2023 Granite Bay Cross Country Mountain Bike Race

Best XC races in northern california

On Sunday, January 29, at 10 am, I raced in the Granite Bay Cross Country Mountain Bike Race Series and won my first race of the 2023 season. This was an incredible race put on by TBF, Total Body Fitness, a mountain biking race series in Granite Bay, near Sacramento, California. Although I was the only female in my age category, I leveled up to compete and got first place at the Sport level for the first time. As my third year of racing, 2023 will be an exciting year for me.

Granite Bay XC Race Results Start line at the Granite Bay Cross Country Mountain Bike Race

Leveling Up in 2023

My goal this year is to compete in 23 mountain biking races, symbolizing 2023, so this was the first of those 23. I wanted to share insights, achievements, feelings, and lessons I’ve learned that were implemented at the Granite Bay Cross Country Mountain Bike Race. Not only am I proud of stepping and leveling up, moving from beginner to sport, and then the next level of Expert/Pro. Moving from beginner was exciting because I’d only been placed in something for a beginner. This is my third year, so I’ve only podiumed or placed first, second, or third in a race for mountain biking at the beginner level. I promised myself my goal this year was to step it up.

Going beyond beginner, which is usually only one lap or shorter or easier courses, so on the race on Sunday, I had to mentally prepare myself, stay calm and focused and get all my gear ready, which would make me feel more confident and ready incapable. We have to get the right equipment to go where we want.

Liz Donahey 2023 Granite Bay Cross Country Mountain Biking Race

Giving Enough Time to Prep

I started prepping just by just mentally preparing and getting a list together of things that I needed for food, washing my bike, checking my tires, checking my, I checked my gears and the bike, out at the trail house after my ride on Saturday. Garrett at the trail house was kind enough to check everything, the alignment, the tires, and everything, and make sure I was ready to go on race day the next day. Finally, I felt confident in my Santa Cruz, Tallboy 2020. It’s a great bike with durable and light carbon. Anyway, the cycle’s held up great. I got that bike in 2020 when I started racing, and I’m excited that it’s 2023 because I’ve taken great care of it; it feels new and fast. It was a new model for the tall boy that year, so it still feels like a new bike. See the Granite Bay Cross Country Mountain Bike Race racecourse below. It was one wild ride!

Granite Bay Mountain Bike Race Course Folsom Lake CA

When I got my latest bike in 2020, it was an entirely new generation of Santa Cruz Tallboy mountain bikes, so it’s a short travel, 29er, 29 wheels, super sturdy but light carbon frame. And it’s super fast in the climbs and super fast in the downhill. I invested in some fast-rolling but grippy Specialized Butcher and Purgatory tires to give me a little faster tire in the rear for speed and a grippier tire in the front for better traction and control. Saturday, I got my food ready. I knew I would be eating 200 calories every hour. I ensured I had Gu and my mint cliff bars, which I love. I also prepped my vanilla protein shake with protein powder, half milk, half water, and one banana. And I drank half of that the night before. And then I drank the rest for breakfast in the morning. Finally, I made sure I had a great meal. I had lots of broccoli and vegetables, kale salad, and a delicious turkey burger the night before. So I was hydrated, well-fueled up the night before, and even had breakfast that day off. I probably burned most of it off with the riding I did on Saturday chasing my friend Harley on her eBike, which was not the best thing to do before race day! So anyway, I made sure I ordered a bunch of new socks. I ordered a new sham, soap, and shorts to make sure I was going to be comfy, so I had all that ready. I had my Hella Mello racing team jersey all clean and ready to go, along with new thick and cozy black socks to match my hot pink, fluorescent green, and black kit. In a tough xc race, the Granite Bay Cross Country Mountain Bike Race, you want to show up as prepped with the right gear as much as you can.

