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"Into the Arena" Aka The Wembo 24 Hour Mountain Bike World Championships

By Chelsey Magness


For a fun podcast on this event, By Jason Magness where you can be IN the action, check out our BendRacing Podcast here



“I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both.” – Brene Brown

As the clock struck noon on November 4th, I found myself standing at the start line alongside a cohort of remarkable athletes. The resonating words whispered through me. “You can’t have both, Chelsey,” I affirmed. “It’s time to do the work. Let’s see what you learn out there.”

The “GO” signal initiated a cascade of emotions, and as expected, a broad smile crossed my face. Finally, I was in it. But as I maneuvered my first windy downhill, an unsettling shift in my bike’s dynamics caught me off guard. Was it just the intensity of race mode, or was there something more?

I quickly dismissed the notion, attributing it to the heightened adrenaline. Pushing through a few more kilometers, I spotted Kate, passed her, only to be greeted by a Spirit B warning in my head – “don’t blow this up, Mama.” A swift stop revealed my seat precariously held on by a single bolt. “Adapt and just try to get back to me as fast as you can,” Jason’s pre-race advice echoed in my ear.

“Get back” became my mantra. Gripping the seat between my thighs on downhills and gingerly balancing my weight to reinforce the bolt, I pressed on.

At the 2 km mark, optimism surged. “I got this!” I exclaimed, hoping this would be my sole lesson. Minutes later, Jason appeared, wondering about my whereabouts. “Seat messed up!” I yelled, dropping the bike and switching to my new companion, “Rupa,” another pristine Ellsworth Truth.

Lap Two: “Breathe and reel it in,” I coached myself while navigating the first steep climb. Yet, my elation was short-lived as my bike refused to shift, leaving me stuck in the middle gear. “Okay, here we go,” I muttered, relying on fresh legs and adrenaline to maintain a decent pace.

Lap Three: Passing by Jason, I withheld the seat dilemma for another lap, focusing on a sustainable pace and recovering.

Lap Four: Dismounting, I declared, “Not shifting.” “Don’t worry, babe” He yelled out “I’ll get it fixed. Go, go – you don’t have a dropper anymore, have fun!” Back on the course, “Adaptable” became my mantra, and surprisingly, I found a rhythm.

Lap Five-Six: Reunited with “Rupa,” Jason’s peppy and quick pit stop rejuvenated my spirits. Shifting worked, the seat felt stable, and my body found its power.

Lap Seven: “You’re a minute off third; try and push this lap,” Jason urged. “I’m doing my best,” I responded, determined to claw my way back. Evening descended, my favorite time – night! Ramping up my pace, third place came into view. But just as I prepared to pass, a disheartening “Sspphhhhh” revealed a squishy back tire.

Pumping it up with determination, I saw the leak in the side wall, got out my Dynaplugs and plugged it. Success. I pressed on only to feel the squish again. I hopped off and again pumped the tire as fast as I could, remembering Jason’s tips. “Get back to Jason” once again became my mantra. I made it to the 1 km mark with a triumphant “WOOT.” Grateful to still be in the race, I promised to learn field fixes from then on.

Laps 9-15: Toppled from third, I transformed the race into a game, pushing through laps with quick stops for light changes and fuel. Passing Holly Harris, I yelled out “amazing race, you are crushing” I had made it to third. Instead of staying comfortable, my mind wanted back into the arena and fixated on second place – Kaydee Raths. I imagined her much closer than she was and continued to up my pace.



Laps 16-22: As my light dimmed and rain began, I resisted adding layers. Fatigue loomed, the reality of missing second place sinking in. In the pit, Jason sensed my mood. “You’re doing amazing,” he reassured. Tears shed, I whispered, “Character-building race,” and resumed with newfound determination thanks to images of Spirit B just up ahead towing me along.

Lap 23: Beginning my last lap with a touch of melancholy, negative thoughts crept in. I entertained them briefly, offering a metaphorical cup of tea, then kindly asked them to leave. Inhaling love and exhaling stress, disappointment, and fear, I reflected on the lessons learned, thanking my body for its efforts and expressing gratitude to Jason and everyone who made it possible for me to be there.

In the end, facing my fears and navigating setbacks with grit and grace, I realized that winning wasn’t just about the race; it was about winning my own race, a journey of growth and resilience. When I got home to see my boys they asked “Mama why didn’t you win?”

To which I smiled and replied “Because sometimes there are other people that are faster than you and that’s ok and super inspiring. And sometimes you have little set backs that you can’t fully recover from, but if you race well and do your best then no matter what, those are the races that make you stronger.”

“Wow, really” My 6 year old replied – with wheels turning.



Stats:

Total Miles: 206 miles Total Elevation: 21,430 Total laps: 23 Total mechanicals: 2 Total Flats: 1 – thank you Dynaplug and Orange Seal!! Total bike changes: 4 Total corners: 27,600 Total Spring Energy’s: 6 Total 4HourFuel bottles: 4 (two strawberry and two chocolate banana) Total Skin Doctor Chamios Dips: once before and once in the middle

Gear Used:

Bike: 2x Ellsworth Truth

Components: Shimano

Dropper Post: 9,8 Fall Line and Magura Tires: Racing Ralph and then a Maxxis Wheels: Roval Wheels Handle bars: SQlab and Corvus Bike seats: Ergon and SQLab Grips: Ergon Helmet: Lazer Helmet Sunglasses: Smith BobCats Hydration Pack: USWE Bottle bag: Rogue Panda

Shock: Fox Step Cast shock

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