SO prepping for the Kamikaze Games left me feeling super overwhelmed. We just came off the move of the century selling our home in the Wine Country area of Temecula and making the move 2 hours away to our beloved mountains of Big Bear.
There was no recovery time. Mom life just keeps moving forward . So we jumped right into to Home School, long commutes and sick riding sessions in our new home. Life isn’t going to stand still……….so we peddled on.
I won’t go into detail on why we made the move so I will paraphrase it with “We were ready to take out the TRASH!” For years extended family drama, work stress, one sided business partnerships and feeling trapped had bogged our family down. One day it hit me like a ton of bricks….”lets just Bounce.” And Bounce we did!
Within a week our home was listed, in escrow, and we were moving. We moved into a beautifil property known as the Moose Lodge. Sitting perfectly on 1.3 acres in a scared canyon (locals say we have a energy vortex in the middle of our property) my 4 children and husband immediately showed all the stages of awesomeness. Yep, mom knows whats best.
First month here I raced the Crafts and Cranks Enduro. It kicked my ass over two days. I felt unwell and overwhelmed. I Knocked myself out on stage 5 (our last stage as fatigue had set in) known as Fall Line. I was carrying too much speed and full recovery from the flu just wasn’t in place yet.
Fall line isn’t even super technical but its loose, fast and typical of a back country DH. So just like in life when fatigue sets in even the most simple rides can become complicated. It was a little more dry and blown out than usual making a simple error into a TKO!
It got Complicated when the Pro Catwgory Riders were trying to find a way around me. At one point I sat up and could hear them coming. All I could do was roll off trail and grab whatever metal I could find. I realized later I grabbed the cranks and smashed my fingers. I counted to a full 30 seconds before my eyesight returned.
Somehow I got got upright and made my way down. I saved my time to secure a solid 4th place and a podium. Dear lord Jesus help me. Was it worth it? Yep.
Recovery was awkward. I didnt want to make a big deal about how creepy I felt since I didnt want the comments from everyone like “slow down”, “be safe you are a mom”. blah blah blah. In a nut shell every time I turned my head too fast for weeks I would spin out. LOL Like I just said,” was it worth it?” “YUP!” Every experience in life is worth it, FOOLS!
So then I had a month more of the flu and unpacking, commuting, and trying to reinvent myself and my career. I did a shitty job of that so I just started stressing over all the things I couldn’t control,,,,,Like the upcoming Kamikaze Bike Games in Mammoth, MY 15 YEAR OLD WANTED TO RACE HER FIRST GIG THERE IN THE DH CATEGORY, And my son would race his 2nd DH. I on the outskirts of being a lunatic signed up for the Enduro. Then the full fledge personal battle began. Would I finish? Would I start? Would I DIE?
What is this bullshit war we wage on ourselves? Self Doubt is my middle name,,,,but I always show up and I always kicks its ass. Sometimes I even throat punch it with a big HIIIIYAHHHH! But most often I cry and comepletly freak out. You wouldnt know it by looking at me. You might even think I am a fearless bad ass. I’m not. I’m mostly Just a scared old lady ready to drop in and shred some gnar. Every single time I do this i revel at the experience. I more enjoy the fact that I made myself LIVE LIFE more than the actual act itself.
A few days before we were to leave for the kamikaze games we decided to ditch our 2 and 4 year old with our teenager and go ride Summit Bike Park in Big Bear to have some adult shred time. I think my husband and I rode together 4 times in the past 12 months. Our buddy Justin was coming to town and we were pumped to ride with him. I told everyone including my husband and my son “please ride chill, we leave for Mammoth in two days”. dumbest thing I could be ever said. And not 15 minutes later my husband broke his leg. Yeah welcome to the Cass Family Circus! Oh and thank God for those sweet little scooters they have now for people instead of crutches! Will sent that thing all over Mammoth LOL
Kamikaze rolled around and after a hell ride with three teenagers fighting in the back of the sprinter, a hubs with a broken and painful leg, a nanny following us in a spare car we rolled into Mammoth ready for a full fledged nervous breakdown. The car ride wasnt complete without at least one client losing their nuts on me. AT one point I was ready to just flip the car around, go home and take a nap.
