2018 Mountain Bike Nationals @ Snowshoe, WV

It's been a few weeks since MTB Nationals, but it still feels like it was only a few days ago. I decided to go to nationals this year after hearing about how fun last year's event was. It took a little bit of convincing from my friends, but I signed up and looked forward to a new adventure.

I've never been to such a large mountain bike event before... where competitors were coming from all over the country, and super skilled/amazing pro riders would be racing in the same place as me. 

It was a little overwhelming when I showed up at the top of the mountain, but I immediately felt relief when I saw my friends' sprinter vans parked not too far away.

I have a difficult time not being really anxious before a competitive event. However, this year I embraced the butterflies... learning from a comedian I recently watched who said, "butterflies mean something you will want to make memories of is about to happen." Butterflies can be a good thing, if you let them.

So I held it together through the whole day before the race, waiting until 6pm to be able to check out our course. While waiting I got to see my best friend Lindsey start her Enduro race, cheer people on, and take an awesome nap in my hotel room :) When 5pm came around I headed back up to the top of the mountain, rode around for a bit to get the jitters out, and then my amazing friend Alex from Vanderkitten showed me the course and we worked on a few lines together. The one really challenging section was the slick/wet roots in the first half of the race. I went down once in a sharp turn - took the wrong line and slipped - but that was the only casualty of the day.

I've found that it doesn't matter what sport I'm doing, the night before a race/competition, I'm not into talking. I come off as moody, but really I'm just coming to terms with the fact that what I'm going to be doing in the morning is going to be difficult, it's probably going to hurt, and I'm going to do my best to achieve my best. The butterflies kick in hard the night before a race.

This year though, I tried hard to not waste my energy on being worried. Yes I was a ball of nerves, but I just let that energy hype me up and keep me alert. I think that mentality came in handy for race day.

Race morning started at 5:30am, was low stress, relatively quiet, and everything went according to plan. I was able to eat my breakfast (as opposed to just stare at it and contemplate how I'm going to get it down), I had everything packed in the van, and headed up the mountain around 6am. I knew I would need a longer warm up than I'm used to doing because this was going to be a FAST race AND it was a heart-in-your throat uphill start from the gun.

It was kind of nice racing at 8am. There wasn't any anxious hours of waiting during the day, and it wasn't too crazy or chaotic yet around the village of the resort. Waiting on the start line was intense. There were a few age group races starting a couple of minutes ahead of mine. Watching each wave go off up that hill and around the turn got me more amped and nervous for my race to begin. And then, all of a sudden, my race was on the start line, and I'm waiting for the whistle to blow - it felt like time slowed; the only sound I heard was how hard my heart was pounding.

The whistle went off and I slipped getting my foot clipped in, but only for a split second. I shot off, trying my best to charge up the hill and catch the woman in front. I was on her wheel for a split second and when she turned around she saw me, she threw down the hammer, almost sliding out on a left turn into singletrack - I kept my distance for a few seconds after that; I didn't want to get crashed out - finishing the race is better than not finishing the race.

This course was a lot of fun! Steep climbs and variable singletrack - slick roots, pieces of the downhill trails, some sharp rocks - and fast fire roads. The best part was how crazy my friends and loved ones were cheering for me all over the course! Thinking back on it right now, those are the memories that stick out the most to me: throwing down as hard as I think I can, and then hearing Lindsey, Ellen, and Chris just screaming at me like crazy people, and finding that I could dig deeper and push harder.

I got passed by the woman who placed 2nd fairly early in the race, she hit it on one of the climbs and I couldn't respond. I also got caught up in the mix of the other racers as we entered the slick root section and lost another chance to catch back onto her. Somewhere in the middle of the race Lindsey told me she was up by 2 minutes, and I thought maybe I could make that up, but also knew it wasn't likely because I was pretty much at my max.

We did 3 laps of the course. I was in a bit of no man's land for the last lap, not knowing where the other women behind me were, and worried that I might mess up and get caught. My mantra at a spot like this in any race is pretty much, "go as fast as you can, but DON'T eff up!" Haha :)

Charging down through the last few turns and crossing the finish line of my first MTB nationals race was an absolutely amazing feeling. And I took 3rd place! It took a bit of coaxing and reassuring from my friends that I should participate in this and see if I liked it. I'm so glad I went. I want more of this! I have a better idea of what I need to do to improve my racing, and have cyclocross to look forward to. I can't wait for the next bike racing adventures!


PC: Chris Merriam. Having a great time!

Being goofy and letting out some nerves before course practice with Alex.

Race Day Sunrise!

SO SO very excited that Chris drove out super early in the morning to watch me race :)


PC: Chris Merriam; Alex and I waiting for course practice :)

PC: Lindsey!

So stoked to be on the podium with some awesome ladies!

I always stop at this overlook when I'm heading into WV. Germany Valley Overlook <3

Kelly PaduchComment