Heidi Rides Bikes

Just the tales of a girl and her bikes and the adventures that follow!

For the love of mud: CycloX Louisville

 

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Photo by Brent Murphy

After a season marked by short sleeves, bare legs, and dusty conditions, we finally got some crossy-cross weather this past weekend at CycloX Louisville!

This would be the first time I’ve ridden/raced my singlespeed in non-dry conditions (barring the couple feet of mushy grass at CycloX Interlocken, and the one mud pit at CycloX Harlow Platts that was a whole 5 feet wide).  So I didn’t know what to expect, and how hard it would make things.  The sunshine was quickly melting the snow and frozen ground, and the difference between my preride at 9:30 and my race at 10:30 were remarkable.  On my preride I cleared all the climbs minus the long one at the start, but during my race it was futile to try to make it up most of the substantial climbs as the slippery mud just slipped under my tires.

I actually had a horrible start.  It was one of those, “Oh, oh are we racing?!” as I fumbled for a pedal when the whistle blew.  My left foot must’ve packed on a lot of mud just standing at the start, and for the life of me I couldn’t get that foot clipped in.  I laughed because Maura yelled out, “I can’t clip in!” and I was thankful I wasn’t the only one.  The start at the “Bowl of Death” is a straight sprint into the long climb, which I think I made it maybe halfway up before I had to get off and start running in the crowd.  But I could never really get into race mode, whatever race mode was.

Liz stayed in sight in first place, and I was close to the eventual second place finisher for a few laps.  Because the single speed women (SSW) start behind the men’s 40+ and 50+ cat 4 fields, we often encounter a lot of course traffic, and this race was no exception… maybe even worse as the rare conditions challenged the newer racers who put their lack of mud handling skills on display.  Led to a couple of frustrating moments as I fought to stay with the other gal and navigate the slow traffic.  I actually took over 2nd place for a bit until course traffic snagged me up, and I lost contact for good.  Shucks!

Photo by Brent Murphy

Photo by Brent Murphy

By the fourth, and final, lap I had passed numerous geared racers with broken derailleurs, and I could feel/hear my chain starting to skip and be angry.  But luckily not having any derailleurs kept me rolling good, but my legs were fatigued from fighting the mud and slippery slop.  This whole mud stuff is hard work!  I hung on for 3rd place, completely pooped by the final climb up to the finish where I just casually walked my bike up it (running wasn’t working out as my feet just slipped on the mud, even with toe spikes) and slowly climbed back on my bike to ride across the finish.  Wasn’t by best race of the season, but finally I pulled together an okay effort at Louisville on the third try (previous years I always finished nearly last).

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This was also the finale for the Without Limits Shimano CycloX series.  I knew winning the overall would be tough with Liz just dominating like the badass she is… and that said, I landed in 2nd place by 3 points😦  3 points, argh!

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My bike got just a wee bit dirty

Just regionals and states remain for cyclocross 2016!  Needless to say, this has been the cross season I have always wanted to have!  I’m not sure how I will end up fairing in the Colorado Cross Cup overall (my win at Blue Sky Cup didn’t garner me points since I was… the only one who showed up… which threw my points plan a bit), but I’m trying to not let that cast a shadow on how great of a season it has been!

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Cross is still here!

Photo by Ryan Muncy

Photo by Ryan Muncy

Whew, what a busy cyclocross season!  This year I decided to jump into racing a full, complete season of single speed cross, targeting the Without Limits and Colorado Cross Cup series.  This was something new for me, as usually cyclocross served a purpose 1) drinking beer while pedaling a bike around in cycles, 2) snidely displaying mountain biker skills on “scary” features, 3) getting burned out by getting my ass utterly kicked every weekend by girls who actually train for this craziness.

Cross of the North weekend is always a major highlight for me, being the “local” cross option and just being awesome.

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  • Friday SS4/5 Race: We started behind the SW4 and SW3 groups (and other men’s groups), which led to a LOT of course traffic.  Being female in a male category, I more than once had to (sometimes sternly) explain to SW3/4 racers that I was not in their category.  Didn’t stop one chick from beating me over the head with her bike on the run up repeatedly, but I digress.  A positive is that we don’t necessarily deal with course traffic a lot in CO cross races, so it was a good experience.  First lap in I cut a corner a bit close to the hard fencing near the pit area, and a metal tab that was sticking out jabbed into my butt and tore the right side of the bibs I was wearing off (and they weren’t mine… sad, as I was borrowing a kit), which left me indecently exposed for the rest of the race.  Overall, I was happy with how the race went, and assumed I had finished in 4th place… so I went quickly to my car and covered my butt up with some clothes and took to recovering before the elite race.  That’s when a friend congratulated me on my podium finish… I had come in 3rd!
  • Friday “Under the Lights” Elite Women Race: Wow, racing with gears!  I did this as I just wanted to experience a nighttime cross race.  Right at the start another girl went down hard and watching the crash made my heart jump.  Without question I stopped and asked if she was alright and did the best quick assessment I could with my race brain.  I had tears in my eyes, as it really freaked me out seeing her go over the bars that hard.  Some spectators ran down to assist her, and I took off to try to stay ahead of the master’s women group that had started.  My to my surprise I chased back to the tail end of the elite race!  I would end up 17th, and was oh so happy when Erin Huck lapped me right at the end of my final lap to end my race.  (My geared vs. SS overall race time was within seconds of each other.  SS, therefore, wins the debate)
  • Saturday & Sunday SS4/5: COTN is known for awesome, technical courses so I enjoyed the challenge of steep descents and tough climbing.  I would finish 10th and 6th to round out the weekend.  SS4/5 has gotten crazy fast this year, so I was happy to I could hang with some of the guys on my weekend away from racing the women’s SS category (which COTN didn’t offer).
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Photo by Brent Murphy

Photo by Brent Murphy

Photo by Brent Murphy

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Photo by ShotWilliam

Next up was the US Open of CX weekend in Boulder.  I had been planning this for months, as it’s the only UCI race held in this area, and I figured it would give me the chance to actually use my UCI license for something!  Unfortunately it was pushing 80 degrees both days, which was horrible, and my lungs were still filled with dust from COTN the previous weekend.  I use to like racing at Valmont Bike Park, but the steep run ups and staircases just don’t bode well for my legs so I struggled.

  • Saturday SSW: My birthday!  I won the holeshot, over Katie Clouse of all people, but probably paid the price for my crazy ass starting sprint as I never could recover from the effort.  Unfortunately I would trip on the Belgian Stairs, and lose contact with Errin and fall to 4th place.  I really did not feel well after the race ended, and so I decided to DNS my UCI elite race in the afternoon and head home for some couch-and-cat recovery and “me time” for my 33rd birthday.
  • Sunday SSW: More fast chicks for this race (anyone without a UCI license tends to pick up single speeding suddenly on the UCI weekend), and I decided to NOT repeat Saturday’s start.  This was a good strategy as I felt strong from the beginning.  It would be the stupidly steep run up (or hobble up in my case) with little recovery before an off camber climb and 5280 Stairs that would get me, and I would finish 5th on the day.
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Photo by Shawn Curry

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Photo by Shawn Curry

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Photo by Shawn Curry

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Photo by Terri Smith

My lungs remained unhappy in the week after US Open and leading up to this prior weekend’s races.  I had never done Schoolyard Cross before, so I decided to take the chance and attend, knowing that all the points I can get would be good.  Plus it would be my warm up for CycloX Flatirons, because at this point the ONLY time I’m riding my bike is on the weekend during races.

