It was 4:45am and very dark, as we pulled out of our driveway in Alpine on June 20th, 2010 to start our 17 hour trek to Bend, Oregon for the USA Cycling Road National Championships. As Hannah and Moriah quickly fell back to sleep, I sipped my 20 oz cup of coffee and began to ponder deeply, . . . . "What on earth am I doing? My two little angels have only been racing for eight weeks. They have a grand total of two Road Races and only one Crit under their belt for experience, and I am taking them to compete against the best girls in the Nation who have been racing for years? What was I thinking when I made this decision?"
As the darkness of the night began to fade and the brightness of a new day beckoned, the darkness in my mind only grew thicker. Paranoia began to slowly consume me and my thoughts continued to taunt me. "My girls have aluminum tanks for bikes with mediocre wheels at best. Hannah's bike weighs 18.2 lbs. Moriah's bike is a $500 "Made in China Special" that weighs 18.7 lbs. What if 11 year old Moriah has to race against 12 year old girls with 13 lb carbon-fiber bikes? She is tiny at 60 lbs and will be competing against girls with 20 more pounds of muscle on them, who will be riding way lighter bikes. What have I done? My girls are going to get destroyed! God, please have mercy."
I violently shook my head in an attempt to stop these negative, all-consuming thoughts. I took huge gulp of my coffee and put back on my positive coaching mentality. "What's done is done. We're going to Oregon and we're going to make the most of it! We will learn everything we possibly can from this awesome opportunity and do better next year."
Little did I know just how awesome of an experience it would be and just how well my girls, with no racing experience and their heavy aluminum tanks, would perform. The girls eventually awoke from their slumber and I eventually switched from coffee to Mountain Dew (see our promo video) to continue banging out the 1,000+ mile drive. Arriving a day early, we were able to check out the courses and watch this spectacular venue come to life. Our excitement grew.
The next day each girl had their respective road race, and yes, it turned out that my girls did have the heaviest, cheapest bikes on the starting line. In addition, as expected, Moriah had to compete against a field of strong 12 year old girls that had 20 more pounds of muscle on them, riding much lighter bikes than hers. Yet astoundingly, at age 11, Moriah medaled in the Road Race and missed a second medal in the Criterium by one spot, finishing a mere 29 seconds behind the winner of this fast 27 minute Crit, with an average speed of 19.2 MPH. Unfortunately, on the third day Moriah woke up with a nasty stomach bug. Although she was unable to keep anything in her, like a trooper she insisted on still doing her 20+ minute time trial. She gave it her best, but had no energy to perform well.
Out of the 15 medals that were given out in the Jr. Women 10-12 division, Moriah was the only 11 year old to receive one. The 14 other medals went to strong 12 year old girls that will be moving out of the division, leaving Moriah very excited, as she stays in the division. In addition, we will be equalizing the strength to bike weight ratio for Moriah's tiny body this next year by getting her a light weight racing bike. We are very excited to see what Moriah can do in the 10-12 division at Nationals this next year.
Hannah's experience at Nationals was not quite as fun, as during the first 30 seconds of her very first race she went down bad with another girl, slamming hard into the asphalt, bruising her knee and giving it a pretty good gash. The neutral support crew got her chain back on, bent back her severely twisted brake/shifter, and gave her a word of encouragement as she hopped back on her bike and hammered back to catch the pack. That said, she was in a lot of pain during that one hour road race. She still managed to get 10th. Her knee would only hurt her more over the next two days, yielding her similar results in the Crit and Time Trial. It was a good lesson in learning how to race with pain, which all cyclists must eventually learn.
All in all, Oregon was an incredible experience and the girls fell in love with racing at Nationals. Unfortunately, our family was already committed to four different club soccer teams for 2010. Thus, upon returning home the girls only entered as many races as our schedule would permit, learning more and more from each race. In 2011, our family will not be doing any soccer and will be 100% committed to cycling. All four girls will start racing in January and they are very excited to see just how well they can do this next year. God willing and blessing, they will all be able to head to Georgia in June for next years' National Championships. See the great photos here.