Well here’s a start line, let alone a finish line, I wasn’t really sure I’d make!
I got back on my bike post-op day 17 from my big surgery, and took things slow and easy and realized how quickly I lost fitness, but also core strength. I had the refund deadline on my calendar, and debated back and forth if starting my fourth Gunnison Half Growler would be a good idea. Finally I decided the best idea would be to give it a try… 5 weeks after surgery. Yeah, don’t tell my surgeon…
This year I was unsure if I could get Friday off from work to make it to the Saturday rendition of the Half Growler, so I signed up for Sunday’s “late bus” offering, which I heard is actually a lot chiller and more fun.
Sunday’s version is indeed a lot more chill! The neutral roll out, which I’m use to burning a match or two to stay at the 20+mph pace in the peloton, was in fact a lot more neutral, and served as a good warm up. Kill Hill was painful as ever, and I started in on successfully going backwards through the field all day. But racing wasn’t my goal, my goal was to finish, however long that took!
This being my third time racing the course in this direction, more and more of the rock features are rideable to me since I’ve had a chance to see their line. Definitely nice, as my technical skills remind intact… however, sometimes the lack of strength and fitness meant I had issues with uphill technical features. I only had one “crash” and it was on an uphill rock face where I just ran out of steam and stalled out, and luckily there was a tree there to catch my fall. Which left me awkwardly stuck on my bike, leaning onto a tree at a 45 degree angle. Thankfully there were two other girls nearby to assist me. Whoops! I’ve never been ashamed of walking, so walking I did when I thought I had to, or if a feature was beyond my abilities at the moment! Including some non-technical climbs that I simply didn’t have the lungs for this year. But overall I was feeling good, apart from my usual 15 minutes in “I wanna quit” thoughts, which soon faded.
About the time of Skull Pass I started traded spots with a 16 year old racer, which was actually nice for the distraction. She had amazing descending skills, and I’d get her on the climbs. Back and forth we went! This year I remembered my dropper post on Skull Pass, and rode what seemed to be a lot more of it this year.
The course was dry, sandy, loose, and dusty this year, which made me think my tires were constantly flat, and made me miss the year of mud. Or just a good rain the night before to pack things down. With a 7am start I wore arm warmers and a thin base layer. Arm warmers I yanked off within the first hour, and by mile 24 I decided to stop and take off my base layer and dump another Tailwind stick in my refilled camelback. Imagine that, stopping to wardrobe change during a race! Who was I?! (Honestly, quite weird to do this race NOT wearing a thermal jersey, like previous years)
Overall, I was really positive mentally during this race. I just felt so lucky to be even riding my bike that I didn’t care that I was going a lot slower than my previous three times. Even on Ridge (a trail I will always hate), where I decided to walk a hefty amount, I knew the finish was coming and I just had to keep moving forward. And that I did, crossing the finish line at 4 hours 57 minutes! Woo hoo! I had given myself a goal of 6 hours, so needless to say I smashed that goal… and was only 23 minutes slower than my next slowest time. 23 minutes I don’t think is a huge amount honestly with all my extra circumstances coming into play this year!
Oh, and the pro men in the Full Growler race never lapped me! Victory! I think I had 21 minutes on Dave Wiens, ha! Though I was thinking several times during my race, “Where in the world is Kalan Beisel?”
Nutritionally, things worked great. I had worried about the longer time on course impacting my nutrition, but was able to pace things well. I started with a 2 liter camelback with 7 scoops (700 calories) of Tailwind Nutrition green tea and lemon flavors mixed in. At the halfway point at the Skull Pass aid station I had them top off the water, and later added another 2 scoops (200 calories) of naked Tailwind. I also ate half a pickle slice and one Clif banana pouch. I only drank about half of a 16oz bottle of plain water. Sadly no aid stations had coke this year 😦
I was pleased to discover after the race that I felt no worse than I had in 2015-2017, and happily rode back to the start line to discover there’s no finisher prizes for this year, but still free beer.
There is just something about this race that keeps bringing me back to Gunnison year after year, so of course on December 1st I’ll be registering for my fifth Half Growler! Now that I have experienced it both on Saturday and Sunday, I will be torn on which day to register for. I liked the more chill neutral roll out for sure. We shall see! Just happy to be back on my bike, and “racing” and rebuilding.
Pretty much the story goes… 9Seventy Racing helps volunteer at event, so since I had to be there anyway for a few hours… why not also “race” my bike a few hours?!