  • Schoolyard SSW: Heather, Errin, and I were the only ones racing what would be an awesome single speed course.  It’s nothing technical, but has enough that forces you to keep power on the pedals.  Big plus for me is that there was only two sets of barriers, so only two short on-offs the bike, unlike Valmont the weekend before.  I took the holeshot, but it wasn’t long before Heather left us in her dust.  On the second lap I got around Errin, and settled into 2nd place for the rest of the race.  I really enjoyed the course, and it was fun to do something new!
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    Photo by Terri Smith

    Photo by Terri Smith

  • CycloX Flatirons SSW:  Last time I raced this event was in 2013, and it was one of my first ever cross races.  The rest of the years I made up some excuse of how I hated the course.  Ummm, I LOVED it this time around!  Yeah, it was challenging, and thankfully it was dry, but maybe grass is becoming my thing after all?  Liz immediately took the lead, and I settled into 2nd, and built a comfortable cushion for the rest of the laps.  Off camber downhills were fun, and even the part that required running my bike up a hill and over some wonky barriers wasn’t that bad!  On my second to last lap I tried to take a beer hand up and ended up pouring it down the front of myself, so on my last lap I stopped to enjoy the beer shot before continuing on my way.  Without Limits does chip timing, and I was very surprised to see that my laps were all within a few seconds of each other, except for the last one.  Because the course was slow moving for the first half there was a TON of course traffic.  I was envious of Liz’s ability to run through the throngs of guys.  Definitely good practice, though I really enjoyed the later laps when I had some breathing room.  Second 2nd place of the weekend!
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So that’s the quick and dirty recap of my cross season thus far!  I do believe I have six planned races left of the season.  I’m hoping I can hold onto my Cross Cup lead!

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Cross is here, cross is here!

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I’ve spent all year lamenting how horrible my race season has gone.  Then today after I won the women’s single speed race at the CycloX race at the infamous Harlow Platts venue, I realized that, holy crap, this has been a good year, all things considered!  2nd at Fat Bike Nationals.  5th place in my first NUE Marathon Series race.  3 wins and the overall title at the Laramie Mountain Bike Series.  National championship title at Hill Climb Nationals.  And what I feel is my first legit win in cyclocross.  Yeah, I burnt out.  I stopped training.  I got my ego kicked in Florida.  I got taken out in a road race and had a resulting pretty bad concussion and freshly discovered split bicep tendon.  But holy crap, it’s really been a good year!

BRAC decided to add in the SSW (single speed women) category to cyclocross this year.  At first I was hesitant about it, as I already get my ass kicked by cat 1 & 2 gals in cross, and didn’t exactly want to jump into another category for that, as most of the gals expressing interest are also SW Open racers.  I grew fond of racing the guys in SS4/5 last year as well, as it can be quite the funky bunch.  In August I did Adventure Cross, which is stupidly early to start cross racing, and I was the only one in SSW.  Win and dead last, all at the same time!  Hmm.  Since Without Limits/CycloX Series is running SSW and SS4/5 at the same time, I knew I’d have to decide on which one to race, and since SS4/5 is damn fast this year, I decided I’d settle into SSW for CycloX and try to double up SSW and SS4/5 for racers by other promoters.

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Cyclocross in August calls for running through sand with a beer in one hand! Adventure CX. (Photo by Colobikelaw/Adventure Cycling)

Four of us would line up at Harlow Platts, which I found to be a damn hard course during my pre-ride.  Fun, but damn hard, especially for my seemingly stout 40×18 single speed gearing.  Grass courses aren’t really my favorite, but I did like how Harlow was very smooth (which is great for my shoulder).  There was about 5 or so separate sections of sand which I couldn’t quite clear entirely with my gearing.  Ugh, running in sand😦  My favorite part is that the corners were grippy and I could pedal through them, which is important when you only got one gear.

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CycloX Harlow Platts with my spiffy custom skinsuit designed by Rufus Designs!  (Photo by John Flora)

Lining up I knew Megan and Kim would provide some stiff competition and I was nervous.  Whistle went off and I ended up taking the holeshot up a steep climb that would be a leg killing grind every lap.  Kim would get around me in the first sand section as she’s much more proficient at running with a bike.  I’d come through the first lap 3 seconds behind her.  I don’t remember when, but I would overtake her on the 2nd lap, and I just put the hammer down.  It hurt and I was drooling mucus all over everything (one guy actually told me “that’s gross” when I spit some out… lol!), but I forced myself up and out of the saddle, especially on the power climbs.  Only section I really struggled with were the uphill barriers which I just found impossible to run (I have long legs anyway so sometimes speed walking is actually faster for me).

After 5 grueling laps it was finally all over!  I finished 47 seconds ahead, woohoo!  Woo, that was hard!  But I was so excited!

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Switching it up

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When I posted up that I had randomly registered for a 5k on Facebook several people asked me if I was ill.

Good thing I wasn’t really kidnapped, or ill, or running against my will because no one came to save me!

I don’t know, maybe I’m just flat burnt out on cycling.  So my mind has been wandering to other things I could do, and I’ve been spending a lot of time being lazy.  In August I randomly decided to go swimming for the first time in three years, and surprised myself by swimming 1000 meters, which was way above and beyond what I had ever done before.  I had to rest a lot, and I was out of breath, but it felt fun to do something a bit different, especially since it is considerably easy to do after work.  Unfortunately I have been dealing with pretty severe shoulder pain since my road race crash in June, so I only gave swimming a go twice before I decided to seek out medical advice on my shoulder.

So the natural progression was to randomly start running, which is another thing I have not done since 2013.  OK, not very smart to go couch-to-5k in a span of an instant, but hey, that’s my style!  Randomly registered for Cheyenne’s Freedom 5k on a Friday afternoon, and found myself pinning a race number on by 8am Saturday morning.  Luckily my friend Gretchen was also running, so I had someone to hang out with (and her two adorable Italian Greyhounds).

Starting off near the front I looked down in the first quarter mile and saw a 7:30 pace on my Garmin and freaked out.  My previous 5k times (as an adult) were 33:50 and 35:49, so I knew a 7:30 pace was not sustainable in any sense, especially since I DO NOT RUN.  I really wanted to break a 30 minute 5k, so I tried to settle in the 9:45-9:50 pace range.  Oh boy, did it hurt.  My legs, conditioned by 3 years of strictly cycling, were very confused on what to do.  I actually asked a bystander with a bike at one point if I could borrow it, they told me it would be cheating.  Ha!

Coming down the final block was amazing, but my competitive edge took over and I looked behind me and then started sprinting so no one else would pass me.  Considering I spent the entire race going backwards through the field, I really wanted to finish “strong,” whatever that would be.  I’m sure I look like a dying giraffe while trying to run regardless!  I cross the finish at 28:45.  Instantly my legs locked up; not cramping really, just didn’t want to move.  I stumbled over to see that I finished 86th overall (out of 186), and found Gretchen and collapsed onto the ground.  I was super happy to have taken 5 minutes off my 5k PR with absolutely no running training, but HOLY HELL IT HURT.  Seriously, sign me up for a 50 mile mountain bike race or a jaunt up Pikes Peak on a road bike any day over a 5k!

