There’s a big grin on my face for a reason: I love sun, good health, and MOUNTAIN BIKING! Winter smacked me with constant illness, terrible weather, and stress over my husband’s up-in-the-air job search. I work with young children and was unluckily sick for 10 out of the first 18 weeks of 2012. I missed seven of my planned races, lost a lot of fitness, and basically stopped training. Things are looking up, though! On a sunny Saturday, I did my first long-distance mountain bike race: the NW Epic Series Stottlemeyer 30-Mile. At Stottlemeyer, not only did I have tons of two-wheeled fun on sunny singletrack, I made steps toward a big personal goal: dialing in my race nutrition!
With several pro racers in the Women’s Open field, the race started out fast! I have been mountain biking forever, and even tried a few short races last year. I felt strong on the initial climbs, but was unsure of my fitness over such a long race. So I paced myself. About 45 minutes in, I felt my energy levels dropping. After experiencing some nasty blood sugar crashes in other races, I knew I had to get some calories in quickly. I pulled over at the top of a hill to get food out of my backpack. Unbuckle, unbuckle, unzip, fumble for food, try unsuccessfully to unwrap food, remove gloves, unwrap, eat, move food to jersey pocket, chew, swallow, replace gloves, take another bite, replace backpack, readjust CamelBak hose, pedal slowly to finish eating…in this very clumsy process, eight ladies blew by me. Lesson learned–dial in your equipment and keep unwrapped food in your pockets! My competition was out of sight and I had pushed hard for awhile. So, for the rest of the first lap, I eased off and enjoyed the ride, stopping at aid stations to re-stock on Clif and Nuun products and chatting with some really nice fellow riders. I was vigilant about my nutrition, taking a bite every 20 minutes or after every hard climb, which kept my energy levels high and prevented my stomach from shutting down as it has in the past.
On the second lap, I began to trust my fitness more. So, I picked up speed. I caught a few racers on the climbs and began to have that good feeling when your legs keep giving even after hours of riding. I finished with a smile on my face, WAY behind the winner, but thrilled at how much fun I’d had! Since I had eaten enough throughout the race and hydrated with Nuun, I was able to start in with my recovery drinks right away. For once, I had a flawless recovery – high energy for the rest of the day, no nap needed, and happy legs the next day. What a difference the timing of nutrition makes! Thanks, sponsors! I’m excited to see how this helps my performance in future stage races. Maybe as I get used to mountain bike racing and become more confident in my fitness/nutrition, I can push myself a bit more. I can’t wait for the next NW Epic Series race, the Echo Valley 30 miler!