Ill be hanging out in Cat 3 this fall.

I'll be hanging out in Cat 3 this fall.

Mountain biking is a beautiful sport.  Mountain bike racing is a thrilling ride and an insane amount of fun. I knew from my first race that I was addicted to the feeling of the knobby tires  smashing against rocks and roots and to the thrill of the chase during a race.  Racing is very much like a chess game on crack and I freaking love the intensity and challenge.

I am very proud to say that I am the Texas State Cat 3, 30-39 champ and in that same breath the National Cat 3, 30-39 champ.  I really worked hard at all my races this year and had a kicking time.  After a season of wins, racers always get the question of, “You’re going to cat up next season, right”, and I completely understand people asking me this if they know my resume so I don’t get annoyed at the question….though I’ve been asked it a billion times (because that’s what we mtb’ers do).

Probably my proudest race of the season- Reimers.

Probably my proudest race of the season, Reimers.

Right before the nationals race with my awesome teammate Meena.

Right before the nationals race with my awesome teammate Meena.

For those who don’t know, in mountain bike racing you not only race your age in 10 year increments, but you race your ability level. This is a very fair way to play the game so that beginners are not being dominated by those who’ve been in the sport for years.  It makes perfect sense to me and is something I respect so greatly about our racing system.

So back to my answer- am I going to cat up?  As a cat 3 champ, am I going to hit the trail with the cat 2 women?  No, I’ve decided not to do it.  I know this may seem like the “sandbagger” decision to some and I promise, if I am killing it by the second race, I’ll own up and move up however I feel for my skills and experience I deserve one more season in Cat 3.

I was given the advice by a good friend and kick ass rider Sara Krause not to cat up too early and I’ve taken that to heart.  I am an endurance racer and love the longer distances.  I had no better time of pain and fun than when I did  my six hour race and look forward to trying my first 12 soon.  Because of my love for the long, moving up to cat 2 should be no question. Cat 2 races tend to be 1/4 more to double the length of the cat 3.  There were a few races this past spring where I knew I outlasted my competitors and if we had another lap or 6 more miles, I would have made my presence known- so yeah, in that respect, I’m ready for cat 2.  I never however won any race as a complete blowout.  I did finish pretty strongly at Terlingua but I chalk that up to endurance , great race strategy and my love for flying very fast down hills.  I am not ready for cat 2 because I feel I don’t have all the skills yet.  Staying in Cat 3 for a second season will force me to get better skills and learn the little things I’m missing.  Sure, if I went up to the 2’s I could make the laps and last but there would be more walking than I’d like and it would be more about surviving than truly racing, regardless of where I cross the line.  Also if I’m out there racing just to survive I don’t think I’ll enjoy it and risk burnout that can go along with the thought of, “another switchback? when will I ever learn to ride stupid switchbacks!” that will haunt me on the racing trail.

When I really think about it, I don’t think I am any where close to becoming a sandbagger (and I do have a wonderful boyfriend and great teammates who will in no way let me race that way).  I raced my very first mountain bike race last fall. It was the second to last race of the season and I happily finished dead last.  I had a huge smile on my face and loved pretty much every second of it.  My second race was the infamous (at least in my mind) race where the mini monsters Rocky Hill Ranch proceeded to snag my wheel and toss me to the ground, resulting in a torn AC joint, a broken pinky, and a very weird slight concussion- oh, how those voices in my head talked.  There was also that part of going to  rehab to just be able to raise my arm high enough to put on deodorant, a sling (stylish as it was still not welcome), and close to 2 months off of the bike.  I went in to my first race of the spring season as being my the second or third time back in the saddle since the accident.

So I’ve raced only a season and had a lot of work to do once I was able to get clipped back in.  I look forward to the new season with excitement and know I have to really work hard with my skills to make myself a better rider.  Not a great thing to be an energizer bunny if you still have to walk up big rocks.  I hope to be able to pop up on those rocks with no problem very soon, then like George and Weezy, I’ll be moving on up.