We had decided to dedicate all three if our races to my beloved father. My father passed after a single car accident in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s back in 2000. He was always my biggest fan and it seemed with his 17 year reunion rolling in that weekend (on my race day) it was perfect to give him the glory. My children and I would race with baby blue ribbons on our arms. His nickname was Papa Smurf and this really felt like an opportunity to just HAVE A MOMENT FOR HIM. I had to race. NO excuses now.
So there we were in Mammoth, My emotions were all over the place. It was a day away from the 17th reunion of my Fathers death. MY daughter was racing for the first time, my sons bike was an epic fail, and I truly had heard that the Mammoth Enduro was 100% horrid hard. Yay, well here I am. What is a sister to do? I drank wine. A lot of it.
Day one of riding found me so nervous. My little bud Myrie Metzger had scored a ride and a bed from us for the week. He had ridden there often and made sure to make sure I was solid. It was actually kinda cute how worried he was about me, I could tell he found a lot of pride in showing Zoe, Justice and myself the mountain, Even at home every tie I shuttle him as he rides off h yells a “Love you” over his shoulder. Best feeling ever watching the kids shred at the level they do.
Mammoth is filled with some of the most physically challenging trails I had been on . It was legit “kitty litter’ , loose, steep, tons of drops, and a lot of surprises. Add high winds, frigid cold, high altitude and LONGGGGG decents and you get some seriously intimidating trails. Zoe and I kept going from “this is epic”, to “How we will ever ride anywhere else again”, to “I’m scared to death” .
Zoe was so worried about not doing well. We had decided to sign her up for Cat 3 since it was her first race. I knew she was going to be a stand out. I had watched her ride against all odds all summer and knew she really didn’t know how rad she was. I was excited to watch her finally acknowledge what a powerful woman she was. Not just physically but mentally. Riding DH is such a mind slam. Its a sprint of physical and mental ability that leave the most powerful in a fragile state. She had decided 3 months ago she would start riding. Within weeks she asked us what she needed to do to be a Cat 1 or Pro rider. I put the steps in place while she checked all the boxes. Life is a series of opportunities, Those that work the hardest do indeed win. This girl was a winner. She had that look in her eye. Full warrior status.
When the morning arose for her race I almost puked. I was more nervous than her. I wasn’t super worried about my son Justice and his race. He was mellow and not stressed at all. HIs category is filled with boys so much older than him he felt no pressure. He was just stoked to ride. Zoe on the other hand, She wanted to WIN. She wanted to prove to herself that she was a legit competitor .
I stood at the botton of her stage with many friends. My buddy and client Jerry Walton and I took deep breaths. I saw the first few riders in Cat 1 come through. Then she emerged. I knew as soon as I saw her round the corner that this chic was for real. I was literally choked with pride and gratitude. This baby had emerged from my womb and now right before my eyes it was like on the bike I got to see her become a woman It happened in an instant. Tears flowed down my face. I had literally reached “BIKE MOM” Nirvana. Or as most know me by “DUDE MOM”, Nirvana.
Not only did she win but she dropped the competition by Minutes!
My son pushed through with all the chill glory I knew he would. There was a brief moment in his race I noticed his back wheel was loose. Oh Baby Jesus being a race mom is tough. I just held my breath……..and he crossed the finish line, Whew…..
The next day was my day. I was getting scared as every minute went by. I barely slept the night before and even started my period……..because well that was my stupid luck. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I ht race day and wasn’t on my period. Heaven forbid I be healthy and feel wonderful. Its almost funny at this point. I mean who doesn’t want to go race with cramps, headaches and severe bloating? It was a miracle I could even slam my chunky body into my dang baggies. Yes men, water retention is a thing. No, beer doesn’t help. But yes, it eases the hatred I feel during my 4 days of femme battles. Yay, let’s race lol.
Before I left to hit the race start line I was trying to remember all my items. I was dialing my bike, flexing my nutrition and making sure I was fully supplied in the case of a technical. I didn’t come all this way to let a flat or dropped chain keep me from finishing.
