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!
After a season marked by short sleeves, bare legs, and dusty conditions, we finally got some crossy-cross weather this past weekend at CycloX Louisville!
This would be the first time I’ve ridden/raced my singlespeed in non-dry conditions (barring the couple feet of mushy grass at CycloX Interlocken, and the one mud pit at CycloX Harlow Platts that was a whole 5 feet wide). So I didn’t know what to expect, and how hard it would make things. The sunshine was quickly melting the snow and frozen ground, and the difference between my preride at 9:30 and my race at 10:30 were remarkable. On my preride I cleared all the climbs minus the long one at the start, but during my race it was futile to try to make it up most of the substantial climbs as the slippery mud just slipped under my tires.
I actually had a horrible start. It was one of those, “Oh, oh are we racing?!” as I fumbled for a pedal when the whistle blew. My left foot must’ve packed on a lot of mud just standing at the start, and for the life of me I couldn’t get that foot clipped in. I laughed because Maura yelled out, “I can’t clip in!” and I was thankful I wasn’t the only one. The start at the “Bowl of Death” is a straight sprint into the long climb, which I think I made it maybe halfway up before I had to get off and start running in the crowd. But I could never really get into race mode, whatever race mode was.
Liz stayed in sight in first place, and I was close to the eventual second place finisher for a few laps. Because the single speed women (SSW) start behind the men’s 40+ and 50+ cat 4 fields, we often encounter a lot of course traffic, and this race was no exception… maybe even worse as the rare conditions challenged the newer racers who put their lack of mud handling skills on display. Led to a couple of frustrating moments as I fought to stay with the other gal and navigate the slow traffic. I actually took over 2nd place for a bit until course traffic snagged me up, and I lost contact for good. Shucks!
By the fourth, and final, lap I had passed numerous geared racers with broken derailleurs, and I could feel/hear my chain starting to skip and be angry. But luckily not having any derailleurs kept me rolling good, but my legs were fatigued from fighting the mud and slippery slop. This whole mud stuff is hard work! I hung on for 3rd place, completely pooped by the final climb up to the finish where I just casually walked my bike up it (running wasn’t working out as my feet just slipped on the mud, even with toe spikes) and slowly climbed back on my bike to ride across the finish. Wasn’t by best race of the season, but finally I pulled together an okay effort at Louisville on the third try (previous years I always finished nearly last).
This was also the finale for the Without Limits Shimano CycloX series. I knew winning the overall would be tough with Liz just dominating like the badass she is… and that said, I landed in 2nd place by 3 points 😦 3 points, argh!
Just regionals and states remain for cyclocross 2016! Needless to say, this has been the cross season I have always wanted to have! I’m not sure how I will end up fairing in the Colorado Cross Cup overall (my win at Blue Sky Cup didn’t garner me points since I was… the only one who showed up… which threw my points plan a bit), but I’m trying to not let that cast a shadow on how great of a season it has been!
Whew, what a busy cyclocross season! This year I decided to jump into racing a full, complete season of single speed cross, targeting the Without Limits and Colorado Cross Cup series. This was something new for me, as usually cyclocross served a purpose 1) drinking beer while pedaling a bike around in cycles, 2) snidely displaying mountain biker skills on “scary” features, 3) getting burned out by getting my ass utterly kicked every weekend by girls who actually train for this craziness.
Cross of the North weekend is always a major highlight for me, being the “local” cross option and just being awesome.
Friday SS4/5 Race: We started behind the SW4 and SW3 groups (and other men’s groups), which led to a LOT of course traffic. Being female in a male category, I more than once had to (sometimes sternly) explain to SW3/4 racers that I was not in their category. Didn’t stop one chick from beating me over the head with her bike on the run up repeatedly, but I digress. A positive is that we don’t necessarily deal with course traffic a lot in CO cross races, so it was a good experience. First lap in I cut a corner a bit close to the hard fencing near the pit area, and a metal tab that was sticking out jabbed into my butt and tore the right side of the bibs I was wearing off (and they weren’t mine… sad, as I was borrowing a kit), which left me indecently exposed for the rest of the race. Overall, I was happy with how the race went, and assumed I had finished in 4th place… so I went quickly to my car and covered my butt up with some clothes and took to recovering before the elite race. That’s when a friend congratulated me on my podium finish… I had come in 3rd!