I haven’t ridden more than 20 miles on my road bike since July
I had ridden my road bike exactly two times outdoors since October
Training… what the heck is “training?”
I’m actually quite a fan of the little Cobb Lake circuit course they put together, so I figured why not… if anything it would be a hard training ride, and since it’s an open category race for the women, it’s not like I ever have a chance at good results when roadie pros are coming out to it. I did my first outdoor road ride of 2018 a handful of days before the race, and the bike seemed ok.
Just like in 2014, I stayed with the main pack until the first trip down the dirt segment, and then bye bye bye majority of the field. ‘Tis cool… they probably train. LOL! I ended up working with three other girls for the next four laps. There was a stiff wind from the south, so it was great to have bodies to hide behind. It was tough… I found the dirt segment to take the most from me, as it was stupidly rough and it was hard finding that perfect gear to ride in. Going up the climb to start the 5th lap I lost contact with two of the stronger chicks I was working with, so I got to do the lonely TT of soft pedaling shame for the last lap. It wasn’t bad, almost felt like recovery, woo hoo!
I would finish 24th, in something like 2 hours 12 minutes. I do believe that is faster than my 2014 time, so victory for me!
Hey, I showed up, I pinned on the number, and I gave it what I had to give. I really can’t complain! 🙂
I don’t have a lot to say… honestly. Weird for my race reports, but road races tend to have less of the weirdness and thoughts that mountain bike racing has. Most of the race I was just focused on my very sore sitz bones that haven’t been on a road bike for hours in a long time, and the weird clicking from my bottom bracket.
And… thanks to Tailwind Rebuild, I didn’t have soreness the next day and actually CRUSHED my trainer recovery ride! Nothing like crushing 30 minutes at 115 watts 😉
Last year at the Tatanka point to point race in Sturgis, SD I had a breakthrough race where I learned that 1) I can race a bike longer than 90 minutes, and 2) Heat doesn’t automatically kill me. I had an amazing time riding really awesome trails. So earlier this summer I decided to throw my hat into the race again.
Then I started to get hesitant…
It was suppose to be mid-90s. I haven’t been riding a lot. My right knee exploded on a road century attempt. And the realization that because I did so well last year, I had personal expectations to do even better. But what if I couldn’t?! Argh.
So I packed up and headed up to Sturgis, about 4:40 of a drive on Friday morning. The drive actually really wore me down, and my right knee was aching anytime I couldn’t use cruise control. Great, not even riding a bike yet and I’m in pain! I picked up my packet once I got into town, and asked to see the start list. I only recognize Jen Toops’ name (strong endurance pro from Ohio who I think is leading the NUE marathon series), and noted the lack of Colorado pro racers. Shoot, now I really have to race as I might have a chance! I thought… to my dismay. I don’t know, it’s easier to know you won’t podium because the field is stacked deep with legit full-time pros.
Drove up to Hog Heaven and grabbed the spot I wanted since last year… nice and shady and down in the trees. I set up camp, and took to staring at my bike, hoping it would do my race openers for me. Finally I kitted up and headed out into the 90 degree sun. Surprisingly, I felt really good. I hadn’t ridden since Tuesday due to the heat, but legs felt peppy. I ended up doing some hill repeats and riding 7 miles in the campground. Hmm… so I felt good. Time to see what the morning would bring!
Thanks to my shady spot, I managed to sleep in longer than last year, waking up at 6:44am, and then dozing on and off until 8am. I was going to ride down to the shuttle pick up with another gal I met at the campground named Cindy, who was racing in her 3rd ever mountain bike race! I ran and got my egg white McMuffin from McDonalds, and enjoyed an earlier breakfast than last year, and drank lots of water and a bottle with a Fizz tablet in it to get loaded up on electrolytes. At 10am we left for the downhill cruise to load up our bikes and wait for the shuttle to Piedmont. On the shuttle ride I choked down a PB&J Bonk Breaker bar, and another bottle of water. Here goes nothing…
The organization of the start was smoother this year, and we didn’t have to stand as long on the hot pavement, though I watched my Garmin creep up to 100 degrees. The start was completely different this year with no Karen Jarchow and Alex Pond to blast off the line, and I found myself and Jen leading out with some men on the “neutral” pavement part. Last year I was out of breathe and dropped hard on this part, but felt strong this year and as we turned onto the Dalton Creek gravel road climb to the start of the single track. Jen was riding strong and hanging onto the wheels of the men in front of her, and I tried my best to stick with her, but found myself gapped. I grappled in my head on if I was going out too hard, but eventually said F it, go hard, see what happens. I won’t lie, I had pictured a podium finish in my mind, so I decided to just go for it.
