Race Report

For the love of mud: CycloX Louisville

 

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Photo by Brent Murphy

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!

Photo by Brent Murphy
Photo by Brent Murphy

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).

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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!

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My bike got just a wee bit dirty

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!

Race Report

Cross is still here!

Photo by Ryan Muncy
Photo by Ryan Muncy

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.

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  • 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).
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Photo by Brent Murphy
Photo by Brent Murphy
Photo by Brent Murphy
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Photo by ShotWilliam

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.
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Photo by Shawn Curry
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Photo by Shawn Curry
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Photo by Shawn Curry
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Photo by Terri Smith

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!
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    Photo by Terri Smith
    Photo by Terri Smith
  • 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!
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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!

Race Report

Cross is here, cross is here!

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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.

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Cyclocross in August calls for running through sand with a beer in one hand! Adventure CX. (Photo by Colobikelaw/Adventure Cycling)

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.

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CycloX Harlow Platts with my spiffy custom skinsuit designed by Rufus Designs!  (Photo by John Flora)

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!

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Race Report

Dakota Five-O

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First wave racers lined up… I’m back in the pink helmet, wondering how in the world that guy was going to ride in pink hot pants

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!

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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.

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Photo – Les Heiserman

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.

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Photo – Les Heiserman

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.

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Mouth full of bacon! This is why I did this race! (Photo – Melanie Arnett)

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!

Race Report

Ending the season on the top step!

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From 3rd in 2014, to 2nd in 2015, to the WIN in 2016!

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!

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There’s something to be said for blending in, so I went incognito with an all black kit for LMBS 5! No sense in being a neon pink rabbit when every point matters! (Photo by Jessica Flock)

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.

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LMBS 6 (Photo by Ben Parman)

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.

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Displaying terrible descending form on my last lap (Photo by Ben Parman)

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!

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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?).

Race Report

USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championships

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The first ever USAC Hill Climb National Championships… spoiler alert on this photo! (Photo – Mellissa Westergard)

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.

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That mountain in the background? Yeah, that’s where I had to ride my bike to the top of!

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?

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The W’s!

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.)

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14er #2 via bicycle, and I’m not faking my smile on this one!

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.

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Me, Jill, and Alli at the summit!

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These guys made the weekend that much more special! Joe – from sharing the Broken Spoke Award in 2013 to the top of Pikes Peak at a national championships in 2016.  Mike – proving that there’s gangstas in Wyoming every day! 307 and CYS represent! Thanks to both of you for your friendship and support over the past 3 years I have been racing! I’m not joking when I say that this weekend was way more memorable and fun due to your company!

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.  ‘

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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

But really…

Anyways, for a final wrap up of some nerdy statistics:
12.2 miles
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.

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What a great highlight of my race season as it winds down!  Shoot, I just may have to race it again next year!

Race Report

Let the Laramie World Cup Season Begin!

Where is this summer going?!  Already one week into July… the year seems to be flying by.  It’s definitely been a year of changing plans and kind of going with the flow.  I decided a bit ago, probably shortly after deciding I would stop following a training plan, that I wouldn’t be going to nationals, which was my big goal for the summer.  The traveling, the money to spend (big factor), and potentially not really getting to race much (uh, hi.  Olympians in my race) kind of all factored in.  It was a relief, but I do find myself getting slightly sad.  But it’s all working out since my crash and injuries anyway.

The exciting thing is the Laramie Mountain Bike Series started!! Woohoo!  My World Cups!  Unfortunately the first race came 3 days after my crash, which really stressed me out.  A lot of people were surprised to see me lining up, heavily bandaged and rather spacey and out of it due to my concussion.  (I am in NO way advocating racing with a concussion.  Not a smart idea.)  Luckily the course was a good one – pretty much climb for 30 minutes, descend for 15… repeat!  The start for LMBS got moved to the lower trailhead this year and starts on a new 0.7 mile stretch of single track called LiMBS that is ungodly rough.  I went with my Epic, and softened my suspension all the way to help out with my bum shoulder and also to help reduce my brain jiggling around.

