Race Report – 2017 Frostbite TT

Photo by Shawn Curry

Making my “I only race this on odd years” return to time trialing…

2013: 36:28.428

2015: 32:05.982

2017: 29:27.5

Umm… what?!  Sub 30 minutes?!

So this race kinda started out a bit hectic.  On Thursday I decided to schedule a bike fit for my new-to-me 2007 Felt B2 aero bike I had purchased off Ebay a few months prior.  Turns out it wasn’t the simple fit process that I thought it would be, and there would be chopping, and new parts, and many many shims to get the older technology to fit with modern day parts.  Patrick at Bicycle Station tidied up my fit at 5:30pm on Friday night, and I was sent out the door for a test ride in the impending darkness around the local neighborhood.  Procrastination almost got me, but they came through with a TT bike that now fit me perfectly!

Second hectic bit… I failed to correctly set my alarm on Saturday morning.  Saturday is not a weekday, or so my iPhone says, and I set an alarm for 7:05am on weekdays.  Luckily I received a wake up call, and I quickly threw on my skinsuit and some socks, and threw everything in my car.

Third hectic bit… the line to pick up bib numbers was insanely long… like 15-20 minutes long.

Breathe, Heidi, breathe.

So needless to say, I was on my trainer a bit later than anticipated for my warm up.  I haven’t really been feeling healthy lately, and was feeling rather apathetic about the pain to come.  I did about 20 minutes, with about one minute of actual true effort.  But it loosened up my legs.  I had enough time to braid my hair, get all aero-d up, pee, and head to the start line.

My start went good and I settled in for my half hour or so of pain.  There was a slight headwind on the southbound leg, and it really caused me to lose some motivation.  My chest and lungs burned.  I was coughing/puking up thick mucus that got stuck everywhere (my face, skinsuit, then my hand which smeared it all over my left aero bar).  To my surprise I caught several cat 4 women’s racers, which was a first, as usually I only catch the youngest of juniors.  I came into the turnaround point a smidge over 14 minutes.  I knew I was laying down a fast time, but wasn’t sure how that would translate going north, which is slight uphill (maybe 1% average, more rolling terrain than anything).  Usually I do well on this portion since I have the knack for laying down power on false flat climbs.  There didn’t seem to be a tailwind to help the efforts, in fact it felt more like a crosswind.  Booooo!

My kit coordination was on point! (Photo by Shawn Curry)

About two miles out it dawned on me that I could possibly break the 30 minute mark.  I was pretty unsure at how my 23 mph pace played into how fast I can ride a mile (I’m horrible at math).  Coming towards the finish there’s a downhill roller, flat stretch, than an uphill roller into the finish line.  I knew at a 1.5 minutes out from 30 that I just had to go for it, so I shifted and mashed down hard.  I ended up doing some weird out of the saddle, but still in the aero bars power sprint (butt was maybe a few inches above the saddle).  I passed another cat 4, and just put on the pain face and powered through with 32.5 seconds to spare!

Finish line pain face (Photo by Shareen Muldrow)

Woohoo!

Naturally, SW3 (oh, this was my first cat 3 race, yay!) is a competitive field.  I finished 10th, but only seconds out of several places higher.  It was nice to see how close we were all grouped.  I was 1:55 out of first, which is a pretty close margin for me, as historically it was much much much bigger!  I kinda whined once I saw I would’ve won the cat 4 race by 20 seconds, but hey, that’s what happens when you upgrade and play with the big girls!  Just happy it wasn’t a complete blow out, and that I rode the course faster than I thought I ever could!

(Trying something new for race reports, a summary of… things)

Bike: 2007 Felt B2

Equipment: Voler aero long sleeve skinsuit, Giro pretty lace up shoes, Giro TT helmet, Handlebar Mustache “winter in the city” socks, Smith sunglasses

Fueling: 24oz of tropical buzz Tailwind Nutrition consumed about 30 minutes before start, nothing during the race.

2017 Preview

2017 race season is upon me… dang, that snuck up fast!!

It’s time to announce the wonderful partners I have for my 2017 season!

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First up, my team for 2017, 9seventy Racing!  We are a multisport team based out of Fort Collins, CO.  I joined in September 2016 and instantly loved the small, close knit feel of this team.

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This winter fat biking was made that much more awesome thanks to my lightweight, carbon Dirt Components Thumper wheels!

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So honored and excited to be a Tailwind Trailblazer for the second year!  I just wrote a blog post about my experience with Tailwind Nutrition and how it has helped fuel me for all my cycling adventures.