Friday “Under the Lights” Elite Women Race: Wow, racing with gears! I did this as I just wanted to experience a nighttime cross race. Right at the start another girl went down hard and watching the crash made my heart jump. Without question I stopped and asked if she was alright and did the best quick assessment I could with my race brain. I had tears in my eyes, as it really freaked me out seeing her go over the bars that hard. Some spectators ran down to assist her, and I took off to try to stay ahead of the master’s women group that had started. My to my surprise I chased back to the tail end of the elite race! I would end up 17th, and was oh so happy when Erin Huck lapped me right at the end of my final lap to end my race. (My geared vs. SS overall race time was within seconds of each other. SS, therefore, wins the debate)
Saturday & Sunday SS4/5: COTN is known for awesome, technical courses so I enjoyed the challenge of steep descents and tough climbing. I would finish 10th and 6th to round out the weekend. SS4/5 has gotten crazy fast this year, so I was happy to I could hang with some of the guys on my weekend away from racing the women’s SS category (which COTN didn’t offer).
Next up was the US Open of CX weekend in Boulder. I had been planning this for months, as it’s the only UCI race held in this area, and I figured it would give me the chance to actually use my UCI license for something! Unfortunately it was pushing 80 degrees both days, which was horrible, and my lungs were still filled with dust from COTN the previous weekend. I use to like racing at Valmont Bike Park, but the steep run ups and staircases just don’t bode well for my legs so I struggled.
Saturday SSW: My birthday! I won the holeshot, over Katie Clouse of all people, but probably paid the price for my crazy ass starting sprint as I never could recover from the effort. Unfortunately I would trip on the Belgian Stairs, and lose contact with Errin and fall to 4th place. I really did not feel well after the race ended, and so I decided to DNS my UCI elite race in the afternoon and head home for some couch-and-cat recovery and “me time” for my 33rd birthday.
Sunday SSW: More fast chicks for this race (anyone without a UCI license tends to pick up single speeding suddenly on the UCI weekend), and I decided to NOT repeat Saturday’s start. This was a good strategy as I felt strong from the beginning. It would be the stupidly steep run up (or hobble up in my case) with little recovery before an off camber climb and 5280 Stairs that would get me, and I would finish 5th on the day.
My lungs remained unhappy in the week after US Open and leading up to this prior weekend’s races. I had never done Schoolyard Cross before, so I decided to take the chance and attend, knowing that all the points I can get would be good. Plus it would be my warm up for CycloX Flatirons, because at this point the ONLY time I’m riding my bike is on the weekend during races.
Schoolyard SSW: Heather, Errin, and I were the only ones racing what would be an awesome single speed course. It’s nothing technical, but has enough that forces you to keep power on the pedals. Big plus for me is that there was only two sets of barriers, so only two short on-offs the bike, unlike Valmont the weekend before. I took the holeshot, but it wasn’t long before Heather left us in her dust. On the second lap I got around Errin, and settled into 2nd place for the rest of the race. I really enjoyed the course, and it was fun to do something new!
CycloX Flatirons SSW: Last time I raced this event was in 2013, and it was one of my first ever cross races. The rest of the years I made up some excuse of how I hated the course. Ummm, I LOVED it this time around! Yeah, it was challenging, and thankfully it was dry, but maybe grass is becoming my thing after all? Liz immediately took the lead, and I settled into 2nd, and built a comfortable cushion for the rest of the laps. Off camber downhills were fun, and even the part that required running my bike up a hill and over some wonky barriers wasn’t that bad! On my second to last lap I tried to take a beer hand up and ended up pouring it down the front of myself, so on my last lap I stopped to enjoy the beer shot before continuing on my way. Without Limits does chip timing, and I was very surprised to see that my laps were all within a few seconds of each other, except for the last one. Because the course was slow moving for the first half there was a TON of course traffic. I was envious of Liz’s ability to run through the throngs of guys. Definitely good practice, though I really enjoyed the later laps when I had some breathing room. Second 2nd place of the weekend!