Later in the day and the next day were absolutely miserable as every single muscle that isn’t used in a pedaling motion rioted against what had happened to them.  From my ankles to my butt I winced in pain as I attempted to hobble around.  My friend Nichole remarked on my “8 months pregnant waddle” I had going on at work that night!  Five days out and I’m just left with very tight and occasionally crampy hamstrings.  Which makes me wonder…

What could running be like if I, you know, trained?

Hmmm…

Cross training is good.  Like I mentioned earlier, aside from a triathlon and a handful of days running in 2013 and XC skiing once this past winter, I have done nothing but pedal a bicycle for years.  Across different disciplines, but still a bicycle.  I’ve had the highest highs and lowest lows on a bicycle, but unfortunately this year have struggled with motivation and coming out of a serious crash.  I’ve really started to re-evaluate what I want out of competitive cycling, at least over the course of the next year as I analyze if I could return to structure training with commitment and motivation to follow through.  So maybe switching up stuff could go good.  As I slip further into laziness and sedentary habits, I know anything that gets me up and moving will be a good idea and preserve fitness as well.

So I’ll see where this leads!

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Dakota Five-O

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First wave racers lined up… I’m back in the pink helmet, wondering how in the world that guy was going to ride in pink hot pants

OK, motivation was GONE for this race, the 48 mile long Dakota Five-O in Spearfish, SD.  I do believe this is the latest mountain bike race I have attempted in a season, and with little riding leading up to what would be one of my longest rides of the year on any bike , I knew it would just be a struggle bus all the way to the finish.  Luckily the Black Hills are gorgeous and the trails are amazing, so there would be worse places to be suffering!

Rain was predicted all weekend, so I was more concerned with how my historically leaky tent would fair.  The day before the race I took to spraying waterproofing on my tent at the Spearfish KOA and staking out the rain fly the best I could, hoping I wouldn’t be soggy.  I spun down to the pasta dinner and back as my warm up for the next day.  So beyond the season to be doing any sort of race openers!

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I started in the first wave due to that “pro thing,” though I was fair from feeling fast.  The race immediately starts climbing on pavement and dirt roads out of Spearfish, and I held on ok until probably the last mile where I dropped off the back and tried to settle into a sustainable pace.  I was probably one of the last five of the first wave to hit the single track.  It would be a long day of people passing me, I had accepted.  The rainy/foggy weather led to some amazing vibes in the forest in an eery, enchanted way, and also left us with tacky hero dirt.  Luckily nothing got muddy muddy, which was nice.  However, South Dakota rocks are similar to East Coast rocks, and they were slick along with the thousands of tree roots.  I spent the race reminding myself of how to ride the slick roots and rocks and thanked my Pennsylvania experiences.

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Photo – Les Heiserman

I won’t lie, my motivation just wasn’t there.  There were so many times I found myself so lightly pedaling, just putzing along with really no concept that I was racing.  It was a mental struggle, and all I wanted to do was hurry up and get the race over with, but I wasn’t pushing myself to actually pedal fast.  At least I could enjoy the trails!  The sun did come out for a short while, but on a fast fire road descent we went from sunshine to fog with and extreme temperature drop in an instant, and it would stay foggy and drizzly the rest of the race for me.

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Photo – Les Heiserman

All I really wanted was to get to the bacon and beer station around mile 34 or so.  That was a glorious moment pulling in there, and getting that horribly soggy, cold piece of bacon and half cup of PBR!  I took my time enjoying my snack.  Funny enough, right after the bacon station was the most technical terrain of the race.  Really slick rocks on a steep descent.  I surprised myself with riding stuff that I probably normally wouldn’t have.  I just really wanted to get done.  Dakota Five-O is one of those races where people keep saying “it’s all downhill!” and then you spend miles slogging up some ascent, swearing at the person who told you that.

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Mouth full of bacon! This is why I did this race! (Photo – Melanie Arnett)

The race ends with a several mile long descent down Tinton Trail, which we climbed at the beginning.  It was like the never ending trail of hell.  Awesome trail, but at that point I really just wanted to be done more than ever!  Popping out into the road was glorious, and I took to an aero tuck and hauled ass down back to Spearfish, topping out at 40mph.  Once again, with the finish in sight I managed to sprint with energy.  Oh hi motivation, nice to see you after 5 hours and 36 minutes… ugh!

My goal was to come in under 6 hours, with 5.5 hours being ideal, so I’m happy with my 5:36 finishing time.  Could I have done it faster?  Hell yeah.  But I’m satisfied with how it all went with no training and the motivation issues.  I loved the trail conditions, and honestly the course was not nearly as brutal as I was expecting!  Most of the race I had the attitude of “been there, done that, got the tee shirt,” but now I’m thinking I want to attempt to go next year to experience the course in the opposite direction.  So we’ll see!  I ended up 11th in my age group and 27th overall out of 90+ women.  Not too shabby!

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Ending the season on the top step!

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From 3rd in 2014, to 2nd in 2015, to the WIN in 2016!

Five seasons of Laramie Mountain Bike Series over four years of learning how to be a bike racer… and I took home the overall open women’s title!

LMBS was rough this year.  Lack of training + lack of motivation or interest for XC racing + petty small town BS + the road race crash = kind of dragging myself to those six Tuesday races. But I made all six (another first), finished all of them, and survived!  I really wanted to win the overall this year, but knew it probably wouldn’t be easy, but so happy I fought until the end and came out on top of my local race series!

After the first two races I kind of struggled.  LMBS 3 came a few days after my amazing race at the Tatanka 50k, and involved two laps up Death Crotch.  I just never could get a good rhythm on the climb, and the course really didn’t suite me well with it’s rather short amount of climbing (granted tough), combined with a ton of descending.  I hung on for 2nd.  LMBS 4 was more of the same… started on a descent, ended on a descent.  I did make myself proud with clearing Aspen for the first time in the climbing direction with no dabs (I remember Sara and I walking decent amounts of it during the race in 2015).  The final lap three of us came together, which I don’t remember seeing happening in an open LMBS race in a long time.  I was riding 3rd and put down a great pass and sprint on a tight corner into a climb to take over 1st.  I’d end up taking 2nd again.

I did the math and knew what I needed to do for the final two races.  LMBS 5 almost didn’t happen, though.  When I pulled into the parking lot I noticed my rear tire had deflated completely and come off the bead.  In a panic I hauled butt down the summit and into Laramie, where Joel from the Pedal House quickly grabbed my bike, changed out the valve core, aired it back up, and sent me on my way.  I drove the way back up to the race with my gloves and helmet on, knowing I wouldn’t have much time to make it to the starting line.  I pulled in with ten minutes to spare, so no warm up as I had time to get the bike off the car, shove a pump and a million CO2’s in my back pocket, check in, and line up.  Not ideal.

Luckily the course was to my style, with 20-30 minutes of solid climbing, followed by the descent down Death Crotch, and a steady uphill double track climb back through the start-finish.  I knew I had to hammer the climbing to build the cushion for the descending, as Alyssa is a super fast descender.  It had rained so the dirt had moisture which led to tacky hero dirt.  And hammered I did from the whistle, and never looked back!  I even took the QOM on the Summit trail climb, which I was surprised about since the rocks were slippery.  I flew down Death Crotch, and even had a few advanced men racers tell me I was “flying.”  Better than last year when a guy tried crashing me and another girl out for going “so slow!”  Second lap went well, though another storm rolled in and just as I was cresting the climbing portion of Death Crotch to begin the descent there was lightning and icy rain pelting me.  Usually I recover ever so slightly across the ridge, but I wanted out of the exposed area.  I powered up the double track and took 1st place, much to my relief!  And it all worked out that the 50psi of rear tire pressure I had worked out due to the tacky dirt!

