Monday, May 14, 2018

Marathon MTB Nats

Sometimes in a race, it is victory to make it to start line and that is how MTB marathon nats went down for me this year. It was a disappointing result, but I'm not going to be too hard myself for a poor performance at this one.

I have wanted to race at marathon nats for the past 3 years. Unfortunately, there has always been something during residency that kept me from going, usually mandatory meetings or not being able to find another resident to cover my scheduled shift. So I was really excited this year about the prospect of finally making it to this race. And then I found out that I had been scheduled by the higher powers to take my oral boards the day before the race, which is a requirement to become board certified in Emergency Medicine and which is pretty important for the rest of my career. And no matter how much I pleaded with those higher powers, I was unable to change my exam date. Humph.

Oral boards is a nerve wracking exam that takes place in Chicago. You rotate between hotel rooms and have to work your way through artificial patient cases that you might encounter in the emergency room while an examiner sits on the other side of a desk behind propped up folders and furiously scribbles notes after everything you say.

Jillian and me the morning before our board exam

Many people ask how I have time to race while also training to be a doctor. The main answer is that I have gotten really good at figuring out scheduling conflicts. So, I figured out a way to take my oral boards in Chicago on Saturday afternoon and still make it to Arkansas for the race at 8am on Sunday morning. While I did not have the race I wanted, I did learn some valuable lessons from this adventure! 

Lesson 1: I have wonderful friends

My boards were scheduled to end at 7pm and I found the last flight from Chicago to Little Rock left at 8:25, so I figured I could physically get myself to Arkansas before the race. I just needed a way to also get my bike there. Yay for friends. Lauren was able to drive my bike from Roanoke to Cohutta 100 in Tennessee where she was racing the weekend before. Dylan also happened to be racing at Cohutta and was able to pick up my bike from Lauren, store it for a week and then drive it down to Arkansas on the CTS van for me. Both Lauren and Dylan crushed Cohutta 100 and won the women's and men's races respectively too! So huge congrats to them and also so many thanks for helping me out with the bike. I also got some course beta from Libbey (who collected another USA cycling jersey on Sunday!) and Anthony Toops who raced there last year. Thanks guys!

Lesson 2: Do not try to race in the pro field the day after oral boards

I made to Little Rock at 10:30 pm on Saturday night, rented a car, drove an hour from the airport to Arkadelphia, checked into a Days Inn, found out I was in a smoking room, tried to change rooms but they had no other ones available. Gross. Snuggled into bed at midnight and tried to get used to the cigarette stench. My alarm went off at 6:40 am. I woke up and felt like I had been run over by a bus. I was exhausted. I think all the nervous energy from the day before had finally caught up to me and my adrenaline stores were depleted. I knew I would be tired from the exam, but I did not think I would be that exhausted. I could not get my head into race mode. And, I knew from the effort of Whiskey 50 the weekend before, I really needed to have my head in race mode to have any chance at doing well in the pro field. 

Lesson 3: Do not wear heels before a race 

Having blisters on both pinky toes and then stuffing those toes into mountain biking shoes and plowing over rocky trails for 4 hours will leave your feet on fire. In case your brain, legs and lungs weren't sending you enough messages to slow down, now your feet are telling you that too. 

Lesson 4: Bring a support person

My usual support person (and wonderful husband) couldn't make it to Arkansas this weekend. I tried to be self sufficient but even with a camel pack and 1 bottle on the bike, I ran out of water half way through the second lap. I think it was a pretty hot and humid day, at least it felt that way for me. Having an extra bottle at the feed zones and someone to hand it to you is pretty key to stay hydrated.

Lesson 5: Even when the race goes poorly, riding in the woods will always put a smile on my face

I had to settle for just riding my own pace. I am still learning how to race 50 miles, and the effort seems more like a long cross country race than a short endurance race. Unfortunately, I settled into endurance mode early on. If people passed me, I just let them go. After that, I actually enjoyed myself! The trails are twisty, rocky, with punchy climbs, fast descents, winding ridgelines above DeGray Lake. I managed to stay upright on my bike and avoided flat tires. I posted a finishing time (4:05), it was not last place (7th/14), and my time was not astronomically slower than the rest of the field, which is encouraging. I feel like I am in this weird place of either being at the top of my age group but not yet quite having the speed it takes to really compete with the pros. But, I like challenges and I know racing in this field will make me faster, so I think I am doing the right thing. And I finally got my chance to race at marathon nats!

Playing catch up to the lead group on a short road connector between the trails: Photo by Weldon Weaver

After the race, I got to drink a curbside margarita, courtesy of Jeremiah Bishop, went swimming in the lake and then was able to get a ride home with Jeremiah, John Petrylak and Heath Thumel, who both got 2nd place in their respective age groups!

Much thanks again to everyone who helped me get to this race and back home and to Chris Beck for fitting workouts into my busy schedule and to ESI grips, Maxxis Tires, Huma Gel, Joe's Bike Shop and Rudy Project! 

No comments:

Post a Comment