 

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Back again for 2017 is ESI Grips, the best handlebar grips ever!

 

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I was selected to a be 2017 Pearl Izumi Ambador, which is all about taking the ass out of ambassador and spreading the love for all things bike related, looking great while doing it!  Pearl Izumi’s gear was some of the first items I got way back when I started riding, and I’m happy to be able to now represent them!

So what does 2017 have in store for me?

Off the bat this weekend is the Frostbite Time Trial, the annual foray into pain caving!  I purchased a new-to-me time trial bike over the winter, and look forward to killing my legs over the course of 30 minutes (and getting to wear my “alien helmet”!).

I’ve had about 15 different plans for my 2017 race season, depending on mood and how my training was going.  There hasn’t been a whole lot of training going on compared to previous years, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, either.  Due to our unseasonable weather I have been able to get in some good outdoor rides, including two runs up Rist Canyon where I’ve taken over 8 minutes off my personal best on the climb!

So far the plan that is sticking is to focus on longer, marathon mountain bike races.  Gunnison Half Growler, Laramie Enduro, and Dakota Five-O are on tap, and will be supplemented with Battle the Bear, Casper Mountain Challenge (8 hour version), Steamboat Stinger (duo), and possibly Ridgeline Rampage.  I will do a handful of road events, including the CSU Cobb Lake Road Race and Boulder Roubaix.  It’s taking shape!

Tailwind Endurance Fuel… seriously, it’s all I need!

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I’ve been using Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel for about 1.5 years now, and decided it was about time to share my experience!

I happened upon this product in the summer of 2015 when I had several endurance mountain bike races looming ahead of me.  I’ve always been horrible about eating while on the bike, so I had to come up with a solution, and fast.

  • Gels – end up everywhere except in my mouth.  Gloves, handlebars, jersey pocket, shoe, top tube, hair… just not very practical.  Plus I found that certain brands and flavors soured my stomach, and most don’t go down easily without a bunch of water
  • Waffles – I loved Honey Stinger waffles, but they were horrid to try to eat during a race situation.  Hard to open packaging, and trying to chew/swallow with your heart is 185 is not ideal
  • Chews – Fun, like fruit snacks!  But some are awfully chewy (see the part above about high heart rate and trying to chew).  Plus you have to eat the whole package to get the amount of advertise calories, and whose got time for that sometimes?!
  • Dense bars – I love me a PB&J Bonk Breaker bar… as long as I’m standing completely still so I can chew through the denseness and calorie laden thing that it is.

This was everything I had tried, along with items like English muffins with peanut butter and honey (so so so delicious, but impractical during racing), Larabars, and just hoping whatever measly calories was found in Osmo mix was enough.  Tailwind was to be the solution to all of this:  easy to use, easy on the stomach, and provides the adequate calories.

The #1 thing to remember about starting to use Tailwind is that it takes some finesse and time to get right.  You simply do not open up the package and simply use it like you would a gel.  You need to experiment to see what works for YOU – how it works for YOU, how much works for YOU, what flavors/combos work for YOU, etc.  You also have to let go of the solid food idea.  When I started with Tailwind I treated it more like the standard electrolyte drink mix (like Osmo, Nuun, etc).  I would drink it, and then still be eating my chews and waffles and gels.  I think this is a common issue with people who try Tailwind is that they calorie overload their stomachs because they’re also consuming all the standard amounts of gels and what have you.

Before I go further, I want to discuss the myths I hear about Tailwind:

  • “It’s a runner product.”  This was told to me by a cycling coaching company.  So apparently it means that if the Tailwind powder senses a bicycle nearby, it doesn’t work?!  I don’t know, that is just bizarre to me.  Runners and cyclists alike have been sharing products for decades, and I’ve never seen a gel or package of chews marked “For Cyclists Only” or “For Runners Only.”  Yes, runners love the every loving heck out of Tailwind – BECAUSE IT’S AN AWESOME PRODUCT.  Not because it can sense there’s a pair of running shoes involved.  (Tailwind was born out of a gut bomb during the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, to boot.)
  • “It has too many calories.” Another thing that makes me scratch my head.  This isn’t an electrolyte drink mix intended to be used alongside other food products.  It IS your food product, and that is why there are calories in it.  Each scoop contains 100 calories.  You are free to mix it as low or as high calorie as you desire.  And when a several hour long road ride can burn 2000-3000 calories, I’m sure the calories in Tailwind will get used appropriately!

