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Sea Otter Classic Recap: Mountain Bike Fuego XL Race

This past Friday marked a significant milestone in my cycling journey—it was my third-ever mountain bike race, the grueling Fuego XL at the Sea Otter Classic. Coming into this race, my goal was clear: set no high expectations but seize the opportunity to hone my skills and immerse deeper into the mountain biking season.

Being involved primarily in road racing and attending events like Redlands and Gila while in school, the Sea Otter Classic was a new and exciting experience. It was my debut at Sea Otter and an incredible chance to engage with the cycling community in a setting I had longed to be part of. The event was nothing short of spectacular, bustling with enthusiastic crowds and an impressive assembly of companies, turning the atmosphere into a large, vibrant family reunion. Reconnecting with collegiate friends and familiar faces after years reaffirmed why I cherish the cycling community—it keeps us connected.

Amidst the buzz, Friday arrived, the day of the Fuego XL—a daunting 100+km race with 2400 meters of climbing. Despite the exhausting work at the Jelenew expo, which might have dulled my energy, the adrenaline and communal spirit was invigorating. The diversity at the starting line was remarkable, ranging from newcomers to seasoned pros in the mountain biking scene. This mix of enthusiasm and experience enriched the atmosphere, making it both a challenging and inspiring event.

The race kicked off sharply, beginning on a paved road that soon led us into a challenging single-track—bumpy and punchy. It took some time to adjust, find my rhythm, and flow through the terrain. This race highlighted the areas I need to focus on, particularly my biking skills, which are a work in progress but a journey I sincerely appreciate. Throughout the first lap, I tackled the punchy hills—generally not my strongest suit—with a strategy to maintain consistent speed and optimal hydration and nutrition. Starting with an intake of 70 grams of carbs per hour, I'm keenly building my endurance and capability in carbohydrate consumption.

As the day progressed, the sun emerged in full force, adding to the already demanding nature of the Fuego XL. By the time I started the second lap, the intensity of the heat was palpable. Despite my best preparations, I began to feel the onset of fatigue—commonly known as bonking—a challenge exacerbated by my busy schedule at the expo the previous day, which likely left me a bit dehydrated. Recognizing these signs early on, I decided the best course of action was to manage the bonk and adjust my pace accordingly. It was crucial to focus on pushing through and finishing strong.

And finish I did! While every athlete aims to maintain a fast and smooth pace, the real strength lies in adapting to the challenges during the race. This experience was a powerful reminder that setbacks are not failures but opportunities to build mental resilience. It's about finding that inner fortitude to persevere through challenging moments and gaining strength that prepares us for future challenges.

Reflecting on the Sea Otter Classic, the event was phenomenal. The camaraderie within the team and the opportunity to engage with my sponsors and forge new connections added fulfillment to the experience. Being part of such a vibrant gathering deepened my appreciation for the cycling community and its unifying spirit.

I'm excited to channel these learnings and experiences into my next challenge—the Pan American Soldier Hollow age group races. With the insights and endurance built at Sea Otter, I am more motivated than ever to take on new challenges and continue my journey in mountain biking. Here's to more growth, more community, and more unforgettable races!

The Sea Otter Classic was not just a race but a profound learning experience and a wonderful opportunity to grow within the sport I love. The community, the challenge, and the continuous skill development are what make mountain biking uniquely rewarding. I look forward to more races like this, where I can push my limits and simultaneously revel in the camaraderie that cycling brings. Thank you to everyone who made this event unforgettable, and cheers to more adventures on two wheels!

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