Ken Chlouber of Leadville fame gives a pep talk the day before LT100, and there’s a new video making the rounds where he’s talking about how the pain of a race only lasts however many hours the race is, but the pain of a DNF lasts until you can come back and redeem yourself. The Laramie Enduro this year was very much about that… well, it was only about redeeming myself (and perhaps figuring out nutrition for LT100). If there’s one day on the bike that pissed me off the most, it was DNF-ing the Laramie Enduro in 2013.
I won’t lie, it was hard this year. It hurt, sometimes very badly. I’m pretty sure around mile 12 or 14 I was thinking about just stopping. I had a good start, climbed well and faster than it seemed I had before. Racing open women has it’s perks in that the course was really clear so the first section of single track I didn’t have to worry about traffic and racers that couldn’t make the one long steep climb (and the few that walked moved quickly out of the way). I sat in 5th place until shortly after Aid 1. I was getting concerned because my heart rate was never dropping below 175-180bpm, and I knew that was just too much to sustain for this race length, even though it felt like I was pacing myself well and trying to spin easier gears. Then I started to get giddy inside that I was actually going to finish this race and finally be able to throw out this piece of baggage.
I pulled into Aid 2 and a volunteer ran off with my camelback to refill it as I stood there feeling useless – this event has AMAZING volunteers to say the least. She said I had drank 3/4 of the 100oz bladder, which I was happy to hear. I decided to give Tailwind the final trial as my main nutrition source. Overall I consumed about 6 liters of water with 18 scoops of Tailwind, two half banana slices, two slices of watermelon, 3 Endurolyte tablets, and two Honey Stinger gels! Anyways, I was quickly back on my way to enjoy the speedy downhill and tailwind to Aid 3. I crossed the half way point of 35 miles at 3 hours 13 minutes (including stopped time), and I couldn’t believe how fast it was all going by!
I came into Aid 3 and the volunteers told me I was in 4th place. Now mind you, I really had no idea where I was at this point, and I wasn’t “racing” the race. I was actually annoyed they told me, as it changed the dynamic for me from “just finish” to “hmmm, maybe try to do well.” Tim came up to me and told me “Barb is coming for you!” and that added stress. Dammit, do I actually have to race now?! After a quick watermelon slice and dumping some Tailwind into my water I had refilled at Aid 2, I was on my way, determined to not let any other open women catch me.
I came up to the 701GA climb and sternly looked it in the eye and said “701GA, you killed my mojo in 2013. Prepare to die.” Because that’s the only logical thing to say to a rutted out, eroded forest service road, right?! I walked this climb in 2013, and this year I spun my granny gear all the way to the top. I think I was smiling… which I’m sure everyone would shake their head at as nobody likes 701GA. Whatever, I did this year! I also chatted up every cow I saw on course, which was about… several hundred. People commented that they had issues with the cows moving for them, but I just politely asked the cows to move and they did. Not only do I talk to forest service roads and threaten to kill them, I’m also a cow whisperer.
Things continued to go well and soon enough the bits of single track were over and it was time for another never ending grind on double track and primitive roads up to Aid 4. Aid 4… my nemesis. The point where I called my parents to come pick me up in 2013. As long as I moved my bike past Aid 4 I knew my day was complete. I got an amazing surprise as I came up to the road crossing and saw Jim on the side of the road, there to surprise me! I’m not kidding when I say I almost peed my pants in happiness! Few sips of cold water and a hug, and he set me off on my way with a “you’re in 6th or 7th” place! I just lost it. Seeing Aid 4, seeing him, feeling the support, I bawled all the way to the aid station. Goodness endurance mountain biking turns me into a mush ball!
