What a fun weekend! I finally made it up to Glendo State Park (about 100 miles north of Cheyenne on I-25) for the 3rd annual Glendo Trails Fest… a fun packed weekend of racing (lots of racing), trail building, and just plain celebration of the extensive single track trail system at the park. I’ve always been meaning to get up there for riding, but never had the perfect excuse until this year!
I arrived about 5:15 on Friday evening, excited to be camping once again! Due to flooding at several other campgrounds, Two Moon Campground was pretty darn full, but I secured a spot after a phone call and chat with the rangers. I wanted to be among the ponderosa pines, but settled for what I found and set up my little campsite. Then I headed out for a short ride and openers for Saturday’s XC mountain bike race. I was always told “Glendo is just like Gowdy.” OK, I’m not sure which Curt Gowdy State Park everyone is riding, but Glendo is nothing like it! Glendo is very technical in spots, and otherwise rough and chunky… very Pennsylvania like, just a whole like drier and higher in elevation. I had started out on my Fate, then realized that, duh Heidi, I had a brand new bike fit on the Epic that I needed to get use to before racing on it – my seat was raised nearly 1.5″ inches and some cockpit changes were made so the bike was feeling completely different. So after switching bikes I rode the Reflector Loop (some chunk then smooth single track through sage brush) and then the Two Moon loop that actually circles the campground – I LOVED this trail!
I awoke Saturday morning about 7am, cooking in the morning sun in my tent. I registered for the “23 Mile Technical” race, also known as the Expert race. I had never ridden these trails, so I was racing sight unseen, and didn’t even know what to expect. Sometimes that works out in my favor, sometimes it doesn’t. Since I was going up against the super woman known as Christy Olsen, I knew I’d be racing for 2nd Place unless something insane happened to Christy (heck, she got lost last year on the course and still won with a big cushion). My biggest fear was the heat, something I struggle with year after year.
I quickly learned that this was going to be hands down the most technical race I have ever done! Yes, moreso than Bear Creek in PA! (Which, to Bear Creek’s defense, was half the distance.) After dropping down Gigawatt, we ended up on a steep rocky switchback climb that gained over 200 feet in 0.3 miles. The stale, breezeless hot air got to me, and heat is my kryptonite for knocking out my actually great technical riding skills. But I kept chugging on. Some of the descents were sketchy with a lot of steep exposure, and of course it was hard not knowing what was coming around every corner or climb or rock. About 8 miles in I was ready to call it quits as it seemed like I was walking more and walking. But then I’d cool off, and my technical abilities would come back and I’d clear climbs people were walking, and then I’d get hot and have to walk. I finally came to the aid station maybe 9 or 10 miles in and turned onto the 23 mile course. No quitting for me, even though it was a good idea! I was riding all by my lonesome, way off the leaders, and unsure who was left behind me. More descending, more climbing. And repeat! And more rocks! I was riding quick, but cautiously since I didn’t want to take myself out, but at the same time had to remind myself on some stuff that I had the skills to ride it.
A guy, Adam, in the expert race caught me and we laughed about how at the rate we were going we were going to miss out on lunch, and he told me to find him for a beer afterwards. Shortly after that a tree caught my grip, then my right pinky finger and flipped me off the bike. After some swearing, kicking my bike, I cried for 20 seconds, and then pulled on my big girl chamois and vowed that I would finish this stupidly technical and hot race with a smile on my face. I think that run in with the tree reset my mind for what I needed to finish. Luckily it was the only mishap of the day as well, and even though I couldn’t wrap my right pink around my bars for the rest of the race and my right knee was skinned (again… rough year for the knees), it wasn’t that bad.
The heat was taking its toll on a lot of racers, and I started coming across 13-mile intermediate course racers that were suffering. One guy was in the middle of the trail all cramped up, but wouldn’t take some of my Osmo hydration mix, saying that he had water and was fine – electrolytes are important, people! I was racing with a Camelbak of water and a bottle of Osmo to make sure I was getting those salts (and took 4 Endurolyte tabs before the race to preload). Others were resting in the shade, or just flat worn out and pushing their bikes. Soon enough I was upon the second aid station which was 3.5 miles from the finish. I grabbed some cold water to drink and pour down my back while they commented on the bloody knee and my arms that were getting ever so sunburned. Assuring everyone I was fine, I hoped back on for the final push. More climbing up from the wetlands and then it’d be all over. On Root Canal was the cruelest thing of all, a steep rock face scramble to climb up. I literally spent several minutes trying to get up it, too cooked to get the 25 pound Epic up it with any sort of speed! At the intersection with Reflector I checked the trail map and saw it was less than a mile to the finish and celebrate, and encouraged a 13 miler that we were almost to the finish! I wound up the legs and pushed to the finish.
I came in at 3 hours and 27 minutes… about an hour longer than I was expecting to spend, but then again I had NO idea it would be rocks after rocks after rocks! It was good enough for 2nd place with a 14 minute cushion over 3rd place.
A few hours later was a time trial around the Two Moon Campground. I really didn’t know how I’d feel, but turns out my lungs hurt worse than my legs, and I was able to push pretty hard until I got hung up on a portion I hadn’t ridden. Still good enough for another 2nd place to Christy!
After some dinner, beers, and hanging out with new and old friends, it was time to get ready for the pump track competition under the lights in the dark! Yes, the campground even has a pump track! Now, I am no expert at anything like pump tracks, but figured I’d jump in on the fun, even though I was pedaling more than pumping.
After seeding rounds, we started the competition, which was almost like a pursuit on a velodrome… two of us starting on opposite sides trying to catch each other. And it was HARD! Nothing like sprinting for a few minutes in a tight circle! I was no match for Christy, and finished out the day with another 2nd place, and really no better pump track skills than I started with, ha!
Sunday morning I awoke worn out with a severely blistered and sore left palm… quarter size blister appeared during the XC race for some reason right in the middle of my palm. There was going to be a group ride and enduro competition, but I decided since it was already hot to do a short spin around the campground trails and the Reflector Loop, and then break camp and head home, satisfied with an amazing weekend!
The trails at Glendo are definitely not for the lighthearted, especially the further you get out from the Two Moon Trailhead. I wish I had known how technical they were as I would’ve come up last year for training for nationals! I wouldn’t mind coming up another time, but probably not in the summer since it’s so darn hot (about 1500-2000 feet lower in elevation than Cheyenne, and almost 4000 feet lower than Happy Jack!). I’ll definitely be back for the Trails Fest next summer if schedule allows… nothing like professionally run racing right in my home state! I’m super happy I chose GTF over some of the out of state events I originally had planned. And damn, I gotta return anyway to try to better than time in the race!
After my pretty disastrous race at Ridgeline Rampage back in April, I’ll admit to some pretty big apprehension going into the Gunnison Half Growler – a 32 mile* (*plus 8 miles of road that aren’t included in the total time) endurance mountain bike race at Hartman Rocks area that is nearly all single track and gets pretty technical at times. Everyone always talks about how hard this race is, which didn’t add to my overall positive thoughts. Nonetheless, I packed up and headed down on Friday to Crested Butte, where I’d be staying for the long holiday weekend.
Race morning I woke up and was more excited to be holding my Nikon D300 camera in my hands for the first time in a long time than I was to race. I took my time driving into Gunnison, slowing to photograph the gorgeous scenery marked with low clouds and fresh snowfall. Due to our insanely wet weather, I hadn’t been mountain biking very much, so I figured the race would just go how it would go! I found great parking and right next to Liz, who had not met in person yet, and a teammate, Meg, parked next to me so I also got to meet her. We chatted as we all got ready, ran to the restrooms, debated our clothing, and finally lined up at the start. The start was comical as the guy running the shotgun couldn’t quite work it, and someone had to show him how to take the safety off. Finally BOOM, and we were on our way!
