Things have been a little quiet on the blog post front on this site for over a year now… really it is quite simple – I “retired” from competitive racing after the cyclocross season in 2022. After almost a decade of number plates and safety pins, I realized I needed a break and wanted to explore other adventures and sports. Though it has been almost a year now, I am still working out if it is simply a “break,” or a longer term decision. One day I might put a race number on again, but for right now I am enjoying being painfully slow climbing hills on my mountain bike, while trekking up them also slowly by foot and crampons. If you are interested in more than just bicycles, I write about a lot of my national park exploring, foray into mountaineering, and general peakbagging and shenanigans on my other blog, The Adventuring Heidi. I am also an Iceland-o-phile, so if you need any Iceland advice, head there! 🙂
What does this mean for the Colorado & Wyoming Race Calendars of Awesomeness? Absolutely nothing! I am still updating them, and have begun posting 2023 dates as they trickle in – the gravel side is a bit quicker to announce dates than mountain bike at this point. I have absolutely no plans on retiring from being the calendar queen at this point. As always, if you know of an event I have missed, or something new, please either comment on the calendar (or this post even) or shoot me an email with details!
Find the Colorado & Wyoming Mountain Bike Race Calendar HERE Find the Colorado & Wyoming Gravel Race Calendar HERE
Mountain bike race season, done and done! Whew. Making it to the start of the Laramie Range Epic was a bit tough this year. In 2020 I wanted to win the race, but you know… COVID, so I had to do a solo TT for the virtual rendition where I crashed hard on Twin Mountain Trail and yet still PR’d by 7 minutes or so and it actually all really bothered me because I was like, dammit I’m in the best shape ever and there’s no racing.
So enter 2021… after the national championships, which I still haven’t written a race report for which is odd because I did podium, I really just felt the mental fatigue of a full race season… those old thoughts from previous seasons of this just isn’t fun anymore. In 2020 I got to adventure a lot and do a lot of rides that otherwise I wouldn’t do, and I was feeling that crunch this year with no adventuring and camping and hiking and all that because I was racing or otherwise trying to catch up chores and housework and what not when I wasn’t. And then the worse thing in 21 months happened… I got a respiratory infection. I really enjoyed not being sick with anything for so long, and bam! I decided to just not ride as I was so scared of developing bad bronchitis like I usually do thanks to my crappy lungs. All going into one of the races I care the most about….
The Laramie Enduro/Range Epic is just one race I love the crap out of, but haven’t been able to pull the results I wanted to. So with one short trainer spin at 110 watts and one 55 minute chill MTB ride at Gowdy under my belt for the last few weeks, I lined up for this year’s LRE with no expectation except to have a fun day on the bike, enjoying conditions I love (though I could’ve used some more rain), and my favorite trails.
Celeste and I ended up on the front row of the Wave 2 line up, which I didn’t mind as I’m all about counting ponytails in a race, and it would give me a good idea of where I was in the results, knowing only Isa was in Wave 1 and no way would I ever beat her time. (Wait, I thought I was just coming to have fun?) The start went well, and I kept it reigned in, knowing I simply need a lot longer to warm up than I did years ago and there was no need to sprint when I had 32 miles of racing ahead of me.
By the time Twin Mountain rolled around, I was realizing I was racing the race, and it was go time. Being a local has its advantages on these technical trails, and I tried to use that as an advantage. I’d go back and forth with another girl, Caitlin, as I wasn’t sure what race she was in (and occasionally seeing Celeste in the distance, though once the climbing started she was gone). Glancing at my Garmin, I knew I was going much faster through this section of the race than I ever had previously. Oh, and I managed to not get stung by a wasp by everyone else – winning!
The only thing I really struggled with was the hike-a-bike climb on Skeleton Trail, but that’s because I really can’t push a mountain bike uphill very well (I tried to will myself into running, telling myself #crossiscoming, but it is not the same). I even cleaned the nasty 700BB climb without a bobble, which is impressive as the deep ruts made it like climbing slowly at 5mph on a skinny, and I can’t ride skinny things well mentally. Oh, and a bonus, I rode the rotting bridge on that trail that my friend put his foot through when we rode it in June. Whoa, Heidi, riding all the new stuff today! I did realize that I was silly when I played around with my fork settings the day before, and I had my Brain set way too firm, which was definitely a bit harsh on the hands and arms, but luckily my changing of my rebound settings for the first time ever wasn’t making things sketchy – yep, I’m a newbie sometime!
Spitting out on the gravel road that connects the Twin Mountain section to the Happy Jack section (I think of this race as two parts with a snack break in the middle, though no lie, the road section is tough as it mildly climbs), I took to trying to keep the power on the pedals and take in some food and water. Caitlin re-caught me and I realized she was in the full, two-lap race which made me slightly relieved. It was great to chat with her before she left me in her dust when we hit Crow Creek Trail.
My hard efforts definitely started making me a bit wonky, and I made some silly technical mistakes on Crow Creek (in front of the photographer, of course), which reminded me to get my head back into the game. Hell, I’ve been racing 6-8 hours all summer, I shouldn’t be tired 90 minutes into a mountain bike race, right? My climbing game is way off, and climbing out of Crow Creek I was caught by Nikki, but I tried to keep her in sight. Which side note, if I could combine 2016 Heidi Climbing Form and 2021 Heidi Descending Form, I’d be a beast, LOL! Apparently I can have one or the other… which, I must admit, I much more prefer ripping the descents!
Hitting Headquarters I sighed some relief as I’d have a big chunk of descending coming up and I can ride Headquarters, UW Loop, and Meadow at speed with my eyes closed. I caught back up to Nikki and passed her on Headquarters. I hauled down UW Loop, setting my second fastest time ever, and followed up by only being six seconds off my PR on Meadow. Consider how many times I’ve raced LMBS on those trails in XCO format, I was super pleased by all of that, miles and miles into an endurance race. I knew my strength laid with descending, so I hammered the descent down Aspen to a PR before the climb up Middle Aspen. A guy I went back and forth with nearly all day complimented me with a “I just can’t get away from you on that full suspension” which I giggled and thought, “you sure it’s the bike?” in a teasing way (I don’t think he realizes lower Aspen I have memorized from riding it all the time, summer and winter, and I love chunk and roots).
