I had never been to Pan American Championships before, but going into the 2018 season, my focus was more points driven than in the past, with some goals of improving my World Cup performances and UCI ranking as the Olympics in 2020 approaches. I can’t say even now that an Olympic position is my goal, as I still wait for necessary doors to open, but I certainly wanted to chisel away at the dream and never limit my potential through doubts. So when I got the e-mail from the USA Cycling Mountain Bike Program Director about petitioning for Pan Ams, I began to consider the trip to Colombia rather than staying state side and racing the same opening round of the Pro Cross Country Tour series in Fontana City, California, as I had done for the previous 3 years in a row. In addition, when an open door presents itself, it has always been a challenge to myself to walk through the door with faith, as long as it isn’t forced. Walking that out most often means facing fear and some unknowns, but how important to continue to challenge our- selves.
So, a few weeks later, I find myself reuniting with Stan’s-Pivot pb Maxxis teammates Chloe Woodruff and Keegan Swenson, as well as the team support crew in Colombia. This would be the first real race of the season, as I primarily prepared indoors throughout another intense Montana winter. The first day on course ended up being a tough day, as this was the first time putting the work that I had done throughout the winter rehabbing my left shoulder after a series of dislocations in 2017, to the test. To my dismay it popped out of socket landing one of 7 jumps per lap on this insanely steep course; and was incredibly unstable following the dislocation. By race day, it hadn’t improved much, but I was prepared to give it my all in faith that God was going to miraculously help me out through this one. Unfortunately, I would go on to finish the most miserable race of my career.
As the race began, I was struggling to find rhythm and a flow to the course. After completing the first of 5 laps and was heading out for my 2nd lap, I slid out on some loose gravel, and in an effort to catch my fall I put a foot down, and severely sprained my ankle. At first, it went numb and I could feel nothing, then as I began to ride again, I was only able to put minimal power to the pedal, but I kept pushing assuming that the initial pain would go away. I was descending gingerly, in an unsuccessful attempt to keep my shoulder from getting snagged inside. I continued to have to grab my top tube and pull my torso back, or simply let my arm relax and dangle, or sometimes I just had to stop so I could use my good arm to pull my bad arm enough to untangle the shoulder. I was failing to consistently clear the steep climbs, and each time I didn’t clear a climb, unclipping became more difficult. As the race went on, I became unable to unclip from my pedal any longer, and so clearing the climbs became my goal, otherwise I would just fall over (which also happened). I continued to hit a few of the jumps that I felt most comfortable with for a couple laps before surrendering to the B lines on the last lap or two. I really didn’t know where I was in the race, but my body was beginning to fail and I realized that I was beginning to whimper, as spectators would ask me what was wrong during my efforts to un-snag my shoulder or limp up a hill.
I was finishing my 4th of 5 laps, and remember praying that I would be pulled to put me out of my misery. I assumed I would be… I had to be far behind; but I was not. I thought about pulling myself, but physically I was able to continue and would be disappointed with myself if I didn’t finish. I just had to get through one more lap, and half crying up every climb and engaging my back muscles to try my best from letting my shoulder get tangled up inside, I made it to the finish line where I was met by USA cycling team support and Stan’s-Pivot team mechanic Jerome, where they helped me unclip from my pedal and get to the medical tent.
The Colombian medical staff were the kindest people, as tears of disappointment streamed down my cheeks. I remember a man in the medical tent coming over with so much sympathy in his eyes and just began stroking my hair. Made me think for a moment that I should be tougher and not make people feel bad for me, but in the end the tears needed to run, and they would continue often for next few months after this.
I was about to embark on a journey of grief, loneliness, and isolation as I have watched a full race season come and is now winding down. One that I’m still working through, but now have more good days than bad and can appreciate my improving health as I have regained building back fitness and healing.
After enduring the 30 hour travel day to get home and a series of doctor appointments, I discovered that my fibula had been fractured, and that it would need to be surgically repaired. My body was a disaster between my right leg, left shoulder, and a broken heart. This one was going to leave it’s mark.