Our two babies Marley (aka Gnarly Marley and Fat Baby) and Willie were signed up for a toddler race. Just as I was due to leave on the chair lift their race started. I could see both of them crying their eyes out and refusing to move off the start line. Yeah that big Mammoth running around THIER start Line had them both in a panic. Large Creepy animal alert . They just went into it. Boy did I now this feeling!!! . All I could do was watch as I boarded the chair lift. I felt like a complete mom failure, but I was here to race. SO racing is what I would do!
So there I was. Sitting on the chair lift pondering all the things that could go wrong. All the while I coached myself to feel rad and ready. It was working. I was cold and teerifed. Here’s a little selfie action on my way up.
It was time. I had to deal with 4 stages of utter crazy. Our Enduro stages were as follows. Stage 1 we had Flow Trail. Mind you the day before I had watched one of our close buddies get carted out Via Patrol with a fractured hip off Flow.
I rolled up. Pulled on my helmet. Adjusted my goggles and waited my turn. As each racer left the gate I wondered what the Hell I was doing? They counted them down and every 30 seconds a rider would leave the gate.
Then it was my turn..,”5….4…3…2…GO!” The stage started out great for me. I was really flowing into the technical kitty litter loose chutes and just felt over all ON. Then about 1/2 Way down I heard a rider coming in hot behind me. Instead of waiting for safe place for me to exit the loose section we were in he screamed at me and hit my back wheel. Over the bars I went and into the trees. I went down good but landed softly on my shoulder. I yelled some choice obscenities. It took me the rest of the stage to get myself back together mentally. I imagined meeting him in a good bar fight but eventually let it go. My heart rate was really high though after and I just couldn’t get it down. I was severely amped out.
Stage 2 was the stage, the Bike Games were named after…….Yep THE Kamikaze. It Turned out to be my favorite stage. We started out on the very top of Mammoth Mountain on a fire road where I got up to speeds of up to 35 MPH. I was stoked beyond belief. The bottom of the stage flowed into some fun single track and flowy drop sections. I really found my groove on this stage. I was smiling and my racing reflected that. I was a little discouraged when my husband called me with our live timing results at the base I was in 2nd but it looked like I was clearly getting bumped to 3rd. So I focused on making sure 4th place didn’t catch me on the next stage. Smooth is fast o repeated over and over on my head.
Stage 3 was a big climb and then a fun stage into a Jump line. I felt awesome through this catching tasty airs and just felt super solid. The extra climbing I had done back at home with the hubs was really Paying off here.
My fav part of this stage climb was a big group of hecklers trail side on our climb up. There weee about 8 men lined up with FULL MOONS. The horrible things they were yelling at me had me almost peeing my pants with laughter. It was epic. Oddly this gave me extra energy and smiles. Heckling at mountain bike races had become an event within an event. It was awesome . SO off I climbed on what felt like fresh legs. This allowed me to be extra playful through the jump line and into the finish of stage 3.
Then there was stage 4. CRAP! For the transfer we had to climb all the way from the Canyon Lodge at the bottom of Mammoth Mountain to the main Gondola. It sucked. I handled it one pedal stroe at a time. I ended up riding the gondola up with a random fellow racer and tried to ease my nerves with stupid jokes. The more nervous I get the weirder I act. I giggle and talk to much and I’m sure he wanted to throw me off the gondola but luckily we were locked in.
I knew this was the stage of all stages. We had to drop into Skid Marks and then directly into Follow ME. This would turn out the be over 20 more minutes of technical sprinting, I was terrified. The crazy part of enduro racing is, we do all the Down Hill stages but we also stack them on top of each other. Then we climb to the top of most of (if not all) of the stages. It combines the cardio and suffering of XC racing with the technical demands of DH and then adds them together. In DownHill races they do one stage and they take the chair life up. IN my opinion Enduro is just plain rad!! We are not timed on the climb up. Only on the stage races down.
So finally We got to the top of the gondola. Talk about Torture. The top of Mammoth Mountain is mind sucking. Here’s a photo of us (Jdog, Myrie, Zoë and #DudeMom) up top two days before. It’s expansive.