On Middle Aspen I was nearly caught again at the top of the climb, and once again the descent came at a perfect time down Blackjack to Pole Creek to LiMBS. Pedal pedal pedal, go go go! The double track down the old road was another good snacking point, as by now I was starting to feel hungry which panicked me slightly. But I knew I just had the Last Big Climb left (which is even longer thanks to the Haunted Forest re-route).
I hadn’t done the new Haunted Forest from bottom to top, but I knew it would be a doozy of a climb. By now everyone knows the OG Haunted Forest was my favorite trail, and I’ll take the chance to bitch about the re-route to anybody that will listen, and naturally, I bitched to myself about having to climb even longer (truthfully, only two minutes longer, but that’s two minutes extra of climbing). OG Haunted Forest was slick, rooty, steep, and technical, and I could climb it well… New Haunted Forest is smooth, dry, and nicely switchbacked every so many feet, making it a fitness climb. Come on, Heidi, pedal! I knew I just had to hold off the other gals until Death Crotch, and then I’d be good. I could hear their voices echoing in the trees, I knew I didn’t have a big gap.
Thankfully I hit the top of Haunted Forest without being caught. Now it was just some smooth, mild climbs until Death Crotch. There’s a rock feature on Death Crotch I’ve never been able to ride, and today was the day I cleaned it… then nearly crashed because I was so happy I cleaned it I flubbed the next two rocks that I’ve always ridden. Ha! But woohoo, I finally conquered that pinch point with the barbed wire fence of death! I walked the steep climb to the summit (#crossiscoming, it’s training, I swear), and then hit the descent, reminding myself to keep it upright and safe.
So safe it was my third fastest time down Death Crotch ever… usually I can barely descend it during LRE as I’m so tired. One on of the switchbacks I let out a little smile with a “woohoo, you’re going to podium!” and then quickly reminded myself the race wasn’t done yet. Just Hooch Trail remained, which I PR’d. At the end of the race my hardtail buddy and a junior racer caught me, but I let the boys duke it out.
3 hours, 24 minutes. ~10 minute PR on a course that is now 1.5 miles longer due to trailwork.
3rd overall, 1st in 30-39
BAM, the Eleanor of Mountain Bike Race Wins complete!
(Gone in 60 Seconds reference. I’ve had an Eleanor of Cyclocross, which I achieved last fall at Valmont, and LRE is my Eleanor of Mountain Bike.)
Holy crap. I did it! Maybe my forced time off the bike was actually good for me?!
What a day, I’m proud of this one! Once again proving sometimes no expectations work out the best. Nationals was a sh!tshow mentally for me with too much hype and expectations, so it was nice to come in mentally straighter and without pressure on myself. It wasn’t a perfect race and there was a lack of fitness and nutrition strategy, but luckily those didn’t dominate the day.
That’s a wrap on my 2021 mountain bike race season! Very short and sweet, but definitely sweet… 2nd at Fangdango, a 2nd and 1st at the Gem City MTB Series, 4th place in cat 1 at the national championships, and my elusive age group win (and an overall podium) at the Laramie Range Epic! Now just a handful of “off season” gravel races left before the best season of all is here, cyclocross!
I almost didn’t write a race report for this race, because really I think it can be summed up with “I rode for almost seven hours, soft pedaling, and hating life, and hating all the wind and sand, and why do I pay money for this? This is stupid, yeah, Dead Swede was better than this. I’m never doing another 100 mile race again.”
I mean, it really does sum it up!
Anyways, enough with my first world problems of whining about paying to race ride 100 miles. Robidoux Quick & Dirty was once again fantastic this year, and I really can’t blame Aaron for the wind and sand. I like this race because it has some pretty big corporate backing (like Specialized), but it keeps field sizes reasonable (about 500) and has the mom & pop feel to it. And, big plus, it is only 90 minutes from Cheyenne and a much more enjoyable drive than driving anywhere in Colorado!
I headed up the day before with my friend Julie, who has eagerly jumped into competitive cycling (and now is training for an Ironman because she’s awesome like that). We adventured a little bit to the national monument, had a snafu with a restaurant, and survived through me nearly crying at Which Wich, because ordering a sandwich is hard when you’re hangry. If you’re curious about our Scotts Bluff National Monument adventure, I direct you to click here, which is much better than reading this race report.
Thankfully for forecasted high heat that never arrived, the race start was moved to 6:30am for both the 100 and 65 mile categories. This was challenging, as you really didn’t know what category people were in. The neutral rollout was shenanigans from law enforcement like always (I think the quote from the peloton was officially “15 mph my ass”), after a short bit of pavement we hit the gravel and racing was on. I managed to stay with the front group for about 8 miles or so (it’s all fuzzy now), before popping off. There was a consistent stream of people to regroup with, which was nice, but holy crap some people cannot handle a bike in a peloton, and this always just makes me much more stressed.
I ended up in a chasing group for the first 2.5 hours or so, fighting the high winds with ever rotating echelons and dodging snot blown on me by a woman who really had no concept of blowing her nose to ensure it didn’t blow onto everyone else. When we hit the pavement climb that eventually leads to the first aid station, I popped off as I absolutely hate climbing with surging. I climb by settling in and just climbing. I don’t do “100 watts to 400 watts to 120 watts to 350 watts to whatever” very well. I just ride the same pace. What this meant is I’d be preparing to ride the rest of the day by myself, but by then for some reason I was getting really grumpy and I just wanted to be by myself. Ugh.
Y’all, I do not like paying money to ride in wind, when I can do that for free from my house any day I wish. And Nebraska was bringing the wind. *insert Marge Simpson groan here because that’s the noise I make* I literally lost all desire to pedal. My legs felt fine, but mentally I was over it. When the brain fails, it makes it tough.
On the bright side, heading up Carter Canyon I passed a poor turtle in the middle of the road who appeared to be terrified of all the bikes zipping past, so I stopped and moved them into the marshy grass (and snapped a quick photo). Who cares about bike racing when there’s turtles to be rescued! This perked me up a bit mentally. Yay for turtles!
At the top of the pass it was really hard to not take the 65 mile route cut off. I debated the plausibly of whining my way into a distance change AFTER finishing the race, and realized I didn’t want to be *that* person and also reconciling the fact that if I finished the 100, I’d never have to do the damn course again. (In retrospect, I was ahead of the eventual winner of the 65 mile at this point, so nice to know I had a chance at winning the 65 if I wasn’t dumb and registered in the 100.)