So I began my Tailwind journey, and discovered I did love the product.  Went down well and my stomach liked it, and most importantly so did my tastebuds (especially when the product got hot, which often happens in the summer).  When the Leadville 100 rolled around I still had not perfected my methods, but I filled my Camelback up with it and set out.  I did fine through the first aid station.  But that little demon in the back of my mind went, “Oh, you haven’t eaten any solid food, don’t you think it’s time for a waffle?”  So I had a waffle, and proceeded to puke my stomach contents out while riding my bike.  That started the beginning of the end of my LT100 journey.  I did the two hour long climb up to Columbine Mine not eating or drinking a thing, only to be saved by a cup of lukewarm ramen noodles, Coke, and watermelon at the summit.  But I had taken an irreversible nutrition detour.

That experience convinced me to ditch the need to constantly intake solid or accessory calories along with my Tailwind.

I went into my 2016 race season with a set nutrition plan, and this led to me rocking two of my endurance mountain bike races with a happy tummy and fueled legs!

I have come to use Tailwind for everything from short road rides through many-hour mountain bike endurance races.  After all, it’s as much of a road cycling product as an endurance mountain bike racing product (as much as a running product, whatever that still is)!

My formulas:

  • For typical, run of the mill short rides, maybe 1-2 hours in length I will use 2 scoops (200 calories) into a 24 ounce bottle.
  • For longer road rides with potential for extended climbing or rare stopping moments, or during road races, I will use 2-3 scoops (300 calories) into a 24 ounce bottle, x2.  I use to always run a bottle with plain water, but as I’ve grown accustomed to Tailwind, I have started to use Tailwind in both of my bottles.
  • Mountain bike training rides, maybe a couple of hours, I will use a Camelback with plain water, and run a 24 ounce bottle with Tailwind
  • Epically long days on the mountain bike (3+ hours, remote, hard training) I will mix Tailwind in my Camelback. One of the things I love about Tailwind is it rinses clean out of any hydration reservoir and bottle you use with it.  I have 2 and 3 liter reservoirs.  I will do the math on how many 24 ounce bottles that equals, and run about 2-2.5 scoops per “bottle” in the reservoir.
  • For XC mountain bike races averaging 1.5-2 hours long I run one 24 ounce bottle with 2-3 scoops (my mountain bikes can only hold one bottle)
  • For endurance mountain bike races exceeding the 3 hour mark I run a 2 liter Camelback with 2.5 scoops per “bottle” in the reservoir.  I place a bottle of plain water on the bike.  This is because sometimes during hot summer races I “crave” plain water.  It is also much easier to refill at aid stations, and sometimes you need to use the plain water in a futile attempt to remove mud from your drivetrain!

Pretty much it can be summed up as 2-3 scoops of Tailwind in a bottle, regardless of situation!

So what about additional food?  If I racing XC mountain bike or on the road bike, I do not consume anything besides my Tailwind bottle(s).  For endurance mountain bike races I will often start craving a “real food taste.”  I have found that Clif Organic Energy Food pouches in banana/mango are amazing.  It pretty much contains mashed up banana with a hint of mango, and added electrolytes, all at 100 calories per pouch.  If I’m eating food while on a bicycle, 90% of the time you find me with one of these pouches!  Other than that, I am guilty of taking a can of Coke at aid stations, and for rare events like the Dakota 5-O I will participate in the bacon and beer hand-ups by the Bacon Angels.  But I’ve learned to listen to my body and ignore any of the other temptations (like the bacon during the Gunnison Growler).

What, I thought you said no additional food earlier in this post?!

Moderation.  A banana pouch or half can of Coke over a 4.5 hour time period seems sane to me, and my stomach has handled it fine.  It’s breaking the thought process of “consume a gel every hour,” or whatever it might be for a particular person.  Let Tailwind be your food source for your body, and the half can of Coke the food source for your mental cravings!  (Fun factoid:  I only ever drink cola soda products during endurance mountain bike races!  I dislike it otherwise!)

For training rides or other adventures, I do partake in eating other food.  Simply because it’s a whole different dynamic when not in a race situation.  First off, my body isn’t freaking out from the stress of a race situation.  Second off, I often can end up in pretty remote areas, and I want to be well fed.   This is where the Larabars, Bonk Breaker bars, gummy bears, and heck, a good ol’ peanut butter and jelly sandwich (squished and mashed from being shoved in a pack) come in.  Often I will just bring a single bottle of Tailwind and run water in my Camelback on anything I deem super adventurous, as I know food breaks will occur.