So that’s the quick and dirty recap of my cross season thus far! I do believe I have six planned races left of the season. I’m hoping I can hold onto my Cross Cup lead!
I’ve spent all year lamenting how horrible my race season has gone. Then today after I won the women’s single speed race at the CycloX race at the infamous Harlow Platts venue, I realized that, holy crap, this has been a good year, all things considered! 2nd at Fat Bike Nationals. 5th place in my first NUE Marathon Series race. 3 wins and the overall title at the Laramie Mountain Bike Series. National championship title at Hill Climb Nationals. And what I feel is my first legit win in cyclocross. Yeah, I burnt out. I stopped training. I got my ego kicked in Florida. I got taken out in a road race and had a resulting pretty bad concussion and freshly discovered split bicep tendon. But holy crap, it’s really been a good year!
BRAC decided to add in the SSW (single speed women) category to cyclocross this year. At first I was hesitant about it, as I already get my ass kicked by cat 1 & 2 gals in cross, and didn’t exactly want to jump into another category for that, as most of the gals expressing interest are also SW Open racers. I grew fond of racing the guys in SS4/5 last year as well, as it can be quite the funky bunch. In August I did Adventure Cross, which is stupidly early to start cross racing, and I was the only one in SSW. Win and dead last, all at the same time! Hmm. Since Without Limits/CycloX Series is running SSW and SS4/5 at the same time, I knew I’d have to decide on which one to race, and since SS4/5 is damn fast this year, I decided I’d settle into SSW for CycloX and try to double up SSW and SS4/5 for racers by other promoters.
Four of us would line up at Harlow Platts, which I found to be a damn hard course during my pre-ride. Fun, but damn hard, especially for my seemingly stout 40×18 single speed gearing. Grass courses aren’t really my favorite, but I did like how Harlow was very smooth (which is great for my shoulder). There was about 5 or so separate sections of sand which I couldn’t quite clear entirely with my gearing. Ugh, running in sand 😦 My favorite part is that the corners were grippy and I could pedal through them, which is important when you only got one gear.
Lining up I knew Megan and Kim would provide some stiff competition and I was nervous. Whistle went off and I ended up taking the holeshot up a steep climb that would be a leg killing grind every lap. Kim would get around me in the first sand section as she’s much more proficient at running with a bike. I’d come through the first lap 3 seconds behind her. I don’t remember when, but I would overtake her on the 2nd lap, and I just put the hammer down. It hurt and I was drooling mucus all over everything (one guy actually told me “that’s gross” when I spit some out… lol!), but I forced myself up and out of the saddle, especially on the power climbs. Only section I really struggled with were the uphill barriers which I just found impossible to run (I have long legs anyway so sometimes speed walking is actually faster for me).
After 5 grueling laps it was finally all over! I finished 47 seconds ahead, woohoo! Woo, that was hard! But I was so excited!
OK, motivation was GONE for this race, the 48 mile long Dakota Five-O in Spearfish, SD. I do believe this is the latest mountain bike race I have attempted in a season, and with little riding leading up to what would be one of my longest rides of the year on any bike , I knew it would just be a struggle bus all the way to the finish. Luckily the Black Hills are gorgeous and the trails are amazing, so there would be worse places to be suffering!
Rain was predicted all weekend, so I was more concerned with how my historically leaky tent would fair. The day before the race I took to spraying waterproofing on my tent at the Spearfish KOA and staking out the rain fly the best I could, hoping I wouldn’t be soggy. I spun down to the pasta dinner and back as my warm up for the next day. So beyond the season to be doing any sort of race openers!
I started in the first wave due to that “pro thing,” though I was fair from feeling fast. The race immediately starts climbing on pavement and dirt roads out of Spearfish, and I held on ok until probably the last mile where I dropped off the back and tried to settle into a sustainable pace. I was probably one of the last five of the first wave to hit the single track. It would be a long day of people passing me, I had accepted. The rainy/foggy weather led to some amazing vibes in the forest in an eery, enchanted way, and also left us with tacky hero dirt. Luckily nothing got muddy muddy, which was nice. However, South Dakota rocks are similar to East Coast rocks, and they were slick along with the thousands of tree roots. I spent the race reminding myself of how to ride the slick roots and rocks and thanked my Pennsylvania experiences.
