Things have been a little quiet on the blog post front on this site for over a year now… really it is quite simple – I “retired” from competitive racing after the cyclocross season in 2021. After almost a decade of number plates and safety pins, I realized I needed a break and wanted to explore other adventures and sports. Though it has been almost a year now, I am still working out if it is simply a “break,” or a longer term decision. One day I might put a race number on again, but for right now I am enjoying being painfully slow climbing hills on my mountain bike, while trekking up them also slowly by foot and crampons. If you are interested in more than just bicycles, I write about a lot of my national park exploring, foray into mountaineering, and general peakbagging and shenanigans on my other blog, The Adventuring Heidi. I am also an Iceland-o-phile, so if you need any Iceland advice, head there! 🙂
What does this mean for the Colorado & Wyoming Race Calendars of Awesomeness? Absolutely nothing! I am still updating them, and have begun posting 2023 dates as they trickle in – the gravel side is a bit quicker to announce dates than mountain bike at this point. I have absolutely no plans on retiring from being the calendar queen at this point. As always, if you know of an event I have missed, or something new, please either comment on the calendar (or this post even) or shoot me an email with details!
Find the Colorado & Wyoming Mountain Bike Race Calendar HERE Find the Colorado & Wyoming Gravel Race Calendar HERE
I am continuing with my team Square1 Cycling. I am also continuing to work with Tailwind Nutrition, returning to the Trailblazer team in 2021 and continuing our partnership into its sixth year! Also back is Maxxis Tires, who also supported me in 2019 for mountain biking.
So racing? Eek, I hope it can all happen! Promoters were able to show their ability to safely host some events in 2020, so I’m building off that momentum. On tap for me are mostly a LOT of 100 mile gravel events, a few shorter gravel events, a few XCO mountain bike events (still unsure if I’ll race nationals in Winter Park), and of course a full cyclocross season.
I know, who thought this “90 minute, max effort” racer would be tackling 100 mile gravel races. But here I am. We’ll see how crazy the plan ends up being.
I am currently registered for CO2UT (a postponement since 2020), Robidoux Quick & Dirty, FoCo Fondo, and the 307 Gravel Series. For full plans, you can see my 2021 plans under the Results & Rides tab.
On the bright side, I’ve been putting in the work and am currently enjoying my first recovery/regeneration week of the training plan!
2020 has been a struggle when it comes to racing. Races either cancelled, or moved their date. The Dead Swede was one of these – from an original June date to beginning of October. Like in 2019, I targeted this race as one of my “A” races when planning my season, along with Bear Bait 8 and the Laramie Range Epic. Bear Bait 8 happened but I was the only one in my field, the Epic went virtual, so that left me with lots of fire for The Dead Swede.
Last year I raced the 40 mile course and loved it, but bumped up to the brand new 60 mile option for this year. When I registered I had barely begun to get 60 mile rides under my belt, so I was nervous about how it would go, but thankfully after a spring and summer of lots of 60-70 mile rides, I felt confident with racing the distance, especially after Robidoux Quick N Dirty.
It was a chilly 40 or so degrees on race morning, as we all stood around debating clothing choices. I glanced at other women I saw, trying to size up my competition. I really had no idea what to expect, much like at Robidoux. The Dead Swede did see a big drop off in participants when they moved the date, but there were still about 90 starting the 60 mile race (the 40 mile race had the most participants this year, but still about half of what came out for 2019’s race). Not horribly shabby, considering how 2020 panned out.
8:05am and off we went! A couple rows of recreational riders were at the front, so I quickly made my way through them during the neutral start to get to the front of the pack. My strategy is mostly “get to the front, then you know if you’re passed.” A small peloton formed, but it wasn’t nearly as organized and fast as the previous year’s. Apparently I made an enemy with a 15 year old when he rapidly swerved into my line and I scolded him, so he went on to call me out on Strava, ha! But yeah, I didn’t like the group, lots of weird riding happening. Needless to say, it was a relief when we all turned onto the gravel and could spread out a bunch.
Then, it happened. A ponytail and neon pink jacket passed me and she looked mighty strong on the climbs. I was going to have to work for this one, it seemed, but I was nearly immediately discouraged by how strong she appeared on climbs. Eric kinda laughed at me, and told me not to worry. Gotta love good gravel friends like that!