Single track went well, and unlike the previous year I cleared the first few rock gardens. Suddenly there was a fork in the trail and the guy in front of me that was off his bike yelled “they’re going the wrong way, this is the right way!” So I followed him, thankful he pointed that out. At this point I was in first, but it wouldn’t take long before Jen would be back on course and powering past me. I just concentrated on settling into my pace, which was hard, but not balls to the wall. One of the guys behind me was overheard saying “We have an engine pulling us!”
Due to logging in the area, the first aid station came about a mile sooner, about 5 miles in, and instead of jumping onto the single track of the Centennial Trail, we started a very long grindy fire road climb out of the aid station. I wasn’t going to stop but a cup of cold water tempted me, which I took a sip and then dumped on me. No time to waste and I set out grinding up the dirt road in the hot sun. In a way this change was nice, as I could just settle into a rhythm without worrying about rocks and roots and sharp changes in gradient. We eventually turned off into primitive single track that was overgrown and rough, and I just lightly spun. After that trail we spit out onto another road climb which was covered with cat head sized rocks where were awful to ride out. I started swearing and decided the race promoters must hate us.
Surprisingly, when we re-joined the Centennial Trail I realized we were a lot further down the course that I thought, and set up for the first big descent of the day… steep, lose, with tight switchbacks at the most unfortunate moments. Immediately my handling skills felt off and I couldn’t get in a good grove with my bike, so I knew I wasn’t descending as fast as I could and definitely not as smoothly. But I made it without incidence, and start plodding back uphill when the descent ended. I was kinda of shocked at how fast the course was flying by due to the change in the earlier parts and soon I found myself down in the creek bed jungle, which they had politely trimmed back this year, so visibility was a lot better and the poison ivy a little further away from human contact. I had one near crash as I haphazardly left the trail but saved it with a quick unclipping and change in my balance. The creek beds were dry this year, and not as slippery, so I rode more of them than last year.
After the longest mile ever, I plopped out at the final aid station, where a kid immediately put an iced bandana on my neck and other volunteers set to refilling my camelback, getting me Coke, filling my bottle, and feeding me watermelon. Someone let me know I was the second women in, which I nodded in agreement. I knew exactly where I was, and I knew I couldn’t get too comfortable off the bike for too long as I had no idea the gap back to the third. With my pack back on, bottle filled with cold water, and a big glob of ice down the back of my jersey, I set out for the last 20 miles.
The climbs out of the aid station are a bit heart breaking, but I plodded on, happy to have the stinging pain of frozen skin on my back from the ice and knowing there were some serious descents coming up. Last year I had some pretty serious cloud cover at this point which helped out mentally and physically, but this year was nothing but hot sun and blue skies. On the first long descent I started catching sprint and kid racers, which was a little hairy due to the speeds I would come up on them. Luckily everyone was great with moving aside! Down down down… aching feet and sore hands as they chaffed with my wet gloves. I never wanted the descending to be over so much in my life! Finally the climb up Bulldog arrived. Last year I was quite proud of myself for clearing the 13% average climb, but I rode maybe the first third of it this year and jumped off and walked. Walking kinda felt good, and I really had nothing to prove by riding it!
Bulldog descent went ok. I took it cautiously, knowing it would be easy to lose my podium place or the whole race by getting too ballsy on the descent. Plopping out into the meadow felt great… until I went off course. Because it is not the Tatanka MTB Race if you’re actually staying on course (Everyone I talked to this year went off course at least once… course markings can be… not great). I saw a bunch of white streamers marking a turn onto single track so I grabbed the brakes and turned onto it. Luckily it didn’t take me long to realize it was not leading me under I-90 properly, so I turned around and hauled ass back to the Centennial Trail, pissed off at myself for turning off. Under I-90… yay!
Well, not yay. They changed the end of the course from the Ft. Meade trails of last year, which weren’t that bad, to a newly re-vamped section of the Centennial Trail. I really had no idea what to expect, but I was expecting something similar to last year. Oh no, oh no… why would it be like that? I was not prepared for the long climb to follow on moondust, which made traction hard and killed my willpower so I just started walking the climbs. I swore more, especially every time I rounded a corner and saw the trail continuing up. Dammit dammit dammit, this isn’t want I was wanting! The sun was hot an this section was very exposed. There was some descending before a steep climb up and then double track climb. OMG it’s never ending! I was sad I watched the time click away, nothing I wouldn’t impressively beat last year’s time with the new course changes.
