The Mentality of Racing | Kenda Cup East | Gnar Weasels | Factory Pro Laura Slavin | DirtWire.TV
Words from Factory Pro Laura Slavin
Photos courtesy of Meg McMahon
Video Interview with Dirtwire.TV
For full race results click here.
I was a bit apprehensive going into this one, not the least of which is the fact that it’s touted as, “New England's HAAHDEST, GNAAHLIEST XC MTB Race.” It’s hard to duplicate the level you operate at during a race, no matter how hard you train for it. In 2016, I ended up having to pull out after lap one, as I had been trying to race injured.
The mental challenges and uncertainties manifested nervous excitement that I actually enjoyed leading up to the race. Part of the reason I threw myself into “big” races so early in my career was to prevent myself from ever feeling comfortable or being able to just phone in a result. I’ve always believed that the best part of racing (and even riding) bikes is that you find out so much about who you are in the experience of pushing yourself through a place of extreme mental and physical discomfort… and you don’t get that by going small. So, I was excited to see how this one would pan out.
In the morning it was raining. And I’m not talking about regular rain, either. It was a monsoon outside, so heavy that I could hardly see the road driving over to the race. The rain let up as I was getting my plate from registration, and I immediately jumped on the chance to go out and see the course.
The pre-ride was… sloppy. The course was torn up from the unfortunate racers who had been on it all morning. With about 2 miles of course left to see, it started to thunder and the clouds opened up again. The rain was coming down so hard that I called it and took a fire road back to the parking lot. My new strategy was to survive. I had my fingers crossed that I’d pull off a top five in that mess, but tried to keep my expectations to a minimum.
When we went off and began to climb the switchbacks up the ski slope, I felt pretty good… really good. At some point Vicki leapt past myself and Tina, and a moment of doubt crept into my mind. “Is this where I’m going to start to lose places and fall back?”
These are the moments I referred to earlier on, the mental challenges of racing that I love. You fight yourself, and you dig deeper to find more.
Once we got into singletrack, I crashed in the corners multiple times before I got my speed and rhythm dialed, but I managed to hang onto my spot in 3rd despite the blunders.
We ended up on the podium in the order we raced in: Crystal 1st, Vicki 2nd, and myself 3rd. It’s a third place I’m extremely proud of. The East Coast breeds exceptionally talented technical mountain bikers, and the women’s pro field at Gnar Weasels was stacked with some of the best ones out there -- I’m beyond words in explaining what it means to me to climb the ranks with them.
I had to put a tremendous amount of work into making it happen. At the race, at least 3 or 4 people asked me how I went from mid-pack last year to being near the front this year. A large part of the leap coming into this season was the result of seriously committing myself to a structured training program from my coach. You can get really fit and fast from just riding your bike a lot, but when struggling to find that next level, it’s immensely helpful to have a professional to guide you and push your limits. I have to give a huge thanks to Elite Endurance Training Systems.
I’m amped about the remaining 2017 races! In July, the last 3 weeks will be back-to-back throwing down at big national-level races with the first stop at Eastern Grind US Cup in VT. Eastern Grind added a sweet 5 foot drop to the course this year, and I’m really excited to race a track that’s incorporating some of my favorite aspects of park riding into XC. It will be interesting to see how things play out from a results standpoint with a bunch of the West Coasters coming in and the course promising to be so viciously (and awesomely!) East Coast in nature. I can’t wait!
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