It’s complicated, I know.  That’s the intimidating factor of Tailwind is that it’s not just a “open it up, use it.”  You have to be willing to experiment with scoop amounts, timing, and what works for what.  But once it all falls into place… oh man!  The glory!

On the subject of flavors… I’ve tried all 7 flavors that are available, and I like them all… even the orange, and I typically hate orange flavored stuff!  Three are available with caffeine.  I tend to use my caffeine flavors for endurance races (though I will admit that drinking 2 liters of caffeinated mix makes you get a wee bit loopy after about 3 hours), and sometimes if it’s early morning and I need to wake up.

So that’s a little about my journey with Tailwind!

Disclaimer:  I am a sponsored Tailwind Trailblazer.  However, the company did not encourage me to write this review, nor tell me what to say, positive or negative.  This is my honest recount of using a product that I truly love and believe in!

Race Report: Old Man Winter Bike Rally

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Is it a ride, a rally, or a race?!  Well, the Old Man Winter Bike Rally is a bit of all three.  This is the third year of this event, and until now only the 100km course was timed (with generous equal payouts to the top 5 of each gender).  This year they also timed and placed the 50km course participants.  So you can show up on whatever bike you choose (there’s a mix of everything… road, cross, fat, mountain, tandems, etc), and decide what you want Old Man Winter to be on it’s awesome gravel, paved, and single track course.

Pearl Izumi, one of my AMAZING 2017 sponsors, was kind enough to extend an invitation for me to attend, and I gladly signed up for the 50km course.  I had tried the 100km event during the inaugural 2015 event, but pulled out after 25 miles because my 2x geared cross bike had a horrid lack of climbing gears and my knees hurt, and it was super windy.  I knew the 50km course was a lot flatter, which much of it coming from a road race course I have ridden before.    The weather was looking sunny, not too windy, and highs in the mid 40s, which is quite nice for it being winter in Colorado!  I once again chose my 2x Specialized Crux, as rain/snow was predicted for the night before, and I figure if it would be muddy at all I’d rather muck up that bike.

I really had no game plan, as I’ve been very much in a limbo this off season/base training season and haven’t been riding a bike very much at all.  And the big factor: this would be my first mass start road “race” since the crash last June.  I was very nervous to say the least.  I met up with a few teammates before the race and tried to get close to the front at the start.  Of course at the start some chick next to me decides to ride diagonally across everyone, so I concentrated on getting as far away from her as possible.  Then the pace truck… oh goodness, that person could not hold a constant speed during the several mile long “neutral” rollout, and alternated between 10-15mph and slowing to a near stop, which caused everyone in the peloton to panic brake and swear out loud.  Luckily we all stayed upright and out of trouble, but it was just flat out stupid (the start is on a false downhill flat and the first year I did this event we rolled out at 20+mph which would’ve been much more appropriate than trying to hold us at 10mph).

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Rolling out, doing something I swore I’d never do again! (Photo by Shawn Curry)

Finally we turned onto the gravel and instantly a switch flipped and I went into competitive road racer mode and took off and passed a hefty amount of people.  It hurt, but felt oh so good to put those high watts through my legs.  I love riding and racing on dirt and gravel roads with skinny tires, and instantly knew I could’ve rode my road bike with no issue since it was hard pack and FAST!  But I would make due with Hank Sr.  There were a lot of fast looking girls on the start line, so I tried to pick them off as best I could, but really had no idea how many were in front of me.

Soon I found myself pretty much riding along as the fields spread out.  I didn’t quite have the legs to hang onto most of the guys’ wheels, and the only other girl I had seen, Christen (a fellow PI Amabador), had sped off.  So I just settled into hammering and enjoying the sun on my face.  It’s actually a very pretty course in Boulder County, but I was busy concentrating on going fast, with an occasional glance at the scenery.

They added in a fun little loop at the Reeb Ranch that was part of the 2015 Blue Sky Cup cyclocross race.  This was the only time I saw riding a road bike being a disadvantage on the 50km course, as it was, well, cyclocross-y.  I really enjoyed this stretch, and playfully opened it up.  I would repass Christen, who had to walk her road bike on parts, but she quickly passed me back once we were back on the roads and sped off.  I settled in again, and tried to keep up with drinking my “naked” flavored Tailwind.  I came through an intersection, and a course marshal yelled at me “You’re the second woman through!”

Dammit.