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There’s something to be said for blending in, so I went incognito with an all black kit for LMBS 5! No sense in being a neon pink rabbit when every point matters! (Photo by Jessica Flock)

Another round of math was done, and I realized I didn’t even have to show up to race at LMBS 6 and I would still secure the overall win.  However, I wasn’t going down without a fight! My parents came out to watch me for the first time at an LMBS, which was exciting!  The course made me nervous, as once it again it ended with a big descent.  The start did involve climbing up Middle Aspen, so I knew I’d have to do what I did best, and that was climb.  I did worry how my legs would respond as this was days after the National Championships up Pikes Peak, but it would be what it would be.  With my new Specialized Racing white/pink kit I took to the starting line.

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LMBS 6 (Photo by Ben Parman)

The first lap I felt awful.  Absolutely awful!  Side ache and just so unfit.  But I knew I was flying as the steady stream of advanced men hadn’t flown by me yet, and they wouldn’t until I started the descent down Pole Creek back to the start-finish!  I waved a few guys around, and one told me, “You’re hauling ass!” which made me smile.  Unfortunately we would hit the kid racers on LiMBS, which to me was a very dangerous situation, as we were going 15-20mph, coming up on children on bicycles who really have no idea about what to do in race situations.  Luckily it all went without incident, and we hammered through for the second lap.  Second lap I felt better, and aside from going off my line and having to run up a loose climb on Middle Aspen, it was all going swell.  I forced myself to get out of the saddle and to hammer when I could, especially on climbs.

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Displaying terrible descending form on my last lap (Photo by Ben Parman)

After about an hour and four minutes I came through to my parents’ cheers with a big smile on my face and first LMBS overall win!

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I won’t lie, I’m happy and relieved that MTB race season is over for 2016 (minus the Dakota 5-O, which I’m doing more for the awesome trails and experience than a race).  On paper it actually looks like a good season, with double podiums at Fat Bike Nationals, and then three wins at LMBS and strong races at the Half Growler and Tatanka 50k.  But to me it just wasn’t the season I had imagined.  But it’s okay to have an off year, right?😀  What I’m really enjoying are my more confident descending skills… I even took 3 MINUTES off my PR down Wathan… 3 minutes is huge!

I’ve started to try to think of what 2017 would hold in store for me.  Initially in early 2016 I had said I wouldn’t race in 2017 and would focus on trying to get over to Iceland to ride, but as my season went on this year and didn’t go ideally I realized I wanted to see if I could make 2017 go a bit better, plus I’m dipping into my Iceland savings to pay the medical bills from the road race crash, and I only want to go to Iceland if I have the money to do the trip exactly how I want!

2017 rough plans:

  • Absolutely no mass start traditional road races.  My wallet cannot afford another $7000 trip to the ER due to someone else’s poor bike skills.  I do plan on trying to do some of the hill climbing events, and maybe early spring TT’s to get that motivation burning and going.  I think a flaw for 2016 was I didn’t race all spring until Florida Cup in May.  There was nothing keeping the spark alive to keep training.
  • Fat Bike World Championships in Crested Butte in January.  I’ll get to meet up with the Dirt Components crew which will be awesome, and I’ll get in several solid days of fun on the fat bike!
  • Half Growler to try to go sub-4 hours after having an awesome time this year at the race
  • Tatanka 50k because the race was amazing!
  • Possibly the Carson City Off-Road
  • Leadville Stage Race.  Expensive, but it’s perked my interest, and I think is the most feasible way for me to go back and “finish” the LT100 course.  Plus I’ve been wanting to do a mountain bike stage race for awhile now.  There’s a new stage race in Iceland, and wouldn’t this be a good prep?  :D
  • USAC Hill Climb Nationals.  Obvious reasons!
  • Missing from the plans are the Gowdy Grinder.  That race is out to kill me, and I haven’t had fun at it for years.  I’m on the fence about LMBS, surprisingly.  It’ll really depend on how training and preparation goes, along with how my race calendar shapes up.  I only want to race LMBS next year if I’m in great XC shape.
  • I’ll have to see how it all fits in and goes, but being considered is USAC Marathon MTB Nationals and the 50k version of Pierre’s Hole.

There’s a theme, and once again it’s longer endurance races.  Eventually I think I’ll decide whether to focus on XCO vs. XCM, but until then I think I’m young enough to keep flip flopping🙂

Until then… there’s cyclocross and riding just how I feel like it (wait, that’s been most of this year… ha!)!!  Also I am trying to mix it up with a few other sports.  I’m really itching to re-learn how to skate ski and add that in for my winter training (though who wants to bet how quickly I’m trying to enter ski races?).

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USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championships

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The first ever USAC Hill Climb National Championships… spoiler alert on this photo! (Photo – Mellissa Westergard)

I can’t recall how many times I’ve laid in bed and daydreamed what winning a national championship would be like… coming across the line… would I try to post up?  Maybe just one arm up, I’m too clumsy for that two hands off the bars thing.  Finishing with happy tears.  This is what it’d be like for a mountain bike title…. this is what it would be like for a fat bike title… hmmm, unlikely, but a hill climb title.  Wouldn’t it be awesome?  The jersey to wear on Fourth of July, and getting to add the Stars and Stripes to the collar and sleeves of all my kits for the rest of my life.  All of it just sounds so awesome!

I pretty much decided last minute (aka a week out) to do the USAC Hill Climb National Championships.  I debated it most of the summer, and then after a horrid day climbing Mt. Evans, another Colorado 14er with paved road access (followed by another horrid day of attempting to climb Guanella Pass and giving up), I was pretty discouraged by the thought of giving Pikes Peak, a harder 14er climb a go.  Finally I decided what the hell and registered.  I figured if anything I could just mark the second road-bikeable 14er off my list and be done with this climbing nonsense and a season filled with some not so good times. On Wednesday I woke up with a sore throat and stuffy head that persisted all week, so I kicked myself for possibly getting sick so close to a race I already registered for, and one that couldn’t take most cold medicines for.  OK, just survive this…

After spending almost four hours in the car attempting to get to Colorado Springs on a Friday afternoon, I finally arrived to packet pick up, and old teamies Joe and Mike, who had a beer ready for me at the bar.  Pikes Peak was enveloped in stormy clouds as we swapped our thoughts for the next day and got caught up on our lives.  I was starting to get nervous.  What exactly had I gotten myself into?!  I have barely been doing anything that counts as “training,” let alone riding, and had those memories of Mt. Evans in the back of my mind.  The race would follow the PPIHC course (Pikes Peak International Hill Climb… the infamous car race that takes place every year) – 12.4 miles with 4,700 feet of elevation gain and 156 turns.  A 12.4 mile bike race may not seem like anything, but climbing 4,700 feet in that time is pretty damn insane… not to mention the race starts at 9,300 feet and ends up at 14,110 feet!

I surprisingly slept well, and woke up at 4:20am ready to go.  Packed up the car and swung through McDonald’s drive thru (which had a line… at 4:45am?!) for my traditional Number 3 with large Hi-C Orange and large vanilla latte.  The drive up to Pikes Peak Toll Road was uneventful, and I smiled as I railed Mr. Fozzy through the corners.  Pikes Peak is, after all, a special place for me.  It’s where I met the ex that introduced me to cycling… it’s where I saw Paul Walker in person, and was one of the last events I ever photographed as I winded down my racing photography stint.  So driving my turbo SUV like a race car brought me joy among the impending doom of what was coming up.

