Double Finals Recap: NW Cup & Cascadia Dirt Cup

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OLYMPUS

(photo: Duane Robinson)

It seems to me, more and more folks are into one type of riding or another. Shuttle nuts, pedal pushers, freestylers, or roadies, life on two wheels any which way is pretty much just more fun. But what does one do when they want to be good at it all? I guess just live longer? This is a question that’s been coming up for me lately, since I took time off the DH bike and tried my feet at Enduro racing for the first time this year. How can I excel at downhill technical handling skills, uphill sprint climbing, days long in the saddle pedaling and hucking shit all at the same time? I’ve only been riding about 5 years and it seems so far I’ve gone through phases where I’m working on one thing or another, adding to my skill set. This Enduro thing is pretty cool because it combines everything and demands an all-around better rider. But what if deep down I love the speed I can get on the big bike? What if I love the air time? What if I love the way that downhill specific geometry feels and rides? DH requires fitness for sure, just a different kind. I know I can race both DH and Enduro, but if I do, will I lose the focus to really excel in one discipline or the other? Part of me would rather be superior in one discipline than average in two. But here we go again with this whole ‘having fun’ thing! It’s not like I’m making a living doing this stuff! But I live to do it! And I have fun doing it all! So I guess, why not? I guess playing it by ear isn’t a bad way to go either, so we’ll just see what sounds like fun for a race schedule next year! Maybe EVERY race. ; )

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(photo: Greg Tubbs)

Something I do love the most about bikes is I never get bored. Endless trails to explore in my own backyard, in the next town, in the next state, in the next country. It’s the best way to travel in my opinion. I’d rather see more of the unknown, the less frequented, the deep woods and higher mountains, away from all the hustle and bustle and crowds. There are a lot of places I’ve never been that most people have. But there are more places I have been that most haven’t. I like finding the secret spots. And when I’ve crashed on the big bike and am timid to ride it, I get on the little bike, pedal and explore. When I need more courage to hit a jump or drop on a trail, I get on my dirt jumper and head to the park for practice. Or I grab the trailbike and session Duthie Hill some more. If I’m ready to rip up loam, gain more confidence and get the speed back in my bones I grab my green machine, my Banshee Legend, and take a drive north to Canadialand and outskirts, or even just my local hot spot, Steven’s Pass.

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(photo:Greg Tubbs)

It was here that the NW Cup hosted its final race of the 2015 season, and I decided after a solo day trip the week before, that I would go ahead and race. 9 months after the harriest crash of my life, flying down the fastest trail I ride, off a stump that oddly kicked me straight, in the air into a tree, the seat getting my back and doing severe deep muscle tissue & nerve damage, not walking for a couple weeks and body swollen for two months, I’m slowly making my way back onto the downhill bike. Body is still in the process of recovery, but the mental stuff is the biggest setback. I didn’t know if I ever wanted to ride bikes again, so the progress from then to now actually is amazing. 11990511_10153339622717659_406935690512534450_nThe Psoas is a deep-seated core muscle connecting the lumbar vertabrae to the femur, which was a critical muscle area affected by the crash. As the main stabilizing muscle  for your core to be grounded, strong and balanced, when it’s tense or under stress it can causeall sorts of subconscious ‘fight or flight’ responses, which explains why I’ve been so tense on the bike in descending mode. Trying to practice yoga more frequently, dabbling in Rolfing and Acupuncture, I’ve tried to help loosen up my body’s tension and relax, and rebuild muscle so on the bike I can have more fun, feel stronger, and build my confidence back up, besides the obvious relief of lower back pain. A solo day trip to Steven’s a couple weeks ago was the first time since January that I’ve actually had fun going downhill fast.  So of course I didn’t want to stop! I went ahead and raced the final, took 5th out of 5, had a blast, no crashing, rode at my own pace, and loved every minute of it. 20 seconds behind the top two competitors, I know I won’t be back up to speed for awhile, but at least I got over a huge lump of fear that week. Or I should say, the fear was lifted. I knew it would be, I just didn’t know how long it wo11951981_10153339622347659_6391919490940026786_nuld take. And it’s still lifting. Like a heartbreak. But I won’t forget that crash and I don’t want that to happen again, so I’ve decided to put the brakes on a bit and really pay more attention to my gut. Looking back, every time I crashed and had a bad result (And I’ve had a 3rd degree separated shoulder, double compound fracture left arm, fully torn ACL, severe ankle & wrist sprains, tons of skin taken off repeatedly, stitched finger, torn MCL, couple bad concussions, holes in my elbows, in addition to this back injury) I remember I had a funny feeling and really didn’t want to ride that day. I need to listen to my body better and not be coerced so easily by others to go, if I’m too tired and I’m not stoked to ride. Often I think I’m too lazy, not riding enough, or I think I ‘should’ be riding more. This kind of thinking, where I’m comparing myself to others, is always detrimental. It’s the negative stuff that leads to negative consequences. So it really is mostly mental. And such is true in life. It’s just taking a while for me to learn, and some hard hits because I’m really stubborn and hard headed. But you can’t say I’m not freaking passionate! I ride because I love it. I race because I love it. I race to finish last because I love it. : )

