July 11, 2013

Marathon Mountain Bike Nationals - Stepping Up to 2nd Place.

Sharing the Podium with some incredible women, Pua Mata and Rose Grant.
There is a calm that sets in when you know all the work is done.  When the intervals are complete, the bike is clean and dialed, bottles prepared, breakfast eaten, kit zipped up.

Let’s do this.

Standing on the starting line, I stood tall, pulling on my Power Posture.  Maybe the whole power posture thing is hocus-pocus, but who cares.  It gives me confidence and settles down my nerves.

Three minutes after the Pro Men took off, it was our turn.  The Pro Women were called to the line, 2 minutes till go time. Marathon Mountain Bike Nationals is a long event, so there wasn't too much shoving off the start line.  I wanted to be in the front group as we completed the start loop and descended the water fall for the first of three times.  I sat second wheel. 

Perfect placement.  Stay calm.

Out on the paved bike path that led to the climb, take #1, I didn't do any work.  I sat in, toward the front, but never really pulling. Seven minutes into the race we made the right hand turn onto the dirt and started climbing. A few minutes later, Pua pulled away. No one responded. She kept going; with a gap of about 100 meters, I knew I had to make a move – now or never.  I shifted, stood up, and bridged the gap.  I looked over my shoulder, no one else followed me.

Okay, Bishop, here we go.

I had made a commitment to myself in my pre-race monologue that I wasn't going to put myself into the red on the first lap.  I didn't want to crack the second time up the climb. I sat behind Pua as we made our way up the two steepest pitches of the course.  I was working hard, but not out-of-control hard.  When we crested the second pitch, Pua accelerated. 

Can I hold this pace for the next 40 minutes?

If the answer was no, I needed to back off.  Pua rode on, I settled in.  Right before we turned onto the single track, I looked behind.  The decision to follow Pua early on had been a good one.  The rest of the girls were strung out on the double track, a fair bit behind. 

Tina was at the top of the climb with my feed.  I was still sitting in second. Tina was yelling her head off – You are killing it.

Stay calm Bishop, Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. 

The descent is a long one with two short climbs.  I stayed focused and rode well, but not well enough.  By the time we reached the bottom of the mountain, I had been passed by two girls – I was fired up and determined to catch them.  A few minutes into lap two, I caught and passed the Super Descenders, and never looked back. 

As I reached the top of the climb, I was still in 2nd. That was when it dawned on me that I was in 2nd place, in a National Championship Race. I grabbed my last bottle from Tina, shifted into my big ring, and pinned it. I was not going to get caught this time around.

I was riding well and with confidence.  I passed a couple of guys, couldn't see any one behind me and was staying focused.  Then, somewhere between the first and second climb on the descent, I knew something was amiss. The front end of my bike felt strange, as if I was constantly over-steering.

Crappppp, this is what a front flat feels like. No, no, no.  This isn't happening, keep riding, it is your imagination.

Nope, it wasn't my imagination. I had a flat tire.

Don’t panic. Stay calm. Co2 is in your back left pocket.

I pulled to the side of the trail.

CRAP, CRAP, CRAP. Stay calm.

I fumbled a bit twisting the inflator head on to the cartridge, opened the tire value, and inflated the tire. I had never flatted in a race before. How much air should I put in? I didn't want to over inflate it, but it needed to seal.  I am not sure how long I was on the side of the trail or how much air I put into the tire.  But at some point I got passed by one of my competitors. CRAP!

I jumped back on my bike, determined to catch her.  I could hear the air coming out of tire.  It was not sealing.

It doesn't matter, just ride.  You have to catch her.

On the final gravel climb, I made the pass and was able to get onto the final single track in front.  I could see the sidewalls of my front tire flattening out with ever rotation of the wheel.  

Please hold, please hold, please hold. 10 more minutes.

I hit the switchbacks and I knew I had to be careful. Rolling the tire off the rim would not end well.  I could sense I was being followed closely – the chase was on.  I channeled my inner Adam Craig and rode the smoothest and fastest I could with a front flat tire.

The base of the mountain came into view; I was almost to the finish.  I was going to have to ride the rock waterfall with a front flat tire.

Bishop, this is it.

I took my fingers off the brake levers, got my weight back as far as possible and held on. I made it down, around the 180 degree corner and onto the asphalt.  I stood up and sprinted. 

I crossed the line and threw my hand up in the air. It was close, but I had done it.

2nd place.

Bishop, you did it.
All Smiles.
The Bend Crew - Brennan, Don, Carl, and Brig. 
Honored to be on the podium - thank to everyone who helped me along the way!