07 October 2008 By Rachel’s

Bitter Sweet

Race Morning at Beautiful Lake Tahoe
My 2008 Xterra Nationals weekend was one that taught me the toughest of lessons, yet showed me a very welcome breath of humanity. I will never forget it. First off, the fact I made it there is a complete miracle. Because of my health and fund shortage, I had pretty much written my Nationals weekend off. One of my dear brothers (not blood, but may as well be) Lance called me up and told me he couldn’t imagine Nationals without me. With that said, he sent me a plane ticket he found “laying around the office”. So, just a couple days before the race, all of a sudden I was back in. I called Xterra to make certain I still had my slot. Yep. Cool.

Delta is the airline I would be flying with. Uh oh. They typically had a $125 bike flying price tag each way. I double checked to make certain. Good hell. They now charge $175 plus a $50 dollar ‘second’ bag fee. And they wonder why they went bankrupt? You have got to be kidding me. There was no way I could pay the $450 total price tag they wanted for my 23 pound bicycle. I spent the entire afternoon calling anyone I knew and some I didn’t know looking for a ride for my favorite Cannondale Scalpel to Tahoe. No luck. So with leap of faith I would find one to race when I got there, I took my measurements, pedals, and saddle off my bike and flew to Reno without her on Friday morning. Lances too cool girlfriend Gina picked me up from the airport (took the day off for me. Yes, people are so amazing) and dropped me off at Lance’s. He didn’t get home from work until late, so we didn’t make it to the venue until Saturday.

I made a promise that this year I wouldn’t race the trailruns the day before my big races. I get so excited about them that I sabotage my important races. I made true on my promise until this one. The reason being is that I checked the field and knew that I was capable of winning. The top woman in the 10k gets a free airplane ticket to Hawaii which would be my answer as to how I would get to my Worlds race at the end of this month. Surprisingly I felt really good. I finished the race aboout 30 seconds faster than last year when I raced it in the snow. I was so excited as I had won. That is until the second place girl decided that I certainly must have cut the course. She got a couple of her friends to second her opinion. Xterra policy is that if two people confirm a discrepancy, then whoever the accused is guilty? Wow. I am both sad and sickened. Poor Kahuna Dave whom I love so much disqualified me. That one stung. All I can go by is my own knowing that I ran an honest course. I would never cheat. Ever. The thing that hurt more is that I knew I only had one run like that in me for the weekend due to my health. Big breath. It’s okay. It’s just a race. I hope the girl who accused me is happy and that she can feel good about her win? There will be next year. I know. The other thing I feel bad about is imagining Dave in his position. What would I have done? I hope he knows I won’t take it personally. He is a very amazing person and hugely responsible for putting Xterra series into motion. Because of him, I have many happy memories racing over the past few years. Still, I couldn’t help but shed a few tears.Robert Larioza of Look Cycle USA Saved the Day and Let me Borrow One of Their Awesome Bikes! THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!!!!!!

But after the race, I had another mission. Find a bicycle to race the next day. I had decided that no matter what, I was racing if I found a bike. I talked to a few people who had possibilities and even a sweet girl who raced on the Saturday sport race that offered hers if I found nothing else. Beautiful Colee (one of the announcers for the big races) said she would make an announcement for me. In the end, Robert from Look bicycles came to my rescue. His bikes are so light, carbon, beautiful. I almost didn’t ask him if I could use one because, hey, I race for Cannondale. Somehow I got brave and went and asked him what could I pay him to allow me to ride one of his incredible bikes on Sunday morning. Without a question or a blink, he smiled and told me I could just take one as long as he got it back after my race. Wow. I was speechless. I was wearing my Monavie/Cannondale clothing. Clearly raced for another company and it didn’t matter. He saw I needed help and stepped up to the plate. He had a perfect size small for me in both his hard tail and full suspension models. I decided to try the hard tail. I went and got my pedals and saddle and they put them on, helped me get fit to it and I rode it around. Shockingly, even though I have been on a completely different bike all year, I felt at home. Yes! Now I was excited! I was really meant to race this one.

