Known as a singlespeeder and undefeated in the women's open pro/expert field throughout NorCal-- early in 2004, we ventured up to Ashland, Oregon for the Spring Thaw Challenge to test out our legs.
It had been a pretty epic winter with a good balance of solo rides, waiting for girl friends chill rides, and crushing adventures chasing Bill and Shane. Huge amounts of elevations, 4-6 hours in the saddle and as fast as I could possibly go, often on singlespeeds, as those were our preferred mud bikes; saving our race bikes for "the Season" (we didn't want to destroy carbon frames and XTR components that we had spent all of our savings on).
We had signed up for the XC race on Saturday. Fresh legs and a fresh bike resulted in the win in Pro for me and singlespeed for Bill. A little heckling at the awards ceremony urged us both to sign up for the Sunday DH race on the spot (it didn't hurt that along with a ton of swag and a nice purse they comp'ed my entry).
But there was just this one little thing: I had never done a DH race nor did I have the gear. Sometimes when an opportunity presents itself, you just go with it.
I'll never forget showing up at the start line that next morning with crowds of racers in full face helmets, pads, and big bikes... the whole DH thing. The women's field wasn't huge but only expert/pro open and I was terrified. They looked tough. I on the other hand was in full spandex with short socks and Sidi XC shoes with egg beater pedals on a 19lb carbon Trek with a 100mm FOX fork and one single inch of rear squish... yes 26" with 2.1mm tires. This was not a DH setup!
But whatever, I was signed up so I was ALL IN!
The course was magic. Incredibly lomey loaded with huge berms, I'd never ridden anything like it. It was so FUN! At the start gate, my heart was racing 200bpm as I had never even done this sort of time trial start before. Since I had won the XC race the day before, I went last, which was really nerve wracking as I had to watch all the tough looking locals start but had no idea what sort of times they were running. I really didn't care. I had blewn this off as all in fun at this point and had no ego to lose as I had already won the XC. This was the cherry on top. I loved the downhills.
The whistle blew and it was a blur to the finish but all I remember was how excited and calm came together to give me the perfect run. I honestly don't even remember by how much I won, or who I beat, or even what I got for winning. All I remember now is that everything changed that day. I understood just how much I had benefited from following a clear training plan. All those epic adventures with the fast guys had been scheduled just right and sandwiched between both good rest and active recovery. I had done the work and lived for the downhills: that was the whole point of climbing to the top, right? This was only the beginning of the best season of life. It may have not been the peak of my fitness or form to date, but my Total Stress was focused on the work to train by the numbers. I still had a lot to learn, but this was the start of my trust in Periodization and Annual Training Plans to guide Athletes to reaching their potential.
Click link for more information on my coaching work formalizing training plans: Coach Abbie