Some of the descents on this section were just stupid with 6-12″ of powdery mood dust to suck in your front tires. When will this be over? Another super fast descent… to another climb. ARGHHH… but wait… bike path up ahead! YESSS! Luckily I was warned by another racer who rode several miles in the wrong direction on how to properly get on the bike path (once again, kinda sketchy course marking) and settled in for a few miles of being a roadie. Glances over my should assured that no one was close, and legs felt good enough that I knew I could throw in a sprint if I had to, but I was happy that I wouldn’t have to. The finish line was about .75 mile further down the path from last year, which added insult to injury to entire section after crossing under I-90.
4 hours 30 minutes. Done and done! Best marathon MTB finish and first NUE podium!
And I still beat last year’s time by 4 minutes even with the last bit of Centennial Trail moon dust madness!
I just might have to come back next year and hope I can win another buffalo 😀
2 liters with 6 scoops of Tailwind green tea caffeinated endurance fuel and 1.5 scoops of lemon endurance fuel with water topped in it at the aid station. Had 1 liter left at the finish of the watered down mixture. One slice of watermelon. Two 22oz bottles of plain water. Cup of Coke.
Mistakes: No sunscreen on my face. No chamois butter on my hands to prevent my gloves from chaffing. Also forgot a stick of Tailwind to dump on at the refill. I don’t have my crap together when it comes to bike racing this year really!
2017 marked my third time racing the Half Growler in Gunnison, CO. Great but challenging course and great little town just keeps bringing me back for more… even after all the mud of 2015! This year I was hoping to break the 4 hour marked since I came within 4 minutes of that last year. Easier said than done! Odd years marked a clockwise course, which is supposedly “easier.” They changed up the course a bit, taking out the long powerline road descent to pavement, and added in a lot more single track near the end.
Friday I did a short 10 mile ride to wake my legs up, and they just didn’t want to wake up. I didn’t get too concerned, as I’ve had pre-ride days of feeling like crap and then having good races. I was able to sleep fairly well and woke up about 7-ish to get ready. Like the two prior years, I struggled with figuring out what to wear, settling on a stretchy long sleeve base layer under my jersey, and big wool socks.
The neutral start managed to have a crash on the pavement that I avoided. The “neutral my ass” start was a lot faster and everyone strung out really quickly. That, or I was just a lot slower. Kill Hill went ok, and then started a long, double track grind of a few miles or so to the single track. I think that’s why I don’t like the clockwise direction… going counterclockwise we descended rather quickly after Kill Hill, which I think gave some recovery. On the doubletrack I watched myself go backwards through the field, and kinda settled in mentally of just surviving.
It was great to enjoy this direction without all the mud, hail, and rain of 2015! It was going by fast, especially when I realized it was time to climb to the highest point of the race and then descend to the biggest aid station at Skull Pass. I felt like I was riding pretty well technically, riding some stuff that more familiar with, but still walking some stuff that I felt like wasn’t worth the risk. I would even go off some drop on Skull Pass and feel my saddle hit my stomach, which is always an eery feeling (oh yeah, what dropper post? That damn thing I keep forgetting to use…). I had forgotten to lube my chain before the race, so I was being treated by the Song of My Chain’s People, which was getting rather irritating.
At the aid station I stopped to fill my water bottle and eat half a banana. Filling my bottle took way longer than expected, but I was on my way… until I saw a mechanic set up, who threw my bike up on his stand and slathered it in gooey thick glorious chain lube. “Thanks, now I’ll be able to hear my thoughts,” I told him, to which he replied, “Are you sure that’s a good thing?”
He was probably onto something.
The descent down and out of Enchanted Forest went well, and I found course traffic to be considerably thinned, but I continued to go backwards as people caught and passed me. I knew my goal time of 3:59 was busted, and just settled in to survive. My bike handling was getting messy, and at times I even struggled to get on and off my bike. My legs felt so incredibly dead, but then again, maybe I was just thinking they were dead. On and on I pedaled. At first it seemed like the weather would unleash it’s wrath, but luckily Michelle protected us all by putting on her rain jacket, and the sky cleared up! The wind did kick up, and it could get a bit much on some of the high ridges. Came across a Coke aid station, and the lady told me 4 miles, and I made her swear that she wasn’t lying and we all had a good chuckle. With the new single track out of the way, I knew it was one long grind up a hill, descent down, and then all the Ridge trail nonsense and then the finish would be near.