After stopping at the aid station and trying to convince a teenage boy to finish out the race on my bike for me (it failed), I carried on in the wind and sand. Oh the sand. Tire eating baby powder bullsh!t of sand hell everywhere. Sigh. On the plus side, I’m ready to go for cyclocross season!
Pedal pedal pedal, ever so softly. I wanted to beat 7 hours for this race, and every passing mile it seemed to be harder. After stopping at the final aid station, I felt a bit more perky, proving that my legs were quite fine. Then of course at mile 95 the horrendous foot pain commenced, so I undid my shoes and gritted through the pain. Finally the last climb – a short one up through the Scotts Bluff National Monument appeared. It was going well, and then my chain decided it was much better wedged between the baby ring and the bottom bracket. I finally had to throw my bike down in the weeds and finally got the chain to stay on a chain ring after three attempts. Are you freaking kidding me?!
By then I figured 7 hours was shot, so I cruised down the descent and through the cemetery. Fitting way to end a race… through the cemetery. Because doing 100 mile races are kinda like death…
I enter the finishing shoot and wayyyy down it I see a timer clock and I noticed I had 20 seconds to beat 7 hours. Commence the 825 watt sprint (yay for finally have a power meter to document this stupidity I am able to accomplish at the end of races)…. hell yeah, take that, stupid wind and sand, I beat 7 hours!
9th Place overall, 5th place 30-39.
Back to car, scrub off top layer of Nebraska grit, find friends, drink beer. Tell everyone about rescuing a turtle and how that makes me the real winner.
So what lesson did I learn? Screw the snobby notion that the only “real” gravel racing that “counts” are the long courses. My niche, where I can still be competitive and have an ounce of fun at the same time, are 60-70 mile courses. Sure, it was an accomplishment to race/ride three- 100 mile races in a month. But overall it was not enjoyable, aside from CO2UT where I strangely enjoyed nearly all of it. I experimented, pushed myself more than I ever had before in 2021, but I’m done. Ima race the distance I feel is best for me, not what the snobby notion notates.
Usually I do a nutrition/stats run down, but it’s been a few weeks. But I took an SIS gel every 30 minutes starting at the one hour mark. I also ate an Uncrustable sometime in there. I ran pure water in my hydration pack, refilled. Two bottles with Nunn. Missing was Tailwind, as an experiment. I don’t think I really noticed it missing.
Will I be back? Well, of course, it’s only a 90 minute drive away! 🙂
AKA one of the hardest days on a bike ever for me.
I had registered for the 60 mile again this year, but after CO2UT went well, I decide to ask to go up to the 100. Communication was a bit… nonexistent, but I got the ok a few days before packet pick up from the promoters. Still with no confirmation that it was actually real, it was not until I picked up my packet if I knew I was a sure go for the 100. I was, and suddenly there was no turning back! My reasoning went two ways: it was going to be a hard day regardless – the 60 was stacked with fast women which meant I’d have to hammer for 3.5 hours, and the 100 is just hard.
I’ve done the 40, won the 60, I guess time to survive the 100?
It was setting up to be a hot one (in the 90s), and if there is one thing that is my kryptonite, it is heat. With fifteen women registered I set a goal for top 10, and decided I’d be super excited if I pull off a top 5, as it was not just about heat… the course has nearly 10,000 feet of climbing.
The first stretch of pavement miles were okay and chill, but I popped off the lead group on the second gravel hill after I saw 400 watts and realized I could not sustained. Mile 9 and I was already disheartened and not having a good day. I kind of kicked myself for not riding my own race and trying to stay with that group, but alas there was nothing I could do at that moment. Suddenly I heard “There’s my friend Heidi!” and Emil rode up with a few of his teammates so I was able to ride the “Feedback Train” until Red Grade, which was good company.
Oh Red Grade… the stupid hill/mountain/death march you are. Steep paved grind, even steeper gravel BS until the singletrack trails which are suppose to be a reprieve, but aside from shade I think I said a cuss word at every switchback. Then it was time for more stupid gravel BS, culminating at a point I was walking my bike with about ten others as my silly carbon soled “gravel” shoes rubbed blisters in my heels.
So… why do I do this?
Red Grade brings out a lot of chances to think over your life choices. It was a pensive day for me.
Once you’re to the “top,” it really doesn’t stop with continuous up and down terrain. My baby gear and I made best friends. I drank, I ate, I yelled cuss words. The only good thing is it was clouded and the elevation made temps a bit cooler.
Then the descents started, and I learned I was probably beyond the capabilities of my brakes a good chunk of the time on the eroded, rutted, sandy forest road downhills of death. I caught my friend Leeann and rode out of the sketchiest line ever that made my body do one huge pucker as she shouted something about this being “my thing” (well, I am a mountain biker, but I do prefer 100mm of front travel and brakes that aren’t road style levers with big rotors normally). My hands would seize up and I’d take a quick moment every so often to shake out one hand, hoping those few seconds wouldn’t cause me to lose control. It was never ending. Throw in a Land Rover Defender climbing one of the narrow two tracks, and it just spelled a fun adventure!
But soon I knew I’d be off the damn mountain I was on when I saw the knee deep creek crossing, where I took the chance to pop my feet out of my shoes for a quick massage before hiking my bike up a sandbox of a hill. So again, why I am doing this?!
Then it was time for one of scariest descents of my life thanks to road conditions and dirt bikers/ATVs not amused some cyclists were ruining their day. I made it safely and partially reckless to the singletrack descent, where I learned my gravel bike cannot corner like my mountain bike on downhill switchbacks and landed 6th on the Strava leaderboard (yes, I am crazy…). Time to finish bombing off Red Grade, which can kiss my butt. I never want to see that road ever again in my life. Not even in my Fozzy.
I stopped at the aid station in Big Horn as by now I was nearly 5 hours in and had drained my camelback. Unfortunately the aid station volunteer didn’t really like fill it up at all, but it is what it is, and I took off to ride solo the rest of the day on the course I’ve raced a few times over. Except I wouldn’t call what I was doing this day a race.