The mass start with “neutral” roll out to Hartman Rocks was just about the sketchiest part of the race. Put a bunch of mountain bikers together that don’t road race (or perhaps even road ride in general), and you have a recipe for disaster that is worse than a Cat 5 men’s criterium. Had a few rides swerve into me, but luckily stayed upright as we averaged 20-25mph out to the dirt. We immediately hit the dirt which was… well, not dirt, but sloshy mud. MUD MUD MUD. Mud everywhere. The 1/4″ of rain received in Gunnison overnight did in the saturated trails. We immediately start up “Kill Hill,” a roughly half mile long climb that hits 25% grade at one point. A super tough climb on its own, it was a struggle in the mud as wheels spun and racers swerved around to keep moving forward. I chose the outside left line by the guardrail, which seemed to give me a little bit more traction.
As we crested onto double track that would take us out to the first single track, it was nothing but more mud in sight as we all pedaled along. I knew it was going to be a wet, muddy, and soggy day and patted myself on the back for leaving my thermal long sleeve jersey and wind vest on (I was debating back and forth before the start on what to wear once I saw people in bare arms and normal jerseys). As we hit the single track the mud just got worse, and a lot of climbs that would be a no brainer to ride became off the bike scrambles in the slippery mud as people jockeyed for position.
Soon it started to hailing, though it was just 9:20am or so, and the weather forecast said rain wouldn’t start until 1pm. I had bare legs, and the hail stung as it pelted me, as we all trucked forward as fast as we could. Once again, I sighed in relief that I trusted my instincts on my clothing choice. Unknown to me at the time, there was a funnel cloud that formed. I found this out AFTER the race… oh goodness! Mark that off the bucket list, a race with a funnel cloud involved! Eek! Despite the hail, I kept a super positive attitude, almost laughing at how fun this race was shaping up to be. Little more than a handful of miles in to the 32 mile race, and we battled sketchy road tactics, mud, hail, wind, and a funnel cloud!
The sun came back out soon enough, but the trails remained to be muddy messes. There was a lot more off the bike time than I preferred, but there was nothing anybody could really do about it. I saw many people have chain suck issues, and I just tried to think happy thoughts about my bike staying in one piece. One guy behind me laughed and yelled out, “It looks like everyone has diarrhea on their shorts!” in which I laughed, because I had been thinking the same thing for awhile. I was head to toe mud by this point, and my bike was covered, including my Honey Stinger chews I had lined up on my top tube. I smiled, and popped one into my mouth. Mud just adds more minerals to my diet, right?
Soon enough the power line descent came up. A marshall was telling people to walk it, as it was pretty much unrideable. Being the rebel I am, I rode into one of the foot deep ruts, unclipped my right foot, and half Strider biked it down, hooting and a hollering the whole way down as I flew past the people (smartly) carrying their bikes in the sage brush. Then I looked down. Sh*t, I just packed my bike full of clay mud, and it was barely rolling. Panic set in, as I remembered my rear derailleur twisting and taking out spokes on my Fate back in 2014 at Rumble at 18 Road in similar mud conditions. I took a breathe, and looked and the drivetrain was fine, but my front fork was stopped up with mud and you couldn’t tell I even had rear suspension on my Epic. I pushed my now 50-odd pound bike up to where everyone was cleaning out the mud carnage to get their bikes rolling again. I scooped handfuls of the thick mud out of my suspension as best as I could, and tried to make sure my front derailleur was cleared out. Here goes nothing… please Epic, my precious Georgia [my Epic’s name is Georgia], please just keep moving forward in one piece!
It was a very steep, quick downhill to the only pavement stretch in the course, which isn’t very long at all. I took a cup full of water at the aid station, and through it on my drivetrain, which effectively did nothing at all. OK, well, then, time to climb with my bike that was suddenly double the weight I’m use to. About this time I found myself riding with Alex, a fresh transplant to Colorado who was at his first high altitude mountain bike race. Him and I would stay nearly together the rest of the race. We hit some double track and chatted as we headed up to the high point of the race, which was a short but steep climb to a hill top where we had beautiful panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains all around us. I smiled big and decided in that moment that this race and all the mud was worth it just for this view! But it was quickly over as we enjoy a long and fast, fun descent down and made my smile even bigger!
I was feeling good through all of this, and thanks to fiddling with some cleat position adjustments, I was not having any toe pain as of yet. Eventually we came to about the halfway point at Skull Pass, and I zipped past the aid station and down into the gulch. Skull Pass was super technical, and I walked a lot of the features. The fact that I had never ridden here before was probably the toughest aspect of the race to me, as I didn’t know what to expect, and I ended up walking a lot of technical features that I know I had the skill to ride, but didn’t know what they were like when I came up on them. Soon enough a big train of us were climbing back out Skull Pass, and I commented that it was all about taking it slow and easy to finish the race. I spun quick on most of the climbs in the granny gear (my drivetrain was playing nice and shifting both derailleurs perfectly despite being packed with mud), knowing that there was no sense in mashing and pushing to extremes on the climbs, especially since I didn’t know what was up ahead on the course. I did stop at the Skull Pass aid station, and grabbed a banana. An eager young boy kept trying to give me a Honey Stinger caramel waffle, but I kept politely telling him I needed some “real” food like fruit. I scarfed down the half of banana, and headed out.
By now my chain was rattling up a storm. It was actually making some pretty scary sounds, and someone mentioned that they had grabbed chain lube at the aid station, and I kicked myself for not thinking of that. I really didn’t know if at any moment my bike would just implode (or even explode…). I pedaled along, still being really positive, but worried about the noises. As Alex and I descended Enchanted Forest I felt something hitting my thighs, and realized my Backcountry Strap with my tube and tools was loose and flopping around. I sighed, and stopped on the climb and tightened everything back together and put it back on the bike, mad that I had lost about 10 spots on the climb (and would have to repass everyone who started walking up the climb), but happy that I caught this before I lost all my tools and tube (like I had seen on Skull Pass with levers, a tube, pump, and CO2 scattered down the trail). I got back on the bike, and gained ground on the climb. That is one thing I was happy about throughout the day was my determination to ride the climbs as much as I could (the trails dried up after the power line descent minus a puddle here and there). Especially towards the end where a lot of people were walking I stayed pedaling!
Continuing on, I heard a guy behind me go, “Not to scare you, but your rear tire is almost flat.” I went, “Hmm.” I didn’t want to believe him, and tried to look down and see. It still had air, but seemed low, but I couldn’t tell. So I tried to unweight the rear as much as I could over the rocks. I wasn’t about the stop. Dammit, I was going to keep moving forward until it was impossible! Luckily I came upon an aid station within a few miles, and a guy asked what I needed and I shouted out CHAIN LUBE! and someone else commented on the rear tire, so an awesome girl who was working the station handed me the lube which I put on as she pumped up my rear tire. I guess it had something like 5psi in it, so luckily this aid station came up! I thanked her profusely, and giggled that I could “finally hear my own thoughts” now that my chain was completely quiet.
I felt myself going more into survival mode at this point. I had forgotten to completely look at how many miles the road section was as I started my Garmin at the starting line downtown, so I decided to subtract 5 miles from everything to figure out how much I still had left. Traffic had thinned out a bit, but the sun stayed out, but the wind came up fiercely. I ate the rest of my chews, and pondered how I had only eaten one gel, half of a banana, and maybe 90% of a package of chews (some fell off in the mud). I was feeling good, though. Tired, but good. I only had faint tinges of pain in my left big toe, so that was a huge positive as I didn’t want to experience the toe pain that I had at Ridgeline Rampage during this race. I came upon my teammate Joan on a climb, as she was fiddling with a rear derailleur she thought got bent near the beginning of the race when a guy fell on her in the mud. I stayed ahead of her for a little bit, but she got around me on some technical stuff and I didn’t see her again. Starting about hour 3 my bike handling skills started going all to hell, so I was being cautious in the rocks. I figure it was better to get off and walk than risk getting injured and not finishing this late in the race!
