I had hopes for coming around in Stage 2. The course was one of the longer days and I would have some time to find my groove. I let some air out of my tires, but was still afraid to run my normal tire pressure. I usually run around 20-22 PSI but was running around 25 for the race. It irritated me all week and I bounced off rocks, but I could not risk slitting another sidewall. I was excited to ride my bike.
The stage started well for me. I hung in the lead group and we entered the first singletrack climb together. There was a bit of traffic on the technical trail with people bobbling and getting off to walk. I was happy I felt strong and was cleaning all the climbing sections with the competition in very close proximity. I was pushing hard, but I felt it was sustainable. I hung in for about an hour and a half until things started falling apart.
I started getting passed. I also felt something on my leg…something that felt like Stan’s. I stopped to check my tire. It was fine. There was more stuff spraying on my leg and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I stood next to my bike and noticed that the lid came off the bottle in my seatpost mounted cage and water was sloshing everywhere. Andrea came by and inserted the perfect “that’s what she said” when I told her what I was doing standing there. I chased after to ride with her but I couldn’t hold the pace. My legs shut down. I suddenly had no power. My heart rate dropped over 40 bpm at the same perceived exertion. It was my darkest stage of the race. I felt so terrible on my bike that I actually wondered if I could finish the stage. I was slowed to a walk on the climbs. I was angry and upset with myself. I wondered why this was happening. I cursed myself for the aggressive travel, work, and race schedule I’ve been trying to maintain. I wondered if I was done for the year. I made every excuse in the book in my head. Where did my wicked fitness go? I was faster than I’d ever been just a month before and now I was way off the back. I overdramatically thought about quitting the race and flying home. There was only one thing I could – keep riding forward and be glad I had full suspension on the large rocks.
I came in 6th place for the day with my tail tucked between my legs. I had lost about 25 minutes from cracking. I was embarrassed to see my name in the results. A friend of mine (The Guardian) emailed me telling me not to worry about it, and to eat more. I kind of laughed at him, but I took his advice. I ate a lot for dinner that night. It was easy – the TSE food catering is amazing.
The announcer pulled me aside and asked me what was going on with my results. Another concerned friend asked if I was okay or if I was sick. I thought, “Well, at least I don’t normally ride this poorly or people wouldn’t be asking!” I went to bed early and tried not to think about the 80% chance of rain forecasted for the morning.