It was chilly as I aimlessly wandered around with no purpose.  Use the port-a-potty.  Get in my timing chip.  Affix said chip to bike.  Debate clothes.  Eat a third of my egg mcmuffin and get all sad as I had no appetite.  Laugh at Mike throwing up gang signs.  Ride 0.6 miles and call it a warm up.  Finally settle on arm warmers, thermal long sleeve jersey, wind vest, bibs, knee warmers, wool winter socks, and long finger gloves – I thought it was summer, why all the clothes?  Hold my teammate’s bike as she uses the port-a-potty.  Shoot, guess we gotta go race now.

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That mountain in the background? Yeah, that’s where I had to ride my bike to the top of!

Roll up to the start.  There’s three of us, so there’s a 33.33% chance of winning a national championship.  I had let the thoughts roll into my head the week between registration and the race.  I would try to shake them off.  I didn’t want to get myself excited for something that probably wouldn’t happen, much like at fat bike nationals, where it was so close but four minutes away in the end.  The whistle blows and Melissa takes off in a sprint, and I’m left wondering how to get my left foot in my pedal.  UGH.  I didn’t want a fast start.  There’s only so many matches when racing up to 14,000 feet in elevation that you can burn.  But I chased.  I wasn’t going down without a fight.  I tucked into her back wheel.  She was pushing the pace.  After about a mile or so the grade turned up, and I came around her and just kept going.  I just figured I’d just go and see what would happen.  I’d never led in a national championship race except for the 20 seconds I led in the pro race at Fat Bike Nationals.  Another what the hell moment, it’s not like I wouldn’t finish with at least a bronze medal if it all went bad.

The climb to the summit averages 7%, with many much much much steeper portions.  Surprisingly I found myself just trucking along, though I was sad to discover how early I was already in my granny gear (yay compact cranksets and 32t cogs!).  My cadence settled in around the high 60s (big contrast to my normal 90+ rpm), and power in the tempo zone.  I had come to terms that for two hours, or hopefully less, my sole purpose in life was to talk to Paul Walker’s ghost and to pedal my bike nonstop.  Really as simple as that.  Surprisingly, the course was going fast.  I ticked off every mile and gave myself a good ol’ “there ya go, now — miles to go to the top!”  I mean, it was 12.4 miles.  Anybody can do anything for 12.4 miles, right?

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The W’s!

Coming up to the W’s was almost an overwhelming moment for me.  There is was… my corner!  The one I photographed from in 2011!  For a brief second I actually closed my eyes and said “This one’s for you, Paul.”  (If anybody hasn’t figured out that the import car scene pretty much shaped my adult life by now, now you know.  Seriously, I wouldn’t have been riding a bike up Pikes Peak if it wasn’t for all the car stuff.)  The W’s are hard… hell, I had struggled walking up them with 20 pounds of camera gear in 2011… and here I was grinding them out on a bike (which actually did seem easier).  But I knew after the W’s came Devil’s Playground, where for some brief minutes the road flattens out and descends into Bottomless Pit.

This is where I would start riding blind.  I have never been beyond Devil’s Playground.  And I had made the fatal assumption that the road flattened out after Devil’s Playground for good… forgetting the fact it still ascends something like 1,100 feet in a handful of miles.  Bottomless Pit is a teaser… 30mph down I flew to grind 4.5mph up the hill that follows.  It had hit… the wall of doom.  I still had not seen my competitors behind me, which I had checked for as the road switchbacked up, so I knew I had a solid lead, but I also knew that anything can happen at any moment on a bicycle.  I knew I hadn’t been drinking very well, as it’s really hard to drink when your heart rate is 180bpm and you’re focused on pedaling at a steady pace.  So I panic drank some of my Tailwind mix.  I was using the raspberry caffeinated mix, so if anything I was hoping for a caffeine high.  Also to note, I had finally crossed above 13,000 feet in elevation, so it’s quite possible that I just wasn’t moving the oxygen to my muscles that I was needing.  Because 13,000 feet is very high, and it was only the second time in my life I had been at this elevation.  (Side note:  I am very thankful I was born at 7200 feet, raised at nearly 9000 feet, live now at 6200 feet, and race/train at 7000-9000 feet, as moderately high altitude has little effect on me compared to most others.)

At about mile 10 I spotted the familiar blue and yellow kit of Spradley Barr Wind Chill Cycling on the back of Joe… finally, my rabbit!  But I just couldn’t get those legs to turn faster, as my cadence dropped into the 50s, and my heart rate went from north of 180bpm to the 170s.  Elevation… it’s a bitch when it finally does affect you.  Or was it my lack of calories and fluid intake?  Oh hell, just keep pedaling.  WHY ARE THE FINAL MILES SO DAMN STEEP?  ARGHH.  My exact thoughts.  Come on Paul Walker, I could really use a shot of nitrous right about now…

Around a hairpin and cog railroad tracks.  OK, Joe mentioned something about this being near the summit.  Dammit, why can’t I catch him?  Around another corner… wait, is that the finishing arch I see?  HOLY SH!T I’M GOING TO WIN A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!  And that, my friends, is how I managed to up my speed, up my power, up my heart rate, and actually start picking up speed on a bicycle again.  Or the caffeinated Tailwind kicked in.  Or I managed to engage NOS Program 2.0 and speed ahead of Toretto.

OK OK OK, WHAT DO I DO?!  The daydream… it was becoming reality.  Like… I don’t win very many bike races, let alone really really really REALLY important ones.  Zip the vest… ok, whew, remembered that.  Can’t have anyone seeing me win with my sports bra hanging out.  I don’t do it at LMBS, and I certainly can’t have it happening now!  Massive smile and a celebratory fist pump and single right arm raised into the air!

1 hour 51 minutes 12.89 seconds.  The inaugural masters women 30-39 hill climb national champion.

The flood gates of uncontrollable crying and tears began.  Joe Joe Joe Joe I WON!!! I yelled out as I finally caught Joe after the finish line.  I stopped and slumped over my bars just crying.  I think my other teammate Kate came over and asked what was wrong and I stammered out some sloppy half-crying half-happy “I WON!”  Then I noticed how badly my butt hurt.  So painful I couldn’t walk.  I couldn’t bend over.  Wow, 7% grade for nearly two hours does the sit bones no good!  (I never was out of the saddle after the starting sprint.  I was worried the acceleration in my heart rate could be a bad mistake.)

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14er #2 via bicycle, and I’m not faking my smile on this one!

The time at the summit was spent hobbling over to get my gear bag and tossing on my warm thermal jacket and dry gloves – my fingers were so cold and numb by the summit that I had trouble shifting for the final get up and go, and then gathering up some teammates for photos at the summit sign.  I had huge concerns about descending, as I spent the first 5 miles descending Mt. Evans crying in fear, but luckily Pikes Peak Highway is perfectly paved (see, car races are good for keeping road conditions good!), and after changing into my heavier wind proof gloves I descended confidently.  Traffic kept the speeds slow, and at some points I was actually wanting to go faster.

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Me, Jill, and Alli at the summit!