Dammit dammit dammit

This might seem weird, but I hate when people tell me how I’m doing.  Mostly because it tends to be wrong information (like when I was told I was 4th during the Laramie Enduro when I was really 6th).  I yelled back, “What, really?!”  I reasoned with myself that the guy had probably just missed some women who maybe didn’t stick out with “girly” kit colors or something.  But it lit a fire under my ass.  What if I really was in 2nd?  Shoot, podium?!  What?  Time to hammer harder and ignore the pain!

The long paved drag into Hygiene was hard with a headwind and the resistance of knobby tires.  Turning and heading north was even harder because it’s the slightest uphill.  I got stopped at the red light at the intersection to take you back to Lyons, and I was super nervous that another girl would catch me (they enforced red lights since it wasn’t really a “race.”).  Luckily it changed fairly quickly, and for a few miles I was able to pace line with a few guys that also got caught a light.  Lee Waldman peeled off and gave me a good push, which made me laugh and I took to trying to stick with the other two guys.  I would peel off the back a few miles before Lyons, but still tried to keep the power up.  I ended up sprinting across the line as I didn’t want a guy behind me catching me (I don’t care who you are when it comes down to the finish line, male or female).

Luckily this was chip timed and I ran quickly over to the Race Rite table to print my results.

1:42:08.08 and 2nd place!!!

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EEEEEKKK!

OK, that was super awesome!!

Only regret was not racing a road bike, as I think that would’ve been more appropriate for the course conditions, but hey, it was fun to get out and hammer on a bicycle that I never otherwise ride like that – not to mention my ’12 Crux is just a comfy bike.  A power meter would’ve been nice as well.  Strava did do an estimated 204 watt average, which seems right, with a decent amount in the 220-240 range, which I agree is correct, as I’m familiar with how that power range feels.  Most of this race felt like a solo time trial effort, and my heart rate certainly showed that!

Old Man Winter is just such a fun event.  You get awesome socks with your entry, and beer and a meal afterwards.  I also find it great to see friends, teammates, and the photographers in the off season and get caught up on the happenings!

Understanding in a bike crash… 7 months later.

I feel like there’s very little discussion of concussions in cycling, especially on the XC mountain bike side.  It’s almost alarming how many people talk about “Oh, I whacked my head” so casually.  So I thought I needed to share my thoughts and experience.

I’m now over 7 months out from the fateful day of June 18, 2016.  The day of the Dad Dog Road Race, a race I really really really wanted to win in my hometown, and had an excellent chance of winning until an inexperienced male racer swerved for a flat, dead crow in the middle of the road while the peloton was traveling 30mph.  I talked about my immediate post-crash assessment in this blog post.

What my blog posts reflect through the summer is a determined cyclist riding and racing on, climbing on a road bike less than 24 hours later while STILL ON CRUTCHES, and racing her mountain bike three days later.  What I was going through was a different story.

I worked as an RN in orthopedics and neurology/neurosurgery for over 3 years.  I have just enough knowledge and experience to be dangerous.  I should’ve known to be smarter in my recovery, but in all honesty we don’t get too many concussion only injuries on the unit.  After all, I just had a concussion.  Just a concussion.

First began the sleep difficulties.  I was working night shift at the time, but years of doing it left my body accustomed to sleeping at weird times, and I had been off of all sleep aids (melatonin and prescription Ambien) for months.  The night after the crash I could not sleep.  I closed my eyes and I could feel my head smashing into the ground.  It’s actually a sensation I still feel time to time.  Aside from reliving the unpleasant memory, I just flat out couldn’t sleep.  I was exhausted, yawning, so tired, but sleep would not come to me.  This grew into a problem that plagued me for months, and I had to resort back to sleep medications on most days/nights to get a good amount of sleep.  I am just starting to be able to sleep naturally, and luckily a change to a normal job schedule should help this further.

The crash was on Saturday, and I was scheduled to return to work on Thursday night.  All that week I was in a fog, and there’s a lot of events and conversations and going-ons that I have no recollection of.  Though I have full memory of the crash and most of the immediate post crash activities (highway patrol tending to me, ambulance ride), I don’t remember big parts of the next few weeks afterwards.  I arrived to work on Thursday night, sat in the break room, and had no idea how I got to work and why I was there.  It was frightening.  I received report on my patients, and a day shift nurse confided in my friend and charge nurse, “Is Heidi mad at me?  She didn’t seem to be paying attention during report.”  Nichole informed her I had hit my head and had a concussion.  By 9pm I told Nichole I needed to go home.  The fog was so thick I was in tears trying to figure out how many hours I had been at work to record in our payroll book.  I could not figure out that 7pm to 10pm was 3 hours.  I was counting on my fingers and coming up with all sorts of crazy things.  I would end up missing another night of work.

