Gasping for breath, my heart pounding, I pedaled up the steep incline Sunday at Afton Alps wondering if anyone would believe what I was doing at that very moment.
The trails were narrow, the climbs were outrageous and the descents were packed with jagged rocks. Needless to say, this weekendâ€™s mountain bike race was a challenge, especially for someone new to the sport like me.
But, I was in beast mode. With sweat boiling up on my skin and the knowledge that I would be enduring such conditions for the next hour and a half, I dedicated myself to one thing: the finish line. With only 16 women racing (some of whom have been at it for years), I wasnâ€™t too concerned at what place I was going to get â€“ I just knew I wanted to complete what I had started.
There were a few crashes along the way, some of which shook my confidence. But as I approached the last descent down the hill, all of the frustration washed away, leaving me with the most incredible feeling of accomplishment.
On my last stretch, I saw my male cohorts from Team Juice Plus cheering me on. Iâ€™ve never been so pleased to see their smiling faces. I crossed the finish line, put my bike down and collapsed on the grass. Laying down never felt so good.
Iâ€™ve always been active, but within the last few years have experimented in the race scene, typically sticking to those that involve running and road biking. Of course, Iâ€™ve been challenged in road races â€“ anyone who does them knows it takes a lot of effort to reach the finish line. But I have never before been put to the test like I had Sunday. And in the end, I can say I had fun â€“ a twisted sort of fun, maybe, but still a good day.
In my last triathlon, I nearly drowned. I say that jokingly, but with a hint of seriousness. While Iâ€™m not the best, I can handle the biking and running portions of triathlons â€“ itâ€™s the swimming that makes me a little nervous.
But after my experience this weekend, my nerves have subsided a bit. I know I wonâ€™t be leading the pack, but Iâ€™ll now enter the race with the confidence that, after the Afton Alps race, I can do anything.
By Trisha Marczak
This column appeared in the June 23 edition of the East Otter Tail Focus