However, after a few miles it was apparent some of the tactics that were coming into play, and I didn’t like them (aka, sitting in my draft but not willing to return the favor), so I yelled over to Eric that I needed to put down the hammer. It was mile 12 or so… of a 60 mile race. So early with so much tough climbing left, but I had to make a gap. It was rolling downhill into the first aid station in Big Horn at mile 16, so to my advantage and I let my legs do their thing. I breathed a sigh of relief at the gap, but as I turned around on the out and back, it was obvious how small it was not only to 2nd place, but 3rd place. I told Eric once again, “I don’t think I’m winning this thing,” and he rolled his eyes at me.
Out of Big Horn I climbed in a small group with Eric and South Dakota Guy, all of us taking small turns into the wind. I lost my group when I took a few seconds of non-pedaling to yank my bibs back down over my knee warmers (the worse!) and take a gel, but kept the guys in view. The course then turned onto the fantastic Dry Weather Road, which lives up to its name with baby head rocks, ruts, and overall awesomeness. After this fun stretch was over, we joined the 40 mile course where it leaves the pavement, and I was back into familiar territory from last year.
With a headwind from the north-northwest, my times were decently slower than the previous year’s, but I kept pushing on, stealing glimpses behind me when I could (but I realized 2nd place had probably removed her neon pink jacket by now and would be blending in with all the other dark dots behind me). I went back and forth with South Dakota Guy, Eric, and Brian throughout the course, which was nice to have familiar faces. I rode into Dayton with Eric, but he needed water at the aid station so I kept going on, time trialing on the false flat to the second-to-last major climb of the day. A climb in which I was nearly creamed by a semi truck hauling sheep… ugh.
By now there was a nice tailwind, which was much appreciate. I flew past the final aid station, knowing I had about ten miles left, and most of it is downhill and very fast. I was pedaling like mad, when my Garmin gave me the “you’re off course!” beep. I panicked braked and looked around, as there was an intersection. Brian wasn’t far behind me, so I let him catch me and he said his Garmin did the same, but we were in the right direction. By now I was panicking, and knew I lost precious seconds. Pedal pedal pedal. Finally the last climb appeared, which was hellacious last year. Luckily with a tailwind this year, it went quicker and didn’t see all that bad because I knew what to expect, and I took my time smiling at the photographer, unaware I was being chased down with intent…
To the top, and I hit the pavement for the last few smooth miles before the finish. I hammered as much as I could, knowing I had to finish strong (and it’s good I did this!). Finally it was the final steep bike path descent, and the finish line, which I sprinted for with Brian!
YES I DID IT!!!!
1st Place overall women, 6th place overall out of everyone… 3 hours 37 minutes 1 second!
Brian and I were still trying to breathe normally and get out of racing mode when the 2nd place woman crossed the line, only one minute and nine seconds behind me. “Oh wow, that was really close!” I remarked to Brian. It felt really good to work for the win and to have to put a lot of effort into it. Sure, easy wins are nice (I had a 20 minute or so cushion at Robidoux), but there’s something sweeter when it is close and required a lot of work and panic and fear for several hours. Eric rolled in next and told me how much he wanted to call me on the final climb and let me know she was chasing me down. It was close!
The Dead Swede 60 mile is a fast race, so I had a comical amount of food and water on me, though I do like to lean towards being over prepared. I had 2 liters of water with 300 calories of lemon Tailwind mixed in, and terrible me, I still haven’t pulled the bladder out of my Chase Vest, and noted how much I drank. Starting one hour in, I took an SIS gel every 30 minutes, which was an amazing tactic I’ve never tried. This really kept me fueled and I was never hungry. SIS gels are also so easy to eat, I just rip them open and smoosh the entire gel into my mouth at once. Because they’re isotonic, I do not have to worry about drinking right after I take one, either. I also had two bottles of plain water on my bike, but I never touched those. I think with the cooler temps, I could’ve gotten by with just bottles on my bike without the camelback, and not needed aid stations, but it was still so nice just to have the water on my back and to not have to worry about stopping, which eats into precious seconds.