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I also love the mtb community so much and DH racing, with the camping and everything else, like I’ve said before, is like a big party. I got to see all my friends I hadn’t seen all summer. This was the first year in 5 that I hadn’t raced the NW Cup. I tried the first one in April at Port Angeles after that crash, not to be competitive necessarily, just to try to have fun again on the big bike. I knew the course well and was hoping if I got to see my friends it would help me relax and let go of some fear. But I wasn’t able to race. In my practice run I came into a corner squirrely and crashed into another girl’s bike that was in the middle of the trail. She’d had the same thing happen and went down a couple minutes before I came down the hill, and hadn’t gotten out of the way yet. My ankle got caught clipped in, between bikes and berm, and immediately sprained and swelled huge and I couldn’t walk on it. I hopped off the trail and coasted back down a fireroad to the truck and headed home. I hadn’t headed the ‘Universe’s warnings’ (my gut intuition). Even though lots of friends were deterring me from going to the race (since my body wasn’t strong and my confidence was shaky) I tried anyways. I even locked my keys in my truck 20 minutes before that practice and somehow managed to break into my truck at the last minute to get all my gear and go. There were multiple times I was offered suggestions to wait a while & not race yet, but I did anyways. And you know, I’m glad I did, because as a result I found the greatest Acupuncturist in the world! The good thing about injuries is I get to learn more about this body, learn more about the mind, learn more about the healing process, and meet amazing healers who can help. But I’m also learning that crashing is not necessary to progress. It may be if you want to get good fast, but you run the risk of never coming back. I know people who pushed so hard and sustained such severe injuries they can’t ride anymore. I don’t want that to be my story.

I saw more first-time racers at this NW Cup finals race in Steven’s than ever before. My friend Bonnie came down from Bellingham to try, and took 3rd in Cat II Women. There were 15 girls in the 18 and under category. I was so excited to see this sport growing and the support we have, especially for young people. Kat Sweet was there with Sweetlines to coach, with many of those young kids getting a ‘follow’ by coach or parent in their runs. It’s cool to see the encouragement in pushing boundaries, but in a safe way. 11947614_10154234605453312_8692933403058354488_nI was also so happy to see Pro Women Britney White, Jaime Reese, Kjersti Christensen and Karen O’Connell there. The women in our mtb community in Washington are amazing. I love them each so much and they all help me in so many ways. They inspire me, they push me, they support me, they challenge me, they cheer for me, they believe in me and they teach me what I want to be for others. They help me get out of my head. They help me have more fun. They show me what I’m capable of. They allow me the space to try new things and progress. And I feel safer in a controlled race setting, with so many people around and help readily available if I need it. I’m able to let go of more fear and test myself. I stay smart about it, but mostly I know what I’m capable of and usually it’s just a visual thing, like a blind corner, jump or drop that makes me nervous, even if I know I have the skills to do it. I always have someone I can follow in practice too, if I’m scared to try something on my own. And  I can ride the same trail over and over in DH racing, learning it, studying it, sessioning it, trying different lines, getting faster each time. Enduro racing isn’t like that. It’s kind of like less ‘controlled’ in that sense. You usually don’t have the chance to learn the stages very well, you often are riding alone, and usually you’re pretty far from getting help if you need it. On the flip side, it’s not as ‘all or nothing’. You can crash and still make up time and win. There are a lot more variables to take into consideration. You have to be pretty self-sufficient. And I love all that too.