I won’t lie, my motivation just wasn’t there. There were so many times I found myself so lightly pedaling, just putzing along with really no concept that I was racing. It was a mental struggle, and all I wanted to do was hurry up and get the race over with, but I wasn’t pushing myself to actually pedal fast. At least I could enjoy the trails! The sun did come out for a short while, but on a fast fire road descent we went from sunshine to fog with and extreme temperature drop in an instant, and it would stay foggy and drizzly the rest of the race for me.
All I really wanted was to get to the bacon and beer station around mile 34 or so. That was a glorious moment pulling in there, and getting that horribly soggy, cold piece of bacon and half cup of PBR! I took my time enjoying my snack. Funny enough, right after the bacon station was the most technical terrain of the race. Really slick rocks on a steep descent. I surprised myself with riding stuff that I probably normally wouldn’t have. I just really wanted to get done. Dakota Five-O is one of those races where people keep saying “it’s all downhill!” and then you spend miles slogging up some ascent, swearing at the person who told you that.
The race ends with a several mile long descent down Tinton Trail, which we climbed at the beginning. It was like the never ending trail of hell. Awesome trail, but at that point I really just wanted to be done more than ever! Popping out into the road was glorious, and I took to an aero tuck and hauled ass down back to Spearfish, topping out at 40mph. Once again, with the finish in sight I managed to sprint with energy. Oh hi motivation, nice to see you after 5 hours and 36 minutes… ugh!
My goal was to come in under 6 hours, with 5.5 hours being ideal, so I’m happy with my 5:36 finishing time. Could I have done it faster? Hell yeah. But I’m satisfied with how it all went with no training and the motivation issues. I loved the trail conditions, and honestly the course was not nearly as brutal as I was expecting! Most of the race I had the attitude of “been there, done that, got the tee shirt,” but now I’m thinking I want to attempt to go next year to experience the course in the opposite direction. So we’ll see! I ended up 11th in my age group and 27th overall out of 90+ women. Not too shabby!
Five seasons of Laramie Mountain Bike Series over four years of learning how to be a bike racer… and I took home the overall open women’s title!
LMBS was rough this year. Lack of training + lack of motivation or interest for XC racing + petty small town BS + the road race crash = kind of dragging myself to those six Tuesday races. But I made all six (another first), finished all of them, and survived! I really wanted to win the overall this year, but knew it probably wouldn’t be easy, but so happy I fought until the end and came out on top of my local race series!
After the first two races I kind of struggled. LMBS 3 came a few days after my amazing race at the Tatanka 50k, and involved two laps up Death Crotch. I just never could get a good rhythm on the climb, and the course really didn’t suite me well with it’s rather short amount of climbing (granted tough), combined with a ton of descending. I hung on for 2nd. LMBS 4 was more of the same… started on a descent, ended on a descent. I did make myself proud with clearing Aspen for the first time in the climbing direction with no dabs (I remember Sara and I walking decent amounts of it during the race in 2015). The final lap three of us came together, which I don’t remember seeing happening in an open LMBS race in a long time. I was riding 3rd and put down a great pass and sprint on a tight corner into a climb to take over 1st. I’d end up taking 2nd again.
I did the math and knew what I needed to do for the final two races. LMBS 5 almost didn’t happen, though. When I pulled into the parking lot I noticed my rear tire had deflated completely and come off the bead. In a panic I hauled butt down the summit and into Laramie, where Joel from the Pedal House quickly grabbed my bike, changed out the valve core, aired it back up, and sent me on my way. I drove the way back up to the race with my gloves and helmet on, knowing I wouldn’t have much time to make it to the starting line. I pulled in with ten minutes to spare, so no warm up as I had time to get the bike off the car, shove a pump and a million CO2’s in my back pocket, check in, and line up. Not ideal.