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Little pink helmet! (Photo by Pedal House)

I do believe I took the second row, behind Georgia.  The rest of the open women tend to hang in the back, but I learned last year to take my place up front.  There were 9 ladies in open women, which was awesome!!  Start went off, and the pain of XC racing started.  I tried to hang onto wheels as we went up LiMBS and I fight to find some rhythm.  It freaking hurt.  I questioned why I was racing.  Gwynn came around me on Pole Creek, and I just settled in to a semi-comfortable-but-this-still-freaking-hurts pace up the climbs and onto Headquarters.

On Headquarters I saw Teresa catching me on the climb, but I managed to gap her on the descending.  I was trying to ride semi-cautiously on the descents as the last thing I wanted to do was crash and worsen any injuries.  Luckily a big part of the descent is on a stretch of double track, and I put the power down, getting all aero and roadie!  Middle Aspen we caught some beginner traffic, which I think is stressful for both the beginners and pros.  My passes went well and I was through the start/finish for my second lap still in second place.

On the second lap Teresa finally made contact on the overlook climb on Headquarters.  I stayed within a few seconds of her until the rocky, chunky climb up the Summit Loop, where I bobbled and took a few seconds to catch my breath.  Bye bye Teresa!  I still didn’t know where anybody else was, so I hammered the descending to finish third… woohoo!  I had no idea how this race would go, and it surprisingly went ok with all things considered!

A week later was the second LMBS race.  With an additional week of recovery, I was excited to get back to racing feeling healthier.  The course was set to be long and tough at 19.5 miles.  It involved three descents down Aspen, which is rocky and rooty and highly eroded.  I hadn’t ridden it since last year so I didn’t know how it would be.  This time I took the third row among the men at the start, and immediately from the start I felt like poo.  My legs just weren’t showing up.  But I settled in, and reminded myself to pace my efforts since it was a long race, and there was no sense in blowing up on the first lap or two.

First time Aspen I took it fairly cautiously, taking my time to choose lines.  The descent down Haunted Forest was super sandy and sketchy.  We had to turn around a downed tree, and a branch lodged itself in my rear wheel so I had to jump off and pull it out, and then continue.  We had to do the long double track Old Happy Jack climb back to the start/finish which is an advantage for me since it’s just a pure power type of riding.  It sucks as you don’t get any recovery, even on the flatter portions, it’s all max heart rate the whole time.  I came through in first place, which made me smile for my second lap!

Second lap went well, though on Aspen an advanced men category male decided to start throwing a fit and swore at me by name for not descending faster.  Stressful, but damn, I was leading open women and I ride within my abilities, especially with a concussion, dammit!  Finally he got around on a safer section to pass, and I was surrounded by polite racers the rest of the race.  Once again, came through for my third and final lap in first, no women in sight.  I still didn’t know where Teresa was behind me, and I wasn’t finding familiar faces in advanced men to ask how far back the other women were.  I would ride 90% of the third lap all by myself, which always gets eery, because I always end up feeling like I’m the last person on the race course.

Finally on the Old Happy Jack climb Jim caught me and said he hasn’t seen any women since he passed them on his first lap… whew!  I had it!  🙂  So I looped back up Pole Creek, and then did the funniest thing… I zipped up my jersey… ha!  I always see the Big Girls do that at World Cups, and so you know… a Laramie MTB race is like a World Cup… so I zipped that stuff up!  #tooprobutsonotpro is appropriate at this moment in time… and I won my second ever LMBS open women’s race with a margin of 3.5 minutes!

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I look pooped! Coming to the finish line with my #t00probutsonotpro zipped up jersey (Photo by Marie Bethea)

I was gassed at the end of the race, which pleased me as it meant I left it all out there.  And I was super excited, as for the first time ever I moved into the “leader’s jersey” aka (“leader’s horn”) in any category at the series!!  Gives me motivation for the other 4 races left in the series, as I’d love to bring the open women’s overall back to a Laramie native and Wyoming resident 😀

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Super excited to have the LMBS Leader’s Horn!