Ridge actually went a little quicker than 2015, but I walked a lot. I’m weird with exposure and cliffs, and with my noodle arms it was better. I was so happy to hit Tail Pipe, as I knew the finish was so soon! I followed a guy up Tail Pipe with another girl behind me. As we hit the small bit of road that leads to Collarbone Alley I sized them up, and decided that I had been riding for 35 miles, and dammit, nothing was going to damper my fun on what has become a favorite short trail of mine! So I downshifted and passed them before, hit the dropper, and told the guys directing me onto the trail “This is my favorite part, I’m not missing it!” to which they cheered.
4 hours and 22 minutes.
Done to my relief.
Then I heard the announcer say I placed 4th in pro women and I started crying. Because it ain’t an endurance race without some sort of crying!
(Turns out Karen was mis-classed into age group, so I would officially be placed 5th when they moved her into pro. DFL, just like last year, by over an hour. But hey, I beat the girl who registered but was a DNS!)
I won’t lie, I’m disappointed I didn’t meet my time goal and I don’t really have an excuse. My body just didn’t show up to this race. But I did finish my third Half Growler, which isn’t too shabby! Initially I said “Oh hell no, it’s time to find another Memorial Weekend activity,” but by the next day I was thinking it’s time to plan for next year, which very well might be the direction that suits me a bit better! (Rumor has it they might stop reversing the course direction every year, though…) I do notice small things that help, like more confidence descending and I feel like I did well holding my descending form throughout the whole race.
It’s great, because every since the race my legs and body have been on fire and I’ve been riding strong. Thanks, body. Love you right back…
Breakfast – Egg White McMuffin, hash brown, medium Hi-C Orange
During Race – 2 liter Camelback with 2 scoops of Tailwind Green Tea Caffeinated Endurance Fuel and 5 scoops of Tailwind Lemon Endurance Fuel, half banana, 6 ounce can of Coke, 30-ish ounces of plain water
I drank 1.5 liters out of my Camelback. Which beats last year, where I drained maybe only two inches out of it. Nutritionally, I felt well fueled and hydrated! Mixing the two flavors and types of Tailwind I thought was great, as I got a small bit of caffeine but not the crazy amount I usually consume when I do straight caffeinated mixes (which I think contributes to late race hallucinations I’ll have of cats and gnomes… or maybe that just happens when I race in South Dakota). Lemon and green tea mixed well together flavor wise. I think I’ll experiment more with mixing.
So come December 1st, I think I’ll be giving it a 4th go at the Half Growler… eventually I’ll break 4 hours, right?
Hey, what’s the best way to start off mountain bike race season?! 57 miles at Bear Creek Lake State Park for Battle the Bear!
So, I don’t always have the best ideas 🙂 In my defense, Battle the Bear would be one of the first opportunities to race a mountain bike this year in this region. Since I have a lot of long endurance races on the plate and I knew I didn’t quite have the “Race 30 miles flat out on this course that favors power” fitness, I chose the marathon, or 57 mile, option. I hadn’t raced at this venue since 2014, but at least was familiar with it and it’s conditions. Yep, I totally understestimated how hard it was to do 57 miles there!
I opted to race age group, and all of the age group women would start together. From the start we formed a pack of maybe 6 or so that stuck together as we wound through the trees in the single track along the creek. I really like this portion of the course as it’s fun, has shade, and thanks to recent rains the dirt was tacky in the corners. First lap would spread out a bit more once we popped out of the trees, but I was still sitting in second and felt like I was riding strong. In an unlucky moment probably a mile or so before the finish of the lap my chain would bounce off on the pedal side, and I had to stop to get it back on, and a girl from my age group would pass me, putting me in 3rd place. Dammit!
Second also went well… but all I could think in the bright sun was I have three more laps of this shit?!
Herein lies the problem with marathon/endurance races in a multiple lap format: you get the privilege of riding past your car, expo area, cold drinks, shade, people relaxing over and over and over. And by privilege, I mean the horror and frustration of riding past your car, the expo area, cold drinks, shade, and relaxing people over and over and over.
Urgh. I like races where I know the only practical way back to my car and the only way to see my car again is to continue on for another 50 miles down the trail.
Third lap done… fourth lap done. Occasionally passing age group men that I catch, and getting passed by the fast pro/age group men. It’s hot, over 80 degrees. My knees felt like rotten watermelons, or at least what I assumed a rotten watermelon would feel like. My hands felt like they were blistering (don’t wear brand new gloves during a 57 mile race… like I did). I came across that start/finish line for my fifth and final lap, and gave it one big sigh and set out for the final 11-12 miles. Meh.