Luckily the course was to my style, with 20-30 minutes of solid climbing, followed by the descent down Death Crotch, and a steady uphill double track climb back through the start-finish. I knew I had to hammer the climbing to build the cushion for the descending, as Alyssa is a super fast descender. It had rained so the dirt had moisture which led to tacky hero dirt. And hammered I did from the whistle, and never looked back! I even took the QOM on the Summit trail climb, which I was surprised about since the rocks were slippery. I flew down Death Crotch, and even had a few advanced men racers tell me I was “flying.” Better than last year when a guy tried crashing me and another girl out for going “so slow!” Second lap went well, though another storm rolled in and just as I was cresting the climbing portion of Death Crotch to begin the descent there was lightning and icy rain pelting me. Usually I recover ever so slightly across the ridge, but I wanted out of the exposed area. I powered up the double track and took 1st place, much to my relief! And it all worked out that the 50psi of rear tire pressure I had worked out due to the tacky dirt!
Another round of math was done, and I realized I didn’t even have to show up to race at LMBS 6 and I would still secure the overall win. However, I wasn’t going down without a fight! My parents came out to watch me for the first time at an LMBS, which was exciting! The course made me nervous, as once it again it ended with a big descent. The start did involve climbing up Middle Aspen, so I knew I’d have to do what I did best, and that was climb. I did worry how my legs would respond as this was days after the National Championships up Pikes Peak, but it would be what it would be. With my new Specialized Racing white/pink kit I took to the starting line.
The first lap I felt awful. Absolutely awful! Side ache and just so unfit. But I knew I was flying as the steady stream of advanced men hadn’t flown by me yet, and they wouldn’t until I started the descent down Pole Creek back to the start-finish! I waved a few guys around, and one told me, “You’re hauling ass!” which made me smile. Unfortunately we would hit the kid racers on LiMBS, which to me was a very dangerous situation, as we were going 15-20mph, coming up on children on bicycles who really have no idea about what to do in race situations. Luckily it all went without incident, and we hammered through for the second lap. Second lap I felt better, and aside from going off my line and having to run up a loose climb on Middle Aspen, it was all going swell. I forced myself to get out of the saddle and to hammer when I could, especially on climbs.
After about an hour and four minutes I came through to my parents’ cheers with a big smile on my face and first LMBS overall win!
I won’t lie, I’m happy and relieved that MTB race season is over for 2016 (minus the Dakota 5-O, which I’m doing more for the awesome trails and experience than a race). On paper it actually looks like a good season, with double podiums at Fat Bike Nationals, and then three wins at LMBS and strong races at the Half Growler and Tatanka 50k. But to me it just wasn’t the season I had imagined. But it’s okay to have an off year, right? 😀 What I’m really enjoying are my more confident descending skills… I even took 3 MINUTES off my PR down Wathan… 3 minutes is huge!
I’ve started to try to think of what 2017 would hold in store for me. Initially in early 2016 I had said I wouldn’t race in 2017 and would focus on trying to get over to Iceland to ride, but as my season went on this year and didn’t go ideally I realized I wanted to see if I could make 2017 go a bit better, plus I’m dipping into my Iceland savings to pay the medical bills from the road race crash, and I only want to go to Iceland if I have the money to do the trip exactly how I want!
2017 rough plans:
Absolutely no mass start traditional road races. My wallet cannot afford another $7000 trip to the ER due to someone else’s poor bike skills. I do plan on trying to do some of the hill climbing events, and maybe early spring TT’s to get that motivation burning and going. I think a flaw for 2016 was I didn’t race all spring until Florida Cup in May. There was nothing keeping the spark alive to keep training.
Fat Bike World Championships in Crested Butte in January. I’ll get to meet up with the Dirt Components crew which will be awesome, and I’ll get in several solid days of fun on the fat bike!
Half Growler to try to go sub-4 hours after having an awesome time this year at the race
Tatanka 50k because the race was amazing!
Possibly the Carson City Off-Road
Leadville Stage Race. Expensive, but it’s perked my interest, and I think is the most feasible way for me to go back and “finish” the LT100 course. Plus I’ve been wanting to do a mountain bike stage race for awhile now. There’s a new stage race in Iceland, and wouldn’t this be a good prep? 😀
USAC Hill Climb Nationals. Obvious reasons!
