Nearly a month before my race I was given the opportunity to live up in Mammoth with a fellow racer of mine, where we would be able to acclimatize to the harsh conditions up at 8,000 feet. Three weeks and 3 days before the Cat 1 15-16 Cross Country MTB National Championships event, I was leaving the 100+ degree weather in SoCal to train up in Mammoth. These mountains were one of the places where I ventured out on my very first mountain bike rides, and I couldn’t wait to adventure in the thin air and pines again.
I’m not going to lie, after my first three training rides up at altitude I felt as if my lungs were going to explode. So, I just tried to focus on the scenery, and adventure as much as possible to get my mind off of how low my power was. However, after five days of living in paradise, I felt back to normal, and didn’t have to worry about puking all over the trails. Off of the bike, I went on a few hikes, ate a lot of Pita Pit, stood in some cold water, went fishing without catching any fish, fought over food at the only grocery store in town, played mini-golf, and enjoyed watching some fireworks on the 4th of July with friends.
On almost every training ride I made sure to ride the course. The 4-mile course, with 858 feet of climbing suited my riding style very well. When the one-week mark before the race hit, I started feeling the butterflies because I knew I had a good shot at riding into a podium placing. The day before my race I woke up early to get in my warm up ride where I (finally) encountered a bear! I was cruising down Minaret Road breaking in my new brake pads when a juvenile sized bear bolted across the road, and I was so excited! I wanted to stop and look, but knew I had to keep focused on the race.
The morning of my race I woke up at 5am, ate, and tried not to throw it all up before my race. I started warming up at 7:11 am, and made my way to the hectic start for call-ups. I started in third row, and was shaking with adrenaline on the start line. Off the start I moved back a bit and was sitting in the late twenties going into the first single-track. Three minutes in the diesel engine started warming up, and I made my way through the field every way that I could. The 90+ 17-18s ahead of us made the race even more congested. The two biggest fields going at the same time proved to be chaotic. There was a constant cloud of dust in your face, I heard screams and an ambulance on the descent, and the feed zone was about as packed as In-N-Out at lunchtime. However, the constant noise and amount of people was a great boost mentally. About half way through the race I knew I was getting into a good position, because I was passing less groups of riders, and everyone was riding at a good pace. On the final lap I caught up to a rider in my category and we were battling for the 9th place spot on the second half of the last lap. He was first into the final descent before the finishing straight and I was right on his wheel down the descent. Since I knew every rock on the descent I was able to ride comfortably and recover for the sprint. Once we hit the pavement the rider immediately launched his sprint and I tried to overtake him, but didn’t have the pure power to beat him. I finished 1:10 off of the podium.
After my race I was relieved, and a bit disappointed because I still felt like I could have gone a couple more laps! I didn’t know what to do with myself for the rest of the day because I was back at the condo at 10am. So I watched some races, discovered Pokemon Go, ate some more Pita Pit, and feasted on sushi at the world famous (not really) sushi restaurant at the Village! Then before bed I watched Tom Dumoulin crush everyone in the individual TT. The following morning I packed up to leave Mammoth so I could enjoy the off-season at home. Once I stepped out of the car at my house in Orange County, I felt like I was in a humidity room thingy when compared to the dry air of Mammoth. Now time to prepare for the next season!!!
2016 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Nationals
Mammoth Lakes, CA
XC Mens Junior 15-16 CAT 1
July 15, 2016