This lap I started catching kids in their race, which can sometimes be a hairy experience. I followed one little girl on a fat bike up a decent hill, and she stood up and sprinted up it out of the saddle. OK, thanks for making me feel super slow, little fat bike rockstar as I chugged up in my granny 40t cog and baby chain ring. I caught another girl on another big climb and told her that her pace was great and that I had already rode 50 miles so I didn’t need to pass. She paced me quite well up the hill, but I gave distance on the descent, which was lucky because she had a big crash. I stopped and grabbed her bike out of the trail and then scooted her out of the way of descending boys. Little kids are so brave as you could tell she was fighting back tears, but was saying she was OK. I got her back up on her bike and we set out on our own separate ways to finish our races. Lost a few minutes, but at that point I really didn’t care.
I continued on, trying to finish strong. About halfway through this final lap my Camelback gave me that final slurp of my Tailwind mixture and then air. I finally managed to drain my pack during a race! I had an entire bottle of Tailwind on my bike (already had drank my bottle of pure water), but the idea of 85 degree liquid didn’t seem appealing so I’d ride the rest of the race with an intense desire for cold water… even considered drinking out of the creek, weighing the symptoms of giardia vs the satisfaction of cold water.
I limped up Mt Carbon one last time and then onto the bits of single track that take you in the opposite direction of the finish and then back around. A junior girl racer came up behind me leading up to the most “technical” section of the race, which was just a very short, steep downhill with slight rocky ledges to drop off of. Had to laugh as I dropped my saddle and bombed down it and railed the left hand corner at the bottom, which means I dropped the junior racer for a total of 15 seconds until we came upon the hill to climb up to the finish. Hey, gotta succeed on the parts that are still an advantage to me in my old age and higher weight! Haha!
It was probably the most pathetic of all my race finishes, as usual I can sprint, or smile, or something, but I soft pedaled up to the finish and was oh so relieved that the 4 hours and 57 minutes of Battle the Bear was finally over! First stop? The water tank with ice cold water:D
I would end up finish 3rd in my 19-34 women’s age group, and was satisfied that I finished under 5 hours and wasn’t the last off the course. To me it’s early season, and I was coming off a lot of fatigue and achy knees from a tough gravel grinder and 10.5 hour training week leading up to the race. I knew mentally I wasn’t very motivated, mostly due to the heat and multi-lap format. One thing that was awesome is I didn’t not stop during this race except for a 15 second mental reset where I told myself to pull up my big girl pants and stop whining, and then while I helped the little girl who crashed. Usually during my longer races I stop at aid stations, so this was something new as I wasn’t off the bike probably more than 2 minutes tops the whole race.
Nutrition strategy: My egg white McMuffin was cold by the time I went to eat it, so I literally only had a hash brown and latte for breakfast (can’t do cold eggs texture wise). I ate a Larabar pre-race, and immediately took a Honey Stinger gel with caffeine while staging. I might’ve been slightly freaking out about my complete f-up of breakfast (I was a hot mess in my lack of preparation for mountain bike racing).
During race nutrition was 2 liters of water with Tailwind caffeinated green tea endurance fuel mixed in my Camelback. I also consumed a 21 ounce bottle of plain water, and one Clif pouch of mango and banana. No hunger, no growling stomach, no cramps! Once again another long race fueled perfectly by Tailwind!
I rode my 2016 Specialized Epic Expert Carbon, which is my primary race bike. First ride on my new Maxxis Ikon tires, and though I went on the high end of the tire pressure range, they gripped and I was able to have fun in the twisty single track! ESI limited edition purple chunky grips were under my hands. Love this bike for the ability to carry two bottles, so I could have plain water and also a back up bottle of Tailwind for if/when I drained my pack. And having the 2×11 drivetrain was great as I went from big ring power climbing to spinning my granniest of gears.
I’m bad at writing race reports anymore. So let’s see…
April 22nd was the Clasica de Rio Grande road race, or as I still call it, the Weld Country road race. This race was my first ever road race back in 2013, and this was my second time doing it. Rain/snow leading up to it led them to change the course and delete out the dirt section. I didn’t know how this race would go since it was 50+ miles long and the SW3 women would start and race with the P123 and master’s 40+ categories, and of course I had still not been riding a lot due to being sick and traveling.
Well, worth a shot, right?
