This was the first season I’ve ever trained with a heart rate monitor. I chose a really cute pink one from polar, hoping that the cheerful color would keep me positive about an aspect to training that is admittedly pretty obsessive- and for a while it worked. I loved goofing around with my heartrate (how low can you go? how high can you go!?) and got tons of compliments on the pinkness- me and that watch were the best of friends.
But, like every relationship with an inanimate object, we started to go south. I began to obsess. The weekly exercise count “feature” began to rule my life, and if that little envelope icon appeared in the corner of my display without showing at least a “6/week” note, I felt I had failed the watch. Even the pink started to fade after a few good rides in the mud. Eventually my old friend began to resemble an over-loved barbie, but I kept going out with it; seeing those high numbers at the end of a ride was always a good feeling. I’d finally had enough by the time collegiate nationals rolled around. On the morning of the cross country race I pulled my heart rate strap out of my bag, looked at it, then slowly tucked it away again. I’m glad I did.
My first fifteen minutes on the bike were surreal. I hadn’t ridden my mountain bike, hadn’t worn a helmet, and hadn’t even ridden outside in over two weeks due to the early winter we’d been suffering through in Bozeman. The wind on my face and the sound of tires on pavement made me irrationally happy, and the view had me smiling out loud. We had an eight o’clock start (ah, to be a girl) which meant a seven o’clock warm up, which meant that a) the sun was not up and b) there was fog everywhere. It started out feeling kind of creepy, but somewhere in my ride I got above the cloud and was able to look down at the mist filtering through the trees. The sun was just starting to make an appearance and I knew it was going to be a pretty good day.
We were holed up in a condo at Northstar Resort near Truckee with the Arizona team. On the trip out, the MSU team (Zach, Stephen and I) had realized at about 9:30 in the middle of Nevada that we hadn’t actually figured out the lodging portion of the trip. Luckily, after about an hour’s worth of frantic phone calls, our pals from Arizona (Chloe Forsman) saved our asses. In that hour Zach also managed to establish a pretty good friendship with a hotel owner in Truckee, but I like Chloe better. It was a huge weight off to have a nice warm floor to sleep on and good people to hang out with.
By the time 8 o’clock rolled around I was amped. I had no idea what kind of warm up I’d just done because I’d stopped a few times to take pictures, and (haha!) my watch didn’t even know I was riding!! I’d felt kind of devious and rebellious as I did a few hill sprints, but I noticed a shitty grinding in my brakes so the last twenty minutes of my warmup consisted of standing at the Shimano tent while they replaced my brake pads. I don’t know why those guys are always so nice to me; I’m obviously clueless, and I even yelled at them once when I crashed in the crit at road nats. Yet somehow they always get me hooked up and riding fast. I’ll say it again; Shimano is awesome.
The start was a mad sprint through the village of Northstar (picture the lovechild of Vail and Whistler villages) and a short climb up a little gravel hill. I think Kay and I were pretty much ahead by the time we hit singletrack, and we duked it out for the whole first lap. At one point I was pretty sure she was gone- I was watching those giant wheels just fly away and I felt totally deflated. Luckily I was in a kamikaze mindset when the descent rolled around because I pulled off a lead there that I was able to maintain for the rest of the race.
The course was way cool, and perfectly challenging. There was a long Sol-Vista-ish climb, and a twisty, bermy descent with a few rock gardens thrown in for good measure. It was fast, it was definitely fun, and winning my first stars n’ bars didn’t hurt either.
Stephen and Chloe won their races too, making it a good day for our condo and and excellent day for MSU. It’s pretty cool that we put together MSU’s first mtb team in years and managed to accumulate some hardware on our first day. Zach had an awesome 8th place finish as well, which is especially impressive when you find out that he had ACL surgery less than six months ago. Having had that surgery twice I know how traumatizing it can be- it’s pretty amazing that he’s riding at the level he is right now.
The next day Stephen continued the streak with a win in the short track, while I spent my thirty minutes in hell chasing Kay around. By the last lap I was within three seconds, but got stuck behind a lapped rider on the singletrack portion, and then skidded out the last corner before what would have been a sprint. Argh! Still, I got my jersey and I’m glad Kay got one too- she’s a great rider and teammate. (and our condo still ended up with 6 of 8 national xc titles)
The post race celebration was excellent with good food, drinks, and friends. It was the perfect way to end the season, and when that little envelope showed up in the corner of the display on my watch reading “2/week” I just smiled at what my heart rate monitor didn’t know…