It’ll be a little tighter and form-fitting, and you feel faster when you look faster. So I got the clothes ready, the food prepared, the bike ready, and hydration. I put a Gatorade on my, Camelback water bottle on the bike cage. And then I had my camelback full of water with a ton of ice to keep it nice and chilled. I feel more satisfied when the water’s icy. So I had plenty of water and was very mindful of hydrating every 10 minutes or so throughout the race. I ensured that during the race, I was taking advantage of all that water and all that fuel.

I put my food in a new place on the ride, on the race I had never tried before. So I’m like, Hey, I didn’t want to. So I taped my food to my bike. And I didn’t have a carrier on the bike, so I stuck my food at the top of my thighs in my pro rugged knee guards. And I grabbed that pretty quickly and ate. I made sure that I opened up the food. Like my coach Julie always says, make sure you’re op you have your food open cause it’s going to be too hard to open it up when you’re racing. Cause you; you’re in a frenzy. So I opened the food up, and I could grab it quickly. I should have eaten a lot more and hydrated more. Hindsight’s 20/20.

I zonked a little bit. I was trying to eat something every drink every 10 minutes and eat something every 10 to 15 minutes, but that didn’t happen. So another thing I did to prep for the race ahead of time on Saturday was get a good night’s sleep, including—getting rid of annoyances that would’ve blocked me from getting a good sleep, which was my cats. And I have new kittens. They’re, they’re, could be sporty, athletic cats. So I made sure that I put them in the garage. They love it in there anyway so that they wouldn’t be racing around the house, waking me up all night like they like to do. And bothering me so I would get a good night’s sleep because I needed to go to bed around nine 10 to be able to get up early, like for me, 6 am to be able to leave the house to be, you know, leave the house by 7 am to get to the race well ahead of time an hour to register, gear up, and warm up before hitting the starting line at precisely 10:08 am. It was a two-hour drive to Folsom Lake, and get there an hour before the race. Now, I’ve always, like, you know, I need more time. One of my weaknesses is that I always don’t anticipate how long things take, and I know I always take it a little longer.

What if you have a, you know, a malfunction with your car or you have to get gas, which I did have to do? So I made sure I planned out my route and was there exactly an hour early, which was great. I felt confident and secure. So all the mindset stuff prepped ahead of time will make us more successful.

If we want to win something, we plan. As much as we can almost over-planning, over-prepping is better than being prepped, and a, at a deficit. I was not at a deficit, looking sharp and confident. I even had my hair braided in advance before I left the house. I love to have my hair done, my makeup looks cute, and everything goes together. I even got new shoelaces because my other laces on my flats were all torn up, and I didn’t have time and didn’t wanna spend the money right now to go, you know, spend another 200 bucks on new shoes because they were fine except for the laces. So I made sure I ordered some new laces online and had them loaded up, making my shoes feel tight and secure. My feet were firmer in my pedals and able to power more. So all that stuff, all the gear, was excellent. Besides being on time, I was in the right place when I got there. In other words, I felt confident and like, these are my people. I’m, I feel supported. What I mean by that is when I got there, there were some ladies there that already knew me. Luckily, I had some welcoming ladies there that knew me from my first race in Calistoga and had been friends following me on Strava and Facebook. Understanding them made me feel more prepped and confident about this race. So all these things combined, you know, partnering well and making sure that I had the right gear, all that stuff was excellent.

Liz Donahey and Libby at Granite Bay Cross Country Mountain Bike Race

Partnering Well

Right before the race started, I felt much better and less stressed when I saw my friend Libby and her crew there and another Elizabeth. There’s another Liz who is three Lizs in our new race friend group, but they were in an older category, so I’m not sure what level they were at, but they were excited to be there with me. I was excited to be there with them. O, during the race with the group, one of the ladies talked about partnering well, Like she was my partner. I was her partner. For the first time, I felt like I had someone behind me pushing me, which had never happened before. So it’s great to meet people who will help move you in the right way and motivate you because she said she once caught at. To me, in the second lap. She said, “Liz if you weren’t pushing so hard in front of me climbing up those hills, I would have given up.” It was nice to know I was helping others, especially women, during the race. She said, “your power made me through this,” and “I would’ve quit if you hadn’t been so powerful.” Her words revved the engines in my legs to power through even more to get us to that finish line with her peddling right behind me. She was powering me at the same time. In terms of prepping, I underestimated the system and tended to do that a lot. So many people make things out to be a lot easier or like not as complicated as they are that goes into a lot of time factors too. I’d be faster, and my average pace was a couple of miles slower than I thought.