The start was delayed an hour due to a massive SCARY crash in a masters’ men category at the finish line. The delay ended up throwing off my whole nutrition plan, as it meant breakfast was long gone by the time I had to ride a bike. But surprisingly the race went well! I managed chase back any gaps in the first 3 laps, though sometimes it was definitely a huge time trial effort. By the last lap it was whiddled down to the top 5 in SW3 and some masters. Coming up the climb the last time I knew I wouldn’t be able to chase back, so I would ride the final few miles in solo on the struggle bus for a 5th place finish! Woohoo! First long road race completed, and I was able to race with a mixed P123 field pretty successfully. And we stayed safe in our race start, too. Always important considering the other crashes that had occurred throughout the day.
The following weekend was Koppenberg, which is pretty much my favorite road event ever. Leading up to it was another snowy stretch, with the course under snow the evening before the race. I nervously watched my email and Facebook for updates from Without Limits, and woke up at 7am and crossed my fingers… and YES! The race was on, despite the muddy conditions! Road racing needs some adventure and adversity, amIright?!
I prepared a bit differently for this road race… out came my Pearl Izumi mountain bike shoes and toe spikes were added to both pairs (one was new, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get them muddy…). I took one bottle cage off in case I needed to shoulder and run with my bike. And I grabbed my can of Pam cooking spray from my kitchen cabinet for some mud control. Years of cyclocross has prepared me well!
Upon arriving I saw all the muddy bikes and knew I was in for an adventure, which I was up for as crappy conditions are something I like to think I have a skill for, and it’s never used in road racing. I met up with Becky and we started down the dirt road after the start for warm up and was greeted with peanut butter mud that sucked our power. I didn’t want to dirty my bike too much before the actual race so we stuck to the pavement.
The start went well in our small SW3 group. The dirt road was tough as people fought for lines and there was some shoving off of lines. I kept my calm, knowing I could probably ride myself out of whatever crappy line I ended up in. I was last in the line up the infamous 17% dirt hill, which is very different than my approaches in previous years. There was one rideable line that was dry, so really, no sense in trying to be the first up. We came through the start all together, but I was out front so it was neat hearing the announcer say my name and team as we came through!
Second lap seemed uneventful, and I was in 3rd position on the climb when the gal in front of me fell over maybe halfway up the climb when she caught a soft spot in a rut. I swerved my front wheel to avoid her went into the mud and made the split second decision to bail and start running. And that I did… up that damn 17% hill! A girl went off the front, and Natalia got around me and I chased until running was killing me, and then remounted, glanced back and noticed no one was running behind me. I decided this was my chance and took off chasing Natalia with everything I could muster through the thick, sloppy mud onto the pavement section.
I contacted Natalia shortly after we started our third of four laps and we agreed to work together to try to chase down 1st place. I would pull on the dirt/mud and hill, and then Natalia led on the pavement. It worked well, though we were never able to close the gap. I was more worried about getting caught by girls that were behind us than catching 1st place, honestly.
On the last bit of pavement on the final lap Natalia pulled away from me. The finishing straight is after a very high speed corner and I can’t corner fast on the road (well… won’t corner fast. I’m a wimp), so I knew she’d get me there anyway. I was SO DAMN HAPPY to cross the finish line in 3RD PLACE!!!! My very first USAC road podium, in my 3rd cat 3 race in my 3rd time racing Koppenberg 🙂
SO DAMN HAPPY!
Even Tim the official gave me a hug! Granted… I know this was a special race and it was something that totally worked for my past experience and ability to decide instantly that running during a road race would be faster, ha! I’m glad Natalia and I were able to work with each other and stay away from the chasers as well.
And… that is the end of road season, minus a hill climb or two that I might find myself in later in summer. It’s the changeover to crit season in Colorado and the final few road races didn’t spike my interest/didn’t suit my abilities to spend the money. I was scared and really worried about my upgrade to cat 3 when the season began, but I am very happy with how it all turned out! In all 3 races I felt like I was in the mix and only in that 2.5 minute range off the winners. So happy I took the chance on the upgrade and the risk of stepping up my road racing game!
That Fort Minor song that goes “10% luck, 20% skill, 15% concentrated power of will, 5% pleasure, 50% pain…” can be rewritten for this year’s edition of the Boulder Roubaix as 100% concentrated power of will for me. I’ve been knocked on my butt sick for a solid 2.5 weeks now, with bronchitis now extending into the 2 month zone. I missed the CSU Road Race two weeks ago, so sick I could barely move from the couch. I assumed after some antibiotics I would be good to go for the Boulder Roubaix, but the cough, sore throat, and fatigue have held on. Last Monday I tried some sweet spot intervals on the trainer, which I did indeed nail… at a 190bpm heart rate and my lungs flared up angry and I took the rest of the week off the bike. In reality I had spent like 9 hours total over 3 weeks on a bike, and none of it in a very productive manner really. But hey, I was pre-registered and this race only comes around every two years so…
To the race I went!
