Race Report - Bluff Riders Charge

7:19 PM

Me and the new love of my life
This past weekend was my first real mountain bike race of the season the first Minnesota Mountain Bike Series race I was able to make, and it happens to be one of my favorites The Bluff Riders Charge at Mt. Kato ski area in Mankato. 

I love the Mt. Kato course you get three significant climbs each lap, and each climb sets you up for some awesome descents.  The trail has great flow, and enough technical elements (mainly in root-covered climbs and drops) to keep you on your toes.  The best part of each lap comes right at the end, where you swoop from side-to-side down a steep ravine in a section called The Luge a great section that has you off the back of your bike and only gets more fun if you can let go of the brake levers.

My goals on Sunday were simple: ride hard, have fun.  I had no confidence in my fitness, and though most of the ladies in the field were familiar to me I didnt know how fit they were.  I was also worried about my asthma, which kicked my butt for the entire mountain bike season last year.  So when the whistle blew, I sat back to let the field get ahead because, heck, sometimes it makes it easier if you take yourself out of the equation.  I figured it would be better for me to go fishing

At Kato, though, you hit the big climb right away.  Im a climber.  It wasnt long before I was hitting the long grass and passing people on the side to get behind the leader, who is also a climber. 

New plan tail the leader and see how long I could hang with her.  This turned out to be about three-quarters of a lap.  When we hit a technical climb (sand/gravel ground and several roots to get over), she spun out her rear wheel and had to step off.  This probably would have happened to me (just like it did every time I hit this climb last year), except Im now riding my big ol 29-inch wagon wheels - which had no difficulty climbing the steps and maintaining firm contact with the ground.

As soon as I took over the lead, I could feel my anxiety rising.  Theres two laps to go, how long can I lead?  What if someone catches me on the Kato climb?  What if my inhaler didnt work and I start to wheeze?  What if I slid out on a corner?  Sure enough, as I pushed my way up the final hill in the first lap I could feel my breath getting labored, and that old familiar tightness in my throat.  Yep, my anxiety is definitely connected to my asthma.  Silly Merry*Death.

New plan be present.  Rather than think about a section of trail that was 10 minutes away or the riders who were 10 yards behind me, I started to focus on the ground in front of me.  Hit that corner, get out of the seat for this little climb, pump this section.  As I marshaled my focus, thoughts of the race faded and my throat relaxed.  I stopped looking over my shoulder, and never let my gaze wander beyond the next corner.

It wasnt until I entered The Luge for the final time on the last lap that I began to think I could win the race.  As I whooshed down the hill I knew there was only a little trail between the bottom and the finish line, and I spent the entire time it took for me to cover it worrying about an ill-timed flat.  No flats, though, and I crossed the line with a solid minute over second place my first ever field win in the Sport category!

So, I have a lot more confidence in my fitness, but more importantly I have a better grasp on how I need to focus my thoughts during a race to keep the anxiety and asthma at bay

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