Today I was sitting in an Experience Design and Management (my intended major) club meeting. We were asked by the guest speaker to share in groups of 4 an impactful experience. Immediately my first collegiate race in 2019 came to mind.
I was a new Freshman at BYU and was dipping my toes in a new atmosphere of racing at the collegiate level. At the end of the day it was still just a cross country mountain bike race, but it was smaller than High School racing, and felt new. It was at Sundance which is a special venue for me. It’s special because I’ve raced there over a dozen times and I win the majority of the time. There’s something special about the course. It suits my 5 minute max power really well which may be my biggest strength. I had no idea who was racing and so I didn’t have any expectations. At least until I saw Zach Calton. Zach Calton had won Short Track nationals two months prior to this race, and had beaten me by over an hour at Park City Point 2 Point two weeks before. When he showed up I said, “Well I guess I’m racing for 2nd!” But it was at Sundance.
The race began and I did what I always do at Sundance: Full gas for the first climb. It worked. I dropped the field and rode the first lap with no one in sight or sound. Someone watching the race told me I was 20 seconds ahead of Zach at the end of lap 1. With two to go, I stayed focused and kept riding smoothly. Lap 2 went well and the same guy told me I was 10 second ahead. I thought, “well, he probably paced it differently than me and now he’s about to come whoop me, but I’m going to see how far I can get before he catches me.” The possibility of winning still hadn’t formed in my mind.
I kept going, and going, and going, with no sign of Zach. I got closer and closer to the top of the climb when I realized for the first time, “I’m going to win this race!” I told myself to stay focused and have a smooth descent. I assumed he was still close and so it wasn’t time to make any mistakes. I rode smoothly and quickly and powered through the finish line in classic fashion on one wheel. Stunned. How on earth had I beaten Zach?
I assumed he must have crashed or had a mechanical and so when he finished nearly 2 minutes later I asked him,
You beat me!
What do you mean?
You beat me!
I then realized that nothing had happened and I simply rode faster than him. I was shocked! And so incredibly pumped! The feeling at the top when I realized I was going to win was incredible. It was like waking up on a summer morning as an 8 year old and remembering your Dad was taking you fishing.
Even though it may not have been the best race for Zach, it was a standout race for me. Even though I didn’t think I could win, I still did what I always do at Sundance; start fast, finish fast, and race fast everywhere between.
For the record Zach beat me a couple of weeks later by 2 minutes and again at collegiate Nationals. He’s definitely the better race.