My teammate Michelle caught up to me somewhere during this part, and I enjoyed chasing her down speedy double track roads and some descents that she just ripped down. I was getting all optimistic that the finish was soon. We came upon a long climb with some techy rock parts. Many of the people around me got off and walked it, but I cleared the whole thing… slowly, but surely! That made me happy that I was still grinding out the climbs this late in the game! Time for more descending! There was a big rock drop down that for some reason I decided to ride at this point, forgetting my “don’t hurt yourself” mantra. Immediately upon dropping in I knew it was all going wrong, and I went over the bars, but didn’t go over the bars, and landed back on the bike upright… if that makes any sense. I can’t even describe it! I scrapped the crap out of my poor left knee, which smarted as the nerves felt the absence of skin. Dammit! I took a few moments and collected myself, and continued on, warning the others behind me to walk it if they have any doubts. Ouch! There was a final aid station and I saw cans of Coke, and nearly lost it in excitement! I’m not a soda drinker, especially Coke, but it sounded so good, so I grabbed the mini can and chugged it! By now I was back near Alex, and a few others that I had spent nearly half the race nearby.
Then I saw what was coming… a tortuously technical climb up to a ridge above a cliff. I ended up walking a good majority of the technical stuff due to fatigue or exposure. I did have a funny bobble going up a hill where I just fell over onto a rock and made a loud, comical noise. Alex was behind me, worried I was hurt and I just laughed and told him I decided to take a nap. Back up I got, and then that’s when I saw the “WARNING: CLIFF” signs and got really scared, as I always fall to the left, and the cliff was to the left. Yeah, thanks, I’ll just walk this entire ridge!
Finally, finally this technical nonsense was over and it was just a climb up. Lisa lead us up, and I was optimistic that the finish was on top of this climb. We switchbacked up, and over a rock face, and I saw flags and heard a bell ringing so I was sure for sure we were done… but then they told me to get off the brakes and let it rip… wait, was this not the finish?! I was confused I dropped down into Broken Collarbone, which is a lot of whoopee whoops and steep drops and ups. Totally fun, if I wasn’t totally destroyed mentally and physically. But soon enough I realized the real finish was in sight and let out a big sigh that I had done it! I finished the Half Growler! THE Dave Wiens was there to give me a huge high five as I crossed the line… but instead he nearly knocked me off my bike since in all honesty I was so cooked the wind could’ve blown me over! He grabbed my hand as I steadied myself and we had a good laugh. What a way to end the race!
4:34:55 was my official time, which was dead in the middle of my “finish between 4 and 5 hours” goal. I knew the mud for the first third of the race really slowed down the times, so I was happy with how it went, despite all the factors trying to throw a stick in my spokes. Wendy was there with her husband to feed me the delicious cake flavored Goldfish crackers that she carries around. They offered me a ride back into town, but I decided that since I had come 36 miles at this point I wanted to finish the whole damn thing. We had a nice little peloton together for the ride back into town, and my legs felt good while I spun them out. Back at the park I picked up my growler finisher’s prize, and jumped in line for the bike wash while it was short. Wendy and Dennis offered me up their hotel shower (Crested Butte is about 30 minutes from Gunnison, where my own shower was), and we grabbed a delicious Italian dinner at Garlic Mike’s that evening. What a day 😀 I finished 12th in 30-39 women, and 39th overall for women.
Mud, hail, funnel cloud, angry chain, tool strap trying to fly off, flat tire, OTB-not-OTB crash, and pretty bad right knee pain (didn’t mention it above as it was there for most of the race… I’m assuming a bike fit issue, which I will get resolved pronto with a proper fit on my Epic)… and I still finished smiling and happy! No tears! No coach firing! No swearing off mountain bike racing! WOOHOOOOOO!
And guess what?
I want to do it next year! They reverse the course every year, so I’m curious what it is like going the other direction. And of course, I want to race it while dry. This was apparently a very rare thing to have it this muddy!
Three endurance races into the season, and I’m learning more and more lessons. Newest one is to carry a small thing of chain lube with me in my pack, and to double check my tool/tube strap before every ride and race. I still don’t feel like I have nutrition down, as anything processed made me want to gag by the halfway point, so I’ll need to continue to experiment, as it’s a big difference between a 4.5 hour race and the 11+ hours I’m looking at for LT100. I also forgot to put on sunscreen in the morning, which I remembered just before the start as I remembered I needed chapstick with me. I didn’t end up getting sunburned since it was so cloudy, but something to remember. I barely remembered the Chamois Butt’r in time as well. Just more attention to detail needed… I’ll admit I was a bit scattered mentally going into this race!
The art of racing in the rain… or just a crit in general.
I’m very fond of the mountain biking race model: go as hard as you can the entire time. There’s no “tactics,” no sitting up and slowing the pace, allowing others to do the work to tow you to the finish (unless you’re watching recent women’s pro mountain biking… love you Emily Batty, but damn). It’s just you and the bike, for the most part. So in road racing I struggle with this sometimes, as I’m just GO GO GO, and that’s not what is the smartest thing to do. But hell, sometimes it’s just really fun to go do something un-smart!
So crits… yes, I don’t believe in racing them. I am “Miss Will Never Race A Crit”…. ….. …. unless my gravel grinder is canceled due to rain, my back up endurance mountain bike race is canceled due to rain, and I have the urge to race and the only event happening is a crit. Sigh. I never said I was the brightest lightbulb in the pack! So Wheels of Thunder down in Centennial, CO it is (next door to the Bronocs training center, for what it’s worth, which isn’t much. I don’t even like pro football), which is touted as one of the most non-crit crits out there, and rather safe with only three wide left handed corners. OK, I’m convinced, take my money!
After an early morning wake up and driving through an insane monsoon (I shall begin building my own ark soon if this keeps up!) I arrived at the venue and settled into a parking spot in the dirt – wait, no, mud – parking lot. My teammate Jenifer was already there and we giggled about how ridiculous this was, but also relieved that lots of people still came out to the race. We picked up our numbers and swag, and headed back to our cars to debate what we would wear. It was chilly, maybe 40 degrees, and soggy and still raining off and on. I finally settled on my skinsuit (I didn’t bring normal bibs), knee warmers, thermal base layer, vest, and after a short warm up, my thicker winterish Endura gloves, along with shoe covers. The Weather Channel had said it would be 59 degrees and dry for my race at 9am… ha! Good one, Weather Channel… Once the course opened for pre-riding I did a fast lap since I otherwise didn’t really warm up, and settled into the front row.
I’ve been having clipping in issues for awhile now with my road pedals, and when we started I clipped in with ease which actually threw me off! Another girl and I ended up leading everyone out. After a short straight it was a corner into a decently long uphill, another corner, which a super fast downhill, punchy climb, downhill, final corner, and uphill climb into the strong headwind to the start/finish. The other girl and I led the first lap and then I realized I had to play roadie, and tried to drop in and hide from the wind. I did this for the next 7 laps quite well. Yay for roadie tactics… luckily everyone rode really safe, except for one girl that seemed to swerve a bit much for my liking. I took the corners easy, as I hate cornering anyway, let alone in the rain. My butt my soggy, glasses covered in rain and road spray, but I wasn’t cold which was good. On the 8th lap I got out in the wind for everyone, and led coming into the 9th and final lap. Two girls from COBikeLaw attacked on the first hill but Ariana from Ten20 and I closed the gap quite quickly. My one claim to fame is power climbing, and this was a good crit for that!
The group continued to be rather slow on the downhill, so coming into the punchy climb I just went nuts and attacked. I opened up a pretty huge gap, which meant I took the corner at the bottom a bit faster since I had to the whole road to use. Then I turned into the brutal headwind, all by my lonesome. UGH. But I was leading coming into the finishing straight… but ughhhhhh I couldn’t hold it against that wind. I finally sat up once the first chunk passed me and I noticed the chasing two from COBikeLaw wouldn’t be able to close it in time, and came across the line for 7th place!