So yeah… this summer is just all about going with the flow.  I’m honestly not riding very much, especially since I’ve been doing 4-day stretches at work.  But it’s ok, and I’m ok with it.   Since I still have all my time off from my canceled nationals trip, I have some fun stuff planned!  I’m racing the 50k Tatanka Point to Point in Sturgis, SD this weekend.  Then I’ll be able to make LMBS #3 (so excited I can do all 6 races this year!).  Got some other fun rides planned, too.  Maybe this is working out for me, after all…

Race Report, Uncategorized

Race Report: Gunnison Half Growler

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Photo by Dave Kozlowski

It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to blog or write a race report.  Florida Cup was a comically horrible, humbling experience in racing in my first pro USAC field in a “foreign” environment (Florida is really nothing like Wyoming… they have gators!).  Gowdy Grinder had potential until I launched myself airborne off my bike just shy of 3 miles in, banging myself up pretty bad physically and mentally.  2016 was quickly turning into the race season of crashes and lowered expectations.

And then it was time for the Gunnison Half Growler!  I was nervous about how this race would go since I have stopped formally training (I suppose that’s another topic for another time I should write about).  I knew I was looking at a 4+ hour day, which was way more than I had been riding in a long long long time.  I got to Gunnison about 2:30 on Friday, and was early enough to packet pick up that I was able to get a growler from last year (no growler finisher prizes this year 😦 ), and then checked into my little cabin at the KOA (which is the best KOA everrrrr).  Since it looked stormy, I quickly changed and jumped on my bike to head up to Hartman Rocks to get in a few “opener” miles.  Luckily I got in my miles before the monsoon set in!

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My “tent cabin!”
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Some pre-race miles before the rain

Race morning I was up at 7am and prepared my 2L of Tailwind and debated clothing.  Last year I was oh so thankful to have my thermal jersey when the rain set in, so I had a bit of paranoia going into this year.  I remember in 2015 the start was sunny, and less than an hour in there was freezing hail.  I tend not to trust weather forecasts, so choosing my clothing was just about the hardest thing!  Just a bit before 8 I set out into town, picked up breakfast, and relaxed in my car in the county parking lot.  I ended up going with my thermal jersey, and stashed a wind jacket and vest in my Camelback. for good measure.  I would end up regretting the warm jersey since the day stayed sunny until the last 20 minutes!

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I’m one of the pink dots in there (Photo by Dave Kozlowski)

Ugh, the start.  The start of the Growler is the scariest thing to me since a lot of the competitors do not have experience in pack riding, and we have a good 4.5 miles of “neutral,” high speed pack riding to survive through.  When the gun went off I was expecting the guy in front of me to move faster than he did, so I hit his back tire and came off my bike.  A frustrated girl behind me started in with the “SERIOUSLY, REALLY?” nonsense which frustrated me more as I tried to hop back on my bike in a timely fashion.  Finally I was up and rolling and tried to get to the front.  There were still a few scary moments, but I managed to not be part of the crash that occurred turning onto the dirt at Hartman’s parking lot.  Since it was dry and dusty I took to picking off people up Kill Hill, which I felt surprisingly good on (turns out I would end up 11th on the Strava leaderboard on Kill Hill… just seconds out of the top 10!)… I can still climb?!

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My face is one of… non-amusement?  (Photo by Matt Burt)

I feel like the first hour or so is all just about settling in.  I focused on smooth descending, remembering my form, and found myself confidently riding a lot of stuff!  My only goal for this race was to beat my 2015 time, though the course direction was reversed (and this year was supposedly the “harder” direction which I don’t doubt!).  After about that initial hour or so I settled in with roughly the same 10 people that I would ride around the rest of the day.  I remembered to try to just pace myself, spinning a lot of the climbs and reminding myself it was about the long haul and to not blow myself up since I was in uncharted territory in regards to lack of training and bike time this year.

