My apologies for being a bit behind in the blogging. Travelling to the past few races has kept me busy, I have been physically and mentally exhausted, and I have not felt super amped about my results so motivation was generally low. All of this is a positive feedback cycle, which does not help in any way.
This past weekend found me traveling to Boulder, CO. From a strictly logistical standpoint, I was not thrilled about flying all day to a C2 race at altitude at the end of a huge block of racing. However, the Boulder area is the home-base of the Amy D Foundation and most of the Raleigh Clement team, making it somewhat important. Plus, there was a really cool fundraiser for the Amy D Foundation on Thursday at Rocky Mounts in Boulder where I got to be a “guest bartender”. (I poured a few beers with only moderate success and got to mingle otherwise.)
I was staying with the Dombroski’s in Golden, so I drove out to the venue earlier than the rest of the crew who were staying in Boulder. I didn’t know what to expect of the course, but I heard it was the same as Nationals two years ago. I was at that race, but quite a few elements of the course spooked me and caused me struggles. The biggest difference between Nationals January 2014 and the US Open of CX in October 2015 was the weather. At Nationals the course was snow covered, and the ground was going between frozen and muddy depending on the time of day. This past weekend, the ground was hard and dry, and the air was hot and maybe drier.
The course on day one was very similar to that of Nationals two years ago. The defining part was on a steep hillside with steep climbs, off-cambers, and punchy descents. There was some sand, but the biggest element of the course, if you ask me, was the hard, loose surface. Many of the turns had traction like turning on ball-bearings, especially if you lost the line, and the the hard ground with awkward desert grass tufts made it difficult for me to hold a line at speed because I kept bouncing around. Some suggested files for the course, but I(and maybe the whole Raleigh Clement crew?) rode Clement MXPs to ensure we had traction on those loose, steep climbs. I was able to ride everything quite smoothly in pre-ride, and felt confident that I could race it. Okay that is not entirely true I imagined myself sliding out essentially every lap.
I could prepare for the course and the heat, but I could not be ready for the dry air and the altitude. Showing up on Thursday morning left me right in the crap-zone of oxygen readiness. I would have been better off showing up later to keep my body’s high oxygen content or earlier to acclimate, but life dictated that I show up when I did. I had no idea what preforming at over 5200′ above my normal operating altitude (that means only 83% of the oxygen content my body is used to with every breath) would bring. Let’s also not forget to mention that I am pretty sure I weigh significantly more at altitude, what with all the extra mass underneath me. Total crapshoot.
Here is the best part of the weekend. FRONT ROW START, BITCHES!!!!!! That means if a “bad start” is my excuse for a mediocre race, I should rethink my cyclocross goals. But don’t worry, my start was pretty good. Despite missing my pedal, I came around the first corner well within the top 8 (8 women per row, so top 8 means I essentially let no one in rows further back pass me (though Laurel passed me and she started a row back, this is a game of averages)). I kept making passes up the long grueling hill on the back side of the course and was in the top 5 going across the off-camber for the first time.
I am not sure when or where the gaps started opening up, but Caroline Mani was on the front and drilling it hard. On the back side of the course on the first lap I noticed someone was trying to pass. I was debating blocking measures until I realized it was Georgia Gould. I let her go, and tried to hold her wheel. Again, I am not sure where she gapped me off, but I have a take away from this moment. Never “let” someone pass. Each moment you sprint ahead to fend off a passer you draw further from others, and closer to those you are chasing. I need to get it out of my head that someone deserves to be in front of me. I need to stop being satisfied being behind certain people and really start fighting to stay with them. I need to be willing to crash because I am riding outside of my zone in attempt to get into theirs. Because the zone of Georgia Gould or Caroline Mani is where I should be striving to be, so I should take the risks to be there.
