for the event. The beautiful and light Pivot Les performed like a dream!

Strava data here: https://www.strava.com/activities/1539889517