The wind had picked up and it was painfully COLD! It had snowed up there a few days prior and it felt like something as brewing again. We had a short traverse to the start of Skid Marks. I saw the line up of racers and wanted to cry. I was done. I had sipped my trusty CarboRcket all day, ate my fuel, and tried to pace myself. There just isn’t a lot of ways to pace yourself in a Big Mountian Enduro. Its just mentally and physically draining.
I knew this stage would take me at the very least 2o minutes. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle the bottom sectiom of “Follow Me” so fatigued. This was the stage my daughter raced. It was just crazy hard. Plus it had a whole other stage added to the top doubling its distance.
I stood at the top with the wind literally cutting through me. The sweat that had piled up in my jersey was making it even more dramatic. The first part of the stage I needed to be smooth and fast. However I knew ……. I had completely bonked. I was praying for a Rally. I knew I would do more drops in this race run than I had all year! NO joke.
So there I stood. It was time to finish this thing. There were 4 guys ahead of me and every 30 seconds one of them would take off out of the gate. I was shaking with nerves, cold and exhaustion. Then it was my turn. Shit…………. The guys from Team Big Bear counted down from 10 seconds, looked at me, (I could hear my heart beat) nodded with a 3….2…..AND GO….. and off I went. I had a terrible time clipping into my pedals. The cold had made me very clumsy.
I flowed perfectly through Turn 1, 2, 3 , 4 and then I wrecked. I came hot into a section that I kid you not had 3 foot deep kitty litter on it. It ate my tire. I jumped up and fiddled with my pedals again and was off.
The rest of Skids went OK . I was tired, stressed and just couldn’t get my flow. I could see the bottom of the mountain MANY MANY miles away. i just couldnt find my MOJO. My brain and my body were no longer connecting, It was no longer fun, I survived the very “pedal heavy” middle sections and came onto the start of Follow Me. I could hear the crowds raging below. I was already about 13 minutes in and I knew I was about one error away from hitting my face on my handlebars. Or just crying.
I cinally made it through a section I had dug Myrie out of a tree the day before after a hilarious fall. At this point I knew the heavy Gnar was just getting started. I could hear the cow bells of the spectators below through my full face helmet. Then my fatigue went to a whole new level……..My pace had slowed heavily. Every drop section had me barely hanging on to my ODI Grips. Luckily my husband had swyxhsd them out the day prior I needed all of them. The rock gardens felt stacked on top of each other with loose scary kitty litter chuttes separating them. There was no rest sections for your mind or body. My calves and Quads were burning as I hadn’t sat in the seat once yet. I was racing. I wanted that podium so bad.
Then the real drama started. The racers behind me (all men) had stared to catch me. I was practically getting ran over. I would pull to a safe spot, let them pass, get caught up in my pedals, get it together, wreck, pull over, repeat. I finally got into the worst of the hard sections and I saw my sweet boy Justice. I couldn’t even get out a smile. Later he told me he knew I needed all of his support at that moment. So He was screaming his head off for me to stand up, pedal and go after the section. “ Send it Mom” he was screaming. This was the bottom of Follow Me. Around the next corner was my daughter Zoe in the same manner. She was in my face. At one point through the hardest 20 feet of the trail I screamed at her to SHUT UP!! LOL I was completely falling apart. People were standing everywhere with cowbells in my face, and all I could do was try to hold it together for 1 more minute, PIN IT and finish.
I crossed the finish line literally in tears to a 3rd PLACE! I fell to the ground and couldn’t even remove my goggles. I just sobbed. I am still to this day not sure if it was the dedication to my father, the demands of the race, the recent move, or just plain success, but I was emotionally DONE.
I don’t know why I question my abilities before every hard race, why I torture myself for days with self doubt. But I do it and I am working on it. We are all just a work in progress. I have people all the time ask me how I am so fearless……OH HONEY CHILD, I AM NOT. I am afraid. Yet I am living so I just keep charging ahead one technical stage at a time. Don’t be afraid to Take out the Trash in your life and hit the Posium As my daughter likes to say “I’m still gonna send it”