No one warned me about the cognition changes.  Difficulty thinking, figuring out things like simple math, and making coherent sentences.  But it was alright, because I was back to winning mountain bike races…  My emotions and moods were labile.  I was all over the place.  Irritable.  Grumpy.  Giddy.  Unpredictable.  I ended long relationships.  I bought a new race mountain bike.  Apathy.  Apathy was the scariest.  I didn’t care if I rode bikes again, I didn’t care about washing dishes.  I just didn’t care.

I’ve never been the type to get headaches, and the headaches were excruciating in the period after the concussion, and I still have them occasionally to this day.  It’s not the type that tylenol helps with, it’s more the type that a dark room and bed can only solve.  And time.  Lots of time.

Bright lights.  Loud noises.  Just can’t do them.  I’m starting an office job and I’m terrified of the fluorescent lighting.  I hope they don’t mind me moving in lamps.  Smells that never use to bother me (which dealing with smells is important as a hospital RN), motion… now churn my stomach.  I just got back from my first airplane trip since the crash, and I have never been so sick on a plane in my life during the descent into Orlando, and there was no reason for me to be (no turbulence).

The physical aspects are getting better.  What isn’t is the fear.  I become paralyzed with fear of crashing on a bike.  During Cross of the North’s nighttime open race a young racer went over her bars in front of me and I stopped and starting choking up with tears.  I panicked.  I could once again feel the sensation of my head hitting the ground.  Luckily she recovered okay, and I finished not last in the race.  Later in cyclocross season a few of us were hanging out watching a men’s upper category and there was a crash during the start.  I froze up.  I felt tears in my eyes.  I became incredibly freaked out.    And this is the most awful thing.  I don’t know how to get over it.  I don’t know how to get that head smashing sensation out of my brain.  I finally went on my first group ride a few weekends ago with three guys I fully trust.  You know where I rode?  Off the back and off the pace line so I could see the road in front of me.  I tried riding in a nice pace line, but I couldn’t mentally handle not being able to see the road in front of me, even though I knew these guys would point out any obstacles.  People might say I just need to jump in and do it more, but I don’t know how I’m suppose to accomplish that if I can’t do it with people I trust, let alone with people I don’t.

People don’t talk about these things.  I’ve only found one blog written by Kate Ginsbach, that describes dealing with the aftermath of a concussion.  It was actually a great read for me, knowing that others out there kinda struggled with similar issues.  Looking back I know I should’ve let my brain rest.  I’ve attended a neuro-trauma conference this past fall that taught me all about concussions, and I pretty much did everything wrong.  I shouldn’t have been pushing to race so soon afterwards (but even my parents admit they knew I wouldn’t take being told no, and since the mountain bike racing is unsanctioned there’s no USAC officials to ban me from racing).

What I am thankful for is a really good helmet.  If there’s anything I’ve taken a crash course in, it’s helmet technology!

These are just a summary of my thoughts and experiences since my concussion.  Luckily most of the physical effects are gone, and I just have to work through the mental problems of the fear of crashing again and learning to trust in a road racing situation.

(A follow up to the other injuries:  my left shoulder bicep tendon was split like string cheese.  I finished over 2 months of physical therapy, and regained a decent amount of my range of motion, until I crashed at the state cyclocross fat bike race and reinjured it.  My left calf muscle strain is all good, and the road rash gave me scars that impress no one.)

Try skate skiing, they said. It’ll be fun and easy, they said.

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Turns out I’m way worse at skate skiing than I could ever imagine.

You see them… gliding so effortlessly across the snow.  Swish swish swish.  So speedy and sexy!  Skate skiing turns out just looks really effortless, and it’s not always speedy, and flailing around probably doesn’t look that sexy.  I picked up some nice skis at a swap this fall, and was super excited for some snowfall so I could conquer my newest sporting adventure, and give me some cross training instead of riding the trainer.

Holy hell.

I can ride/race a bike for 5-6 hours straight.  I cannot make it more than 20 feet up a hill on skate skis without having to stop, totally out of breath.  Everything hurt… ankles burned.  Ankles, what are ankles?!  Don’t need no stinkin’ ankles for riding a bike.  Ow, what are these thigh muscles that are burning under my cycling-defined quads?  Bend my knees?!  Who needs to bend their knees and support body weight?!

