Images provided by Kaysee Armstrong and Icon Media Asheville
Short Track Race.
This blog seems especially harder than normal to write and it’s probably because it is still a lot to wrap my head around. In the past couple of months since Shenandoah100 I have spent almost all of my weekends, except maybe two, racing. A big chunk of those have been for school and I even threw in a 3 day stage race in Moab to spice things up. To say the least my expectations of myself were surpassed in not just my results but just how much fun I have had.
Let’s get this party started though! Nationals! Woah! I finally got to put the stars and stripes on! The collegiate scene this year I went into with a totally different attitude than last year. Actually I would say both Cory and I did. I had taken a month hiatus from mountain biking and training when I got my concussion and when I got back I focused on long rides to prepare for Shenandoah! The first collegiate race was my first weekend of actually XC training. My lungs shriveled up and lactic acid flowed through my entire body pretty quickly but I was able to suffer through and each race it would get just a little easier to max out my effort for a short period of time. I actually ended up going undefeated in the collegiate endurance scene, which was great but honestly I was just waiting for the self destruction similar to what happened at nationals last year. Luckily I was able to stay healthy and the burn out never happened. A lot of this I would say is help from Provision Sports with staying on top of my training plan, but also just realizing that in training suffering can sometimes actually be fun! One of the weekends off from racing Barnabas and I went out at 7am in the rain for a 3-4 Pisgah ride where we got lost, cold, hungry, and still seemed to smile and laugh the whole time. Something actually might be wrong with me but whatever I have fun doing it! There’s just nothing like being in the middle of the woods after working your ass off to get there and think man I am one lucky person to have found myself in this very spot, in this very moment, riding this awesome bike, because there’s no where else I would rather be.
Nationals kicked off with short track Friday morning and to be honest it could not have come any sooner! There’s always a build up to the first race of the weekend and once it’s over it feels like you can let out all that air you have been holding in. Watching Cory win his short track race got me pumped. In a way he set the pace for the rest of the weekend. I lined up at the start with familiar and unfamiliar faces and no expectations, but definitely fully committed to lay it all out in the next 20 minutes or so of nascar style racing on MTBs. A lot of people had talked to me before about being smart in this race because it was roadie formatted and sitting in would be the best way, so when the gun went off for the start I got on Katherine’s wheel, who I know is a strong rider, and we went through the town of Snowshoe then took the first left corner to the jeep road descent. I dropped my dropper, unlocked my front fork and took the pass and aeroed out on the descent! When I got to the climb I looked back and had put a significant gap between the group and me. I instantly dropped the clutch and put some power out! I love having a gap in short track and setting a standard procedure for every lap: This is where I stand, this is where I spin out, This is where I have fun, and this is where I suffer the most! This is exactly what happened. I was able to hold the gap and put some more time on them and cross the line getting my first gold medal ever!
The start of the short track
Then there was downhill qualifying! I made some poor choices after short track with my lack of oxygen and food in the system. Everyone else ate lunch while I sat at the trailer daydreaming and getting my Process153 ready to shred after short track. We took off for the downhill when Cory got back and the sugar was low, but we were just going to do a practice run so I didn’t think too much of it. I dropped my chain rolled up on a rock that was a drop and didn’t know, all while I was looking down at my chain and then I was soaring down to the ground! My belly took the impact and I was fine but it startled me so I resorted to all the B lines when I knew some of the A lines were achievable. I ended up qualifying 7th, but I knew in the race I would be able to pull out a better time the next day.
Saturday morning came fast and this was the race I looked forward to most! Especially this year. The course had some technical single track that favored me and long steady climbs. It pretty much was a course of what I ride all the time, so thank you Snowshoe! :) Also this year the women and men were doing the same amount of laps so our time was going to be over 1.5 which for me is good. The start consisted of the short track circle before we got on the XC course and the exact thing happened that happened in short track. I had the gap after the jeep road descent and when we got to the steep longish gravel climb before the single track I stayed within my thresh hold burning no matches and keeping them safe for anything that might happen over the next couple of hours. I made sure to lock the Kona Hei Hei out and was able to keep steady and hold the gap till we got to the single track. When I saw the funnel in for the single track I knew with no errors this was my race to take. I unlocked the Hei Hei and did what I do best.. Embraced the single track and loam zen and danced around in the woods of West Virginia till we got to the climb that took us back to the top of the mountain. On the climb I stayed steady sitting and standing to keep the power going but still saving those matches just in case some one caught back up to me. The D1 ladies started 10 minutes in front of us so I wasn’t alone and I was able to keep passing people which kept motivating me to catch the next lady in line. I came through the first lap smiling and went out and did it all again! I ended up off the D1 ladies time by 2 seconds so it would of been awesome to see what would have happened if I raced her! Another gold medal around my neck! :)
Time for Downhill finale and this time I made sure to eat food before hand. Did some practice runs with Cory and Kyle. Spirits were high and it felt just like another weekend of racing and riding with my friends. I put down my fastest time of the weekend and got 4th!