Missing from the plans are the Gowdy Grinder. That race is out to kill me, and I haven’t had fun at it for years. I’m on the fence about LMBS, surprisingly. It’ll really depend on how training and preparation goes, along with how my race calendar shapes up. I only want to race LMBS next year if I’m in great XC shape.
I’ll have to see how it all fits in and goes, but being considered is USAC Marathon MTB Nationals and the 50k version of Pierre’s Hole.
There’s a theme, and once again it’s longer endurance races. Eventually I think I’ll decide whether to focus on XCO vs. XCM, but until then I think I’m young enough to keep flip flopping 🙂
Until then… there’s cyclocross and riding just how I feel like it (wait, that’s been most of this year… ha!)!! Also I am trying to mix it up with a few other sports. I’m really itching to re-learn how to skate ski and add that in for my winter training (though who wants to bet how quickly I’m trying to enter ski races?).
I can’t recall how many times I’ve laid in bed and daydreamed what winning a national championship would be like… coming across the line… would I try to post up? Maybe just one arm up, I’m too clumsy for that two hands off the bars thing. Finishing with happy tears. This is what it’d be like for a mountain bike title…. this is what it would be like for a fat bike title… hmmm, unlikely, but a hill climb title. Wouldn’t it be awesome? The jersey to wear on Fourth of July, and getting to add the Stars and Stripes to the collar and sleeves of all my kits for the rest of my life. All of it just sounds so awesome!
I pretty much decided last minute (aka a week out) to do the USAC Hill Climb National Championships. I debated it most of the summer, and then after a horrid day climbing Mt. Evans, another Colorado 14er with paved road access (followed by another horrid day of attempting to climb Guanella Pass and giving up), I was pretty discouraged by the thought of giving Pikes Peak, a harder 14er climb a go. Finally I decided what the hell and registered. I figured if anything I could just mark the second road-bikeable 14er off my list and be done with this climbing nonsense and a season filled with some not so good times. On Wednesday I woke up with a sore throat and stuffy head that persisted all week, so I kicked myself for possibly getting sick so close to a race I already registered for, and one that couldn’t take most cold medicines for. OK, just survive this…
After spending almost four hours in the car attempting to get to Colorado Springs on a Friday afternoon, I finally arrived to packet pick up, and old teamies Joe and Mike, who had a beer ready for me at the bar. Pikes Peak was enveloped in stormy clouds as we swapped our thoughts for the next day and got caught up on our lives. I was starting to get nervous. What exactly had I gotten myself into?! I have barely been doing anything that counts as “training,” let alone riding, and had those memories of Mt. Evans in the back of my mind. The race would follow the PPIHC course (Pikes Peak International Hill Climb… the infamous car race that takes place every year) – 12.4 miles with 4,700 feet of elevation gain and 156 turns. A 12.4 mile bike race may not seem like anything, but climbing 4,700 feet in that time is pretty damn insane… not to mention the race starts at 9,300 feet and ends up at 14,110 feet!
I surprisingly slept well, and woke up at 4:20am ready to go. Packed up the car and swung through McDonald’s drive thru (which had a line… at 4:45am?!) for my traditional Number 3 with large Hi-C Orange and large vanilla latte. The drive up to Pikes Peak Toll Road was uneventful, and I smiled as I railed Mr. Fozzy through the corners. Pikes Peak is, after all, a special place for me. It’s where I met the ex that introduced me to cycling… it’s where I saw Paul Walker in person, and was one of the last events I ever photographed as I winded down my racing photography stint. So driving my turbo SUV like a race car brought me joy among the impending doom of what was coming up.
It was chilly as I aimlessly wandered around with no purpose. Use the port-a-potty. Get in my timing chip. Affix said chip to bike. Debate clothes. Eat a third of my egg mcmuffin and get all sad as I had no appetite. Laugh at Mike throwing up gang signs. Ride 0.6 miles and call it a warm up. Finally settle on arm warmers, thermal long sleeve jersey, wind vest, bibs, knee warmers, wool winter socks, and long finger gloves – I thought it was summer, why all the clothes? Hold my teammate’s bike as she uses the port-a-potty. Shoot, guess we gotta go race now.