Soon the foot pain increased, and on three separate occasions I cried while pedaling because my feet hurt so bad. I ended up loosening my shoes all the way up and pedaled like that for ten miles or so (can’t say it really helped). By now it was solidly in the 90s and the last 46 miles of the course would be in full Wyoming sunshine. Oh, and no wind because hey, we didn’t need wind in Wyoming on this day…
I stopped again in Dayton at the aid station for a cup of cold water and a few baggies of fruit snacks and another handful of Endurolytes, and explained how cycling shoes worked to the volunteer and tried to push the pain out of my mind. The stretch from Dayton to the “bacon station” is always the worse part of the course, and as I was catching 40/60 milers, I could tell a lot of people were in a bad way in the heat – waiting for rides, getting picked up, calling people, just walking. I debated jumping into an irrigation ditch or the river when I’d see it, but I also really wanted to get this damn race over with. When I hit the 6 hour mark (whenever that was, probably way before Dayton) I got really annoyed as CO2UT was barely over 6 hours total with 3 extra miles (and half the climbing, ha).
I stopped again, this time at the Bacon Station for another cup of cold water before enjoying the descent and final ten miles. “Enjoying” being a loose term. I tried to do some math on if I could beat 8 hours, but math has never been my strong thing. I ignored the goose bumps on my legs, and the wonky feeling in my stomach and just tried to pedal as hard as I could at 120 watts. Total wattage cottage happening this day…
Finally there was the final climb, which does seem easy after Red Grade. I can’t believe I thought it was so bad the year I did the 40 mile course. It is cake! Down the pavement, through the neighborhoods, avoiding getting T-boned by a horse (so many horses on the bike path…), down the hill to the finish, where of course a woman tried to walk out in front of me… and in typical Heidi fashion, on a day where I pretty much stayed in my granny gear, I sprinted…
96.7 miles, 9668 feet of climbing, 7 hours 51 minutes. 5th place overall women (3rd in 30-39… but there were no age groups this year).
I immediately started crying and yanked the Shimano gravel shoes off my feet and threw them down before I was out of the little finishing corral. Then I laid down and cried some more.
Never. Again. Never.
I’m proud I finished the 100. Two years ago in 2019 when I did the 40 I would’ve never imagined doing the 100. It’s a freaking hard race, and the heat only made things about 500000 times worse. Twenty degrees cooler and I would’ve had a much different race I think (may I point out Sunday’s high was projected to be 79……… *!?/swear words). But it is one for sure I am completely okay with calling “one and done.” Been there, done that. I can think of better ways to earn drinking ale from curved horns in the halls of Valhalla than a Viking themed 100 mile gravel race.
Two more weeks and I get to play in the 90 degree heat again at Robidoux Quick & Dirty. Here’s to hoping that is a much faster day (I’ll revel in the fact it has half of the climbing!)
Random facts & numbers:
7 SIS gels, 1 Uncrustable, 2 child size packets of gummy fruit snacks
24oz bottle of orange Tailwind Endurance Fuel
12oz Nunn sport mix
8 Endurolyte tablets
12oz of Gatorade
1 blistered heel
1 empty Cameback way too soon after it was refilled
1 massive polo ranch
Lots of beautiful mountains
12.5mph average speed
1 girl riding a horse while standing on its saddle at the finish line (confirmed it was not a hallucination)
1 shout out to Nick, who asked “Are you THE Heidi, as in heidiridesbikes?” and asked to take a photo with me!
They say the third time is a charm, and indeed CO2UT happened on the third race date it was scheduled for. In full disclosure, I registered for the race because it had a dinosaur theme, and I’m a six year old at heart and dinosaurs are one of the best things ever – AND – it was an excuse to get back to the desert after three too many years away. I decided to bite the bullet and register for the “Triceratops” course, which was 100 miles. When I registered for this in the spring of 2020 I had yet to even race a 60 mile gravel race, let alone 100, but the triceratops is Wyoming’s state dinosaur so it only seemed logical.
The problem with first year races is I can’t look at finishing times, so I had a year to fret about what racing 100 miles in the desert would seem like (or just racing 100 miles in general). Luckily Morgan, the race director, gave some helpful information that he expected the average pace for the 100’s to be 12mph, so I could plan nutrition. But other than that I was kind of in the dark, which was tough. I did 103 miles with a few friends earlier in the spring on the road bike and was feeling feisty and powerful til the end, but the ride also involved pie, green chili fries, soup, and tacos – none of which were available at CO2UT.
16 gels in my bag, 1.5L of water in the Camelback, and bike all lubed and ready… and it was race morning on May 22nd. I awoke in the strangest mindset. I mean, it was BIZARRE. So normally my method of speaking about racing is I have to race XXX miles this weekend, ugh. Which is silly, I don’t HAVE to do anything bicycle related – racing bikes is not my job, and honestly it is quite the first world privilege to be able to just take off of work and go tootle around the desert for a few hours for no other reason than I paid money to. So, strangely enough, I awoke to the though of YAY, I get to ride my bike for 100 miles today!! Okay Heidi, what did you do with Heidi?
My friend and training buddy, Tom, offered to drive me down to the race start since he was injured and unable to race. While waiting for my start time, my friend and teammate, Sarah, rode by, who was already suppose to be racing. She had some mechanicals, so luckily they said she could start with the 100 mile racers (she was in the 75 mile race… yes, CO2UT starts the 75’s before the 100’s). We lined up and soon we were off on 7 miles of neutral pavement. Racing would start when we hit the gravel on 18 Road (and end there, too… no racing on pavement aside from one half mile stretch or so at miles 20 and 70). It was nice to have Sarah in the pack as I trust her wheel and I could nervously chat away race nerves.
Sarah and I did our work to get into the front-ish group, avoiding the chaos of ejecting water bottles as we hit the rough gravel on 18 Road. Sarah dropped off my pace after a few miles, and I found myself strangely feeling good and strangely still in my “omg, can you believe I GET to do this today?!” mindset. I didn’t have much strategy to this race except just survive and to eat an SIS gel every 30 minutes after the 1 hour mark. So I decided to go and just see what I could do as I knew was at least ten 10 among the women at that point.
So pedal pedal pedal I did. I blew through the first aid at mile 20-ish, and swore through a few miles of rutted cow pasture (which I did love how a racer I passed said “No, these are dinosaur tracks!” which was just an awesome statement to make). I had been steadily catching and passing 75 mile racers, which gave some motivation, but at the same time made it tough as number plates didn’t exactly dictate distance category and now I was in full on racer mode wanting to do the absolutely best that I could.
