There are some things that make the VQ special and the excitement on race morning remains the same just as high for me even though I've done it multiple times now. Waking up at 3:30 you know you're going to have an epic day regardless of the end result!
It's the same for everyone on the start line, fast or not so fast. The funny thing is the guys mid pack talk about how cool it must be, or ask what it's like to do the race in 5 hours. Ryan and I talk about what it would be like when we ride it for fun one day, stop at the aid stations and grab a burger on West Horse Thief. The VQ can be hard to explain to people who haven't done it. Like telling all my co-workers how it's one of the most biggest races of the year to any mountain biker in Orange County, even though there are no prizes or even a podium presentation if you win... But that's just one of the things that makes it so cool. I hope that never changes.
As far as the race goes, I didn't get off to my best start ever. I know some of my splits and was riding a minute or two off of the pace from the last 2 years. There was a group of 3-4 leaders that got away early and were soon out of sight with a lead that I didn't exactly know, but figured it had to be a solid few minutes. I was feeling pretty good in the middle of the day going to the peak though, holding a steady pace with Ryan, and still knew that anything was possible. For 3.5hrs I pushed myself while at the same time trying to be patient and confident mentally. I had a great descent down Holy Jim and sure enough the same thing happened as 2 years ago, I caught the leaders right at the bottom. I had a 2nd wind mentally but had to work really hard physically to climb up to Horsethief with Joel Titus without cramping. At that point I knew I was having a good day and would leave it all out there trying to win. When he did have a little issue, I didn't look back, just pushed myself, thought about how my family has always supported me, and did some praying all the way down to the finish.
For me, this year's VQ was truly about seeking what God wanted to do with me more than anything else. After a great winter of training my first couple races of the year did not go as planned. Even before then I've been questioning my racing a lot. Is it taking away too much from my family? Is the challenge of trying to balance my schedule outweighing the fun? Am I done getting any better?!
On Saturday the 5th I was able to put in one of those rare efforts where I was pushing myself to the limit, but loving it. All my questions about life weren't answered, but I did feel that love for racing again. And I feel like I brought God just a little bit of glory doing what he made me to do.