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Up and over some rocky feature (Photo by Matt Burt)

The dry, dusty conditions made the race seem to fly by compared to last year where it was a slip and slide on a lot of the stuff in the first half or so.  Skull Pass (rough half point) came faster than I was expecting.  Unfortunately Skull Pass SUCKS in this direction (counterclockwise), and it was a long hike a bike over many sections.  Bright sun + no wind + hiking = sucky time.  I was remaining pretty positive and happy the whole race, but Skull Pass soured my mood.  I was never so happy to grind up that road to the aid station!  I had found myself not really desiring to drink my Tailwind, and was craving plain water, so I downed my one bottled, and stopped and had it refilled at Skull Pass.  I turned down the bacon as I didn’t know what it would do to my stomach 😦  I then set out to climb up to the high point of the course, and then enjoy a long double track descent.

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Train of racers (Photo by Matt Burt)

The road up to the power line area was another long, steep hike a bike as the road was very sandy and loose and after awhile the tires would just start spinning.  I really really really hate walking my bike, it brings back horrible memories of the Columbine Climb during the Leadville 100.  Luckily this wasn’t that long!  The race still seemed to be going by super fast, and I got excited at what my finish time would be… then would  come the death by a million small technical climbs.  Why all the technical stuff comes 30 miles in is beyond me… but Rattlesnake is just brutal when you’ve never ridden it before and your arms are noodles!  I had remained crash-free, so I walked a lot of stuff… a lot.

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Don’t mind me, I’m just taking my bike for a walk on Rattlesnake (Photo by Dave Kozlowski)

I had a fun moment when my teammate Michelle caught me at 3 hours 59 minutes.  She had told me at the start “see you at 3 hours!”  She has amazing endurance and badass descending skills, so I knew she would catch me… but I joked “what took you so long?” and we had a chuckle when she said “it’s 3 hours!” and I told her it was really 4.  We were now very close to the finish so I tried to let loose on the final descents, and shifted down on the double track to lay down the power and not lose any more positions in the final little bits.

4 hours 3 minutes 58 seconds…

31 minutes faster than 2015!

Woohoo!

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Woohoo! Half Growler 2016 done and done!

I was so happy with my result and how awesome I felt throughout the race that I immediately thought “wow, I need to come back next year and aim for sub-4 hours!”  That is a first.  I have never finished an endurance XC race (let alone any XC race really), and immediately wanted to do it again!  I ended up 6th in pro women… which was last place.  But that was alright as I knew I wasn’t aiming for a podium (ok, I would’ve been 3rd had I raced my age group.  Ahem.  Yes, I checked that.  Damn this pro license haha).  I was 24th overall for women, compared to 39th in 2015, so I’m happy to be solidly in the top half!  It was just so awesome to do a race since Fat Bike Nationals where I haven’t crashed or had what seemed to be the whole world working against me!

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Some of us Naked girls post-race! (Photo: Michelle Hoffer)

So the theory has been posed… maybe it’s good that I stopped “training” in a formal, regimented manner?  That remains to be seen, probably.  But I have noticed my newly descending and technical skills, which I think has helped me make up those little seconds here and there that I might be losing by not having my full climbing fitness.  Who knows… I had fun, and that’s all I care about!

Oh, and I did oh so bad with my nutrition… thinking I had polished off my Camelback of Tailwind, I pulled  out the bladder once I got back to the car and was shocked to see I drank only a “few inches” out of it 😦  But I never felt bonked… only outside nutrition was one Clif banana-mango pouch, 1.5 bottles of plain water, and two pickle slices.  Something to work on leading up to some of the bigger races I have planned!

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Don’t worry, my post race nutrition was on point! Great dinner at Garlic Mike’s with teammates Brittany and Berta, and Berta’s husband Paul
Race Report

Race Report: USA Cycling Fat Bike National Championships

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Goodbye off season!  I decided last fall I would give the USAC Fat Bike National Championships a go since Ogden is close and I owned a fat bike.  I was still in my “I hate this crap” mode about fat biking, but as winter has gone on, I fell more and more in love with being out in the cold and snow riding my normal trails on big ol’ tires.  I decided I wanted to target nationals as a “B” race for the year, and really try hard for the best result I could give.  So there I was signed up for both my masters women 30-39 race and the women’s pro race, which were two hours apart.  30 miles, couple of hours, and snow!

