Tough luck this weekend at Bear Creek.

In 2013, when my technical skills were mediocre, I thought this course was incredibly demanding – the climbs endless, the rock sections impossible. Since then, I’ve focused intensely on developing my technical skills.

In the pre-ride on Saturday with Kirt, Utah and Nick, I sailed through the entire course without a single dab. Man, what a difference!! Instead of gritting my teeth and hoping the trail would end, I was grinning from ear to ear and wishing the laps were longer. I couldn’t WAIT to race!!

Sunday morning I’m doing my best not to get too excited too soon – I don’t want to get the adrenaline flowing too early. I run through my warm-up and hit a portion of single track to check my speed-to-control ratio. I’m hitting the corners a bit too hot – this race is going to be all about control and riding the technical sections clean. Mentally, I check myself, and dial back the speed.

I’m at staging early and rearing to go. The other girls find their way over and we chat for a bit. This is good – chatting helps ease the nerves. The sun is blaring down on us, but I could care less. I just want to race.

Finally, we are on the line and the announcer give us the go.

I have a smooth start and settle into 3rd position – as per my coach’s advice.

I’m sitting in and feeling confident with the pace. I bobble the first bridge climb and Stacey passes me. It’s just a dab and I’m back on her wheel.

Her and Tori get a gap on me by the top of the climb. The trail consists of a few short bits of rocky, twisty single track, and then heads down a loose fire road. I bomb it. Into the single track at the bottom and I’m back on their wheels.

We are trucking along, but I know I can roll these sections faster. Plus the more technical single track, my absolute favorite rocky switchback section, is coming up in another mile (or less), so I’m calculating when and how to pass these two.

We hit a rocky dip with a narrow bridge and the 2 girls in front slow way down get through it. I reel in my speed, staying on the bike, waiting for Stacey to clear the plank. I’m setting up my timing to blast through this section – which is followed by a short, punchy climb. I figure if I maintain my momentum over the plank, I’ll be able to pass her as we ascend.

She has just about cleared the plank, so I put power into the pedal and hear a big clunk – like a dropped chain. I look down and see the derailleur is stretched – yep, probably dropped the chain. Gotta’ pull that out – I hop off the bike and start loosening the chain – only to see that the derailleur wheel is jammed into the spokes – ugh. Not good.

I must shout out an explicative as Stacey shouts out “Are you ok?” I shout back, “I’m fine” but I don’t think she hears me. I pull the derailleur out of the spokes. The spoke is bent, a quick check to see if the wheel is wobbly – it’s fine. Good.

I can’t get the derailleur to spring back and pull up the chain slack. The other women start going by. Everyone asks me if I’m ok, if I need anything – I love that about these gals.

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I run through every possibility I have with the tools on hand. Not much to work with… I end up folding the chain so it’s not dangling low and skateboarding through the next few sections. Every chance I can I hop on and roll through the descents. It’s actually quite entertaining to try hitting the rock sections without the ability to pedal and I’m surprised at how much fun it is to pump through the rocks, trying to optimize my momentum. This would be a good skills drill. Of course, any reasonable incline and I’m off and jogging or skateboarding.

The crew at the top of the heckle pit also tries to mess with the derailleur, but, as no one has a chain tool, I’m sore out of luck. I would have been more than happy to even get the bike pedaling as a single speed, anything to keep going. Just not going to happen today. At the next switchback, I pop out onto the ski slopes and coast to the scoring tent to report my DNF.

I’m absolutely heart broken. Uh! I felt great, had plenty of gas in the tank, feeling the flow, executing the technical… To not get a chance to tear up these trails, oh, ‘disappointed’ just doesn’t describe it.

I love this course — mainly because it illustrates to myself just how much I have improved my technical skills over the past few years. It’s rewarding to feel the improvement and to know that the hard work is adding up.

But, mechanicals happen. I ride my bikes hard (see Riding like a 300lbs man) and to be honest, it’s a miracle I made it this far into the season without any technical issues.

I head over to my family and explain what happened. My son gives me a big hug and tells me he’s sorry this happened, but at least I didn’t get hurt.

I’m especially touched by this as just last week he competed in a track and field event that didn’t go so well for him – he didn’t medal in either of his events. He was really upset afterwards. We talked about finding the positive elements of the event, how to deal with feeling disappointed, how to use it to figure out what skills need to be worked on and to keep supporting and encouraging teammates.

His comment is a nice reminder that I need to follow those suggestions too.

It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and focus in on the negative. I wanted this race just as much as I wanted jungle. Then, during that first lap, I could TASTE it. But it’s not always going to be roses and podiums. Forcing myself to step back and take in the bigger picture – my season, my racing history, puts the ‘downs’ (like this busted derailleur) into perspective.

The difference between my ability at today’s race, vs. my abilities 2 years ago at this very same race… night and day, and that truly makes me happy.

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