Second Dead Swede done and dusted, and still one of my favorite events! I did like the October date, as the temperatures stayed cool and the autumn colors made everything pretty. I will definitely be back in 2021, and now the debate is beginning on if I should give the 100 mile course a go….
One of my biggest flaws when it comes to competitive cycling is giving up before the race even starts. I’ll see a start list, and get all discouraged knowing a podium isn’t possible. Going into the first cyclocross race of 2020, I did just that.
To be fair, we didn’t know there would even be a 2020 season until a few weeks before as Without Limits confirmed a six race series. I was shocked to see that the race at Valmont would happen, but excited I could finally get some racing under way, even if there would be some long gravel races crammed in (including Robidoux Quick N Dirty the day after this race). I still didn’t train for cross specifically, as I figure making sure I had the fitness for 4-5 hour events was much more important.
With some panic training in the week leading up to CycloX Valmont (I’ve decided #panictraining is a legit training tactic now!), I kept checking the registration list. I kept seeing some fast names appearing in the single speed race, and I became more discouraged – to the point I almost considered racing in the cat 3 race instead. But I stuck to it.
Race day came, and it was interesting: no pre-riding, masks required until the 30 seconds to go, and no team tents/spectators/handups. Not what we expect from cyclocross, but sacrifices to be made in order to race. I warmed up a bit on the road, got stung by a wasp, and then took my place on the starting line.
My normal style is crazy sprinting at the start to take the hole shot, and then usually peter out in effort. This race was different, as I just paced Kristal and didn’t shoot out on the front. As we came off the starting climb, Kristi made a small mistake on an uphill corner and I found myself in front. OK, cool, I’ve been here before, everyone would end up passing me.
Except… they didn’t. I ran the 5280 stairs (thank you 60 miles of hiking in the last month) and settled into racing “blind” since I had no pre-ride – which is not uncommon for me to do in mountain bike racing, so it is something I am comfortable with, thinking on the fly and reading courses as I’m racing. The course was switched up a bit, which was awesome to keep it fresh after so many years of racing at Valmont. This venue has always been interesting for me, as it’s one of the venues I’ve never really had good race luck at podium-wise, but one I enjoy (minus the dang stairs). In 2017 I finally landed on my first podium, but it took a foot of snow to make that happen. In 2019, I had a crazy race and landed in 3rd, even after a big crash, which was one of my best races. But no way could I ever win here..
I focused on staying steady and staying out of my own head. I could check my gap to those behind me in certain parts on the course, and noticed some switch up in positions, but tried not to care too much. It was feeling surreal, leading a race at Valmont. Lap after lap I came through the start/finish still leading and I kept reminding myself to stay focused, remembering how I had a big crash on the final lap in this race in 2019. Aside from running into the tape on lap 3 or 4, things went pretty flawless for me.
Finally on the fifth and final lap I allowed myself to believe that it was really happening – I was going to win at Valmont in a well attended, legit field! I entered the finishing straight and fretted about posting up, but I gotta admit I’m still very nervous about taking both hands off the handlebars, so I did an enthusiast one arm fist pump.
I’ve always referred to winning at Valmont as my “Eleanor” podium, a reference to Gone in 60 Seconds. I still don’t know how it happened, with my lack of cross-specific training leading up to the race. However, once I viewed my lap times, I realized maybe there is something to the long endurance training, as the most they varied were 11 seconds, which is pretty crazy to me (when I first started racing cross, my final laps would be minutes slower than my first lap). I didn’t feel like I was struggling at the end (except maybe on that damn 5280 run up). And what an amazing lesson in getting out of my own head, and not letting start lists discourage me! To boot, I am finally learning how to race smart… winning the hole shot doesn’t always mean anything, and controlling my start helped keep my lungs and legs happy.
Here’s to a great start to the 2020 cyclocross season!
If you’re going to have a 2020 race season, why not cram gravel and cyclocross all together, amIright?
Originally the 2020 Robidoux Quick n Dirty was scheduled for June, but alas, like many events, they decided to move the date (vs. cancel, which was appreciated, until cyclocross was confirmed to be happening, which leads to “OMG I gotta race two opposite disciplines in the same weekend!”). I’ve known about this race for a few years now, but this was the year I’d make the 90 minute journey to Gering, NE to race it. Why I never knew Gering was so close, I’ll never know! I chose the 65 mile (aka 67 mile) distance for this year, as I slowly work up my ability to race longer distances and times.