Quick refill of the Camelbak at Aid 4 and I set off. OK, here it goes… 18 miles left! The Laramie Enduro is a mean bitch, though, as she puts all the hardest stuff in the last 18 miles. Because there’s nothing like having to have technical skills at mile 65 of a 68 mile race… The first few miles went OK, but soon stuff turned into long conga line hike-a-bikes up steep hills, and then not so steep hills. It was hot, hovering around 90 degrees with no wind. I actually complained about there not being wind! Also the swear words and name calling of hills began. Aid 4 to Aid 5 on the course is simply mental demoralizing (and for some, physically demoralizing, too). My granny gear became intolerable to turn over and I felt ruined. Nonetheless, I repeated “Keep moving” in my head, whether it was on foot or on bike. I stopped on one rutted out hill that bucked me off course and cried for 10 seconds out of frustration and then ate a gel for a bit of a caffeine boost. It seemed like Aid 5 would never come, and of course you had to climb a bunch to get there.
Jim was waiting for me at Aid 5, and of course I started crying again as he hugged me and gave me more cold water before shooing me back on my bike. Six miles was left… a horrid six miles. Jim drove behind me on Headquarters Rd up to the trailhead for motivation and then I waved goodbye as I turned onto Headquarters Trail. The most frustrating part of the rest of the course is that I’m super familiar with it all. I ride and race on it all the time. I know how fast I can ride each part. Headquarters Climb is a toughy, but I’ve always cleared it. I found myself walking and it was humbling because I know what I normally can do, but with 65 miles under my belt I knew what was suddenly impossible, but it bothered me terribly that it was impossible. I dragged myself and bike up the climb, step after step, finally remounting at the junction with Browns Landing. OK, mostly downhill from here. But technical. Ugh. I felt like I was going so slow, and I really was in all honesty.
I got caught on a root on a small kicker and fell over and just sat in the trail for a minute or two. It felt good to sit. I hadn’t sat all day on something other than a bike seat! But I knew I had to get it over with because it was so close to the finish. I tried to power on as much as I could, and soon I was descending the single track to the trailhead and down the dirt road to the finish line. Funny enough, I had been pushing the granny gear slowly for the past two hours, and yet I was turning the big chain ring and almost my hardest gear sprinting down the finishing straight. Ummm, really?!
7 hours 43 minutes 36 seconds. 6th Place Open Women.
I did it 🙂
I crossed the line and looked around and felt lost. It was all over. A guy who knew me through a friend came over and asked how I did and I started crying. Nice impression I made on him, I’m sure. It was overwhelming but so relieving. That’s it… the DNF Pain of 2013 was gone. I came back and kicked the course’s ass and proved that I could do it – it took me 7 hours to reach Aid 4 in 2013, and 7 hours and 43 minutes to do the whole damn thing this year! Now it was time for staring down food not sure I could eat it (I wasn’t hungry), wondering when I’d finally pee, and to double fist a beer in one hand and a lemonade in another!
Two weeks before what will be the hardest day on a bike for me I squashed the mental demons that taunted me since July 2013. I’m so happy it’s over. I have no plans for another Laramie Enduro because I feel like my work is done for now. I am happy with how the day went, especially since it came at the end of the week of my transition to night shift and a couple of missed workouts and not a single day on a bike over 5 hours all year. It’s been hard to keep my mental drive going this late into the summer, as I’m use to calling it quits after a nationals in mid-July, but this was a good boost and also foreshadowing of what’s to come during the LT100. Goodness, I can’t wait to return to strictly XCO racing next year!
Eek, time to catch up on the June happenings! It’s a big month of riding and little racing compared to this spring, which has been downright refreshing.
June 23rd marked the start of the Laramie Mountain Bike Series, or as I like to call it, THE BEST LOCAL RACE SERIES IN THE WORLD! Seriously, those are my thoughts on it. Funny how $10 gets more of a value than many $80 races, with more and tougher competition. But I digress… the leadup started with the normal “I’m going to puke” feelings as the I anticipated the course being posted the night before, and all day before the evening race I was antsy and distracted. I am hands down more nervous before any LMBS race than I have been at any other race, including my two trips to the national championships. It’s my hometown race series, and it just makes me nervous!