Saturday was cold and rainy. They actually canceled the swim for that day’s triathlon due to the swells raging through the lake. Sunday morning was different. I woke up to chilly, yet bright blue skies. I was so excited. I gathered my things and got into Lances 4-runner for the 45 minute drive to Incline Village. I had my breakfast with me but as I took a bite, something felt wrong. I had only bitten into bread, but I broke one of my molars completely in half. I have a long frustrating history concerning my teeth. The sad emotions instantly welled up and overflowed into sobs. Instead of putting on my race face and focusing on my performance, I cried as the blood seeped into my mouth from my injured tooth. The pain was the least of it. Fear that it would hurt so much that I couldn’t race, or I would make it worse, or on and on and on my brain and heart wouldn’t stop panicking. I forgot about eating. Forgot about drinking. I ran and found Janet (Xterra President) when we arrived at the venue and cried to her. I just couldn’t stop. For a moment I decided I shouldn’t race. She looked at me and said, “You came all this way and went through so much to do this race, you do it.” That was all it took. Poor Lance came with me as I picked up the Look bike from the friendly company. I cried as I set up transition, donned my wetsuit and headed to the water just in time for a quick warm-up.Swim Start
Shocking what I wreck had I turned into. When the gun went off, I made a decision to finish. No matter what. I swam as best as I could. Slower than usual, but I did it. I ran up to transition got my bike and started riding. Here was the problem. I was so afraid about my tooth, that I didn’t dare eat. I hardly drank either. Not good. I pedaled cautiously up Tunnel Creek road and onto the Flume trail. I took each leg of the bike moment by moment. I didn’t dare push too hard in case I caused more bleeding or myself to bonk. While I rode, I enjoyed noticing how my bike for the day was so light and responsive. It literally did everything I could possibly want a bike to do for me. It tracked so well and went over every rock without a complaint. Climbing I took easy as well even though it is my forte’. Despite my minimum effort, it climbed like a dream. Wow! How lucky am I to have experienced that? I still love my Scalpel of course, but I was very happy on the Look as well! At the end of the bike, I got back to transition to realize my shoes, etc. were MIA. I looked frantically for almost 8 minutes. Crap. Tears streaming down my face. Again, I finally found my gear. Someone had dumped their wetsuit, etc. on my stuff and completely covered any sign of it. I pushed my feet quickly into my shoes and ran out of transition so very fast. My race the day before and my lack of hydration and nutrition came soon to haunt me. I decided with all things considered I needed to back off my usual pace and just make certain I finished in one piece. I confirmed in my heart as I finished the first of the two-lap course that I had indeed raced an honest race the day before as I knew exactly each twist and turn throughout. That is all I wanted for peace in that drama. I finally crossed the finish line with my mouth throbbing and tears again streaming down my face over 20 minutes slower than my time the year before.

Bitter sweet. That is all I can say. Physically and emotionally I have been on quite the rollercoaster. I have felt that no one cares. It made me wonder why I kept trying. Initially I thought that because I made it to the race, that maybe by some miracle I was to win. Nope. 6th place in my division despite everything is actually pretty darn amazing. I am learning it can’t be about the win. That is nice, but it is not everything. I was brought to the race to remember that I have such an incredible family in the Xterra world. So many of them played a role in reminding me how loved I am. I saw familiar faces and met new faces. All of them hugged me, helped me, reminded me that there is so much to Xterra than just the racing. From Look who gave me a bike to ride to John who gave me Motrin so I could survive the race pain wise, to Dave and Trey and Tom and Janet, Gene, etc. etc. etc. I was reminded that I need to and can rise above my current challenges.
Me Almost Finished with the Run
I am home now. I am shocked and stunned about the entire weekend. Yet, for the first time in quite a while I am at peace. Nothing has changed in my health status. I can hardly eat with my broken tooth. Finances are still a concern, but I know I will be taken care of. I always am. I simply forgot. It took an insane weekend to remind me. Being stubborn certainly has its pros and cons. I am back on track and determined to come back healthier and stronger than ever. It feels good to know it.

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I will always remember waking up at the age of 12 to the pain I saw in so many while simultaneously realizing how lucky I was to feel fantastic.

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