Whoa, I survived a crit, and finished in the lead pack! I must admit I’m a bit sad I went out like I did and ended up at the disadvantage when I turned into the wind… I blame the mountain biker in me! Just another lesson learned as I explore this whole road racing thing more and more. It’s not always necessarily who is the fastest or has the most brute fitness, but sometimes the person who is the smartest tactics wise. And my opinions on crits? Well, there’s a high danger factor that still bothers me. Luckily I discovered the front of a crit pack is a little different than the rear, which I experienced last year. I’m not sure how many others I will do, but I feel a little better about entering them, or if they’re a part of a stage race, etc. And heck, a damn good way to make up for wimping out of my billats workout this week, right?!
Argghhhh, I really haven’t had so much hesitation and worry leading up to a road race before. Before this year, I didn’t really care where I placed, I knew I’d be down in the last half of the pack and it was just all exciting and new. I started like that this year, then the Boulder Roubaix happened and I pulled out a 5th place finish… so that led to expectations for Koppenberg. After all, it is “my” race, or so a lot of people tell me. Half dirt, and includes a steep, rutted dirt climb that approaches 20% grades at certain points over that tenth of a mile – easy for a mountain biker to tackle! Suddenly I was really worried about how I would do as I didn’t want the Boulder Roubaix result to be a fluke.
Since I was staying with my teammate Brittany due to all the team activities that weekend, I didn’t have a long drive from Wyoming which was nice. I quickly got ready and headed out, opting to grab breakfast near the venue in Superior at McDonald’s… until I pulled up and all the employees were outside and they were explaining they were closed. OMG, do you realize how many other McDonald’s I had passed?! UGH! I noticed an Albertsons next door, so I ran in and grabbed two donuts, a chocolate milk, and a banana. Thanks McDonald’s, I’m pretty sure you just caused me to eat something even worse for breakfast 😛
I didn’t really do a big warm up… Wendy and I rode out to the start of the dirt to see what all the hoopla was about regarding supposedly muddy conditions. Mud, whatever. Mud would’ve made it fun! No mud to be found… the dirt was kinda soft, just enough to be a bit power sucking. Not wanting to repeat last year’s rendition of Koppenberg where I got forced back at the starting line by all the girls on large teams, I staked my claim on the front row. Whistle went off and I fumbled clipping in, but was out in the lead pack. Unlike last year where we stayed together until the climb, it was all out right from the beginning with no uniform peloton. It was ON!
The road was rough and we all seemed to give each other enough space to maneuver around the bumps and larger gravel hunks. They had put straw down on the right hand line of the hill, but none on the left. I’m not a fan of riding on straw/hay (and I admit, I wanted to show off some dirt climbing skills), so as we hit the bottom of the hill I went to the left line and just flew… seriously, one of the most surreal moments on a bike ever… I averaged 395 watts during that tenth of a mile climb, and it didn’t hurt at all. My legs spun fast and powerful, and I had such an insane concentration on the road in front of me that everything was silent and I didn’t notice everyone else on the right side, except I knew I was passing each and every one of them. Yep, the Hill is MY HILL!
So I thought I had a teammate, Ava, that had gone off the front, so once I crested the top of the hill I took off, determined to catch the phantom in purple in front of me… except there was no one. I was essentially in a solo break 5 minutes into the road race, ha! The dirt portion on top of the climb was super rough, then pavement for a fast downhill into a corner. It wasn’t until Marshall Rd that Ava and another teammate, Gayle, caught up to me. Crap, Ava was behind me the whole time! Had I really gone on a couple mile solo break on the first lap?!
The Naked Train rolled through the start/finish and we started lap two of the 3-lap, 15.5 mile circuit race (I really need to be a cat 3 so I can race more miles…). A few more girls latched on, notably Wendy and Natalia, and then Errin and someone else I didn’t know. The second time up the hill was a bit more frustrating for me personally as I was behind people and I just can’t grind out climbs at a slow cadence, so about halfway up I was able to safely transition through the center rut to the right hand side and get up my pace. I heard Shawn say “You need to be in front next time, Heidi!” and I replied “I know,” to which some spectators laughed.
We rolled through for the final lap, and it was whittled down to Gayle, Wendy, Ava, Natalia, and me from Naked, and then Errin… poor Errin, the lone brave one on the Naked Train! Shortly in Wendy mouthed to me, “Let’s go!” and took off like crazy in a break. I couldn’t quite follow, as I was in the pack so the rest of us stayed together. Once again I couldn’t get out front on the climb, but I was more patient this time. Ava dropped back after the climb, so it was Wendy way out front, and Gayle, Natalia, Errin, and I in the chase group. There’s two high speed corners (aka you enter at more than 30mph) that scared the crap out of me so I’d always drop off a bit, but quickly regrouped. I knew the final corner, which lead into the finishing straight, would probably seal the deal for me in not being on the podium, but I still tried anyway!
We came out of the final corner, and it was clear Wendy would win so the sprints were on for the rest of the podium. I finally sat up shortly before the finish as I knew I was solid for 5th place so no sense in continuing to sprint for nothing once I saw no one behind me… woohoo, I finally knew Boulder Roubaix wasn’t a fluke, and realized this roadie racing stuff has worked out well for me!
As a team we ended up 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 11th out of a field of 19… can you say dominating?
So wow… road season has been quite the surprise this year! I had no idea I’d be placing where I’ve been placing, and now I’m kind of sad I don’t have too much more road stuff planned. I’m now debating the Superior Morgul road race in a few weeks, but it’s quite expensive, and lacks dirt. And I like dirt! So we’ll see…
40 miles in. Both big toes, but mainly the left one, so inflamed and painful any sort of pressure caused tears. Blood trickling down from my right knee, with that leg smarting on every pedal stroke. Mentally done. I made all the big plans over the last couple of hours. I’m done with mountain bike racing, it’s not fun anymore. Stop with the coaching, stop with the training, stop with any race over my accustomed XC distance of 1.5 hours. Take advantage of the refund insurance on my Leadville entry, downgrade my 40 in the Fort entry. Yep, I was done. No sense in doing something that hurts. I’m too old for this stuff, the sore muscles, scars, bleeding, severe toe pain that makes me want to amputate my left foot. Why do I do this again? It’s not fun. It hurts. I’m done.
Just keep moving.
The shortest way back to my car is to just finish this damn race. Granny gear, something I rarely use on my S-Works Fate. I turned the pedals over and over. I coasted. Just get me back to my damn car so I can put my plan into motion. No more mountain bike racing, especially of the endurance kind. I’m done. Stay upright on the stupid switchback that ripped the fresh scar tissue off my knee from my Seattle crash a month ago two laps go. Turn the pedals. Bobble, dabble on what was the easiest thing on the course for me – the long grindy steep climb on the “backside.” Step down with the left foot and yelp in pain as the big toe makes contact with ground. I’ve already been crying for the last 4 miles, but now it’s flowing as a worried spectator pulls my bike out of the way of other racers and offers me my empty water bottle, telling me to drink. I grunt and point to the camelback hose. I’m fine, I don’t need water. I need off this damn course. He tells me to sit with him and his daughter, to clear my mind and get collected. I look into his eyes like a scared animal and mumble I can’t, I must keep moving. I knew stopping would be the nail in the coffin. Three miles, mostly downhill, and downhill calm enough that I can sit, not stand on the left foot. Remount, and he pushes me off.
Just keep moving.
RME Ridgeline Rampage. One of my first mountain bike races back when I got all gungho about mountain bike races. I did the 10 mile race back then, and won my category by being the only one who showed up. This year I decided to race the 50 mile because, well, I need to get use to these long distances. How bad could it really be, right? I decided on age group, no pro. My excuse being this is my second endurance race ever, and the first one I planned on finishing, so definitely not pro level. I knew pacing would be tough. I can kick ass in 1.5 hours. The possibility of 5 hours? Not so much.