After pre-race shenanigans involving long lines and no toilet paper in the port-a-potties, I grabbed my bottles and headed to the start. This would be my first cat 3 road race, and I was nervous about the pace and dynamics.
Cat 4 road races go like this: Start – sprint sprint sprint. Every corner – sprint sprint sprint. Every hill – lurch to a slow grind. Then sprint sprint sprint in between.
THANKFULLY… at least in this race, it was a whole different beast! We started off slower than I start my rides from my house! I actually could take the time to get my mud-filled cleat clipped in without panic. My friend Errin was racing with me, and we both remarked how this was so different than cat 4. I was waiting for mass sprinting to start, but we just rode along in the full field of 16 at a casual pace. It was great because Errin and I got to chat and actually enjoy ourselves, and my lungs and legs could slowly warm up and accept what was happening to them. The field was largely either RacerX or ALP Cycling, so I definitely saw some team tactics opening up.
First lap went well. I think there was only two attacks, which never stuck and were reeled in quite quickly. On climbs I found my way riding up through the field which was nice to see, even though I knew I couldn’t put in the effort I knew I was capable of healthy. Towards the end of the lap where we got into more grindy asphalt climbing with some steep pitches on the gravel I could feel my limitations. I would come through to start the second (final) lap just behind the main group. Hey, I stuck with them for one lap!
Errin has been similarly sick like me, and told me to go ahead as she wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t exactly want to solo TT, but I set out. About halfway through this lap Cindy would catch me, which was nice and we stuck together, and I got to hide from the wind a bit. We would pass Lorna who had a mechanical, and she would join us, so we had a little group of 3 going into the finish. I knew my gas tank was nearly empty, but I kept pushing out of stubbornness. On the final big gravel descent I caught Michelle, so I added to my train. The finishing stretch on Oxford Road is really awful, and I ended up pulling them most of the way. I knew this would led to everyone sprinting around me, but I was ok with it as I was redlined and knew I didn’t have more to give and probably wouldn’t be able to hang on their wheels if someone else was pulling anyway. They all jumped a bit before the finish, and I rode my struggle bus of 170 watts to the finish.
So happy to have finished! Biggest chunk of riding I’ve done in weeks, and I did 1 hour 58 minutes at an average heart rate of 186, eek! I was a little sad I couldn’t throw down one of my 800+ watt sprints when it mattered, but uhhhh, I finished!!! 🙂 I felt like I definitely left it all out there on the course, and was super proud of myself for the effort I put in considering all the factors working against me! I would end up 13th, and only 2:33 off of the winner, which I found shocking as I assumed it would’ve been a much bigger gap!
The course was insanely bumpy… gone was the buttery smoothness during Old Man Winter in February, and in its place were bumps, wash board, and ruts. My hands felt like hamburger by the second lap. Both of my palms are bruised and I have a blister on the right one. Luckily my trusty Specialized Ruby survived the beating! Some places were a bit soft, which is one of those moments I thank my mountain biking skills. I also found a big mud puddle and rode through it. Because road bikes need mud, too!
Comparing to 2015, I was only 2 watts lower on average power, and several segments show comparable times which gives me some relief! I guess luckily I survived this year due to my stubbornness (or concentrated power of will, ha!) and muscle memory just taking over in a race situation.
Bike: 2012 Specialized Ruby with Continental Grand Prix 4000SII tires in 25 width with too much tire pressure
Equipment: Pearl Izumi 9seventy Racing kit, Giro pretty lace up shoes, Smith Overtake MIPS helmet, Smith sunglasses, Pearl Izumi Pro short fingered gloves
Fueling: 21oz of raspberry buzz Tailwind Nutrition consumed during race, 12 oz of plain water during race.
Now I am hoping to recover some more and possibly race the Clasica de Rio Grande in two weeks. Not my style of road racing at all with it’s rollers and complete lack of sustained climbing or lots of gravel, but if anything good training! I plan on finishing out April and my road race season with the Sunshine Hill Climb and Koppenberg Road Race. Then it’s onto racing mountain bikes and a few gravel grinders!!
Making my “I only race this on odd years” return to time trialing…
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!
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!
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.
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).
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
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!!!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!