After racing CycloX Valmont in Boulder on Saturday morning, I hightailed it back home for lunch, a shower, and a quick cuddle session with my kitty cat before heading to Nebraska. This was not ideal, and I was exhausted just thinking about another 90 minute drive after 3 hours total in the car going back and forth to Boulder. It’s not like the 2020 race season snuck up on me, but it still felt like that as I tried to remember what I all needed to bring.
I awoke Sunday morning to some pretty terrible wind that had awoken me several times during the night. If there’s one thing I don’t do, it’s pay money to race in wind in a state that isn’t Wyoming. The smell of smoke was in the air from the rapidly exploding fire near Laramie, and I scrunched up my face even more. I just didn’t wanna. But alas, I kitted up, packed up my tent, and headed out to McDonald’s for some breakfast.
As I’m sitting in my car enjoying my latte and trying to wake up, I realized my gravel bike looked really funny… dammit, my seat bag was missing! I totally forgot I had taken it off and put it on my commuter bike when I did a longer ride with it a few weeks earlier. I tried not to panic at the idea of racing 67 miles without a tube. I always have a pump in my camelbak which was helpful, and I had a CO2 (with no inflater head). I pulled my giant multi-tool out of my race bag and put it on my “whiskey barrel” bag on my bike. Well, at least I had some stuff? I am tubeless, but this is goathead country. Ugh. Not ideal. Totally not ready to race bikes this year!
After a quick rider’s meeting, we lined up for the started. Technically there was about a 50 minute window for each race distance to start, but it seemed like most wanted to roll out at 8am, especially for those wanting to ride in a pack to hide from the wind. The start was first, and I stuck with the lead group of men for about a mile or two before dropping off as I felt the day before’s cyclocross effort. This put me solo for about 25 minutes until a group of four caught me.
It was good to ride with Steve, First City Dudes, and “Omaha” for awhile, as we cruised with a slight tailwind. Shortly before Aid 1, First City Dudes both flatted, and the rest of our group splintered off as we hit the first sustained climb of the day. After a fast downhill, it was time to turn into the 20mph sustained headwind out of the west, which was painful. Nothing like pushing 10mph into the wind, on a downhill. These miles were probably the most demoralizing, but I guess the perk is everyone was going slow (except for one guy that flew past me on aero bars like there was no wind).
After the headwind stretch from hell, it was time to mash down the highway for a few miles, with a climb. More demoralizing slow speeds down the pavement, but I felt the climb wasn’t bad. Once I hit Aid 2 (I never did stop at an aid station), I got a second wind, and also lots of recovery thanks to some fast sections. Steve, Omaha, and my friend’s son, Bryce, caught back up to me and we formed another group for several miles, until they all dropped me once we turned into the headwind again.
More mashing and trying to stay motivated and well fed as I headed up Carter Canyon towards Robidoux Pass. I had heard about the “super steep climb,” but I was relieved to see it was actually quite short. Whew, to the top. Now it was time to enjoy about 14 miles of flying so fast with an awesome tailwind – so fast I’d have to break for cattle guards as I didn’t want to die. I probably could’ve pushed harder, but it was nice to just spin lightly and enjoy going faster than 9mph for once.
One more stretch of northbound road into the crosswind, and then it was time to fly into the finish.
4:42:10, 67 miles,1st place for women (and about 15th overall). Whew!
I crossed the line, found some shade, and got my aching feet out of my shoes as quick as possible. Grabbed a beer out of trough, admired Ashton Lambie’s quads and Lauf, and found some friends.
Overall, wind aside (which is an uncontrollable factor), this was a great course and race! The roads were in great shape, despite the warnings about conditions – barely any washboard and not loose at all. It was definitely necessary to either have navigation on a GPS, or a cue sheet as the course was barely marked, but I think this is pretty common for gravel races due to the large sizes of the courses. I had no issues with using my Garmin and the TCX file. And honestly, the wind was manageable. I’ve ridden in worse, at least mentally.