Aid 2 came and went and I could tell I was good on water (1.5L Camelback plus 1 bottle of 200 calories of Tailwind and 1 bottle of SIS electrolyte tabs is what I ran). The 100 milers split from the 75 milers at this point, and course traffic whittled down as we headed towards the Utah border. I decided this was a good place to eat an Uncrustable to boost the caloric intake, and I got the pleasure of taking a few miles to finally get the thing swallowed while chasing down riders in front of me. Exactly on the Utah-Colorado border I had to stop for a nature break and also to reapply some chamois butter. I was happy the only two racers that passed during this were men, so I wasn’t losing positions.
Flying down the Utah border was fun, although there was a stiff headwind. We rejoined with the 125 milers, so once again course traffic got all mangled up. I ended up quite alone on the section working back to Aid 3 (which is Aid 2 also – my course was a lollipop). I was still feeling good, luckily. At Aid 3 I decided to continue on, and latched onto a few racers that I’d go back and forth with for the next ten miles or so.
Then about at mile 65 or so I hit the tough times. The race was flying by, but eventually things get tough regardless how fast or long the race is. Naturally this was around the same time as the second go ’round with the cow pasture, which rattled my forearm muscles so much it was painful (I was very envious of the guy I had been riding with who had a MTB fork… he dropped me on this section, duh). Aid 4 (same as Aid 1) came and I knew I was good on fluids so I pushed on up the climb I started regretting the minute I flew down in a few hours prior. I rode in a group of a guy and a girl in the 100, which was good company as he played music and we discussed random things as we huffed and puffed up the climb in the full sun.
Then it was time for a very high speed section of double track, and time for me to get a little scared of descending on a gravel bike (I don’t trust desert sand and dust!). My friend Emil, who was in the 125 mile race, flew by me in a pack with an exclamation of “That’s my friend, Heidi!” and that perked me up to watch his double track descending wizardry. By then I had dropped my climbing pals, and since I knew that girl was in my race I got rejuvenated to finish out strongly.
Up and down, up and down some more… soon the trailheads of 18 Road were in sight and I knew exactly what was left – a few miles of high speed descending to the finish line. Of course, there had to be like 30mph winds thrown in, but I’m a Wyoming gal after all and if there’s one thing I can do, it is grit through a stiff headwind. I chased down a gal who I caught on the final climb, and we asked each other what distances we were in and the answer was both 100. We had a few seconds of awkward pause and then hammer time. The race is a race is a race to me, and I wasn’t going to chill at this moment. So there went that Heidi with a wattage cottage at mile 89!
91 miles later… 5 hours 32 minutes – bam! All done! Wait, wasn’t it a 100 mile race? Well of course, there was 7 miles of neutral spinning back to the second finish line in the park in Fruita that didn’t count. And… it… was… the… longest… 7… miles… of… my… life… No joke. Torturous. By then, everything was hurting and all the adrenaline was gone. Oh, and my Garmin decided to just stop navigating so when I got to the park, I was on the wrong side of the finish line so had to go around the block.
Officially 99 miles later, announcer Larry welcomed me across the finish line and I was handed my dinosaur finisher medal! Woohoo!! 6 hours 26 minutes total according to my Garmin (which included a few minutes of standing around at the start). Next order of business was yanking off the carbon soled shoes and apologizing to my feet. And taking a selfie. Sarah and Tom wandered over from Hot Tomato with a cup of ice water for me as I tried to figure out where results were posted.
4th place overall woman.
Top 40-ish overall of everyone- men and women.
Shoot, gotta stay for the podium now! Which I failed to clean off my dirt unibrow for, so I was looking like a delicious hot mess. I thought I got 2nd in 30-39, but since the other girl was top 3 overall, I was awarded the win among the 30-39 age group (it might’ve been my first every race podium where I didn’t realize I won, and tried to argue that I didn’t).
So… hmm… this was all very very very unexpected. I was just hoping to have a good day, survive, keep the bike in one piece, and my stomach fed. I didn’t think I’d be racing the course. I also didn’t think I’d have a bizarrely positive mindset about the whole thing. Honestly, I never even really got mentally low during the race, more of just a “if I have to ride over a another freaking cow hoof print I’m going to kill them all for steak” moment. I will say, CO2UT is a fast course, and I do worry what will happen when I end up in a 100 mile gravel race that is more in that 7-8 hour category. Six hours is nothing on a bike for me really… 7 or 8 hours pushes it into more unknown territory. But it is a promising start to my gravel events in 2021! And I think I’ll definitely be back to give the “Utahraptor” (125 miles) course a go! (Seriously, where did Heidi go?! This isn’t Heidi talking… 125 miles?!)
Race in numbers and random facts…
Pactimo summit raptor bibs keep the bum bum happy!
SIS gels (mix of regular and electrolyte formulas) every 30 minutes starting at the 1 hour mark. I replaced the gel at 2.5 hours with an Uncrustable
1.5L of water in the Camelback (not completely drained, maybe 0.25L left), and drank 12 ounce of Tailwind, 12 ounce of SIS electrolyte tab solution stuff
Well, it’s something I haven’t done since July 2019.
Alas, here I was, a ball of nerves fretting about racing Fangdango. With MTB Nationals in Winter Park again, I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t qualify to race them, regardless of my feelings of them flouting current CDC testing guidelines for those fully vaccinated (that’s a whole ‘other rabbit hole that probably only annoys me because I work in public health and am all too familiar with best practices and recommendations… see, there’s that rabbit hole!). XCO races, let alone USAC sanctioned ones, have become incredible rare in Colorado, so Fangdango was my only feasible option.
I raced Fangdango in 2019 and had a horrid race where I came in last in Cat 1/Pro by… a long gap. I had cat 2 & 3’s catch me type of gap – it was bad. I find it to be pure a fitness course, and to this day I hide lack of fitness with skills when it comes to mountain biking (and cyclocross). So I was really nervous coming into the 2021 edition. I had only gotten back on my mountain bike for the first time since November the previous weekend, and I felt slightly rusty and I could tell my lack of strength training this year when it came to technical uphill climbing. So, for the first time probably since an LMBS race, I was a ball of nerves the day before and leading up to the race. I’ve been so caught up trying to get the endurance for long gravel events that I forgot what XCO felt like, except for just knowing it was going to be painful AF.
2021 is bringing out the big race fields, and Fangdango was no exception, with 16 women starting in the Cat 1/Pro/SS wave (with another 16 cat 2’s behind us, and then the cat 3’s). This was my biggest MTB race start group ever for my category (I mean, obviously I’ve been in mass starts with like 400, but not what I mean), and naturally I apparently forgot how to start a MTB race and flubbed my clip in at the start and was kinda like “oh, we’re going now, okay, eek, pedal!”