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These guys made the weekend that much more special! Joe – from sharing the Broken Spoke Award in 2013 to the top of Pikes Peak at a national championships in 2016.  Mike – proving that there’s gangstas in Wyoming every day! 307 and CYS represent! Thanks to both of you for your friendship and support over the past 3 years I have been racing! I’m not joking when I say that this weekend was way more memorable and fun due to your company!

I still can’t believe how it went.  Much like the Tatanka 50k where I spent a lot of time breaking my personal rules, I did the same on Pikes Peak.  I never thought I’d get a national title on a road bike, especially after my crash in June that left me swearing off any sort of group road biking competitive activity for the foreseeable future.  I’ve always described myself as a climber, but this year it never quite went well for me the times I tried the “big girl” climbs on Mt. Evans and Guanella.  But the entire time up Pikes Peak, minus for some negative thoughts with two miles to go, I was actually calm and enjoying the climb… I had accepted that it is what it is, and only way to go was to keep pedaling upwards.  ‘

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But I also think I helped break some other people’s rules.  Unfortunately I have had it mentioned to me more than enough times statements such as “You’re really big to be a climber,” “You climb well for someone your size,” and “You’re better off being a sprinter.”  Y’all, I am 5’9.5″ and 150 pounds.  By American standards, I am a tiny person.  But to some cyclists, I’m apparently “too big” to be climbing hills, or at least have it be my strength on a bike.  Yeah, I’m almost 33 years old…  I have hips and a big booty.  I have cellulite, and I certainly do not have a six pack (unless it’s six pack of tacos).  I can put down 800 watts in a sprint, there’s no doubt I can sprint.  But holy crap people, I can climb on a bike as well!  It’s my saving grace on the mountain bike, it’s how I do well at those races, and my ability to climb has also paid off on the road bike.  Stop telling people what they should be good at based on a body size!  /soapbox

But really…

Anyways, for a final wrap up of some nerdy statistics:
12.2 miles
4,717 feet of elevation gain
6.6mph average speed
182bpm average heart rate, max of 192bpm
67rpm average cadence
192 watts average power (195 watts weighted average)

I spent 41% of my time in my tempo power zone 167-199 watts), and 31% of my time in my threshold zone 200-233 watts).  I am super comfortable with how that all worked out, and mostly am very happy about the consistent effort.

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What a great highlight of my race season as it winds down!  Shoot, I just may have to race it again next year!

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Race Report: Tatanka Point to Point 50k

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Goodness, I am still so excited about this race!!!!

So I have some “rules:”

  • I don’t do heat
  • I am not an endurance mountain bike racer.  I am a 80-100 minute XCO racer.

The Tatanka 50k involved both things that break my rules… predicted 95 degree weather and 35 miles of South Dakota single track.  But I signed up regardless, as I know the Black Hills are gorgeous and I figured it would be a good teaser for September’s Dakota 5-O.  I vowed I’d survive and at least enjoy the sights as I suffered.

Since the NUE series now has a marathon category some heavy hitting pros are coming out, so I knew a podium probably would not happen (probably).  Waiting around for the noon start was pretty tortuous, and we all were talking about the heat as we fought for shade at the Piedmont elementary school we were starting at.  The start was a few miles of “neutral” roll out (these things are never neutral… my heart rate was pegged and I was getting gapped) before we turned onto a bit up gravel up Dalton Creek to the single track that would tie us into the Aid Station #3, meeting the epic (80 mile) course racers and the Centennial Trail which would take us back to Sturgis.

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6 miles in at the first aid station on my course! (Photo Milissa Melle)

The sun was beating down on us, and I know my Garmin said 108 degrees at the start (Karen’s even read 111!), as we climbed up the gravel.  It hurt as I struggled to warm up my legs and figure out how this whole day would go.  I came into the aid station at 6 miles in with rather good spirits, and topped off my bottle since it would be a grueling 14 miles until I could get water again.  The starting climbs on the Centennial Trail were tough, and I made friends with my small chainring, and had some mental talk about how I cannot go to a 1x drivetrain on my next XC race bike purchase.

We came to a summit, and I caught a good rhythm, and we popped out onto some fire road.  I was sitting in 4th place, which I was quite pleased about.  Unfortunately, I got a little too complacent on the fire road descent, and blew past the turn back onto the trail.  My mistake would add about 1.5 miles.  I finally realized my mistake when I hadn’t seen a “bull’s head” trail marker in awhile, and I heard voices above me in the trees on the hillside.  I turned around and frantically began climbing on pure adrenaline, swearing up a storm.  I came upon the turn just as another gal was turning onto it and I get even more pissed that I had given away race positions.  I race on many courses that I am super familiar with, or that are all taped off, so I got a bit relaxed in paying attention to the course markings… can’t blame anyone but myself.  Luckily I re-passed that gal rather quickly and settled into trying to make up time for my mistake, unsure how many other women were able to gain spots on me.

The single track of the Centennial Trail is just amazing… well maintained, beautiful, and fun!  Though I did realize that riding on a bed of pine needles is soul sucking as it absorbs your speed, so sections where you’d expect high speeds you really felt like you were struggling to keep moving.  My legs had come under me and felt strong and happy.  I was carrying one bottle of plain water and then a 2L Camelback with Tailwind caffeinated green tea endurance fuel.  Due to the heat everything was so warm, but I’ve discovered that the green tea flavor remains very palatable at hot temps.  I reminded myself to drink often.  Surprisingly, I wasn’t really feeling the heat and it was pushed out of my mind, especially once we had cloud cover.  The climbs are rewarded with long, fast downhills.  I settled in with a guy who was playing music, which was actually enjoyable.  I kept asking if he wanted around on the descents, but he sat in, and got to witness my sketchy downhill switchback riding!  I had one near wreck on a switchback, but managed to unclip a foot and keep it all upright (skillz, yo).  The descents were so long my feet would start to ache and hands cramp up, and I joked that “what goes down, must come up!” as we began climbing again.

Up, down, up, down through the shade of the pines in the Black Hills.  I began to notice the strangest thing happening… I was passing other racers.  In endurance races I spend my time going backwards through the field, with people always catching and passing me.  But it wasn’t happening during this race!  It was so surreal!  It really lit my fire, kept me motivated.  Holy sh!t, I am having a really great day! I thought to myself.  On an ascent I caught a glimpse at another woman I recognized from the start line, and I silently swore as I realized I was at least in 5th place.  So I vowed to try to catch her.

The trail finally came to the creek bottom, and the weeds and plant life were taller than me (someone later told me we were riding through a field of poison ivy… oh, so that’s what it looks like…).  It made for some sketchy riding, as you couldn’t see stumps and rocks alongside the very narrow trail that could be trying to catch a wheel or pedal, and with limited visibility you’d find yourself spat out onto a dry creek bed without much warning.  Luckily all the stream crossings were dry, as some years it’s waist deep (which would be a nightmare situation for me and my fear of water).  However, they remained tricky to cross, with mobile basketball sized rocks to try to ride across, most slimy with moss that made them slippery.  I had to get off a couple of times for 10-20 feet, but nothing too bad.  Finally a sign appeared stating it was one mile until the trailhead, which is where the final aid station would be located.