My parents joined me for the trip, which was a nice change from lonely and long drives and eating out alone (a huge fear of mine).  I picked up my new 2016 Salsa Beargrease Carbon on Wednesday, and gave it a nervous and quick spin up at Happy Jack before we left for Ogden on Thursday morning.  The drive was uneventful, with 75 cent cones in Little America, and a relief for me that for once I could just sit and stare at the scenery vs having to keep my eyes on the road!  As we approached Ogden my excitement grew and grew as I took in the mountains.  Yay, it’s time to race bikes!

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Friday morning we made the drive up to Powder Mountain for a pre-ride.  The course… well… it’s the not the variety of fat biking I do.  I do tricky, tight single track.  The nationals course was what felt like 20 feet wide highway, and aside from a very very short “single track” section wasn’t tricky at all.  There’s a couple of berms, but I made the decision I wouldn’t ride up on them as it wasn’t worth the risk to my result.  I’ve biked enough in the snow to know what’s risky and what’s riskier.  The course starts with a fast downhill – 30mph fast – with a few punchy climbs before more fast false flat sections.  Halfway you turn and start climbing.  I’ll hand it to the course for having some serious climbing.  There were about 3 or 4 super steep pitches and then otherwise long climbing grinds.  I pre-rode in the granniest of granny gears to save my legs and developed a massive side ache that typically comes after not being at altitude for awhile, which didn’t make sense because Happy Jack is the same elevation and I had just rode there.  I blamed it on the hotel breakfast croissants in the end.  I finished up the pre-ride and called it good after one lap.  The new bike felt amazing, almost like being on my S-Works Fate on dry dirt with it’s responsiveness.  I had the tires set up tubeless, and that definitely helped make pedaling seem more effortless.  The 45Nrth Husker Dus hooked up good in the mushy snow conditions.

We headed back to Ogden and went to packet pick up and the little expo where I made some connections, and bought some amazing neon pink Specialized gloves that matched my kit, and got my numbers.  They would end up giving me the wrong number plate for my amateur age group race, which I realized in the morning.  Ugh.  Glad I caught that one!

My parents and I arrived early on race day to secure good parking and to just make sure we made it nice and early.  It was cold, in the 30s, with a chilly wind so I mostly sat around in the truck, until I went and got my correct number plate.  I warmed up with a few hard sprints on the starting stretch, and then back on a long steep climb to the parking lot.  I settled for a thermal base layer and thermal jersey on top, thermal tights under my bibs, wool socks, chemical toe warmer packs, my Sidi Ghibli shoes, and big ol’ Pearl Izumi gloves.

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They started all under 40 age group women together.  It kinda sucks as they gave us 15 seconds after call ups before the whistle, which left several racers in a bind as they tossed off their coats.  I had a strong start from the second row, and quickly found myself out front with Ami (eventual winner of 30-39), and a couple of juniors.  Ami and I quickly gapped the field.  I didn’t know what age group she was in, so I tried to stick to her wheel.  We got hung up a bit by some male racers in the single track portions.  Once back on the “highway,” she looked behind herself and saw me and powered away like nothing.  It didn’t faze me, as I was feeling strong and was trying to get away from whoever might be behind us.  I hit the climb and felt super strong.  I would go on to do this race 99% in my big ring, only dropping down to the small ring on the 3 steepest pitches.  The first lap would largely be about passing the men that I caught.  I would remind myself to shift into a tougher gear and keeping putting down the power, and it was working.  Whoa, training might’ve worked a bit?!  Luckily I didn’t have any stomach or side ache problems, and seemed like my body was responding positively to the effort at nearly 9000 feet and 180bpm heart rate.

I came around for my second and final lap of the race and it seemed that aside from any catastrophes I would finish as the 2nd overall amateur woman, and unsure where I was in the age group breakdown.  I flew down the speedy parts, and reminded myself to be calm and careful on the softer parts in order to stay upright.  I would fly up all the climbs once again, only 8 seconds off my time from the first lap!  Yay, consistency!  The wind was starting to pick up, and seemed like a headwind in every direction, so I was pleased to be nearing the finish.  I shifted down and sprinted across the line with the biggest smile!  2nd overall amateur women at 1 hour 5 seconds, and I would be 2nd in 30-39!

