MTB Race Season 2015: I survived!

Usually I’m excited for mountain bike race season to end because it means cyclocross starts… this year I was happy to see the end as I could stop with the endurance distance nonsense that had seemed like a good idea last winter.  2015 was an interesting year for mountain bike racing for me… It seemed to be either a high or low, but I learned a lot of lessons, better strategies for racing, and how to keep pushing.

  • 20 races, which is a lot!  Not all were major to-dos, and some were
Laramie MTB Series Open Women podium for overall series points (Photo:  Dewey Gallegos)

Laramie MTB Series Open Women podium for overall series points (Photo: Dewey Gallegos)

The highlight had to be how the Laramie Mountain Bike Series went for me this year.  Last year in 2014 I placed last in every open women’s race, usually a good 10-20+ minutes off the top 3 gals, so I had low expectations going into the series this year.  I’m always super nervous to race in Laramie since it’s home turf and worry about my results a bit more than most do for that reason.  The first race surprised the crap out of me when I placed 3rd just 1.5 minutes back from the fast girls I always figured I wouldn’t be able to keep up.  I turned around the following week and placed 2nd!  OK, maybe it was a fluke… I tend to get slower as the summer goes on (or does everyone else get faster??), so I was worried going into the LMBS before the Laramie Enduro that I wouldn’t do so hot, especially since it involved a lot of descending and always brings in some racers that are just in town for the Enduro.  Nope, once again 2nd!!  Going into the 5th race of the series I was actually just a few days out from the Leadville 100 and on my taper.  My coach told me to give it a good first lap, and then pull the plug… ha!  I was on FIRE that night, I totally forgot about tapering!  It’s amazing what training + a proper taper can do, and I flew that night, leading from the start and never looking back to win my very first LMBS with a lead of 8 minutes!  The final race of the series came two days after Leadville, and was harder on my physically, but I held on for a 3rd place finish in the 40 degree rainy weather.  I finished 2nd place overall in series points and won a total of $50 over the course of the series in payouts… it was $40 to race the entire series, so I broke even and then some 😀  Nothing beats the Laramie Mountain Bike Series, plain and simple!

LMBS #1 - This photo is illustrating me lining up behind Georgia Gould... for all the other races for some reason she chose to line up behind me!  Talk about pressure! (Photo by Jessica Flock)

LMBS #1 – This photo is illustrating me (pink helmet) lining up behind Georgia Gould… for all the other races for some reason she chose to line up behind me! Talk about pressure! Funny enough, the only race I fumbled a pedal on was one where she wasn’t there.  Whew.  (Photo by Jessica Flock)

 

LMBS #4.  Yay for cattle guard crossings!  (Photo by Jessica Flock)

LMBS #4. Yay for cattle guard crossings! (Photo by Jessica Flock)

 

Climbing up Middle Aspen like it was nothing at LMBS #4 (Photo by Dewey Gallegos)

Climbing up Middle Aspen like it was nothing at LMBS #4 (Photo by Dewey Gallegos)

 

Start of the final LMBS #6 in super chilly temperatures (Photo by Jessica Flock)

Start of the final LMBS #6 in super chilly temperatures (Photo by Jessica Flock)

 

The sketchy line is faster... I need to learn to take it!  LMBS #6, just hanging on 'til the finish (Photo by Jessica Flock)

The sketchy line is faster… I need to learn to take it! LMBS #6, just hanging on ’til the finish (Photo by Jessica Flock)

Another fun time was the New Belgium short track races in Fort Collins.  These are low key races, but are a kick ass workout (and makes me miss cyclocross that much more!).  I had one win in Expert Women, and did it on my first race on my single speed to boot!