Nutrition wise, I played with a different strategy. Usually I try to feed with a SIS gel every hour, but this day I did every ten miles starting about 18 miles in. I used my Camelbak Chase Vest with a 2L bladder of water with 300 calories of lemon Tailwind mixed in (which was about the one hour mark). I consumed 6 SIS gels, a combo of regular, electrolyte, and caffeinated ones. This seemed to work out well, but I think I might’ve needed more frequent gels to keep the energy levels up. Robidoux also served as a my shake down for The Dead Swede, which is coming up in two weeks, and that course has more climbing (and more frequent as it’s filled with rollers), so I’ll keep feeding strategies in mind.
I came into the new year motivated to get back to where I was a couple of years ago. I started piling on the miles, and riding long rides I never thought I could survive. Back to back 65 mile days, riding with fast groups, doing stilly stuff like riding my heavy gravel bike up Rist Canyon. By mid-March I was nearing 1000 miles ridden. 2020 race season was going to be my b*tch!
Then, well, a pandemic of a novel virus happened.
Like probably every American out there, I’ve watched as my life upended in the last few weeks. Races cancelled, permits pulled, group rides called off. As people battled for toilet paper, work situations became uncertain, and travel basically banned, athletes have had the struggle of what to do now.
It’s been hard, I won’t lie! I know (as I’ve read it on social media), a good chunk of society is like “get over it, it’s just a stupid bike race.” I think that’s trivializing the situation. First off, nobody can tell someone else how to feel, how to grieve, how to feel loss. Yes, are people dying, losing their jobs, etc? Hell yeah. But that doesn’t mean a cyclist can’t feel sad, depressed, angry, whatever about their situation. I use cycling to even out my mental health and deal with day to day stress. Cycling is how I connect with others, socialize, and just feel normal. That’s all been threatened. While the outdoors is not cancelled (yet), most group rides are. I feel isolated from my friends, especially ones I’ve finally reconnecting after years of blowing off riding a bike, and that’s hard. I do not spend forty hours a week with people who are cyclists, let alone athletes, so I have been living for the weekends this year. I’m also angry at myself for blowing off 2018 and 2019, and not riding as much and in a way feel like this is some weird karmic payback for largely turning my back on cycling the last few years (yes, I know irrational. Shush).
So what’s my plan? I’m forging ahead, sticking with my training plan and milking every day I can ride outdoors to the fullest. My yoga studio moved to a live stream mode. Kate Courtney is posting up fantastic videos of her strength routines (she wants to kill me I think, or so my hamstrings tell me). I reactivated Zwift when I want something more than the blue boxes of TrainerRoad and weather/daylight is not cooperating. I’m watching the food consumption. I’m plotting new routes I can ride from my house that I have never explored.
My goal “A” race for the year falls on June 6th, which is tricky. I will be absolutely, devastatingly heartbroken if it gets cancelled, but I also know eventually racing has to be allowed again. It’s easy to just throw the hands up and want to give up, but as I look at the crazy things I have managed to accomplish so far in 2020, I don’t want to give up the fitness I have regained.
For now… let’s remember some of the fun times of 2020.
So where exactly has 2019 gone? I guess it is true – time just keeps speeding up faster and faster the older you get. I’m already six races into my 2019 season, and haven’t written about a single one!
I kicked off 2019 with the Old Man Winter Bike Rally in February. I had planned on doing the 100km long course, but end of January my whole pre-season was derailed by a crazy sinus and respiratory infection. I played it safe, and bumped down to the 50km course. I was off the bike for a considerable amount of time, so really didn’t know what to expect. Unlike when I did Old Man in 2017, this year was cold (mid 20s) and sloppy. I was riding in a podium position for about half the race, but then bonked. My bottles froze, which is the downfall to running a purely liquid form of nutrition, so I also didn’t take in any calories. I would end up 7th place out of 97 women in 1 hour 50 minutes, which I find to be crazy impressive considering I was still on antibiotics and feeling like I was functioning with half a lung.
Then came a lapse in mental judgement, when I decided I would race some criteriums in March. Yes, criterium as in crit, as in those things I swear I will not race because they’re the most dangerous things ever. I dunno, I’m just as confused as you are.