The start was tame, nothing crazy. Teammate Michelle and I were out front. We had a long starting loop up a bike path to the single track. I hit the single track in first place overall and set a decently fast pace. I honestly didn’t know what pace I should go, so I just went fast. Probably 80% of my XC pace. No one was trying to pass, so I enjoyed having wide open trails for the punchy hellish climbs and sketchy descents of loose-over-hardpack. About two-thirds through the first of 5 ten mile laps the other gal in my age group, Rachel, whipped around me and took off like it was a 10 mile race, not a 50 mile race. So I stayed in 2nd place overall through about 15 miles into the race when a 40-49 age group gal asked if I wanted her to pull and then took off like crazy. Crazy 40-49’ers. But the race was going ok, I was climbing well and felt ok. I made sure to keep spinning the legs on some of the stuff you can just coast on to keep the lactic acid from building up and stop any cramps. My stomach had already started growling which I knew was bad. Two other 40-49’ers passed me to go catch Christine that went off the front. Yay, finally alone on the trail, aside from the pro men who were already lapping us.
Ate a gel on the third lap and pedaled along. On a downhill switchback a half second lapse in bike control and I started falling over, stuck out the right leg, and it buckled and my knee smashed into a rock. Blood instantly started trickling down. I swore. Arghhh. Jeff Kerkove comes flying around the corner, and then I get ready to remount and realized my chain is off the front rings. Wrestle it back on as I see Michelle flying down the descent. Manage to get going as she catches me. I think she asks if I’m OK, and I honestly don’t know what I said. I’m not sure I knew. Fourth lap, another gel and just pedaled along. It’s starting to suck. The toes are hurting badly. The same pain I’ve been dealing with for years since I’ve started riding, but with my increasingly bad attitude starting to creep in, it’s harder to ignore the pain.
Fifth lap. Final 10 miles of torture. Michelle latches onto me for good as I’m trying to wrangle a gel wrapper into my back pocket. Granny gear everything. I’m done. It’s a death march. I hate life, I hate everything. I finally told Michelle to go. She’s so fast on the descents and I was just cooked. I can’t stand, if I do the pain is horrendous. Becky, who had a nasty wreck 5 miles in, finally catches me and encourages to try different shoes, and tells me my feet are swelling. She goes around, blood spewing from her right elbow. I’m just wanting to survive.
Survive I did. 5 hours and 2 minutes. I lost quite a bit of time on the final lap, my slowest lap by 7 minutes over the next slowest. Becky was at the finish line and I gave her a hug and thanked her for trying to encourage me even though I wasn’t having any of it at that moment. And then advised her she probably needed stitches! Realizing awards were slated for 1:30 and it was 1:20, I rolled back to the parking lot which luckily was downhill since my left foot was still useless. Since there were a whole two of us in the age group I would place 2nd, so might as well show up for the podium, right? I hobbled over for my free lunch which I barely picked at and sat around with Joan, Michelle, and Megan. Awards were delayed, which meant I could’ve cleaned up after all, but instead I sat in the grass poking at my blood and dirt covered knee and trying to ignore the left big toe which was still screaming in my shoe.
I was going to leave, but decided that it was worth sticking around to cheer for my friends in the XC race. I cleaned up and walked up to the feed zone and got to see Elizabeth, Suzie, and Wendy, and talked with my coach who called me. Wendy, her husband, and I then went and pigged out at Outback Steakhouse, though I’m sure there’s no way I made up the 3700 calorie deficit from the race! Once I was home I cleaned out the knee and realized that yep, the scar tissue was torn away and was just a flap – neosporin and a bandaid was slapped on top of it. I was too tired to deal with what I should do with the dead flap of scar tissue. I got in bed, exhausted, but my toe was throbbing so much I couldn’t sleep. Finally took some 800mg ibuprofen and slept until 10am. Ahhhhhh.
I feel like hell today. My back is all tight and sore. I haven’t bothered to take the bandaid off my knee to see the gooey mess that is probably waiting for me. It’s raining off and on, and I’m tempted to go spin in the rain on the cross bike for a bit. I’m suppose to do a 3 hour ride, but it’s not happening. I figure if I pedal at all it’ll be a victory.
This race was the lowest of lows I’ve reached mentally. But I still finished, which means I must be overcoming something if I can be lower than “2013 Laramie Enduro Low” and still finish a race. I am worried a lot about the toe issue going on. There’s no way I can even comprehend 100 miles with that sort of pain as I know what it can do to me during 12, 30, 50 mile races. I plan on talking to Pat at Bicycle Station about possible fit adjustments (that won’t anger the knees), and then maybe an orthopedic doctor. I think it’s nerve related, but I don’t know. I just don’t like to hurt.
Just keep moving. It’s only April. I have 3.5 months to trick my body into an endurance mindset. Ridgeline Rampage was a lesson learned… pacing, nutrition, controlling the mental cascade of negative thoughts.
I have a lot of self doubt when it comes to pavement and I. I’ve quite settled into the “I’m not a fast roadie” label for the last two years since my first road race. My mind has been boggled at how everyone else is so fast, but I didn’t really care I was in the back, as once again, I’m not a fast roadie. Being fast is for the girls who ride insane hours and miles every week. Not I, as I am (beats chest) mountain biker! (Never mind the fact I’ve been training 8-9 hours a week, ahem…) So at the Boulder Roubaix when I crossed the finish line in 5th place out of 30 entrants, it was surreal. Maybe I need a new title: I’m working on becoming the fastest roadie I can be, and diversity of racing skills is important!?
The Boulder Roubaix is a 37 mile, two lap race for the cat 4 women on just about a 50/50 split of pavement and relatively smooth and extremely fast rolling dirt roads – just my kind of road race! I really like riding gravel and dirt on skinny wheels, as it’s part ridiculous and part insanely fun! Mountain bike and cyclocross handling skills come in handy, and sometimes it’s really obvious during races who falls into those two categories. Plus hey, I’d rather crash on dirt any day over pavement if I really had to choose.
I was front row at the start, learning from experience in past races where I either got shoved to the back by hordes of gals on large teams, or didn’t get there early enough to be in the front. The start was incredibly painful, my legs burned and I wondered how long I could keep up the pace, though I found myself warming up quite quickly and after the first 5 minutes I didn’t even remember how painful the start was. I stayed in the front pack, and we sped along at quite a fast pace. For once I felt comfortable in a peloton, and didn’t mind being in the middle with racers on all sides of me. The hardest thing for me was on the punchy climbing when the pace would lurch suddenly to a slow grind. I’m very accustomed to maintaining momentum on climbing (the mountain biker in me for sure) so several times I had to remind myself not to run into the racer in front of me in when the pace dropped. This lead to me moving through the pack on several of the climbs to gain a few more spots.
I was having a lot of fun as we cruised between dirt, pavement, dirt, pavement, and so on. My teammate Natalia was up front a lot, and Helen, Wendy, and I about mid pack in the front group. Wendy had asked me before the race started what our tactics could be and I had no idea. I’m not use to having teammates in a road race, and since I’m usually quickly dropped road races are mostly time trial efforts for me. I think I told her we’d just wing it!
The peloton continued to spit people off the back as we surged out of corners and confidently sped along on the dirt roads. About 3-4 miles from the completion of the first lap I dropped ever so slightly off the back of the lead group, maybe about a 30 foot gap, which I managed to close. I tried to eat a gel and ended up with it everywhere but my mouth, so I learned I should probably stick to chews during road races, especially when trying to eat on the roughest dirt section! We rolled through for the second lap as a group of 11 (Michelle would quickly rejoin us). Errin, LeeAnn, and I – the three cross nuts, were the caboose and were having fun chatting. I almost crashed myself out in the excitement of seeing Shawn, my favorite race photographer, but survived that mishap – whoops! LeeAnn and I both commented in amazement about how we were still in the lead pack. I never expected this would happen and now I began to set the Top 10 as my goal, but was worried about the pace longer the race was going.
