By Haley Batten with Mark Deterline —
Germany once again provided us with perfect training grounds, barefoot walking paths, and beautiful forests and towns to wander. I spent the week training with my sights set on the Bike the Rock race in Heubach that weekend. This race always brought lots of mud, strong competition, and it was an all around great event. Although it is not a World Cup or UCI Junior Series Race, I am always impressed with the big names and number of athletes who show up to battle it out on a challenging course.
The type of terrain and difficulty of courses is one thing that makes competing in Europe so different and so challenging. The courses are built to demand skills and make athletes suffer, and then the continuous rain adds another element. This is what makes these races so insanely fun as well, since the athletes are engaged and excited lap after lap. It is no easy walk in the park, but instead every pedal stroke, hill climb, rock, root, and drop demands 100% of your focus. Not only are you out there battling against some of the top riders in the world, but you are also up against yourself mentally and physically.
There are so many important elements to training and competing at your best, but when traveling sometimes it’s hard to make sure everything lines up just right. I think that is another exciting part about racing, and all of the challenges that it brings.
Eating right is an important aspect for me. When in a different place, the restaurants and stores have very unique food, different from what I am used to at home. While racing I want to make sure I am fueled right and can stay healthy, and with a little looking it’s easy to feel right at home. I am not on a strict diet, but I do believe that eating healthy, whole foods, less sugar, and everything in moderation makes me feel the most healthy and happy.
For the most part, I have been able to make good meals with almost any grocery store, even abroad, but Heubach provided us with a nice surprise. There was a health food grocery store and a delicious restaurant, with the perfect pre-race meals close by.
Now, although I put a lot of importance in what I am filling my body with, I also think that going with the flow is important, as well. There is no need to stress when the plan has to change. I’ve found that traveling, food, and racing are all a balance of being strict about certain aspects of your path, while being able to take a detour every once and while, when necessary. With a positive attitude and hard work, anything can be accomplished, no matter how you climb the mountain.
So as I began my final preparations for race day, I was feeling well fueled and ready to go.
Race day came in a blink of an eye, and with a little extra rain. Sunday afternoon I was standing on the starting line waiting for the exciting battle ahead, and the competition standing beside me was strong. The elite women took off ahead of us and the clock began to count down one minute. And the whistle blew. The mass surged forward, and I found myself battling neck and neck in the lead. As the pavement began to turn to the left, I saw the rain glittering on its surface. I hit the ground and all of the riders swarmed past me. I found myself struggling to my feet and onto my bike as they rode away. The fight had begun.
By the end of the first lap I had found my way to third place. For the next two laps I battled back and forth with the second place rider on the steep climbs and slick descents. I gave it my all and finished with a spot on the podium. It was an exciting battle in the mud and I was happy with this result as my last race before World Championships.
Haley Batten of Park City competes internationally as a member of both the Luna Chix Pro Team and the US National squad, and is an accomplished XC ski racer.