Gail and I raced in tutus for the final New Belgium short track... only our fanciest for the evening!  (Photo by Kristin Eagle)

Gail and I raced in tutus for the final New Belgium short track… only our fanciest for the evening! (Photo by Kristin Eagle)

24 Hours in the Old Pueblo gave me a super early taste of mountain bike racing, where Naked Women’s Racing took 1st in the 4-person women’s class!  Awesome race, and I was so happy I pulled in 5 very consistent laps under my time goal!  And I am still proud of how the Laramie Enduro went and that I finally went back and finished that race, and pulled a mid pack result in Open Women to boot!  Glendo Trails Fest was a hoot even though the XC race ended up being a lot harder than I could imagine, and I learned I’m horrible at pump tracks.  And the Gunnison Half Growler… well, what a muddy fun time!

It wasn’t always smiles, though.  I had some big disappointments.  The Gowdy Grinder was one of the biggest ones that still pains me to this day.  I really wish I had stayed in Open Women instead of “scaring” myself down in Advanced Women.  It was just set off a domino of events that lead to a very bad race for me, and what I consider a truly embarrassing race result.  It’s the first time I’ve cried at a finish line (hopefully the last, unless it’s happy crying!).  Crashing myself out of 40 in the Fort wasn’t fun either, so I might be back to do that race again in the 20-mile version.  Ridgeline Rampage was a good lesson in pacing, and that my XCO race pace is not appropriate for my first 50 mile race.  I think my body is still trying to digest what happened to it over the 73 miles I did during the Leadville 100.  The Wyocity AMBC up in Casper came seven days after LT100, and my body was destroyed.  The race was held in freezing temperatures and I had not brought anything but a summer kit, which was the first challenge.  I was destroyed physically and mentally on a tough course with a lot of climbing, but held on to finish.  I was the only female in the cat 1 race, which is always harder because my mental toughness wears off when I’m racing against no one.  I wanted to quit after each lap, but held on, and surprisingly came in only 10 minutes after the last cat 1 male!

Wyocity AMBC on Casper Mountain... freezing in 30 degree temperatures and not loving life... but I survived!

Wyocity AMBC on Casper Mountain… freezing in 30 degree temperatures and not loving life… but I survived!

I’ve been on a two week “off season” since the AMBC where I was given the instructions to “just ride if you want to.”  It’s actually been weird going from many hours a week of training to unstructured nothingness, but I’m starting to feel refreshed and motivated again!  Since both my hardtail and full suspension mountain bikes are essentially broken in different ways (the Epic is still trashed from LT100 with cooked rear brakes, broken spoke, and shocks that need servicing like whoa, and the Fate needs new brake pads, brake bleed, and shifter cables/housings), I’ve been spending quality time on the rigid single speed, getting in rides at Gowdy and loving the simple life where the only option is to go hard or harder.  My single speed Crux also arrived, so I’ve been spending a whole lot of time not shifting!  My legs are hurting a bit, but it’s been fun!  I’m doing a weekday cyclocross race in Golden this coming week, otherwise it’s still a few weekends before I can start that season.  Definitely not as much planned for this year, and I’m finally smart enough to avoid racing at Boulder Reservoir so I can stop bitching about having to race there.

Of course I’ve already begun to think about 2016.  First idea that I’m really playing with is a go at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo in the SOLO female single speed category.  Yeah, solo and no gears… ha!  Damn the allure of the desert… I already have my team name thought of, so I can say I’m quite serious about this!  Other than that, I think my A race will be a return to competing at the National Championships, and give it a first and only go at a Cat 1 title before submitting the big scary upgrade request to a UCI pro mountain bike license!  Seeing that Nationals are back in the picture, so is Rumble at 18 Road and US Cup (if they’re held, of course!).  Other than that… I’m not sure what’s in store!  More awesomeness at the Laramie Mountain Bike Series for sure, the Gowdy Grinder, and hopefully some short track.  Due to Nationals, no Laramie Enduro is on my plate *as of right now*, and the LT100 will never be on my plate for decades to come, if ever again.  A lot of stuff will depend on work and mental state.  I don’t have every weekend off automatically anymore, so I have to balance which events are most important to me!

2016 is still a ways off, though, so for now it’s time to ride bikes, have fun, crash a little, and hope all this single speeding turns me into a beast!

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