This is where I know training and longer rides have helped, so whereas in the past where a 20 mile road race ran me ragged, I am now more capable of handling 2+ hour long efforts and the longer miles. The peloton wasn’t too feisty, and we were all sticking together still quite well. On one downhill dirt corner some sort of mishap occurred and several racers went down. Luckily I was behind the crash and had enough time to brake and swerve around the bodies and bikes. It shook the peloton, and I found myself in a group of 5 or 6 once I put forth a big effort to latch back onto the racers who were in front of the crash. This put a bit more fire under me, though more and more racers were able to rejoin the group.
Then came my moment! The biggest climb of the day is a decent little hill with a turn. I just surged past everyone! I guess if there’s one thing I can do, it’s climb relatively well, especially on dirt where I just stay seating for best traction and just pedal pedal pedal. I crested the hill in front of everyone and I had the biggest grin on my face. At that point, I won the race for myself. I was in front of a road race. A ROAD RACE. Who would’ve imagined?! Natalia joined me in front, and we lead the peloton for a little while, though there was grumblings about our “slow” pace. Wendy was thankful we slowed things a bit, as it gave her a chance to recover, and I didn’t want to burn all my matches pulling everyone else around. Natalia asked if we wanted to go for a break, but I was nervous as we were still 4 miles out from the finish, and I didn’t know how much I could hold onto something and keep it over that distance. I can sprint and lay down some power when I have to, but have never done it over 4 miles. So we finally pulled back and let others pull out front.
Once we turned onto dirt for the final stretch, it was pretty much on and the pack broke. The final straight stretch, which is a mile or so (maybe longer), I found to be the roughest part of dirt. Rough enough I had trouble pushing a harder gear and keeping the power steady. I was in a group of 5 or so, and on the final punchy climb I went past everyone and decided this was the time. Errin and two others were way out front, with Wendy and Natalia behind them. I wanted to latch onto my “Naked Train” so I tried, switching from line to line trying to find a spot that was smooth. I kept glancing over my shoulder, knowing I still had a long way to go until the finish and the pack would have the advantage of aerodynamics (maybe?) and some strong power riders. I caught Natalia, who had fallen off of Wendy’s wheel. The finish line arch was nearing and damn it was painful, but I knew I didn’t want to get caught.
I crossed the line at 1:52:48, ten seconds back from Wendy who was four seconds back from the sprint finish, for 5th place! 5TH PLACE!!!!! In a road race!!! ROAD RACE!!! Like, I get upgrade points now and stuff. UPGRADE POINTS… in a ROAD RACE!!!
Natalia would finish 7th, and Helen for 14th, so we had a strong Naked Women’s Racing showing in SW 4, and also our SW 3 gals did well, with Marissa on the podium in 2nd and Brittany in 4th. It was surreal, and for the first time I realized I should find out how deep the podium went (some races are 3 places, some are 5) as it actually mattered. I’m so use to finishing mid to bottom pack in road stuff it was something I didn’t have to worry about until now (it was a 3 place podium, for what it’s worth). Malcolm congratulated me with a hug and of course some sips of his beer, bringing back the cyclocross vibe I do love. Yay for dirt road races, staying upright, and surprising the crap out of myself!!
So I learned a few things… I’m better on the road bike than I probably give myself credit for and don’t try to eat gels on rough roads (or maybe at all unless standing still). I think the best thing I’m seeing is my progression on the road – I think it’s easier to see my gains in fitness on the road than on the mountain bike, actually. I feel like I’ve plateaued with mountain biking (or the changes are more subtle, and sometimes I need the big obvious changes to keep me excited for me), so it’s exciting to be experiencing new things on a road bike in races! I was debating doing the Clasica de Rio Grande next weekend (the new name of the Weld Country RR, which was my first road race two years ago!), and now I think I’ll definitely do it. My 2015 race season is shaping up to one of semi-spontaneity and one of extreme flexibility and going with the flow (more on that on another blog post perhaps – let’s just say my “A” XC race of the year was canceled), and I’m curious to explore more of this roadie that is shaping up inside of me!
Second year of giving the Oredigger Classic Hill Climb up Lookout Mountain in Golden a try. I really just wanted to beat my time from last year, and otherwise didn’t really care.
I met up with a teammate and rode about 9 miles to the start. Pretty hard warmup for me, and I was at 170-180 heart rate the whole way there which worried me as I’m not use to running myself ragged on a warm up. They had a great guy as a holder who I utilized so I wouldn’t have to fiddle to clip in (I’ve suddenly lost the ability to clip into my Look Keo pedals quickly and easily, not sure what’s up with me). I sprinted off the start and settled down. I love Lookout as it’s a pretty “gradual” climb that is 1200 feet over 4.5 miles. “Gradual,” ha! Meaning that it just never gets crazy steep. Fairly quickly I passed 3 other girls in my category, which is not something I’m use to happening in a time trial. I was caught by Rachel Joyce, a professional triathlete, about a mile in, and otherwise wasn’t passed, which was strange. The wind was OK, just a headwind on some westerly sections. I found myself thinking that I wasn’t going out as hard as I should, but my power numbers were telling a different story.
I ended up with a 28:07 time, which was 4 minutes faster than last year! And this was good enough for 9th place in SW4 out of 20… my first top ten road finish with a field that big! Whoop whoop! Kinda crazy to do that well, I wasn’t expecting it. I spend so much time telling everyone I’m a slow roadie that can’t climb… but maybe I’m ok at climbing kinda? I also set a new 20 minute power record at 230, which bumped my FTP to 218. Sigh, the days of “easy” rides on the trainer are done for!
So I declare this race a success! Always nice to be able to see myself improve over the previous year!
Whelp, it’s that time of year again! After a snowed-out hiatus in 2014, I kicked off my race season with the Frostbite Time Trial. It’s the closest USAC road event to Cheyenne, just about 25 minutes from my house so I figure it’s a no brainer for attending! Since I sold my time trial bike last year, I knew I wouldn’t win the equipment contest, but I did make a “small” effort and took off my tool bag and one bottle cage on my road bike… ha!
The weather was… well, AMAZING! My race had no wind. NO WIND. What?! Which can actually be a bad thing as there’s nothing giving you a boost (the wind would pick up later in the day for the later categories). The day before the race I did the south-north leg of the course and hauled some butt thanks to a stiff tailwind, and was slightly banking on it for the race. Ohhh well.
I can now say I’ve warmed up on a trainer in a ditch alongside the interstate… and with the sun beating down I ended up stripping off my thermal base layer and warmed up in my sports bra. It works, right? I did about 20 minutes and then got in line for the bathrooms (seriously, 3 ports-potties just isn’t enough for this race!) and headed to the start.
The start. UGH. What a cluster! First girl called didn’t show up. So Nicole Callan went off in her spectacularly fast fashion (she would win SW4). The next girl couldn’t get clipped in and didn’t roll up to the line. They get her to the line and she falls over (literally…. OUCH! Looked like it hurt). So Tim the USAC Official calls me up and then immediately goes “2…1… go” before I’m even on my bike or have the holder holding me *angry face* I went WTF and proceeded to clip in as the holder held me as a peculiar sideways angle and then the holder counted down and I went off. I have NO idea if that whole debacle affected my time, but it definitely sent my heart rate sky high. I sprinted like crazy off the start, feeling my front wheel lifting as I cranked on the bars for some power, and then settled down into my drops.
Time trialing with a power meter is ah-maze-ing! It’s a good way to make sure I don’t drop off, even though I’m maintaining the same speed. I averaged 212 watts, and set a 20 minute power PR since getting the meter at 220 (which then in turn I calculated a new FTP as apparently I can do way better outside than on a trainer any day). I settled down and just waited for the hordes of people to pass me. Never happened, only the women who would go on to get 2nd place would pass me. So that’s always a pleasant feeling! I passed the cutest junior boy who was pedaling merrily along the course. I made sure to yell out a “good job!” to him as I went past. Just too cute!