ARGHHH.

Skate skiing.  The most humbling thing I’ve decided to undertake maybe ever.

I was on cross country skis as a toddler, and really anything ski related always came naturally to me as a child.  First down on alpine skis and I graduated from beginner lessons to advanced and was bombing black diamond trails with moguls.  I spent most of my winter afternoons racing along my long cross country ski track I had made behind my house in the mountains.  I went from about age 14 through 29 or so without touching my skis, but the handful of times when I went back out on my classic skis it seemingly went well, and though I found new muscles, I had fun.  So this year I decided skate skiing would be something I would add in as good training, another way to enjoy the snow, and a new sport to begin racing in (because I can’t do anything without it being competitive, clearly).

I’ve had several people tell me it takes ten years to master skate skiing.  I now believe them!

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But I’m trying!  Despite a massive hole torn in my inner left foot from a blister (because silly me thought ski boots required massively thick winter wool socks like my winter cycling shoes do), I kept at it.  I took a few lessons over Christmas, which was helpful in learning that, well, I have work to do.  Which best tip ever… take lessons!

I finally conquered a 5 mile skate ski yesterday.  It hurt and I was hobbling by the end due to my bloody blister.  I was happy that I made it up some tough hills (tough enough hills that I would even groan about riding a bike up them), and handled some pretty not-so-good trail conditions.  I did use poles because I wouldn’t have made it up some of those hills without them (but otherwise I’m still suppose to be without poles, whoops).  I still don’t know how people pull off doing 10+ miles in under an hours.  Took me about 1 hour 20 minutes to do five with all my stopping.

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Keep on keepin’ on.

January 14th I’m jumping into a race at Happy Jack.  Because there is no learning like the learning that takes place during a race.  I’m aiming for the 5k distance, though the 10k is tempting since it’ll be “ok” if I go slower (right?).  The winners last year of the 5k did it in something like 25 minutes, and I’m betting on an hour to finish.  Wait for me guys, I swear I’m coming!!  Save some hot chocolate!

Oh boy.  And I thought mountain biking was hard.

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2016 Race Wrap-Up

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Photo by Pax Tolosi

States Raced In: Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, South Dakota, & Florida
# of Races: 18 mountain bike, 3 road, 20 cyclocross
# of Wins: 5 (MTB), 4 (CX), 1 (Road)
# of Top 5: 13 (MTB), 2 (road),  14 (CX)
# of Beverage Drinking Devices Won: Yep, I am STILL winning bottles and coffee mugs, after all these years!

  • I spent so much time in 2016 being negative about my race season that I missed seeing how great it was actually going.  Perhaps this was a blessing, as finishes like the Tatanka 50k came as an amazingly happy surprise, and I had no expectations going into Hill Climb Nationals.  But I even got sick of hearing myself bitch about how “terrible” of a season I was having.  I don’t know why I let the Florida Cup deliver such a devastating blow to my cycling confidence so early in the season.  I totally lost perspective on the whole thing.

2016 Hill Climb National Champion – Masters Women 30-39
2016 Laramie Mountain Bike Series Overall Winner – Open Women
2016 Colorado Cross Cup – 2nd Place – Singlespeed Women
2016 Rocky Mountain Regional Cyclocross Champion – Singlespeed Women

  • Those highlights above show why 2016 was an amazing year, even if I wasn’t training like I was in 2015.
  • If anything, 2016 was the year of overcoming obstacles.  I decided to take responsibility for my own training.  Sure, that led to me not riding as much as 2015 and spending a lot of time being utterly lazy, but I did spend a lot more time on the mountain bike and the proof was in more confident descending and ever improving technical skills.  Going into the meat of my mountain bike season two days post-concussion with a strained calf muscle and a tendon split in my shoulder was not how I planned things on going, but I fought through it (even though I will NEVER advocate racing with a concussion.  I didn’t make the best decisions in that time period – one of them being getting on a mountain bike in a race two days later).  I guess in a way I don’t know when to quit!
  • I still can’t describe what winning the Hill Climb National Championships on Pikes Peak means to me.  I still get teary eyed thinking about it.  It’s like everything was coming full circle.  I won’t lie, I thought about never racing after that day ever again because it seemed like such a good capstone on this cycling craziness.
  • On the lighter side, beer hands, even at 10:30am, are amazing!  So was the Bacon Station during Dakota 5-O.  I’m pretty sure that was the only reason that kept me going in that race!

