July 16, 2012

Stars and Stripes: Mountain Bike Nationals - Sun Valley, Idaho

XC Mountain Bike Nationals, Cat 1 30-34

As I walked through the crowd, to the top step of the podium, I felt a crazy rush. My eyes were as wide as my smile. I was going to get a new jersey, the one with stars and stripes. I had won a Nationals Championship!

A few weeks ago, a friend shared a quote with me. It went something like this:
Good things come to those who wait.
Good things come to those who work their asses off and never give up.

I put it up on my refrigerator. I repeated it over and over in my head. I had been working hard, stayed focused, and wasn’t planning on giving up anytime soon.

On race morning, I was ready.

I led from the gun. That wasn’t the plan, but sometimes you have to throw plans out the window and just race your heart out. I sprinted off the line, expecting the pace to be fast from the start.

Before the first corner, I was off the front. Unintentional, but encouraging. I road hard, but within myself for the start loop and when I turned onto the 2-mile paved straight-away, leading to the base of the eight-mile climb, I looked over my shoulder. I had a pretty good gap.

I am supposed to draft here. Don’t blow up, conserve energy. Should I wait for the group behind me? Will they catch me? Just go!

I made myself as small as possible, put my head down and pedaled. I didn’t look back again. For the next 50 minutes, I climbed, up a hot double track gravel road, through a cool forest, and along exposed single track littered with wild flowers and shale.

At the top of the climb, I was still alone. Time to descend.

Smooth is fast, Bishop. You can do this.

The descent wasn’t too fast or too technical, but I had to be smart, choose my lines with care and accelerate out of every corner. There were two short climbs on the way down; the second of which was four miles from the finish, hot, loose, and painful. When I creased the top of that second climb, I knew I was close – but I had to stay focused.

A few tricky switch-backs, the rock waterfall, and the finish line. Be smart. You can do this.

I came around the last corner before the rock waterfall. For 12 months I have been thinking about this short, rocky bit of trail. It isn’t terribly hard, but very intimidating. Last year, I didn’t ride it. Since then, I had been working on skills that would allow me to do so – but I was still nervous.

Earlier in the week, a good friend of mine said something to me that stuck. “The winner should ride it.” 

Without hesitation, I rode it (personal victory), made the last turn onto the gravel straight-away and crossed the finish line – celebrating.

The grin I wore for the rest of the afternoon might have been the cheesiest on record. I set a goal, followed the plan, and was now a National Champion.

As I stood on the podium, my eyes welled up, unexpectedly. I was overcome with gratitude. The support and love that has been shared with me is astonishing and I am so grateful to Ben, my team, my friends and my community.

I am celebrating my accomplishments and already looking forward to the next challenge. I have received my Pro Upgrade and will be racing with the uber fast women in September when we tackle the Marathon Mountain Bike Nationals, right here in beautiful Bend, Oregon.