I've never been one to utter the phrase "comforts of home" with any degree of frequency but there is no denying when you are struggling to heal from some sort of sickness or injury, home is at the top of the list of locations you desire to be.
While in some contexts the van is considered a "home," it still lacks the creature comforts of say a refrigerator or a shower. After Mesa Verde the pull was strong and the urge to go see my structural "fix me" guy Marc was top priority so I crossed through the heart of Colorado and made my way back into Golden.
I regard summers in Golden fondly; I catch up with friends, coach with the local junior programs, take a few ladies groups out for coaching sessions, race a few top notch local events, and there's now a brewery co-located with our modest bike park just a trail ride away. I was sad to miss Iron Horse, one of my favorite race weekends in Durango but it was time to get that rib stuck back in place and feel whole again.
The Beti Bike Bash was to be my first full-on cross country race after the crash and it is hands down one of the coolest mountain bike races out there. This women's only event has, in the past few years incorporated a short track style "drag" race where guy friends, husbands, bothers, and dad's can race if they wear some form of women's clothing. In conjunction with the amazing collection of women who come out to give racing a shot - many for the first time - it's also fantastic to see the guys willing to dress up and feminine out in support of their female companions. I proudly recruited at least two friends for this race and despite scrounging my dress collection for those I wouldn't mind being doused in sweat and beer, I am notorious for underestimating my size compared to a dude.
My race went as expected, it can be a lot to process to enter a competition with less fitness and focus than you have had in previous years, especially while lining up with many of the competitors you race on a regular basis. If you break it down however, there's so much to appreciate: I have the opportunity to be present, to represent a number of great companies, to be a part of a lager event that supports the growth of women's participation in a sport I love, and to join my peers and other women who I've gotten to know so well over the years of racing. My form was definitely not there for the day but I still managed to finish within the top ten of a group of fantastically strong ladies and join the fun and celebration that makes this race special.
The following weekend I opted to race in the GoPro Mountain Games as I have the past few years but rather than participate in the cross country race like I typically have, I went out on a limb and signed up for the Enduro. It's been exactly seven years since the very first U.S. enduro took place at Winter Park circa 2011 and all my downhill racing buddies convinced me that it was much like a cross country race.... just with the climbing cut out of the overall timing. That didn't pan out to be a true statement in any way shape or form but I didn't have any fatal incidents, rode a lot of stuff I never had before, and was mostly appreciative of the new experience (there was a no chain stage that was pretty much a disaster for me).
The enduro took place in Eagle, just west of Vail where the games are hosted. The trails were powder dry and dusty and not overly technical but the temps and sun exposure were high and the winds were whipping just a few hours into the day. I was able to pre ride most of the course the day before so I knew what to expect and was semi comfortable with the lesser degree of difficulty on this particular set of trails. Still my cross country bike might not have been the best choice and a few more practice runs could have been helpful.
I firmly believe that doing the things you are uncomfortable with is one of the best ways to learn and grow. I never was especially intrigued or attracted to the concept of enduro but I do believe I will be a better athlete and coach with ongoing experience in all the disciplines. Two things in particular reminded me why I love what it is I do focus on; the continued exposure and duration of time you are out making your way to stage starts is exhausting, you have to have a plan to drink enough water to truly stay hydrated (it happened to be an exceptionally hot, dry, windy day) and I believe the racing would be more fun if you were to bring and spend the day with at least one designated friend. My comfortable pace up the climbs to the start lines put me in no mans land for much of the day so even though I know and love many of the women I was racing with, I didn't spend time with or quite feel the social draw that is one of the much revered aspects of this type of racing. Sunburned and dusty, I crawled down the mountain as the very last place of the pro women but with a better understanding of my weaknesses and having gained knowledge of the potential means to get better.
I took the next day to finish building and setting up my new road bike because what is there if not entertainment at going from one extreme to the other. When I began riding and racing I took pride in my varied participation. I would race road one weekend and mountain bikes the next. I tried triathlons, time trials, adventure races, marathons, fat bike racing, 24 hour races, super D, and hill climbs. If it involved a bike and I was around, I was in. After 20 years of this you definitely find your groove and lean towards the events that draw you in. I'd say there is a tendency to prioritize the areas that are your strengths but even then there needs to be ways to develop those strengths further and often that means switching disciplines. It's humbling to finished dead last in a race with no mechanicals or injuries but that too can teach you that you need to remember to dig deep and find a way to perform better.