I had my first ride of the year at Happy Jack two days prior and felt incredibly flat and granny geared everything. On my warm up for the race I felt good, which was a relief. Armed with bug spray and my awesome personalized number plate, I lined up for the open class race. Sara and I were chatting with Georgia, and ended up at the front. Usually the women start behind the open men, but Sara and I stuck our ground and I chose to get behind Georgia, because naturally she knows how to start a race! I had a great start, sticking with Georgia to the top of the campground climb (well, that’s certainly an improvement from last year!). Sara and I were together going onto Meadow, and Gwynn joined us. Last year I was finishing a good 10-20 minutes behind these two monsters in the open races, so I was so tickled to still be with them! And with them I stayed all the way to the overlook climb on Headquarters. We put a huge gap on the other three women, and never did see them, though I knew they were lurking out there behind me somewhere!
After the rocky climb and descent on Summit to the fast jeep road back down, I was feeling good and powerful… no granny gear this night! I caught Sara on Ridge, and followed her down to Middle Aspen, but she got away with her great descending skills. I caught Gwynn on Pole Creek, and though she pedaled away I PR’d on that trail to a tune of 3 MINUTES off my last PR… um, 3 MINUTES! I came through the first lap only 30 seconds behind Sara and Gwynn. Wow! Still never knowing who was behind me waiting to strike, I set out on the second lap. I had my first and only bobble of the night leading up to the overlook climb on a rock and had to dab, otherwise the technical skills were on point… such a relief after the mountain bike season I’ve been having! I couldn’t stop smiling as I realized I was having one of the best races I could have, but tried to remain calm as I’ve learned over the years how soon that can change with a lapse of concentration even for a second.
Coming down Middle Aspen I asked a passing male how far back he thought the nearest female was, and he told me “a couple of minutes… decent, but not in the bag.” So I hammered Pole Creek and once I was on Campground Bypass I knew I just had to keep going and I’d have it! Aside from almost hitting a tree, I was golden, but still sprinted for my life to the finish line and crossed with the biggest damn smile.
FINALLY! One of the best races I have ever had 😀
I finished 3rd, about 1:35-ish off of Sara in 2nd. Wow. What a difference a year of training makes, and having all the stars align perfectly for this one night! I was worried about the course as it was a lot of power riding and descending, and my strength tends to be climbs, but it all went great and I even descended well for my abilities, crushing some PRs on the downhill trails. I was over 5 minutes ahead of 4th place, so I had a decent cushion which was nice, but I did like having to race hard because I didn’t know! I was worried open would be another season of racing by myself, but now I’m a bit more optimistic for the LMBS this year, but also trying to keep it in perspective as I tend to have a strong first race, but as people gain more fitness over the summer I fall further back. So we shall see.
Oh, and I won $5! My first payout in an open/”pro” race! Best $5 ever, I was so stoked! I got to eat delicious tacos made by Pedal House Dewey, and then chatted with Georgia and Jim around the beer cooler. Great evening, and an awesome start to what will be an awesome season at LMBS, regardless of my results!
With the start of LMBS out of the way, it was time to look towards my first attempt at 40 in the Fort in Fort Collins. I figured this would be good LT100 training, though looking back it’s really not the type of race course that lends much to the LT100, but whatever. My biggest concern was the heat, but a 7am start abated that slightly. Open women had a decent turn out, and the start was calm and we all stayed together up Timber. I thought we were going so slow up Timber, then I realized I did that trail 3 minutes faster than I ever had before! We broke up descending Kimmons, but I was with Gale, Erin, and Bella until Sawmill.
40 in the Fort is no joke. Technical with about 3800 feet of climbing per lap, which was 20 miles long. It uses Towers Road, which I had only done on a fat bike in the snow, but I knew how hard those 20% or more pitches were. I was taking things at a moderate pace, as the goal was to finish, not fit for a top spot. I flew up the first bit of Towers to Loggers and Carey Springs. Then it was time for more Towers, which went well, and I stayed riding when many chose to walk. I took some Coke and cold water at the aid station, and proceeded up Towers to the summit to head down Westridge.
OK, I just don’t like the descents at Horsetooth Mountain Park, especially during an endurance race. It’s not because I’m not a technical rider, because I am. It’s just that the fact that they are loose, if not cat-head sized boulder fields it almost borders on “too much danger, way too little reward.” Needless to say, I walked a lot of stuff on Westridge and Wathan, all the while wishing I was still climbing Towers. Yes, that is how MUCH I hated those descents!