March 23rd was the Louisville Crit, which seemed to have an okay course. I parked by my pro roadie friend Mel, and we rode to registration together. Cat 3 women would start with the P12’s, which is just silly if you ask me. I almost missed the start because I was too busy not preparing to race my bike. I was dropped in the first ten seconds of the race, so I began my 50 minutes of solo TT effort. About halfway through I started yelling at the Square1 folks and photographers about wanting a beer hand up, and behold, on the next lap, Barry was on course with a beer in his outstretched hand!!! I may have finished DFL in this race, but I won in fun had because I GOT A BEER HANDUP IN A CRIT! That is all. Also, don’t attempt to sprint against Ashley Zoener. Even my 800 watts was child’s play. Lesson learned.
Riding my beer handup high, I entered the Oredigger CSP Crit the following weekend. This race really isn’t very crit-y, and takes place on the Colorado Highway Patrol training track. So needless to say, all I did was wish I was ripping around it in a car. This time I hung with the Cat3/4/5 group for about two or so laps before I was dropped and began my solo TT for 22nd place, which was not last, for the record. Hey, I get the most of my entry fee!
Because I pretty much stopped formally training at the end of January when I got sick, my fitness was being very slow to coming around, and I was beginning a crazy intense block of travel for work. Boulder Roubaix was wayyyyy faster than the previous time I had raced it in cat 3, mostly thanks to young juniors who apparently can just sprint for hours on end. The gravel was fairly sketchy this year, and there were flats galore and crashes. I hung on for about half a lap before being dropped. I was in last place for awhile, but finally caught the girl in front of me and was able to distance myself from her. I stopped briefly to check on Heather who had flatted and was walking it out. In the end, I’d get 11th place. Not last. I got some tan lines.
Finally it was time to end the road racing nonsense with the CSU Cobb Lake Road Race in mid-April. Pulling in for my volunteer shift, I was pretty set on not starting the race. Less than an hour before the start, I pulled my bib numbers and walked to my car and got ready. I am so happy that I decided to start! I actually like this circuit course, and every time I race it I end up just riding solo most of the time, and I don’t mind it. Strangely enough, two laps in I was still in the front pack, which included Jennifer Valente (a Google search tells me she’s an Olympic medalist… so you know, not slow at all). Third lap of the six lap race I was dropped on the climb. That’s probably the hardest thing for me as I struggle with weight and regaining form is not being able to climb like I use to, so my ego cried a bit. I put in the work to try to catch the group, aided by Dejan, who was moto-reffing for the day, cheering me on during a crazy sprint effort when I recontacted the group… to have them all take off sprinting. Yeah, I don’t get road race tactics. Oh well, onward I continued. I was lapped by a finishing men’s category at the end of my 5th lap, and there were a few seconds of confusion while the officials debated if I had another lap to do or not. I didn’t want a DNF, so out on the sixth lap I went. Whew. Long race… I was last among the finishers, but there were three DNF’s. I am happy I wasn’t a DNS, as DFL is better than a DNS!
And then I started a crazy two weeks which included travel to Las Vegas, then straight to Florida, then back for barely 48 hours before heading to England and then onto Finland. No bikes, and sea level. Great combo heading into mountain bike race season!
The UW Cycling Team decided to host a race on the brand new trail system east of Laramie called the Schoolyard Scramble on May 4th, and I figured it was a lot better than getting my butt handed to me down in Castle Rock at Ridgeline Rampage. I get my bike off the car, and go to warm up, and immediately hear a loud, “liquid squishing” sound coming from my rear shock. I let Alan, John, and finally Dewey from the Pedal House listen to it, who confirmed it was blown, but “still okay to race on.” Greattttt. I silently thanked my lucky stars I never sold my other Epic (aka “the old race bike”) so I would have something to race the Growler on in a few weeks, and took to the starting line.
Schoolyard Scramble had the weirdest XC race start ever… where we just soft pedaled. I eyed Isabell, watching to see if she’d jump, but nothing. Finally with the single track appearing, I jumped in front, and pushed the pace, and she stuck on my back wheel and we dropped Melanie and the rest of the field. It was all going well until on a fast downhill I followed the guy in front of me off course, which allowed Isabel to jump into the lead. Dammit! So I took to just keeping my pace steady, staying upright, and not listening to the liquid squishing sound. I noticed my handling skills were quite rusty, and I wanted to over steer on every corner. Eek. However, I kinda felt like a bit of my old XC racer self, which was a relief! I’d finish second, a little under a minute back from Isabel, and about a minute over Melanie. And the best part is I got a UW cycling team kit as my prize!! Woohoo!
