At the last Six Sigma race, I went into the weekend with low expectations for my performance, given that I hadn’t ridden much in the previous four weeks due to a concussion, but excited to be back on a bike with the team. I left school early to make it in time for the team pre-ride, which left me less than happy about the course, as there were some technical corners, a sketchy cattle gate, three deep puddles, and a steep, loose 180 switchback featured in it, and I had nearly crashed on all four obstacles. In my mind, this confirmed my expectation that the next day would probably not be a good race for me and that the racers I had been close competitors with in the past races would be far out of my reach. Discussing the course with the team helped, though.
At previous races, I had had severe pre-race anxiety that kept me from sleeping or eating enough before a race, but something about having attended the previous Six Sigma race as a non-racer had shifted my perspective on racing, and helped me see it more lightheartedly and find more joy in racing.
I had a sixth place call-up, which put me in the second row, and this was only made better by the fact that one of the top 5 girls hadn’t come to the race, which moved me to the front row! I ended up being passed by a few riders on the initial climb, but I kept track of the numbers and was eventually able to work my way back up to the top 5 on the course and made it through the obstacles I had been worried about without incident. I completed most of the first lap by myself, not pushing super hard until I started passing sophomore girls. It was great to see everyone on the course being courteous and encouraging whenever passing or being passed. In the second lap, the heat and dust started to trigger breathing issues, but the downhills provided enough of a break that I could up my pace, which led me to catch up to Annika by the time we reached the puddles again, about halfway through the lap. I stayed on her tail for a while, knowing that if I tried to pass her, she would speed up, as she could outpace me in a long, sustained effort, and that I only had so much energy left. We stuck together, passing sophomores and JV riders occasionally. Both of us had breathing issues at different points in the race, giving each other opportunities to take off ahead, but I had decided I would rather have Annika take fourth place than pass her when she was struggling. We crossed the finish line holding hands, tied to the hundredth of the second. It was so amazing to cross the finish line with one of my oldest friends and my closest competitor, having been neck and neck all season, and it provided a sense of closure, even though we ended up with different spots on the podium. This season has been so incredible to see everyone on the team improving at impressive rates and the camaraderie built at races and rides, both on and off bikes, and I’m really looking forward to next season!