Nevertheless, I was able to work myself up into the lead group through the start loop and out for the first of three laps. I was a bit shocked to find myself there – I was REALLY good at underestimating myself for this race, apparently. I soon enough found myself making some passes and holding position. I remember just kinda thinking “huh, cool” and going with it. It freaking hurt, my lungs burned and the familiar taste of blood in my lungs returned, but I also was enjoying racing my mountain bike super hard like I did in “the before times.” I did pretty well until halfway through the second lap when it was like my body went into some sort of weird limp mode. It felt like I couldn’t get my heart rate up and my breathing was really calm. I didn’t exactly see this reflected in my heart rate data when I reviewed it post race, but I know it was real. Maybe it was mental, I don’t know. I honestly might think it was the adrenaline wearing off to be truthful.
Starting my third lap I knew I had two gals chasing me from behind and I just tried to keep on the pedals to stay ahead of them. Sadly in the final minutes of the race on what is really the last big descent, my rustiness in XCO racing came out in full force and I flubbed a downhill into kicker feature, and ended up at a dead stop in my hardest gear, unable to pedal with my calf cramping. If I was thinking, I shouldn’t just dropped it to the baby ring (long live the front derailleur!) but I panicked as one gal caught and passed me and I didn’t think clearly. Next up was the slog into a 26mph headwind up a sandy climb, and the second chaser passed me. By then I was just toast and pedaled it out to the finish and let them ride off into the sunset.
Whew, done and dusted in 1 hour 26 minutes flat. I knew I finished in the top half, which was a relief to me. Finally I tracked down some results, and saw that they actually did break everyone into age groups, and alas, I was leading the 30-39 until that windy sandy climb of doom when Megan got around me. Rats! But nonetheless, I was excited to finish 2nd, with a solid gap to 3rd and 4th. Overall, I finished 6 out of 12 cat 1’s, and was ahead of one of the pros as well. Much much much different than 2019’s saga!
Soooo… I think I’m going to race nationals now 🙂 Which will be my next XCO race… Eep!
Also, damn I miss XCO racing. It’s what got me into competitive cycling, and dammit, I MISS IT. Sadly, with the Laramie MTB Series dead (dramatically cries), there’s just not a lot it to do in my area (hence the whole nationals being the next opportunity for short distance racing). But in general I miss mountain bike racing, including the marathon/endurance distances so maybe in 2022 I’ll swing back that way. I filled 2021 with so much long gravel nonsense it is hard to squeeze anything else in. Woes of being a cyclist that dabbles in all the things, eh?
Much love to my team, Square1 Racing! My teammates Sarah and Mary also raced, with Mary getting 2nd in cat 3! Maxxis Tires kept me rubber side down (yes, even that mostly worn out rear Aspen did perfect on the course… and, I’ll change it out soon, I swear… maybe like end of June, LOL). Tailwind kept me fueled (at least with the two sips I managed to take). And it was super fun hearing cheers along the course from the “Laramie Fast Kid Club” as I’m dubbing them (Isa and Tristian and company!)!!!!
I am continuing with my team Square1 Cycling. I am also continuing to work with Tailwind Nutrition, returning to the Trailblazer team in 2021 and continuing our partnership into its sixth year! Also back is Maxxis Tires, who also supported me in 2019 for mountain biking.
So racing? Eek, I hope it can all happen! Promoters were able to show their ability to safely host some events in 2020, so I’m building off that momentum. On tap for me are mostly a LOT of 100 mile gravel events, a few shorter gravel events, a few XCO mountain bike events (still unsure if I’ll race nationals in Winter Park), and of course a full cyclocross season.
I know, who thought this “90 minute, max effort” racer would be tackling 100 mile gravel races. But here I am. We’ll see how crazy the plan ends up being.
I am currently registered for CO2UT (a postponement since 2020), Robidoux Quick & Dirty, FoCo Fondo, and the 307 Gravel Series. For full plans, you can see my 2021 plans under the Results & Rides tab.
On the bright side, I’ve been putting in the work and am currently enjoying my first recovery/regeneration week of the training plan!
After the Dead Swede’s award ceremony I began the four hour drive home to Cheyenne. Ideally I would’ve spent the night, but I had a cross race the next day that I was determined not to miss. I got home, swapped out some things in my gear bag, and drove the two hours to CycloX Parker the next morning. I didn’t have high hopes as my legs were trashed both from racing the Dead Swede and all the long hours in the car. I started slow, letting my legs come around, and finally made the pass to put me into the lead. Victory #2!
Next up was CycloX Interlocken, which is one of my favorite venues. It is HARD, probably one of the hardest courses out there we have for singlespeed. I’ve had a few close calls to winning, but I’ve never managed to pull it off. Aside from one bobble trying to ride something on the first lap, I rode smoothly to my third win of the season. The beat went on…
My friend Julie and I signed up for Schoolyard Cross, and I figured I’d try my hand in the open field since I received my cat 2 upgrade!! (Yes, who knew I was earning upgrade points this whole time?!) I got my geared bike ready, and wouldn’t you know, Cheyenne received a record snowfall of 14 inches. At 5am Julie and I made the call that our lives were not worth risking during the drive down to Castle Rock, and I went back to bed. Turns out conditoins were cold and miserable at the race, and it was way too sketchy of a storm to be driving in anyway. Shoot. I mostly sad for Julie, as it would’ve been her first cyclcoross race and I haven’t been able to share the love of cross with too many newbies before so I was super excited for her.
Halloween marked the next race, and a new venue at CycloX Broomfield. By now the COVID situation was heating up a bit more and I had a gut feeling it might be the last race. This race was practically a women’s UCI event, and the open field filled so Sunny Gilbert jumped into singlespeed. Everyone made a point of telling me “you won’t win this one” which I couldn’t tell how to take. Eitehr way, I did NOT start smart, chasing Sunny and plastering myself to her rear wheel for about half a lap until my body (mostly lungs) reminded me I’m not an elite pro in cross. I’d end up third on the day, not shabby considering the strong field. Even better, Katie Compton never lapped me. And that, is a victory!