Coming up to the Elk Creek aid station they had placed super cute signs advertising what there was.  My favorite one said “Choco Latte Milk!!” which made me laugh, as the idea of chocolate milk was completely unappealing at the moment, but it was fun to let it roll off my tongue several times… choco latte, choco latte!  Upon pulling into the aid station, amid cheers from the volunteers, I spotted the women I had been chasing, relaxing and hanging out.  As a volunteer placed a heavenly-cold bandana around my neck I filled my bottle, topped off my Camelback, and downed half a can of ice cold Coke (my only non-Tailwind thing consumed!).  I didn’t want to waste any time, so I thanked the volunteers, strapped my pack back on, and got moving to more cheers of encouragement – “Only 17 more miles, mostly downhill!”

I was 19 miles in and feeling great.

Surreal.

I found myself out of the saddle attacking climbs.  I came across more racers, marathon and epic both, walking their bikes on climbs and I powered past them.  I had spied the other lady out of the corner of my eye leaving the aid station, so I knew she’d was back there.  Out of the saddle, spin those legs, attack attack attack!  The clouds had moved in and thunder rolled, cooling the temps to the high 70s/low 80s.  The wind picked up and it felt great to have circulating air after the stifling creek bed jungle of poisonous plants and who knows what creepy crawly critters.  I passed another guy, and found myself on a summit, and settled in for a lonely 7 miles of riding by myself, including about 3 miles of straight descending.

My wrists hurt, my feet screamed.  I was so thankful that I had replaced my worn, bald tires, and that Anthony installed a new rear brake rotor for me, as I needed all the help I could get!  I still descended within my means, knowing that I didn’t want to crash.  The dark storm darkened the already shady trails.  I became hyper focused on the trail markers, not wanting to miss another turn.  I let out some hoots and hollers and began talking to myself as some weird delirium had begun to set in.

The trail turned up again to top out at the “Bulldog.”  I was amazed at how fast the last 17 miles were flying by – that volunteer didn’t lie!  The climb was TOUGH… averaging 13%, with many steeper sections.  I vowed to stay pedaling, passing two more racers who cheered me on as I let out some incomprehensible groan of pain as I granny-grinded up the whole thing!  Whole damn thing!!!  Who was this person riding my bike?!  This isn’t the non-endurance racer Heidi who can’t race in heat!

About this time I started seeing things.  Legit seeing things!  Black bears for tree stumps… lawn gnomes.  Focus Heidi.  I eyed the storm clouds, and begun to worry about my tent blowing away back at Hog Heaven Campground.  Gotta pedal faster, gotta save my tent!  I had already spent a few hours cussing myself out about missing that one turn, so at least I was worrying about something else.  My precious tent! Underwear and sleeping bag flying through the air!  Hurry, time to descend Bulldog quickly… gotta save my tent!

Plop… out onto the prairie.  I could see I-90.  Oh my gosh, getting so close!  Second bobble of the day, almost fell off on of the super high cattle guard gates, but I caught myself.  Laughed with a sprint distance racer about how scary the I-90 tunnel was.  Turned onto the power line climb and saw within striking distance the kit of my competitor.  It clicks… OH HELL NO I AM NOT LOSING THIS POSITION!  I downshifted into a tough gear.  It was a long, power climb.  I’m a power climber.  I can put down the serious watts and I told myself that I could do it, that I wasn’t feeling pain (which I wasn’t, my legs were still feeling completely fresh).  Once again I was out of the saddle, forcing myself to go faster.  As I turned onto the Fort Meade single track I checked behind me and all I saw was a male epic racer.  OK… time to focus.  The single track was sandy and loose and you had to take the descents with care.  This was no time to lose my race, getting careless while descending.

Finally the Sturgis bike path appeared.  Home stretch!  This is about the time I felt the first ping of hunger. Wow, my nutrition was on point!  I regrouped with the epic rider and we chatted as we rolled towards the park, by the track, and into the finishing straight.

4 hours 34 minutes 23 seconds.

I HAD RACED AN ENDURANCE RACE.  THE HEAT DID NOT BOTHER ME.  I BROKE BOTH MY RULES.

Pretty much I was bouncing off the walls with excitement.  I just couldn’t believe it!  And, after some waiting, it turns out that I had finished in 4th, meaning I gained back my spots I had lost while I was out riding some extra credit fire road miles!

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All done!

In-race Fueling breakdown:

  • 2L Camelback with 6 scoops of Tailwind Nutrition caffeinated green tea mix
  • 24oz bottle refilled twice with plain water
  • half can of Coke
  • 3 Hammer Endurolyte tablets

Pre-race, since I had tons of time to kill between waking up at 6:30am and race start at noon I drank, drank, drank and drank some more water!  I think I peed 6-8 times before the race started!  I did do one bottle with a Hammer Fizz tablet in it so I would have electrolytes on board.  I ate half a bagel shortly after waking up, handful of gummy worms.  At 10am I had an Egg White McMuffin, Mcdonald’s hash brown, small Hi-C Orange drink, and small iced vanilla non-fat latte.  On the shuttle to Piedmont I ate half a Bonk Breaker PB&J bar.

I had… well, I just had no idea I could do something like this!  I haven’t been riding much, especially over the last 3 weeks since my crash.  The two days I rode before the race my legs screamed at me and I felt dead.  I almost considered not starting the race as I rode the day before around the campground… I felt that crappy.  I wonder how much becomes mental… like I’ve convinced myself so much that I’m “not” an “endurance” racer that I just go with no motivation or drive to keep pushing.  Just somehow for Tatanka it all clicked and finally things came together and I had one of my best races ever… nutrition, hydration, keeping the heat from defeating me.  Arghhhh, so happy!

So during a race season that hasn’t seemed to quite work out like I had planned, the Tatanka 50k ended up being a high point and giving me motivation to finish out the rest of my races with more positive thoughts!

Mr. Allosaurus is taking a bite out of South Dakota

Mr. Allosaurus is taking a bite out of South Dakota

 

Hog Heaven Campground is normally only open for the Sturgis motorcycle rally... but they let Tatanka racers stay there!

Hog Heaven Campground is normally only open for the Sturgis motorcycle rally… but they let Tatanka racers stay there!

 

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My awesome camp spot under a pine tree!

 

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On the way home I decided to check out the Flying V trails outside of Newcastle… well… if faint cow trails are your thing, here’s the system for you!

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Let the Laramie World Cup Season Begin!

Where is this summer going?!  Already one week into July… the year seems to be flying by.  It’s definitely been a year of changing plans and kind of going with the flow.  I decided a bit ago, probably shortly after deciding I would stop following a training plan, that I wouldn’t be going to nationals, which was my big goal for the summer.  The traveling, the money to spend (big factor), and potentially not really getting to race much (uh, hi.  Olympians in my race) kind of all factored in.  It was a relief, but I do find myself getting slightly sad.  But it’s all working out since my crash and injuries anyway.

The exciting thing is the Laramie Mountain Bike Series started!! Woohoo!  My World Cups!  Unfortunately the first race came 3 days after my crash, which really stressed me out.  A lot of people were surprised to see me lining up, heavily bandaged and rather spacey and out of it due to my concussion.  (I am in NO way advocating racing with a concussion.  Not a smart idea.)  Luckily the course was a good one – pretty much climb for 30 minutes, descend for 15… repeat!  The start for LMBS got moved to the lower trailhead this year and starts on a new 0.7 mile stretch of single track called LiMBS that is ungodly rough.  I went with my Epic, and softened my suspension all the way to help out with my bum shoulder and also to help reduce my brain jiggling around.