When I rounded the turnaround I was expecting a tailwind as I swore I had a headwind, and it never happened. Ugh. So I really hammered that last “smidge under 6” miles. It’s a false flat/climb back to the start and knew my climbing power helps. Just kept an eye on the power numbers and pushed through the burn in my legs. Once I crested the final hill I downshifted one or two gears and pushed towards the finish. My face distorted in pain but I spun those pedals faster and faster. Ouch, that push to the final hurt!
My final time was 32:05.982…. 4.5 minutes faster than my 2013 time! Woohoo! This was good enough for 8th Place in SW4 out of 13 competitors. I joked with my teammates that I won the nonexistent “SW4 Non Aero” category as I was the only one in the category without aero bars or a TT bike. Ha! Granted I did have my TT helmet on, but I did it because it looks so cool and matches my bike 😛 Or I just looked like a collegiate racer since they’re not allowed aero bars. I can deal with looking like a college kid!
Overall I was pleased. I was happy to see my power output and how I kept pushing. I think this was a good way to test out my training and to get a new FTP test done without fighting myself on the trainer. The race did trash my legs… I was going to ride 20-30 miles afterwards, but the wind picked up and I just was dead and hungry, so I opted for taking myself on a date for Mexican food after I chatted up with my teammates and other friends who I haven’t seen since cross season. The following day on Sunday I did 55 miles on a group ride in Fort Collins and ended up with some strong efforts thanks to Thomas egging me on so my legs are done for! Where are those Elevated Legs when I need them like we had at 24HOP?!
And that’s that… the season is now officially underway (24HOP was like a prelude). This weekend I’m giving the Oredigger Hill Climb up Lookout Mountain another go since last year I did it while sick so I’m curious to see how it goes this year. Then I do have a pause until April, so I can get in some long rides and hopefully the weather stays good! I’m really enjoying Daylight Savings this year as now I have 3-4 hours of daylight after work to get in rides!
What an amazing race! It all came together so perfectly for me that I broke down sobbing after my final lap out of relief and happiness that finally I felt like I proved what I was capable of on a bicycle.
So backtrack… I’ve wanted to do this race ever since my coach and his buddy finished 5th in Duo Men at last year’s event. When I saw an email from my very new-to-me bike team at the time asking if anybody was game for the final spot, I immediately jumped on it without really giving anything strong consideration. That’s it, I was doing the 2015 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo on a four women team!
I’ve never done a 24 hour endurance race, and my previous half hearted attempts at endurance mountain bike racing haven’t gone so well (I didn’t even start in the Stone Temple 8 in 2013, and of course my nagging DNF in the Laramie Enduro the same year…). I didn’t really know what to expect, except I wanted to race my bike super fast and see how my early season training panned out. During my pre-ride I actually wasn’t that impressed with the course, and started daydreaming about cheese halfway through and almost felt disappointment. After eating some cheese, I looped the last 3 mile stretch again, which is the most “technical” it gets with some rocky sections and of course the rock drop at the end and felt a bit better about it.
Lap 1 – 2:32pm – 1:14:35 I was super nervous going into my first lap. Being so late in the day I was worried about how my nutrition would be, and the winter heat I’m not use to, and just about what would happen. I didn’t really warm up more than just doing some sprints on the roads in 24 Hour Town, and then staged my bike and took to standing the exchange tent. Katey came through and I grabbed the baton and sprinted out and got on my bike and just hammered off. Damn, the course is FUN at full race speed!
I was in a group of about 5 or 6 leaving the tent which lead to some traffic on the single track. Once to the Bitches I was able to pass them on the climbs. I hammered out the climbs on the Bitches and felt pretty damn good. On the long straightaway I made sure to hydrate and just keep hammering. I’ve always been a “power rider” on the mountain biker, but thought I lost that ability when I began to get really well at technical sections, so this was the first time in a long time I felt powerful on the bike. I attacked a lot of the short punchy climbs out of the saddle, and was consistently passing people I came up upon. I was shocked to see myself flying down the single track sections at 15-20mph, but felt confident the corners – even more so that I FINALLY stopped running 30psi in my tires and went to a bit of a more normal pressure for tubeless.
I settled into a good temp on the single track sections with the headwind and after a few miles of ignoring the headwind I settled in behind two guys who were holding an awesome pace down His and Hers Trails. They kept asking if I wanted to pass, but I just tucked in as I know they were pacing me well. I felt a stinging on the inside of my right ankle and looked down and had some cholla attached to it, so I had to ignore that stinging (it would fall off on its own before the finish). We spit out near a campsite and they pulled off so I was once again on my own and soon was on High Point Trail, which is a decent climb of a few miles until a final descent back to the finish. I was still feeling super strong and didn’t struggle on the climbing, though this is the section where I ran into the most slow moving traffic (and seemed to be where I would run into the most people on all of my laps).
The descent went well, and I let one of the guys from earlier in front of me which helped set a good pace back to the finish. I was nervous coming up to the rock drop as there was a large crowd of spectators and it can be a be hairy… luckily I made it down just fine and then proceeded to get in “trouble” at the exchange tent when I dismounted my bike, shouldered it, and started running all cross style… ha! Crap, was I the only one who thought this was a race?!
I did my first lap in 1:14:35!!!!!!!! HELL YES!!!! That lap ended up being the 47th fastest female lap (out of 951 laps). And I did it with cholla in my ankle 😀
Lap 2 – 7:48pm – 1:18:36 I was super tired before starting this lap and all I wanted to do was sleep. After pumping myself up with some Luke Bryan I headed down to the exchange tent for my first night lap – which would also be my first time racing at night and riding something faster than a fat bike on snow. I fired up my NiteRider MiNewt Pro 770 Enduro on my handlebars and my NiteRider Lumina 750 on my helmet, both on high and took off. I had a speed demon inside of me, and it didn’t feel like I was riding at night at all! My senses with highly focused and I just concentrated on the trail in front of me.
Unfortunately a few Bitches in all racers were ordered to dismount and walk (run) down and up and around an injured rider who Life Flight was working on. We had to go around in the cactus, too. This was frustrating, but definitely understandable, and if anything just lit my fire more to go faster to make up that time. Once again I made sure to hydrate on the flat straightaway and then hit the single track. Once again, I was consistently passing people. I met up with one guy and him and I kinda rode together for a lot of it, with him trailing me a bit. Always nice to have someone to keep me going faster!
My legs still felt powerful and I just flew on the single track, especially since the winds had died slightly. I smashed my toes on some prickly pear cactus here and there, but I kept everything upright and steady and smooth. I was even more nervous to do the rock drop in the dark, as I hadn’t before, but found out that it’s not much different!
I came in at 1:18:36, which was the fastest night lap time in the 4 Person Open Women category! GO ME! I couldn’t believe how fast I ended up riding at night, as I was expecting way slower speeds. It was also the 32nd fastest female night lap out of 377 laps. Whew, I pulled back to back similar laps. Maybe I could be consistent, and not a one lap wonder?!
Lap 3 – 1:43am – 1:20:22 I had tried to nap after lap 2, but it just wasn’t happening, so I dragged myself to the exchange tent in the wee hours of the morning. I chatted with a girl on the team sitting in third place (we were sitting solidly in first place since the very first lap!), and she told me her teammate was telling her that “the girl in the unicorn socks is so fast!” – whoa! I knew those unicorn socks were good luck 😀
The Bitches stung a bit more on this lap, and I was a bit loopy. The cholla were looking like fuzzy teddy bears to me, though I resisted hugging any. I sung a combo of Toby Keith’s “Made In America” and the theme song to the TV show Weeds aloud… can’t explain that at all… A guy with super bright lights insisted on trying to follow me as he “couldn’t see the trail,” which was annoying to me as his lights cast a big shadow of myself right down the middle of the single track. I ended up mashing the pedals a bit harder to distance myself from him as I didn’t like the shadow. Sorry dude…
I finished out at 1:20:22, which was still the third fastest night lap in our category. I promptly ran to the RV and got in my sleeping bag to scrounge up a few minutes of sleep.