Lance and the Without Limits team came through with one last race before Colorado shut down again, securing the venue in Parker in mid-November for CycloX Parker 2.0. Another strong field lined up again, and so did a snow squall minutes before our race start. Crazy strong winds (you know it’s windy when the Wyoming person says it’s windy) and snow pelted us as we took off. Tracy and I swapped positions a few times before she bobbled on a corner and I made my pass stick. Tracy is crazy strong, and being chased by her is HARD. I took to riding the technical course smoothly and not freaking out too much that the moistened baby-powder-dirt was clogging my pedals (everyone was having this problem). Final race of 2020, and another win!
I suppose I really can’t complain of a race season that consisted of:
1 win, 1 2nd in mountain bike
2 wins in 2 gravel races
4 wins, 1 3rd in cross and the CycloX Series win overall in singlespeed
My cross season felt like a dream. I was really worried going into the season that I didn’t properly prepare as I was trying to have long endurance type of fitness for the two overlapping gravel events. I really didn’t do much high intensity intervals and I never did any running work this year. But I think what I did paid off. I can do 30 second, 1 minute intervals all day long, but my endurance always lacked. My gravel racing prep gave me crazy consistency over the course of my cross races – some races my lap times only varied by a handful of seconds!! Considering years ago when my later laps would be minutes slower than my first, this is a huge step in the right direction! I also hiked a lot this summer, including one week at the end of August where I put in about 50 miles of walking and hiking. I noticed the improvement with my hill run ups and barrier work, my body didn’t have that same “OMG WHAT ARE WE DOING OFF THE BIKE?!” panic. So… the lack of cross specific structured training didn’t hurt me. And of course, every year I see the improvement in my handling and technical abilities even though I’ve always felt to be a good technical rider (I saw this on the mountain bike, too).
2020 was good to me on the bicycle. Sure, racing was reduced, but I managed to keep focused. I went from thinking 60 miles rides were scary to doing several 65+ mile rides on gravel every month. I rebuilt all my fitness, and then kept going. I surpassed my annual mileage record and still have a little less than a month to go. I learned that I can do things that I thought weren’t in my wheelhouse, like longer gravel events. I finally realized doing something other than the bike can help big time, like hiking.
So 2021… well, it’s the race season that’s more up in the air than 2020 was. It’s hard to register for events knowing that the situation is still ever changing. I did begin my training plan, using FasCat (who I’ve used in the past for cross), and tested (crappily) to my highest “beginning the training season” FTP ever. CO2UT, a gravel race in Fruita, was moved from the fall to April, and I’m entered in the 100 mile race. Pretty scary stuff – as it’s the inaugural race so there’s no previous finish times to look at to help with planning… is it a 6 hour 100, or a 12 hour 100? Eeek! I also registered for the 100 mile course for Robidoux Quick & Dirty in June. Tentatively planned are – if they happen – CSU road race, Louisville Crit, Boulder Roubaix, 307 Gravel Series (aside from the one that is the day before Robidoux, ugh), Laramie MTB Series, Laramie Range Epic, Dead Swede, maybe USAC MTB Nationals, and of course a full cross season. We shall see…
2020 has been a struggle when it comes to racing. Races either cancelled, or moved their date. The Dead Swede was one of these – from an original June date to beginning of October. Like in 2019, I targeted this race as one of my “A” races when planning my season, along with Bear Bait 8 and the Laramie Range Epic. Bear Bait 8 happened but I was the only one in my field, the Epic went virtual, so that left me with lots of fire for The Dead Swede.
Last year I raced the 40 mile course and loved it, but bumped up to the brand new 60 mile option for this year. When I registered I had barely begun to get 60 mile rides under my belt, so I was nervous about how it would go, but thankfully after a spring and summer of lots of 60-70 mile rides, I felt confident with racing the distance, especially after Robidoux Quick N Dirty.
It was a chilly 40 or so degrees on race morning, as we all stood around debating clothing choices. I glanced at other women I saw, trying to size up my competition. I really had no idea what to expect, much like at Robidoux. The Dead Swede did see a big drop off in participants when they moved the date, but there were still about 90 starting the 60 mile race (the 40 mile race had the most participants this year, but still about half of what came out for 2019’s race). Not horribly shabby, considering how 2020 panned out.
8:05am and off we went! A couple rows of recreational riders were at the front, so I quickly made my way through them during the neutral start to get to the front of the pack. My strategy is mostly “get to the front, then you know if you’re passed.” A small peloton formed, but it wasn’t nearly as organized and fast as the previous year’s. Apparently I made an enemy with a 15 year old when he rapidly swerved into my line and I scolded him, so he went on to call me out on Strava, ha! But yeah, I didn’t like the group, lots of weird riding happening. Needless to say, it was a relief when we all turned onto the gravel and could spread out a bunch.
Then, it happened. A ponytail and neon pink jacket passed me and she looked mighty strong on the climbs. I was going to have to work for this one, it seemed, but I was nearly immediately discouraged by how strong she appeared on climbs. Eric kinda laughed at me, and told me not to worry. Gotta love good gravel friends like that!
However, after a few miles it was apparent some of the tactics that were coming into play, and I didn’t like them (aka, sitting in my draft but not willing to return the favor), so I yelled over to Eric that I needed to put down the hammer. It was mile 12 or so… of a 60 mile race. So early with so much tough climbing left, but I had to make a gap. It was rolling downhill into the first aid station in Big Horn at mile 16, so to my advantage and I let my legs do their thing. I breathed a sigh of relief at the gap, but as I turned around on the out and back, it was obvious how small it was not only to 2nd place, but 3rd place. I told Eric once again, “I don’t think I’m winning this thing,” and he rolled his eyes at me.
Out of Big Horn I climbed in a small group with Eric and South Dakota Guy, all of us taking small turns into the wind. I lost my group when I took a few seconds of non-pedaling to yank my bibs back down over my knee warmers (the worse!) and take a gel, but kept the guys in view. The course then turned onto the fantastic Dry Weather Road, which lives up to its name with baby head rocks, ruts, and overall awesomeness. After this fun stretch was over, we joined the 40 mile course where it leaves the pavement, and I was back into familiar territory from last year.
With a headwind from the north-northwest, my times were decently slower than the previous year’s, but I kept pushing on, stealing glimpses behind me when I could (but I realized 2nd place had probably removed her neon pink jacket by now and would be blending in with all the other dark dots behind me). I went back and forth with South Dakota Guy, Eric, and Brian throughout the course, which was nice to have familiar faces. I rode into Dayton with Eric, but he needed water at the aid station so I kept going on, time trialing on the false flat to the second-to-last major climb of the day. A climb in which I was nearly creamed by a semi truck hauling sheep… ugh.