Roll up to the start. There’s three of us, so there’s a 33.33% chance of winning a national championship. I had let the thoughts roll into my head the week between registration and the race. I would try to shake them off. I didn’t want to get myself excited for something that probably wouldn’t happen, much like at fat bike nationals, where it was so close but four minutes away in the end. The whistle blows and Melissa takes off in a sprint, and I’m left wondering how to get my left foot in my pedal. UGH. I didn’t want a fast start. There’s only so many matches when racing up to 14,000 feet in elevation that you can burn. But I chased. I wasn’t going down without a fight. I tucked into her back wheel. She was pushing the pace. After about a mile or so the grade turned up, and I came around her and just kept going. I just figured I’d just go and see what would happen. I’d never led in a national championship race except for the 20 seconds I led in the pro race at Fat Bike Nationals. Another what the hell moment, it’s not like I wouldn’t finish with at least a bronze medal if it all went bad.
The climb to the summit averages 7%, with many much much much steeper portions. Surprisingly I found myself just trucking along, though I was sad to discover how early I was already in my granny gear (yay compact cranksets and 32t cogs!). My cadence settled in around the high 60s (big contrast to my normal 90+ rpm), and power in the tempo zone. I had come to terms that for two hours, or hopefully less, my sole purpose in life was to talk to Paul Walker’s ghost and to pedal my bike nonstop. Really as simple as that. Surprisingly, the course was going fast. I ticked off every mile and gave myself a good ol’ “there ya go, now — miles to go to the top!” I mean, it was 12.4 miles. Anybody can do anything for 12.4 miles, right?
Coming up to the W’s was almost an overwhelming moment for me. There is was… my corner! The one I photographed from in 2011! For a brief second I actually closed my eyes and said “This one’s for you, Paul.” (If anybody hasn’t figured out that the import car scene pretty much shaped my adult life by now, now you know. Seriously, I wouldn’t have been riding a bike up Pikes Peak if it wasn’t for all the car stuff.) The W’s are hard… hell, I had struggled walking up them with 20 pounds of camera gear in 2011… and here I was grinding them out on a bike (which actually did seem easier). But I knew after the W’s came Devil’s Playground, where for some brief minutes the road flattens out and descends into Bottomless Pit.
This is where I would start riding blind. I have never been beyond Devil’s Playground. And I had made the fatal assumption that the road flattened out after Devil’s Playground for good… forgetting the fact it still ascends something like 1,100 feet in a handful of miles. Bottomless Pit is a teaser… 30mph down I flew to grind 4.5mph up the hill that follows. It had hit… the wall of doom. I still had not seen my competitors behind me, which I had checked for as the road switchbacked up, so I knew I had a solid lead, but I also knew that anything can happen at any moment on a bicycle. I knew I hadn’t been drinking very well, as it’s really hard to drink when your heart rate is 180bpm and you’re focused on pedaling at a steady pace. So I panic drank some of my Tailwind mix. I was using the raspberry caffeinated mix, so if anything I was hoping for a caffeine high. Also to note, I had finally crossed above 13,000 feet in elevation, so it’s quite possible that I just wasn’t moving the oxygen to my muscles that I was needing. Because 13,000 feet is very high, and it was only the second time in my life I had been at this elevation. (Side note: I am very thankful I was born at 7200 feet, raised at nearly 9000 feet, live now at 6200 feet, and race/train at 7000-9000 feet, as moderately high altitude has little effect on me compared to most others.)