I watched the videos for the last two years on the Expert Men category on YouTube videos, and the course was pretty dry, and it looked pretty flat, and it’s not what it was, and I know that it was 1500 feet. So It was a six-mile course, two times around a total of 12 miles, so I average 11 and a half to 12 miles an hour and do it in an hour.

That was my target. I ended up doing it slower, so I was five minutes fa uh, slower than I had targeted. But it was like there was nothing I could do to change that. But when I faced the battle, when I met that, the, all the mud Pitts going around. The course and all the challenging punchy climbs with all the mud sliding around.

I had to make some quick decisions. And my partner behind me, the lady that was, that was in Libby’s group, I would call out and help her too. So I said, you know, go left. Don’t go right. I knew if we went right, we would be stuck in the. And maybe even getting off our bikes and walking through it because it was so muddy. It was a war out there. So I learned the first time and did it better the next lap. So the second lap around, I could plow through this feature of about 20 thin logs lined up like a loose, wooden bridge held together by mud flying over that to get around the mud pit.

Quickly after that, there were immediate punchy, steep climbs. Two in a. I could do the second one, but not the first one, because it needed to be more transparent and slick and ended up. I was going to burn my legs out and wanted to; I knew there was much more to do after that. I excelled where we went up and then went down again and up and down.

Growing in Strength, Skills, & Bike Confidence

I’m amazed at how much I’ve grown as a rider, like learning from my great coaches on the team at Hello Mello and all the ladies and being inspired by these great, amazing women athletes. They’re way beyond me at many levels, and they so inspire me, but I learned a lot in the last couple of years, especially in the final year of being on the team. And that’s where a lot of the growth, um, happened. And, um, it’s led me to this point too, where now I’m on my second year on the team. Um, I made it. And I’m going to keep going. I want, I’m proud of representing the team, and it was so exciting to finish the second lap because when I finished the first lap, I was like, hell no. I don’t even want to go around again. I was so tired. But I had this like first of energy, and it was warmed up after that first lap. In the second lap, I was much better on all the 50+ segments in the 12-mile race. I felt super excited and proud at the very end. I was super excited and proud that at about a mile before the finish line, I was able to level up and finally catch one guy putting the pedal to the metal, setting my fears and doubts aside, and just stayed focused on what strength I had in my legs, and pushed passed him a mile before the finish line. I was proud of myself for not giving up because he was certainly hauling it and going fast. I wanted to feel the accomplishment of pushing past mental and physical limits to improve my overall time for the race.

I’m confident that each race will be better than the last, both from a performance and experience standpoint. I’m so excited to share this whole season of racing with you. I hope you found some of this valuable. There are many insights about partnering well with others and supporting whatever community you belong to because you can help encourage and develop each others goals and passions in a more fun, healthy, and effective way.

Find Your Bike, Find Your Passion

One of my greatest passions is mountain biking and everything that goes along with it. I’m passionate about my bike because of where it’s taken me in my journey as an athlete and person. I’m passionate about the people in this incredible mountain biking community. I’m very excited and passionate about helping others accomplish their goals this year by going after their passions, on and off my bike. Our passion helps us grow beyond the challenges in the past and find new challenges and ways of overcoming them. However, knowing I’m competent and strong, even at the age 47. Thanks again to TBF for your incredible efforts in keeping the Granite Bay cross country mountain bike race going, along with other important racing events for the mountain biking community. 

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