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Little pink helmet! (Photo by Pedal House)

I do believe I took the second row, behind Georgia.  The rest of the open women tend to hang in the back, but I learned last year to take my place up front.  There were 9 ladies in open women, which was awesome!!  Start went off, and the pain of XC racing started.  I tried to hang onto wheels as we went up LiMBS and I fight to find some rhythm.  It freaking hurt.  I questioned why I was racing.  Gwynn came around me on Pole Creek, and I just settled in to a semi-comfortable-but-this-still-freaking-hurts pace up the climbs and onto Headquarters.

On Headquarters I saw Teresa catching me on the climb, but I managed to gap her on the descending.  I was trying to ride semi-cautiously on the descents as the last thing I wanted to do was crash and worsen any injuries.  Luckily a big part of the descent is on a stretch of double track, and I put the power down, getting all aero and roadie!  Middle Aspen we caught some beginner traffic, which I think is stressful for both the beginners and pros.  My passes went well and I was through the start/finish for my second lap still in second place.

On the second lap Teresa finally made contact on the overlook climb on Headquarters.  I stayed within a few seconds of her until the rocky, chunky climb up the Summit Loop, where I bobbled and took a few seconds to catch my breath.  Bye bye Teresa!  I still didn’t know where anybody else was, so I hammered the descending to finish third… woohoo!  I had no idea how this race would go, and it surprisingly went ok with all things considered!

A week later was the second LMBS race.  With an additional week of recovery, I was excited to get back to racing feeling healthier.  The course was set to be long and tough at 19.5 miles.  It involved three descents down Aspen, which is rocky and rooty and highly eroded.  I hadn’t ridden it since last year so I didn’t know how it would be.  This time I took the third row among the men at the start, and immediately from the start I felt like poo.  My legs just weren’t showing up.  But I settled in, and reminded myself to pace my efforts since it was a long race, and there was no sense in blowing up on the first lap or two.

First time Aspen I took it fairly cautiously, taking my time to choose lines.  The descent down Haunted Forest was super sandy and sketchy.  We had to turn around a downed tree, and a branch lodged itself in my rear wheel so I had to jump off and pull it out, and then continue.  We had to do the long double track Old Happy Jack climb back to the start/finish which is an advantage for me since it’s just a pure power type of riding.  It sucks as you don’t get any recovery, even on the flatter portions, it’s all max heart rate the whole time.  I came through in first place, which made me smile for my second lap!

Second lap went well, though on Aspen an advanced men category male decided to start throwing a fit and swore at me by name for not descending faster.  Stressful, but damn, I was leading open women and I ride within my abilities, especially with a concussion, dammit!  Finally he got around on a safer section to pass, and I was surrounded by polite racers the rest of the race.  Once again, came through for my third and final lap in first, no women in sight.  I still didn’t know where Teresa was behind me, and I wasn’t finding familiar faces in advanced men to ask how far back the other women were.  I would ride 90% of the third lap all by myself, which always gets eery, because I always end up feeling like I’m the last person on the race course.

Finally on the Old Happy Jack climb Jim caught me and said he hasn’t seen any women since he passed them on his first lap… whew!  I had it!  :)  So I looped back up Pole Creek, and then did the funniest thing… I zipped up my jersey… ha!  I always see the Big Girls do that at World Cups, and so you know… a Laramie MTB race is like a World Cup… so I zipped that stuff up!  #tooprobutsonotpro is appropriate at this moment in time… and I won my second ever LMBS open women’s race with a margin of 3.5 minutes!

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I look pooped! Coming to the finish line with my #t00probutsonotpro zipped up jersey (Photo by Marie Bethea)

I was gassed at the end of the race, which pleased me as it meant I left it all out there.  And I was super excited, as for the first time ever I moved into the “leader’s jersey” aka (“leader’s horn”) in any category at the series!!  Gives me motivation for the other 4 races left in the series, as I’d love to bring the open women’s overall back to a Laramie native and Wyoming resident😀

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Super excited to have the LMBS Leader’s Horn!

So yeah… this summer is just all about going with the flow.  I’m honestly not riding very much, especially since I’ve been doing 4-day stretches at work.  But it’s ok, and I’m ok with it.   Since I still have all my time off from my canceled nationals trip, I have some fun stuff planned!  I’m racing the 50k Tatanka Point to Point in Sturgis, SD this weekend.  Then I’ll be able to make LMBS #3 (so excited I can do all 6 races this year!).  Got some other fun rides planned, too.  Maybe this is working out for me, after all…

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Understanding in a Bike Crash

(Thursday fans get the reference.)

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It’s probably the most sickening noise and sensation I have ever heard/felt… the sound of my head slamming into the asphalt at 29.1mph.  For four years I have lived in fear of the day I would crash on the road in a serious manner, so when I heard the brakes and clanking of alloy and carbon and human bodies in front of me my heart sank.  At the speeds we were traveling I had less than a second to react, and with no place to go, my only option was to follow the laws of physics, and launch off my bike (which had hit a bike in the road) and fly head first into the asphalt.  People told me I screamed, but I really don’t remember.  I just remember the sensation of my head slamming into the ground, and the instant pain in my left calf muscle.  I remember trying to stand and the pain being severe enough that I couldn’t and I grabbed for one of the other racers that was already back on his feet.  A WY Highway Patrolman rushed over and picked me up and carried me over the guardrail and laid me under the overpass.  He was amazing and attentive, grabbing his first aid supplies to clean the road rash on my knee and shoulder, and doing a quick neuro exam.  Before long I was carried by the patrolman into the back of an ambulance, and whisked away to the hospital.

All because of a flatten dead crow in the road.  I’ve always had severe trust issues during road events, whether it’s rides or races because really in all reality your well-being is reliant upon everyone around you. Some guy swerved when he saw the crow, the guy behind him touched wheels, more wheels touched, and there you had half the lead pack on the ground, and me in an ambulance…

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So the Dad Dog Road Race was actually going pretty well for me.  I decided to try to be smart this year, and not pull at all and just follow the moves.  Last year I had been dropped before the turn around, yet this year 34-35 miles in I was still with the lead pack and able to respond to surges in pace and attacks.  I was out to win it, and my plan was going well… until, you know… that crow.  That had be rotting and festering for days probably, under that underpass… flat as a pancake… so flat a road bike would have just rolled over it.  (I’m not bitter, really.  I just don’t have fear of running over flat objects with my road bike.)

So crashing… yes… there’s actually parts of being in the hospital that are fuzzy, conversations that I do not remember.  My head CT cleared me of any skull fractures or brain injuries, and numerous leg X-rays lead to the conclusion I had a calf muscle strain.  Out the door I went, hobbling on crutches.  Luckily I have a stash of dressings at home that have always sat there “just in case,” so I took it upon myself to clean out my road rash and slap Tegaderm on all of it, and then settled onto the couch for a night of Jurassic Park and “woe is me.”  I’m doing ok as of now, considering.  I can walk around with a limp, but I’m walking.  My left shoulder is probably one of the most problematic things, as I have little range of motion due to pain.  My wounds are healing, though still very tended.  My head is bruised and swollen, and I still feel fuzzy, but I’m surviving.

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This was the race report I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write.  In all honesty, I’m not sure when I’ll be comfortable riding, let alone racing, on the road with a large group of people again.  I just know it could’ve been so much worse (or could’ve not happened at all).  My Rudy Project Sterling helmet did it’s duty, taking the impact and cracking.  I’ve always been a strong advocate of helmet use and am uncomfortable even riding around the block without one, and now I unfortunately/fortunately know first hand why helmets are a must when on a bicycle.

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