At about mile 10 I spotted the familiar blue and yellow kit of Spradley Barr Wind Chill Cycling on the back of Joe… finally, my rabbit! But I just couldn’t get those legs to turn faster, as my cadence dropped into the 50s, and my heart rate went from north of 180bpm to the 170s. Elevation… it’s a bitch when it finally does affect you. Or was it my lack of calories and fluid intake? Oh hell, just keep pedaling. WHY ARE THE FINAL MILES SO DAMN STEEP? ARGHH. My exact thoughts. Come on Paul Walker, I could really use a shot of nitrous right about now…
Around a hairpin and cog railroad tracks. OK, Joe mentioned something about this being near the summit. Dammit, why can’t I catch him? Around another corner… wait, is that the finishing arch I see? HOLY SH!T I’M GOING TO WIN A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP! And that, my friends, is how I managed to up my speed, up my power, up my heart rate, and actually start picking up speed on a bicycle again. Or the caffeinated Tailwind kicked in. Or I managed to engage NOS Program 2.0 and speed ahead of Toretto.
OK OK OK, WHAT DO I DO?! The daydream… it was becoming reality. Like… I don’t win very many bike races, let alone really really really REALLY important ones. Zip the vest… ok, whew, remembered that. Can’t have anyone seeing me win with my sports bra hanging out. I don’t do it at LMBS, and I certainly can’t have it happening now! Massive smile and a celebratory fist pump and single right arm raised into the air!
1 hour 51 minutes 12.89 seconds. The inaugural masters women 30-39 hill climb national champion.
The flood gates of uncontrollable crying and tears began. Joe Joe Joe Joe I WON!!! I yelled out as I finally caught Joe after the finish line. I stopped and slumped over my bars just crying. I think my other teammate Kate came over and asked what was wrong and I stammered out some sloppy half-crying half-happy “I WON!” Then I noticed how badly my butt hurt. So painful I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t bend over. Wow, 7% grade for nearly two hours does the sit bones no good! (I never was out of the saddle after the starting sprint. I was worried the acceleration in my heart rate could be a bad mistake.)
The time at the summit was spent hobbling over to get my gear bag and tossing on my warm thermal jacket and dry gloves – my fingers were so cold and numb by the summit that I had trouble shifting for the final get up and go, and then gathering up some teammates for photos at the summit sign. I had huge concerns about descending, as I spent the first 5 miles descending Mt. Evans crying in fear, but luckily Pikes Peak Highway is perfectly paved (see, car races are good for keeping road conditions good!), and after changing into my heavier wind proof gloves I descended confidently. Traffic kept the speeds slow, and at some points I was actually wanting to go faster.
I still can’t believe how it went. Much like the Tatanka 50k where I spent a lot of time breaking my personal rules, I did the same on Pikes Peak. I never thought I’d get a national title on a road bike, especially after my crash in June that left me swearing off any sort of group road biking competitive activity for the foreseeable future. I’ve always described myself as a climber, but this year it never quite went well for me the times I tried the “big girl” climbs on Mt. Evans and Guanella. But the entire time up Pikes Peak, minus for some negative thoughts with two miles to go, I was actually calm and enjoying the climb… I had accepted that it is what it is, and only way to go was to keep pedaling upwards. ‘
But I also think I helped break some other people’s rules. Unfortunately I have had it mentioned to me more than enough times statements such as “You’re really big to be a climber,” “You climb well for someone your size,” and “You’re better off being a sprinter.” Y’all, I am 5’9.5″ and 150 pounds. By American standards, I am a tiny person. But to some cyclists, I’m apparently “too big” to be climbing hills, or at least have it be my strength on a bike. Yeah, I’m almost 33 years old… I have hips and a big booty. I have cellulite, and I certainly do not have a six pack (unless it’s six pack of tacos). I can put down 800 watts in a sprint, there’s no doubt I can sprint. But holy crap people, I can climb on a bike as well! It’s my saving grace on the mountain bike, it’s how I do well at those races, and my ability to climb has also paid off on the road bike. Stop telling people what they should be good at based on a body size! /soapbox
Anyways, for a final wrap up of some nerdy statistics:
4,717 feet of elevation gain
6.6mph average speed
182bpm average heart rate, max of 192bpm
67rpm average cadence
192 watts average power (195 watts weighted average)
I spent 41% of my time in my tempo power zone 167-199 watts), and 31% of my time in my threshold zone 200-233 watts). I am super comfortable with how that all worked out, and mostly am very happy about the consistent effort.
What a great highlight of my race season as it winds down! Shoot, I just may have to race it again next year!