Lap 4 – 7:31am – 1:17:24 When my alarm went off to get ready for this lap I groaned. I love my 8-9 hours of sleep a night, and to think I had to get up after maybe 2, if that, hours of sleep and RACE A MOUNTAIN BIKE seemed INSANE. INSANE. I can’t even remember what I tried to eat (Saturday and Sunday are so fuzzy in my memory already!) and made my way down to the tent. Everyone looked a bit glazed.
Out I went and the Bitches were horrible and I felt like I was crawling up them. But I kept on keeping on. I was getting passed by some faster men, and noticed the passing was not done with as much kindness and courtesy as earlier laps. I also came upon many zombie-like races struggling along. Once I hit the single track I noticed a female voice behind me and I decided I didn’t want a girl passing me so I powered away (and kept her away, yay). Still not a lot of wind, so I cruised along pretty well. My Garmin’s battery died just about 6 miles in, and I felt like I was blind. I could no longer look down and use my speed to judge my effort. I felt like I was going super slow so I just settled in.
When I came out across the road a course marshall announced that it was 8:33 and I did a double take. Did I just ride 13 miles in an hour?! So I kicked it into a higher gear. I figured this was my final lap so I would just burn everything for a good time… came into the exchange tent and there was Rachel. Wait, Rachel? Uh oh… this Heidi had another lap to go!
So this “blind and slow” lap was 1:17:24!! My second fastest lap! I couldn’t believe it! Maybe I didn’t need that fancy Garmin device after all 😀
Lap 5 – 10:03am – 1:22:31 The team decided to change up the order for a bit and send out Rachel and I to bring home the big Win. So after only an hour of downtime and rest I headed back out for my 5th and final lap. This lap hurt. Nothing more I can really describe it as! But I mashed up the Bitches and held an OK pace on the various single track. The hardest part for me was the High Point Trail and final climb. People would offer to let me pass and I struggled to get the power for the surge around them. Hitting that descent was one of the best feelings ever… so much that I started choking up in disbelief that I just race 5 laps in this race with consistent times and in disbelief that finally I was able to keep pushing myself – I broke my mental barrier! I held back tears all the way down the descent, past all the spectators (including one who yelled “Go, Wyoming!” – not sure who that was, but awesome!) and photographers. I almost cried at the sight of the exchange tent but held back to give the baton to Rachel for one final time and made it back to the RV before the flood gates opened. It was over. For all the times someone, including some people I held to close to me in the past, told me I couldn’t do something… no you can’t race, no you shouldn’t be that category, no you’re not strong enough or this… I proved them wrong. And it was awesome.
1:22:31 was my lap time… not the best, but not horrible either. I was done.
Rachel crossed at 1:04pm after a tire blowout on the Bitches, and we had officially won the 24 Hours at the Old Pueblo as a 4 women team! Woohoo! I’d say that’s not too shabby for a mix of people who hadn’t raced in ten years, who just wanted the base miles, who just wanted to have fun, and the crazy girl from Wyoming who wanted to race super hard but had no idea she’d do 3 sub-1:20 laps!
18 laps in 25 hours and 4 minutes. Whew.
Lots of big thanks are in order… thanks to Specialized Bicycles… my S-Works Fate performed flawlessly, and there were several ladies who rode the exact same bike to victory (including a co-ed duo from Wyoming! Yeah, we’re awesome in Wyoming!). Perfect bike for the power course, and still performed well down the rock drop. Yay for NiteRider lights – I saw perfectly and the lights were great even at speed. Osmo kept me hydrate, and Honey Stinger, gummy bears, Kraft Easy Mac, Maruchen ramen, and Lunchables kept me fed. Of course Naked Women’s Racing and all our awesome sponsors – such as Rudy Project (neon yellow helmets are amazing!) and Sidi shoes (carbon soles make me go zoom zoom). John from Tucson who was our sherpa – picked up our rental RV, picked up Katey and I at the airport, built and unbuilt my bike (and even washed it better than it’s ever been washed!), shuttled us all around… amazing guy and a big blessing to have a trip like this! Thanks to Kalan Beisel for setting my tire pressure by his expert pro feel, and for his buddy for providing the Elevated Legs to help us recover in between laps. Katey, Heidi, and Rachel for being awesome teammates and all laying down solid laps for our victory.
Most of all, I gotta thank my coach, Anthony Diede of CritFit. net. He holds me accountable, he pushes me, and I’ve grown to know that I do not want to disappoint him and to trust him with his knowledge and wisdom. He took me from an untrained cat 3 racer with a basket case of a mind and no will power when the legs started burning to a cat 1 racer who just won the largest 24 hour endurance mountain bike race in the country. Seriously, I can’t thank him enough. So many nights I drag myself to the trainer, cussing it out, and get off the bike happy and pleased that I pushed through another torturous workout. It’s going to be an awesome season, Coach T!
And just like that it was done when I crossed the finish line in Castle Rock at the Colorado CX Championships!
I raced every single month of 2014. That’s a lot of racing. But over it all it was a good year!
States Raced In: Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wyoming # of Races: 15 mountain bike, 6 road (excludes local TT series), 20 cyclocross # of Wins: 2 (MTB), 2 (CX) # of Top 5: 11 (MTB), 1 (road), 4 (CX) # of Beverage Drinking Devices Won: 4
Definitely a lot more than 2013 – 9 more cyclocross races in fact! Even added a new state: Iowa. The FORC Side Thrill Ride race was an unexpected highlight of my season, with a great course and great people. It’s honestly an event I’d do again if for some reason I had the extra cash to drive to Iowa!
Other random facts:
1 DNF thanks to North Fruita Desert mud. That was a nice $200 added expense…
0 barriers tripped over during cyclocross this year
1 box of granola bars won that I can’t eat
6 cans of beer won (that are still in the fridge)
Couple of cracked ribs, one probable stress fractured big toe, one laceration that should’ve been stitched, and countless bruises.
Though my cyclocross season was pretty crappy overall, I still feel a bit sad that it’s all over. Cyclocross season is the only time I get to see a lot of awesome people, and sometimes it just sucks knowing it’ll be 9 months until the craziness starts all again! But I do think cyclocross taught me this year that mountain biking really is my thing. Unless they replicate the MUCCY course and conditions every single weekend, I just gotta accept what my strengths and weaknesses are. I’m a tiny fish in a big sea of crazy fast talented females when it comes to cross… which is ok. And I will try to have more fun next year!
But that’s 9 months away, and that’s many months of mountain bike racing in between! Which I’m getting excited for. The ability to fat bike, and the probability of being able to ride Gowdy here and there throughout the winter on a real mountain bike, is building my skills and keeping me in that sort of “shape” mountain biking requires.
As for my first decent “off season” since starting to race in March 2013 (can it really be an off season if I’m already training for 2015?)… I’ve moved a lot of bike stuff down into the basement bike room and out of the living room. And unfortunately, I had my left foot X-rayed due to a crazy bit of inflammation that popped up in a bone by my pinky toe that coincided with me tumbling down my basement stairs last week. Luckily no fractures, but I’m suppose to stick to a 800mg ibuprofen every 6 hours regimen along with wrapping my foot with ACE wrap. For the past few days it’s been incredibly painful to wear shoes – everything from my wide Danksos to “fit like a sock” road cycling shoes, so now the thought of cramming my foot into any shoe with ACE wrap over it is frightening. It’s resembling a “tailor’s bunion,” but even the doc I saw say bunions don’t just acutely appear. So I’m not sure how this will play out because… well, I gotta wear those snug cycling shoes every day!