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Coming across the line (Photo by Ogden Standard Examiner)
USAC Fat Bike National Championships at Powder Mountain Resort in Utah
Love this photo because I look so happy!  (Photo by Dejan Smaic)

 

I am completely happy with my results in the 30-39 race, and I really cannot think of anything I would’ve or could’ve done differently.  The winner was super stronger, and definitely way stronger than I was (and with the advantage of racing here before), but I feel like I gave 100% out on the course and had the perfect race that I had imagined for weeks and weeks while training.  But damn, I was exhausted.  Back in my parents’ truck I whined that I didn’t want to do the pro race, and pretty much just sat there, and only sipped a protein drink.  Finally with 15 minutes to go until the pro race I quickly changed out my base layer and jersey, and threw on lighter weight gloves, and headed down.  I reasoned with myself that I could pull out of the pro race if I had to.

USAC Fat Bike National Championships at Powder Mountain Resort in Utah
And we’re off!  (Photo by Dejan Smaic)

I had the last call up in the race of 6 women since I don’t have USAC mountain bike points (and was the only cat 1 in the pro race).  Lonely little me in the second row 😦  The start was NOT fast at all… the amateur start was way faster!  I found myself off the front, which I giggled about.  Here’s me with already 12 race miles in my legs, and I was off the front in the pro race.  No worries, soon the group would swallow me and I took to drafting in the horrid winds that had to be blowing 20-30mph at this point.  5 of us would stay together going into the halfway point of the first lap and into the climb.  Then it would be Rebecca, Porsha, and I.  I could feel my previous race in my legs, and figured I would just try to hold onto 5th place, because according to USAC when I registered, that would be a podium spot (and we all know USAC does what they want in the end, so the podium was only 3 deep when awards came around.  Thanks USAC).

Up up up in the horrid crosswinds.  Gusts would hit me and I would come to a stand still.  But I still cleared the climbs and stayed on my bike.  Came around feeling actually pretty good into the second lap.  This would be the lap where the pro men leaders would lap me and I joked coming through for the 3rd lap that my race should be over… I was told “you don’t get off this easy!”  Off for my 3rd lap in the freezing cold wind.  My gloves were a poor choice and my fingers were screaming.  At one point in the pro race my lips actually froze together!  My face burned from being blasted with icy snow.  My stomach was growling, and I ate a gel and chugged down my bottle of Tailwind, hoping I survived.  “Well, I’m in neon pink, so I’ll be easy to see…” I thought, thinking about my impending face plant into a snowbank from starvation.  “How the HELL is Kayley in short sleeves?” I wondered another moment.  “I hate my pink gloves.  They’re so cold”  “This is NOT as bad as Leadville, this is NOT as bad as Leadville!”  “Oh god, I’m going to miss my podium if I don’t hurry up!!”

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On the third lap I caught Porsha’s wheel on the climb and it was a relief to see her struggling in the wind.  Sometimes I think suffering is easier when you realize everyone is suffering!  On the first steep pitch we both kinda “blew” off our bikes into soft snow and had to walk/run/shuffle up the hill before remounting.  This is where Porsha would finally pull away, which I knew was ok as I never had the gas left in the tank to really stick to her wheel and launch an attack for 4th place.   Coming around seeing the finish line was such a relief!  The announcer talked about how it was my second race of the day, and I smiled, and then nearly crashed where the pro men finishing sprint had a mishap.  I dragged myself across the finish line to my parents’ cheers.  I’m so happy my parents made me get out of the truck, dammit!  1 hour 57 minutes of frozen wind hell for 5th place!

