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Column: It's all about perspective

Gasping for breath, my heart pounding, I pedaled up the steep incline Sunday at Afton Alps wondering if anyone would believe what I was doing at that very moment.

The trails were narrow, the climbs were outrageous and the descents were packed with jagged rocks. Needless to say, this weekend's mountain bike race was a challenge, especially for someone new to the sport like me.

But, I was in beast mode. With sweat boiling up on my skin and the knowledge that I would be enduring such conditions for the next hour and a half, I dedicated myself to one thing: the finish line. With only 16 women racing (some of whom have been at it for years), I wasn't too concerned at what place I was going to get - I just knew I wanted to complete what I had started.

There were a few crashes along the way, some of which shook my confidence. But as I approached the last descent down the hill, all of the frustration washed away, leaving me with the most incredible feeling of accomplishment.

On my last stretch, I saw my male cohorts from Team Juice Plus cheering me on. I've never been so pleased to see their smiling faces. I crossed the finish line, put my bike down and collapsed on the grass. Laying down never felt so good.

I've always been active, but within the last few years have experimented in the race scene, typically sticking to those that involve running and road biking. Of course, I've been challenged in road races - anyone who does them knows it takes a lot of effort to reach the finish line. But I have never before been put to the test like I had Sunday. And in the end, I can say I had fun - a twisted sort of fun, maybe, but still a good day.

When all was said and done, my teammates and I discussed our next race: the Average Jo Triathlon.

In my last triathlon, I nearly drowned. I say that jokingly, but with a hint of seriousness. While I'm not the best, I can handle the biking and running portions of triathlons - it's the swimming that makes me a little nervous.

But after my experience this weekend, my nerves have subsided a bit. I know I won't be leading the pack, but I'll now enter the race with the confidence that, after the Afton Alps race, I can do anything.