Sunday came just a little slower maybe because the anxiety was lower or maybe everything was just settling in. In the morning we had dual slalom qualifying. It was chilly and cloudy after having some rain which made the course seem just a little bit more awesome in my opinion! In qualifying I had a hiccup at the bottom with the flags but somehow saved it and qualified 4th.
Team relay was right after dual slalom and honestly this is the funnest race of the weekend for spectators and the racers. Kyle, Cory, and I would be doing it. Cory did our first lap while I sat in the box with more anticipation than the whole weekend waiting for him to come back around. They crested the hill, I took a deep breath, got out a match that I saved up, and took off when Cory came through. I lit the match instantly to out sprint Western Colorado’s guy and used my no brakes tactic on the whole lap while holding the throttle down. This is by far the hardest I worked all weekend. I came back through and Kyle was going out for his lap. I actually sat up early before the finish line and Kyle yelled out to me GO KAYSEE, FINISH LINE! If someone had a picture of our faces at this point it would be TERROR and ANGER maxed out. Kyle wanted that gold medal more than anyone I think and probably put the fastest lap down of the day. When he came back through the gap tripled. I went out and lit the last match I had (which I think was soggy and wet because it fizzled out fast). We got to take the team relay win! Lots of hugging and smiling.. Then a refocus for dual slalom!
Team omnium all weekend we were in 3rd but everyone was within as few of points as 3 from each other. It came down to team relay and dual slalom and we needed every point we could get. Luckily our team can rally and we all wanted it badly. Everyone scored points but also had some PR’s. I took the silver medal home which shocked myself, but then I remembered I was on the process 153 and it all made sense! The team rallied just enough and we got to be the D2 National Champions! What a way to end the season with the best team ever!
Team Omnium National Champs
Hitting the line at the Dual Slalom
Outside of collegiate I did another race to get back to my roots of racing and it was perfect timing to put in a good effort to prepare for nationals. After being consistent in all the Collegiate races I decided to throw in a 3 day stage race out in Moab a couple of weeks before nationals. Many reasons: #1 because it sounded like a blast, #2 it would be a great way to get the legs ready for three days at nationals. Zirkle and I loaded up in the van and headed out west. Moab Rocks was nothing that I expected it to be but in a good way. The day before the race we shuttled the Whole Enchilada where I realized real quick that rocks hurt worse than dirt, but I also looked out on the views not certain if I was on Mars or where we were. It was incredible and unlike anything I’ve seen before. Day one was by far my least favorite one even though we did do some of the enchilada. We started in town and started up a climb for 16 miles. I’ve done 16 mile climbs before but never at the start of a race. Everyone hauled up that climb like we were running for higher ground from a flood. I settled in because that’s all my body would allow and I though it’s no big deal at least you have your iPod and this awesome scenery, and once I get to the single track that’s where I’ll make up some time. BUT THEN my iPod died and with that motivation and hope. Not a minute later though I hear music approaching and it’s a guy with a speaker in his pack. Usually I’ve never been into those because people play music I would rather not hear. However, Rob had a good playlist going and I ended up sitting on his wheel for over half of the climb getting more motivated for the single track ahead. The rest of the two days I would actually sit on Rob’s wheel more than not. After Stage 1 I was in 5th place. Then Stage 2 I moved up to 4th and by the end of stage 3 I was in 3rd. Each day I felt stronger and each day I would hang on to Rob’s wheel for as long as possible, which for the last day was almost to the end but I ended up dropping my chain. I’ve never drafted off someone’s wheel during a race, especially in the single track, but every time I felt his wheel pulling away I would think about the music going away and I would chase after it again. Moab was such a great experience from the road trip to and from, making tons of new friends, the race itself, and all the new trails I got to ride and experience. I’ll definitely keep this one on the radar and get back out there again.
Moab Rocks Women's Podium
Day 3 Finish Line
This season isn’t quite over because I do have some cyclocross but for MTB 2015 season I have shut the door! It was such a great year not only with my results but the experiences, friends, and goals that were accomplished. There were some rough points with big changes in my personal life and then hitting my head really good, but mountain biking was my solid ground to stand on and it seemed like the harder my personal life got the stronger I got on the bike. I wonder now looking back at those moments where things seemed scary and unbearable in my personal life if that didn’t just make me appreciate my time in the woods that much more. Actually I know it did! I would be lying if I told you I’m always the optimistic happy Kaysee that most of you guys get to see. I have moments but I make sure to get on the bike no matter how bad I feel, leave the garmin at home, and hit the trails alone in those moments. There was a quote this summer I saw that has stuck with me and I won’t forget it:
“The key win or lose is to never fail, and the only way to fail is not to fight. So you fight until you can’t fight anymore!” -I don’t remember who
Pretty much that means don’t be a quitter! If you lose a race who cares.. not a lot of people, probably just yourself! Stay positive and give your all no matter how much it is!
A big HUGE shout out to Kona Bikes for helping me have the best race whip out there, the Kona Hei Hei Supreme. Also a big shout out to my boys at Tennessee Valley Bicycles for keeping it in working shape as well as Nox Composites for the strongest:lightest ratio carbon rims out there.