By now there was a nice tailwind, which was much appreciate. I flew past the final aid station, knowing I had about ten miles left, and most of it is downhill and very fast. I was pedaling like mad, when my Garmin gave me the “you’re off course!” beep. I panicked braked and looked around, as there was an intersection. Brian wasn’t far behind me, so I let him catch me and he said his Garmin did the same, but we were in the right direction. By now I was panicking, and knew I lost precious seconds. Pedal pedal pedal. Finally the last climb appeared, which was hellacious last year. Luckily with a tailwind this year, it went quicker and didn’t see all that bad because I knew what to expect, and I took my time smiling at the photographer, unaware I was being chased down with intent…
To the top, and I hit the pavement for the last few smooth miles before the finish. I hammered as much as I could, knowing I had to finish strong (and it’s good I did this!). Finally it was the final steep bike path descent, and the finish line, which I sprinted for with Brian!
YES I DID IT!!!!
1st Place overall women, 6th place overall out of everyone… 3 hours 37 minutes 1 second!
Brian and I were still trying to breathe normally and get out of racing mode when the 2nd place woman crossed the line, only one minute and nine seconds behind me. “Oh wow, that was really close!” I remarked to Brian. It felt really good to work for the win and to have to put a lot of effort into it. Sure, easy wins are nice (I had a 20 minute or so cushion at Robidoux), but there’s something sweeter when it is close and required a lot of work and panic and fear for several hours. Eric rolled in next and told me how much he wanted to call me on the final climb and let me know she was chasing me down. It was close!
The Dead Swede 60 mile is a fast race, so I had a comical amount of food and water on me, though I do like to lean towards being over prepared. I had 2 liters of water with 300 calories of lemon Tailwind mixed in, and terrible me, I still haven’t pulled the bladder out of my Chase Vest, and noted how much I drank. Starting one hour in, I took an SIS gel every 30 minutes, which was an amazing tactic I’ve never tried. This really kept me fueled and I was never hungry. SIS gels are also so easy to eat, I just rip them open and smoosh the entire gel into my mouth at once. Because they’re isotonic, I do not have to worry about drinking right after I take one, either. I also had two bottles of plain water on my bike, but I never touched those. I think with the cooler temps, I could’ve gotten by with just bottles on my bike without the camelback, and not needed aid stations, but it was still so nice just to have the water on my back and to not have to worry about stopping, which eats into precious seconds.
Second Dead Swede done and dusted, and still one of my favorite events! I did like the October date, as the temperatures stayed cool and the autumn colors made everything pretty. I will definitely be back in 2021, and now the debate is beginning on if I should give the 100 mile course a go….
One of my biggest flaws when it comes to competitive cycling is giving up before the race even starts. I’ll see a start list, and get all discouraged knowing a podium isn’t possible. Going into the first cyclocross race of 2020, I did just that.
To be fair, we didn’t know there would even be a 2020 season until a few weeks before as Without Limits confirmed a six race series. I was shocked to see that the race at Valmont would happen, but excited I could finally get some racing under way, even if there would be some long gravel races crammed in (including Robidoux Quick N Dirty the day after this race). I still didn’t train for cross specifically, as I figure making sure I had the fitness for 4-5 hour events was much more important.
With some panic training in the week leading up to CycloX Valmont (I’ve decided #panictraining is a legit training tactic now!), I kept checking the registration list. I kept seeing some fast names appearing in the single speed race, and I became more discouraged – to the point I almost considered racing in the cat 3 race instead. But I stuck to it.
Race day came, and it was interesting: no pre-riding, masks required until the 30 seconds to go, and no team tents/spectators/handups. Not what we expect from cyclocross, but sacrifices to be made in order to race. I warmed up a bit on the road, got stung by a wasp, and then took my place on the starting line.
My normal style is crazy sprinting at the start to take the hole shot, and then usually peter out in effort. This race was different, as I just paced Kristal and didn’t shoot out on the front. As we came off the starting climb, Kristi made a small mistake on an uphill corner and I found myself in front. OK, cool, I’ve been here before, everyone would end up passing me.
Except… they didn’t. I ran the 5280 stairs (thank you 60 miles of hiking in the last month) and settled into racing “blind” since I had no pre-ride – which is not uncommon for me to do in mountain bike racing, so it is something I am comfortable with, thinking on the fly and reading courses as I’m racing. The course was switched up a bit, which was awesome to keep it fresh after so many years of racing at Valmont. This venue has always been interesting for me, as it’s one of the venues I’ve never really had good race luck at podium-wise, but one I enjoy (minus the dang stairs). In 2017 I finally landed on my first podium, but it took a foot of snow to make that happen. In 2019, I had a crazy race and landed in 3rd, even after a big crash, which was one of my best races. But no way could I ever win here..
I focused on staying steady and staying out of my own head. I could check my gap to those behind me in certain parts on the course, and noticed some switch up in positions, but tried not to care too much. It was feeling surreal, leading a race at Valmont. Lap after lap I came through the start/finish still leading and I kept reminding myself to stay focused, remembering how I had a big crash on the final lap in this race in 2019. Aside from running into the tape on lap 3 or 4, things went pretty flawless for me.
Finally on the fifth and final lap I allowed myself to believe that it was really happening – I was going to win at Valmont in a well attended, legit field! I entered the finishing straight and fretted about posting up, but I gotta admit I’m still very nervous about taking both hands off the handlebars, so I did an enthusiast one arm fist pump.
I’ve always referred to winning at Valmont as my “Eleanor” podium, a reference to Gone in 60 Seconds. I still don’t know how it happened, with my lack of cross-specific training leading up to the race. However, once I viewed my lap times, I realized maybe there is something to the long endurance training, as the most they varied were 11 seconds, which is pretty crazy to me (when I first started racing cross, my final laps would be minutes slower than my first lap). I didn’t feel like I was struggling at the end (except maybe on that damn 5280 run up). And what an amazing lesson in getting out of my own head, and not letting start lists discourage me! To boot, I am finally learning how to race smart… winning the hole shot doesn’t always mean anything, and controlling my start helped keep my lungs and legs happy.
Here’s to a great start to the 2020 cyclocross season!