The women I’ve met at the three Enduro races I did this year are all amazing. I’ve met some new heros. I’ve seen a new side of me I want to develop. I’ve seen fitness I want to have. I’ve renewed a passion for exploration. Karen O’Connell, my fellow local Pro DHer, attended the Port Angeles Enduro finals at the end of June, as well as the last Cascadia Dirt Cup held at Tiger Mt. in Issaquah the weekend after the Steven’s race. It’s great to see her racing both series, and it helps to have a friend from DH who’s also trying this race format for the first time. It’s rad to have someone to relate with as a rookie in this new Enduro world. I got to see my friend Abi Hippely jump the road gap on King Diamond effortlessly on her trailbike in Port Angeles for that race, and crush it in the overall, winning the two day challenge. That was a huge moment for me. To see a lady shred those trails on a little bike, the way I do on my big bike was pretty eye-opening. I realised I have a lot of work to do! I saw ladies in Ashland, OR at the California Enduro Series pedal their way to podiums. I know my legs aren’t used to racing up hills and it’s a totally different muscle set that I need to develop. I’ve learned a lot racing just three Enduros this year. But the best thing I’ve learned is that I’ve gained in fitness a ton in just three months! I suffered at the Port Angeles Enduro race, mainly because of the heat, but that was true for everybody. I had only been riding bikes a month since my ankle sprain and with the back injury before that I’d been out almost 6 months. I wasn’t sure I’d make it for the entire first day, let alone the second. But I did, and I saw that again, the mental stuff is the big stuff. The body will deal. I just said, “Oh yah, this hurts, oh well, keep pedaling…” and I finished. I was intimidated when CDC announced the course for the Tiger Mt. Finals race. It was going to be substantially more than we did that first day in PA and I thought I might die. But guess what? I did great! Technically I lost the race, placing 6th out of 6 Pro Women, and I think a couple Cat I ladies beat my time, but I had an awesome day, totally comfortable, no crashing, didn’t get too tired or hungry or thirsty. I was well prepared. I didn’t overtrain or undertrain. I was right where I was supposed to be. And I learned that progression in Enduro may not be as fast or obvious as in DH, but it’s just as rewarding. If I hit a jump or drop for the first time, or clear a tech section clean, the progression is more evident and instantly gratified. With fitness it takes longer to develop and it’s less apparent until you test yourself. I was in so much better shape for this last Enduro than I was at that first PA race. I still may be holding back mentally on all the descending, but I’m hopeful in time that too will fade and I’ll get back up to speed. And when I do, I’ll have the strength, the confidence and the poise to make it back to Pro Podiums.

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(photo: Chris McFarland)

I was nervous after being so tired from that Steven’s Pass race, that I wouldn’t have the energy to do the Tiger Mt. race the next weekend. I took Monday and Tuesday off, rode a quick hr & 1/2 lap Wednesday, rode the same lap Thursday and on Friday I did a longer 3 hr loop. Saturday I was ready and excited to spend 6 hours on the hill, racing every trail on Tiger Mt. 5,500ft of climbing, 30 miles, noon to 6pm, is the most I’ve ever done in a day and I was totally happy to do it. I paced myself well, not breaking for too long and walking the bike up a couple of the the stint steep climbs between stages to conserve energy for the descents. I probably held back a little bit so as not to go all out as I tend to do, and crash early. I wanted to just get through the day at a steady comfortable pace and I achieved just that. …”And now for my next trick!”…  ; )

Check out master photog Eric Ashley’s awesome race report for Tiger Mt., Cascadia Dirt Cup’s final stop for 2015:

http://m.pinkbike.com/u/ericashley/blog/race-report-cascadia-dirt-cup-finals-tiger-mountain.html

I was so proud of everyone who finished that race. It was a long day. Luke Strobel had broken a toe at Steven’s and still raced to 2nd place at Tiger. Neal Strobel had just torn his MCL the weekend before in Oregon at an Enduro race and still came in 4th. Bekah Rottenberg raced completely blind and came in 2nd, even with a few crashes! And Andi Zolton, a cyclocross racer, took 1st place, impressing me and everyone else with her technical handling skills! Predator, the new DH trail on Tiger, the first official ‘legal’ DH trail on DNR land, definitely had its steeps, its off camber roots & rocks, to torment the faint of heart. And Off-The-Grid, another techy descending trail had enough blind corners and roots to throw you to the ground if you weren’t careful. I just can’t believe how powerful the pedal stroke is for some of these people and I can’t wait to get there! I notice big time how much momentum I lose when I start up the hill or don’t have gravity on my side, pulling me down. These guys are all strong riders, up and down the hill, and I have a new goal to work towards. So again, biking is never boring. It never gets old. There’s always something to do.

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And I’m telling you all this because maybe it can be helpful. Maybe you can take from my experience and figure out it’s not about how ‘good’ you are, how ‘fast’ you are, how big of balls you have….it’s not about beating other people and being the best. Or it can be if you like, but as long as it’s for yourself and you’re not riding for anyone else. Because it’s you you have to live with. It’s your own mind that will help you or harm you. As a friend once said, “If you’re trying to be a hero in DH, you’re not going to last very long.”  I want to last long. I want to ride and race as long as I can. I want to teach kids how to do it. I want to encourage other women to try. I want to take care of my body and be 90 and riding a bicycle, enjoying my time here. And not in pain. And who knows if I get to do that, but that’s the goal. Not the World Cup DH Championships, although I could get there too if I wanted to. Maybe just as the world’s oldest world champion.

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Love,  Adrian



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