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And that’s my Fat Bike National Championships!  Fun day, and especially fun for my parents who haven’t had the chance to see me race a lot, and definitely not fat biking related.  The races had some tough conditions, but I definitely felt my interest perk in future fat bike racing.  My Salsa Beargrease performed flawlessly, and I’m even more in love with the bike than I already was!  Big thanks to Acme Bicycles 307 for quickly getting the bike ordered and put together for me in time for the big race!  And of course there’s the whole big group of people to thank: Naked Women’s Racing (my team!), ESI Grips, Honey Stinger, Tailwind, and TrainerRoad!  Biggest thanks of all go to my parents who joined me on the trip and importantly made me do that pro race as they knew I would regret it if I didn’t start.

Race Report

November shenanigans

Wyoming State Cyclocross Championships in Casper (Photo: Luke Blair)
Wyoming State Cyclocross Championships in Casper (Photo: Luke Blair)

Whoa, I think I finally enjoying cyclocross a bit more?!  After dialing back racing a ton this season for my sanity and health, I came to the realization that there is no need  to go and race every weekend.  So I’ve been picking and choosing my races carefully.  Since that means a wide open schedule, I decided to travel the 2.5 hours north to Casper to race at the Wyoming State Cyclocross Championships put on by Fat Fish Racing.

The weather was mild, yet windy (it’s oh so windy in Casper).  The course was at Washington Park, and was quite difficult with a lot of steep off camber grass climbs and descents, some single track, barriers, dizzying spiral, and a steep dirt descent that was long and upwards of -35% grade at times that tested handling skills on skinny tires and the ability of canti rim brakes to slow a bike.

Down the steep descent
Down the steep descent

I must admit, I sometimes struggle at cross races without my constant tape and 9′ regulation width, but I soon figured out how to navigate the flags and cones that marked the course.  The open/expert men and women lined up together for what would be an hour long race.  Doesn’t seem like a lot, but when I’m use to 40 minutes of cross racing that extra 20 minutes is HARD!  I tried for a good starting position, but the narrow-at-times course had people fighting for position.  Luckily traffic thinned out and I set to keeping and building my lead over the other two female competitors.  I didn’t feel well during the race, my legs seemed a bit dead and lacking in power – turns out my seat slide down 7cm!  Not sure that’s the entire reason, but had to play a little part!  On the bright side, I magically taught myself how to remount without stutter stepping, and remounted perfectly all 9 laps, so the barriers went super well.  After a little over 58 minutes I cross the line as the women’s state champ!  Woohoo!

The next day was a race north of Fort Collins, TCCX.  TCCX  = Tom Carter Cyclocross, a fundraiser for a local cyclist that had an unfortunate BMX accident and spent time in the ICU.  There is nothing like a grassroots race in Fort Collins, as they know how to party and put together a good event!  Mud was involved, much to my delight as it has been a mud free cross season for me thus far.  4 of us lined up for the open women’s race, including my friend Suzie and local 12 year old whiz kid Olivia.  Since this was not USAC or anything stern and boring, there was a “Bourbon Bypass” that allowed one to skip a longer stair run up if you took a shot of whiskey at the bypass.  Needless to say, that was definitely an advantage to a certain point!

Through the drainage canal on the first lap... shoes were still clean!
Through the drainage canal on the first lap… shoes were still clean!

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Following Georgia up the Bourbon Bypass
Following Georgia up the Bourbon Bypass
The steep hill after the canal was a doozy... never could make it up!
The steep hill after the canal was a doozy… never could make it up!

The race was shenanigans filled!  I took the Bourbon Bypass all 9 laps, so that goes without saying some bike handling might’ve gone out the window!  But it was a ton of fun nonetheless with a great crowded heckling me on, and I was still remounting my bike properly!  I ended up in 3rd place.  I was in 2nd solidly for 6 laps, then decided to dial it back, take beer handups and just survive the 40 minute race 🙂

The shenanigans continued to the podium photos
The shenanigans continued to the podium photos… naturally the kiddo beat us girls that were too busy partaking in adult beverages 🙂
Having way too much fun with this lovely lady both during and after the race!
Having way too much fun with this lovely lady both during and after the race!

Two fun races all in one weekend!  Wow, I figured out how to make this cyclocross thing enjoyable! 🙂