With my mountain bike race season started, I feel a new renewed interest in mountain bike racing. I know deep down I am shifting towards cyclocross being my primary discipline, but I think having last year off from an intense mountain bike season has rekindled my fire a bit. Though my season is really a 180-degree difference than the one I had planned, I still want to race a lot and just enjoy the fact I can race a bike. So needless to say, I’ve filled every weekend through June 8th with mountain bike races, including a USAC nationals qualifier (Battle the Bear), just so I’m qualified just in case I decide to race nationals for the experience.
Oh man, where has the time gone? I blinked, and went from cyclocross season to the beginning of March just like that!
First, I want to give ONE BIG SHOUT OUT to my amazing sponsors and supporters for my 2019 race season.
I am once again honored to be a part of 9Seventy Racing, a multi-sport racing team based in Fort Collins, CO (but with awesome teammates from all over the Front Range, Western Slope, and even Durango, CO… and then me in WY).
Also returning for 2019 is Tailwind Nutrition, the only fuel and recovery brand I trust for my training and racing – and all my adventures in between! I am so happy to be returning as one of their official Trailblazers for the fourth year in a row.
New for 2019 is Maxxis Tires. I switched to using Maxxis Tires in 2017 for my XC mountain bike race season, and never looked back. They perform great (hence why world champions use them), and are tough to stand up to whatever gnarly stuff the trails can throw at them.
And, last but not least, Dirt Components! Still nothing better than those pretty carbon fiber Thumper wheels on my fat bike during the winter!
My 2019 race plans have changed seemingly weekly as I figure out what I want from my season. I did give myself a taster of racing in February with the Old Man Winter Bike Rally, where I placed 7th out of 97 ladies in the 50km gravel race. Otherwise, my race season will begin in April with some early road racing (weather pending… we actually are having a winter this year!), and mountain biking begins in May!
I’ve never been a mantra type person. Never really had a saying or anything, except for some self-talk like “keep it smooth” or “don’t freaking wreck now!” in the heat of a mountain bike race. But this past cyclocross season taught me something, and morphed into the mantra I ended up embracing: Keep Fighting.
I really didn’t know what to expect from cyclocross this year. Honestly, it’s my favorite discipline and I was just very excited to get back to my little wacky cross family for a few months, but my fitness never seemed to recover to previous levels after surgery. Nonetheless, I decided I would attend every Front Range BRAC/USAC cross race, minus the three I’d miss due to my Iceland trip (I know, horrrrribbbbllleeee excuse!). I’ve never raced every single event in the season; in fact, I barely did any races in 2017. I also decided to supplement the USAC stuff with weeknight races at New Belgium and a few of the Southeast Wyoming CX Series races. Ambitious. Maybe crazy.
So after nearly a month off the bike and three weeks spent hiking around at nearly sea level, I dived into the 2018 cyclocross season in the single speed category.
The single speed women’s category grew… like double/triple from last year
It got super fast
Ummm, I barely ride a bike
The first race at Primalpalooza on September 30th was a disaster for me. I ended up finishing minutes off the back. I think I was just walking my bike at one point. It was miserable and heart wrenching. Immediately I thought “oh crap,” and stared at all the races I plotted out. Now, some might roll their eyes and think I only like racing a bike when I’m winning. Which hey, winning is super nice, but so is also not being like 4 minutes off the next racer. I thought I maybe jumped in over my head.
But alas, the skin suit came out one week later at CycloX Interlocken. It was rainy, which led to some slippery conditions which plays to my technical strengths. I had a decent start, and on the second lap was just about to contact 4th & 5th places when I got lost on course, rode the sand pit twice, and later got lost AGAIN near the end of the lap. So… freaking… frustrated. Luckily, I was able to make up a few positions, and ended up a mid-pack 6th, which was a relief. OK, it’s still there. Barely, and with some weird route finding issues, but there. But I did find myself whispering over and over “Keep fighting, Heidi, keep fighting!”
