Mountain Bike Nationals MAG

February 22, 2012
By Emma Klingman BRONZE, Hemet, California
Emma Klingman BRONZE, Hemet, California
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

This is it. This is the reason I have been training, preparing, and stressing out for months. I’m at the starting line for the nationals cross-country mountain bike race!

The announcer chats on the microphone, pumping us up. I can’t focus on what he is saying, so I look around nervously. I see my parents, family, and friends. I feel like I could throw up, but I try not to show my anxiety. I shake out my shoulders and try to relax.

The announcer says, “Category 2 women division age 15 to 18, two minutes to start.” He continues and I try to listen, but so many thoughts are flooding my head it is impossible to clearly hear him. My thoughts are broken when he starts to count down – five, four, three, two, one – and I hear the gun.

I take off with my competitors. After only 100 yards we hit the first climb, short but steep. It’s 18 percent grade, maybe more, but only about 100 yards long. Now I am in race mode. I feel the adrenalin rush through my veins. I am serious and determined. I push up the hill and continue on.

This course is just 9.2 miles, but the intensity of the 800-foot elevation gain and the technical terrain make up for the short mileage. I proceed onto the fire road. Everyone is fighting to get a good spot leading up to the first single track. As I approach, a couple of girls spin out on the bridge just before the dip and incline to rolling rocks through the aspen groves, so I maneuver past them. This single track is rough. There is no line through it, plus it’s all uphill. Ridged rocks, trees, and large roots cover the trail, so I just have to plow through. For over a mile it’s all up to my legs and bike handling skills. After this single track there is a descent through pine trees and soft volcanic dirt. Thoughts overwhelm my brain.

Relax your upper body. Focus on your form. Make sure you’re taking deep breaths. Shift, push bigger gears. Take a sip of water. It’ll be time for a power gel pretty soon. This girl’s right on your butt, don’t let her pass you! Your cadence is slowing – speed it up. Watch that rock! Use your momentum to get over it. Tuck down on the uphills and pull, butt back. Balance use of front and back brakes on the downhills. Tuck in your knees. Ride the corners smooth.

Repeating in my head is the song I listen to before each race, “Broken, Beat, and Scarred” by Metallica. I sing “What don’t kill you’ll make you more strong” in my head. It keeps me going and reminds me to enjoy the pain.

The race goes on and I keep pushing. I pass a girl every now and then and continue drinking and fueling. I ride through a sagebrush descent with numerous twists and turns. It is a fun trail, weaving back and forth like a slalom course. At the crest of the hill I can see the finish, with people and tents far below. Although I can hear the announcer, the crowd, and the music, I focus on finishing. I have to maintain my place from here on out. The downhill to the finish is exciting; it is part of the dual slalom course so it is in an “s” shape and has small banks.

I turn the corner to the finish and glide under the time clock arch. I turn off the course and am greeted by friends and family. When I hear that I finished ninth, I think about what I have accomplished. This is nationals! I did it! I am all smiles.

Now I have to start training, preparing, and stressing for next year.

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This article has 1 comment.

raysauce said...
on Mar. 22 2012 at 12:57 pm

This is really inspiring. Makes me want to train even harder for my next race. I just got myself a new bike for it too take a look



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