After the first lap the race had pretty much settled in. My throat was so dry. If I had not made the last-minute decision to put a bottle on my bike I very well may have needed to drop out of the race: I was choking on dust and fighting to breathe. I rode well in 4th for quite a while, then started exchanging positions with Caitlyn Vestal (Feedback Sports). She was on my wheel with 2-to-go, really breathing down my back. Then, with a lap and a half to go, I totally cracked. I hit a wall. I went to dig deep but had nothing there. She passed me and I couldn’t even respond. I knew there was gap to 6th and I held on and managed to cross the line in 5th.
Two cool things about Day 1: FRIENDS AND FAKE PODIUM! Best friend growing up Ashley showed up with her dogs and boyfriend, and friends from grad school came out to watch. I could hear them cheering and was glad I was riding well so I didn’t look like a complete fool in front of them.
On top of that, Valmont gives a 5-step podium! I am not going to complain about the existence of this when it means I get to share a podium with the likes of Caroline, Georgia and Meredith.
Honestly, I couldn’t tell if I could have done better or not on day 1. I felt weird. I was sort of expecting a top-5 going in to the race, and felt super confident I could do better day 2. I always do better day 2. But then again, I had never had a day 2 … at altitude. It turns out you need oxygen to recover. Weird.
Again on the front row, yet I couldn’t quite the start of day 1. Maybe the immediate start was the same, but as soon as we started going up that long climb on the back of the course I checked out. I sat up. Waves of women started passing. Okay, maybe like, 5, but that’s a lot. When we went passed the finish the first time I heard the announcers saying “Fahringer not quite where she wants to be. Not having a ride like yesterday”. Yes. Please. More salt in the wound. Inspired, I went to make a pass. I came around another rider and she yells “OH MY GOD” so I am like “crap, did I just do something wrong?” and took my eyes off the line for a moment, and went careening into some bushes. I thought I was going down, but I managed to ride through the shrubbery with only some minor scrapes and stayed ahead of who I had just passed. Nailed it!
Day 2’s course was brutal. Freaking brutal. We went up the steep hill even more times. We went up the tricky off-camber decent section, up the downs and up the ups and so much up happened. We also went down, and it was bumpier than the day before. But I wasn’t worried. I do better day 2. And I knew I could clear everything because I could in preride. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. No photos of the really embarrassing things have surfaced yet. My favorite photo of the weekend shows an emergency dismount on the offcamber when I had bounced off of my line.
But most times up the steepest of the climbs, I came to a slow-motion stop, laying the bike over and trudging up the hill in slow motion. I had nothing. Zero. Zilch. The legs were empty, the mind was off, and the well was dry. I managed to fight in a group of three for the last half of the race. On the last lap I said “this is it, I can still finish 5th!”. I dug what little bit I could and dropped 7th place behind me. I was tailing 5th. I almost had her on the top of the stairs but didn’t fight hard enough. She had the inside line and went into the sand first. I knew I could out sprint her, but she took the downhill into the finish straight first, and despite my efforts held on to 5th and I came in a close 6th.
I was disappointed that my lack of technical skills and racing grit kept me out of 5th place, but I can take this as a learning experience. Going in to this race, I knew it would be hard. This was my 7th race weekend of the season in as many weeks. That is 13 races. I am exhausted. Add the fact that I was one of the very very few people in this race that lived below 4500′, and was racing against some of the top women in the country, make that the world? I am pretty stoked about my results.
The best part about the weekend was finally getting to meet the people making my season possible. Dan Dombroski and his wife Nicole are the people behind the Amy D Foundation. Their hard work makes the program what it is, and they are fighting to keep Amy’s memory alive. Though, it isn’t really a fight. The community is so supportive. So many people cheer me on each race in memory of Amy D, and that was never more clear than racing and hanging out at Valmont Bike Park.
I also got to meet a ton of people behind my sponsorships and people that I have chatted with on the interwebs. It was great to put faces to names and names to twitter handles!
Now, I get a much needed weekend off before I head to the midwest for races in Cincinnati, OH and Louisville, KY!!