So 2017… well, I’m already registered for the Gunnison Half Growler, as I just find that race so darn amazing!  Other than that I haven’t really thought about what I will or will not race.  I have thrown around the idea of tackling the Double Triple Bypass, which is some 240 miles and 20,000+ feet of climbing over two days in the mountains of Colorado.  Tour de Wyoming starts and ends in Cheyenne, and that’s tempting (and a damn cheap way to do a bike tour!).  As you can see, it might be a lot less of competitive events, and more experiences.  I’m so exhausted from my most intensive cyclocross season yet that I haven’t started a formal training plan or done a new FTP test.  I think I need a bit of downtime to refocus and recover.  2017 is also the Year of Iceland, so a lot of focus and money is going towards that amazing trip!

And then it was all over!

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That’s a wrap on 2016’s cyclocross season!

December 3rd was the Rocky Mountain Regional Championships.  Super cold weather, I think maybe about 28 degrees or so for my 10:30am single speed race.  I decided to race both single speed and then women’s open to give my geared bike some love.

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I love love love the course used at regionals! (Photo by Shawn Curry)

Needless to say, single speed went well and I won!  And for the first time I ever I did a proper post up!  I love the course at this venue, even though it’s not super technical and just involves a lot of power riding.  This venue is where I had my first ever USAC cross podium back in January 2014, so I’ve just always been very fond of it.

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In SW Open I realized that riding a geared bike is a lot of hard work.  On the single speed I would be spun out on some parts, and it would be a bit of recovery.  With gears there’s always a harder gear to grab and keep pushing.  My average heart rate was around 190 for the 40+ minute race!  I went back and forth with a couple of other gals for a few laps, but the previous race was felt in my legs, and I hung on for 14th, which wasn’t last.  It was one of the first times I’ve really felt comfortable racing in the open category.

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My geared cross bike is just too pretty to not race once in awhile! (Photo by Brent Murphy)

Next up was states.  This would be the last chance for me to earn points for the Colorado Cross Cup, which I had set up to win, but I knew it would be hard with the depth of talented women in the single speed category.  My SSW race was at 3:30 on Saturday.  I actually didn’t feel like I had a good start, and I crashed hard on a grass corner that I took a little too hot.  I lost two positions, but was able to regain one of them on one of the (too) many cement/pavement sections.  I took beer hand ups on the final 3 laps, and enjoyed the beating of a really physically draining course.  I would finish 5th, which I’m happy about.

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The states course at Westminster City Park had a massive stair run up split in two… run up, ride up grassy off camber, run up some more. (Photo by Shawn Curry)

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The “backside” of the states course had a couple of super steep punchy climbs (Photo by Shawn Curry)

The next day on Sunday I awoke to snow, which was exciting!  My 8am race was the inaugural fat bike race, a non-championshp category.  I figured this would be just a fun race and a chance to ride around on my Dirt Components Thumper carbon wheelset.  Unfortunately I would have another very nasty crash on the first lap, and my left arm yanked around behind me and tweaked my shoulder which I had just completed two months of physical therapy on for the split bicep tendon I have.  I came through the start finish, and Larry (the announcer) called the medics over.  I was crying and felt like a hot mess, and so mad that I had wrecked and re-injured my shoulder.  But I pulled on my big girl skinsuit panties, and got back on my bike for another couple of laps!  Turns out my rear tire would also go flat, so I had to run maybe the last half mile of the final lap.  Man, it just wasn’t my race!

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At least it was fat bike weather for the fat bike race! (Photo by Brent Murphy)

 

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Running my bike through the finish (Photo by Reid Neureiter)

For once I was smart and decided to not start my SW3 race at 10:30.  My shoulder was very tender, and I didn’t want to risk hurting it further.  Plus with two hard crashes and two leg draining races already under my belt, I was tired.

Race season 2016… officially done!

I would end up finishing in 2nd place in single speed for the Colorado Cross Cup.  Like the Shimano CycloX Series, I would miss winning by three points (if only I had earned the points I was banking on at Blue Sky Cup… sigh).  Kind of heartbroken over this, but I can’t really complain about having a cyclocross season that was like no other I had ever had!

4 wins… 9 podiums… 20 races total.

Whew.  So this is what a full cross season feels like!

Big thanks to my über supportive team, 9Seventy Racing; Rufus Design for working with me on an amazing custom skinsuit design; Dirt Components; Specialized Bicycles; Tailwind Nutrition; Qloom Bikewear; and all the photographers that comprise RacerShots that fulfilled my narcissistic race photo loving hopes and dreams!