Once I hit Herrington I was a happier camper, and cleared nearly all the obstacles on the climb which made me happy. Then it was time for Towers again, before the descent down Mill Creek. Once again more Coke, water, some watermelon, and Endurolytes at the aid station and I set off with a smile. The first bit of Mill Creek is awesome, but then… ugh. Loose rocky stuff with technical stuff that I even say no to. And this is where my race ended itself 😦 There was a long steep downhill of those cat-head boulders and about two thirds of the way down I went over the bars. Still not sure why… not sure if I had shifted too far forward without noticing since it was such a long descent, or if my brakes, which I had been struggling with, caught more on the front. Either way, I was somersaulting, and so was my bike. I went down hard and instinctively covered my head as I knew my bike was still airborne. Then at that moment my entire right leg cramped up and I did some of the loudest swearing I’ve ever done mid race. As I grimaced and rolled around in the middle of the trail trying to massage out my calf and quad at the same time, I realized my right elbow was all cut up and feeling a bit sore, and my left knee, which I had just healed up, was bleeding. I had a hole in my left sock, and my ankle was all cut up. And I didn’t realize it at the time, my bike did hit the back of my head, but luckily my awesome Poc helmet just took some cosmetic scuffing.
I finally massaged out the cramps enough that I could stand and I hobbled over to my bike, which, except for a tear on my brand new ESI Grip, was fine. Funny how a bike made out of carbon fiber can somersault multiple times through the air and be just fine… But I knew at that moment the second lap was questionable for me. So this led to the several mile walk out of Mill Creek. It was miserable. My confidence gone, I wouldn’t even ride smaller descents that normally wouldn’t phase me. I passed some patrol gals, and they offered to clean me up, and I refused sine I still had about two miles to go. They offered to try to get me help out, but really the best way back to the finish was, well, the course! I assured them I could make it, even if it took me forever! After my un-enjoyable hike down Mill Creek, I finally joined to the Valley trails. My right leg smarted as I tried to pedal, but I could move forward at a decent speed so I was ok. This is when I realized my elbow really didn’t like weight applied on it. Yeah, I was done. I crossed the finish line and pulled the plug, though I really didn’t want to 😦 I just knew it was the smartest decision since I knew I would be walking every descent on the second lap out of fear, and I didn’t know how the leg and elbow would hold up for another 3800 feet of climbing. I also knew I had more important races on the calendar coming up that were important to do well in, and it wasn’t worth destroying myself trying to finish this one.
For the first time ever I had EMTs clean me up. Luckily the knee wasn’t bad once the crusted blood was washed off. My elbow and ankle were swelling, and even though my elbow was making suspicious crunching noises, I knew I’d probably be ok (remember, I’m the girl that waited 3 weeks to get X-rays of a cracked elbow in 2012…). I jumped at the chance for my first ever professional massage, which felt amazing, and then cleaned up and helped out with passing out the finisher medals to those coming through. Bittersweet, especially after the high of the LMBS the previous Tuesday. But as injuries and DNFs rolled in, I was happy that I was doing ok!
So 40 in the Fort… yeah, it’s no joke. Most people point to the climbing, but for me that wasn’t the issue whatsoever. It’s really the amount of technical riding on trails that are really quite sketchy and loose. It’s funny, because someone told me, “No, this is way easier than Glendo!” and I have to disagree! At least Glendo had trails with no loose baby rocks on them! If this race makes my calendar again, I do believe it’ll be in the 20 mile format. *IF* Maybe give it a few years, and I might try to redeem myself 😛
Definitely the nail at this race…
Other than that, my June has been low key for racing! I did finish out the New Belgium Short Track Series in Fort Collins with a win in Expert Women on my single speed, and a 2nd place finish to Suzie in a single speed race involving LeMans starts with beer chugging and donut hand ups! Oh, and I wore a tutu 🙂
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!