Next big weekend was the US Open of Cyclocross weekend at Valmont. I always race like poo at Valmont, but I do like the mountain bike-ness of the course, and the fact I can usually find something to launch my bike off of. I had a good start on Saturday, but for some reason decided to not turn my bike in a gravel corner, which caused me to panic brake and wipe out. Seriously, WTF?! I ended up 4th on the tough course that involve to many steep run ups, but one awesome jump I went off of every lap to spectaculars’ delight. Once again, mid-pack. Sunday’s conditions had me eagerly bouncing off the walls, with weather doing a 180 and dumping about a foot of snow on the course. Usually Valmont races are hot sufferfests, so I was all for the snow! I had a great start, but soon my shoes and my pedals each were balls of ice, which led to me having to strider-bike a lot of parts where Sarah could clip in and keep pedaling. The time I wasted trying to get my feet to even contact my pedals for more than 2 seconds meant a 2nd place finish. But finally, in my 6th season of racing cyclocross, I got my elusive podium at Valmont! Only took a ton of snow for it to happen. Lesson learned to pack some flat pedals in case of a repeat.
With a podium behind me, I dived into the following weekend, deciding to also race my women’s geared cat 3 category at Schoolyard Cross after the single speed race. Schoolyard was a bit annoying, as we started after the cat 5 men, which led to a lot of guys blocking the path. I sat in 3rd most of the race, but kept getting caught up in men falling over in front of me, or zooming around me on flat/straights and then slowing up horribly in the corners and blocking my way. The lost seconds added up, and I settled for 4th. Shoot. However, in the cat 3 race, I had an amazing start, and held on for 5th place, even though I kept forgetting I could shift on the bike. I hadn’t raced cat 3 in nearly 3 years, so it was a nice change. I split a hotel with my friend Wendy, just like we did “back in the day,” which was quite enjoyable.
CycloX Louisville, aka Bowl of Death, was the day after Schoolyard. My legs definitely felt the previous day’s efforts, and Bowl of Death is no cake walk. There were a few position changes throughout the race, and I knew I just had to keep pushing to hold onto my 5th place. Once again, that whole Keep Fighting thing came up. I professed my love to Meredith Miller as she lapped me. Sometimes the suffering just needs to end!
By now, it was end of October, and it seemed like we were on the downward side of the cross season hump. I launched into my first official week of 2019 training, motivated by ambitious race plans to get back to structured intervals and the trainer. I knew it can always be a challenge to juggle intervals and base training while still racing cross twice a weekend, but I felt up for it.
I’ve never raced the Feedback Cup before, and was nervous how the course would treat me, as it seemed very fitness based vs. skills. It was also hot in the morning, so I decided to race without gloves because I felt too overheated (I think this was the last time I’d think that this cross season). I had a great start, keeping on Errin’s back wheel. The course at race speeds ends up being a blast, and challenging. The field strung out a bit, and Michelle and I traded positions a few times before I could power away on a gentle climb. Now sitting in 3rd, I knew I wanted this podium more than anything else at that moment in time. I pushed and pushed to increase the gap, as I knew Michelle was quicker on the two sections that required being off the bike. Excitingly enough, I finished on the lead lap, and was not lapped by the open women! 3rd place, amazing podium hair, so excited!
Tired legs greeted me for Sunday’s race that weekend, the Republic Cycles Northglenn race. I had decided to do 15 miles of gentle mountain biking in Boulder County to kill time Saturday afternoon, and was semi-worried it was too much for my legs. Oh well… it was the Halloween race, and shenanigans were meant to be had! The course, which is rather flat aside from steep, loose hills on the backside, was fast. The start was fast and furious, and Sarah and I took to the front. I ended up rear ending Sarah twice on the first lap, which is the great thing about racing single speed… it’s really hard to break the bikes! Sarah would end up gapping me off the front, so I settled into maintaining my 2nd place position. This race made for the best podium photo of the year, with me and a giant bottle of vodka, Sarah with her winner’s jersey, and Melissa just posing completely normal with the two lunatics. OK, maybe the mojo is back…
So one of my biggest flaws that I’ve always had as a bike racer is mentally setting myself up for the outcome based on pre-registration lists and who shows up at the start line. You know, one of those, “ughhhh SHE registered, now we’re all racing for 2nd” type of mentalities. I’m bad about it at cross. I see Liz, Heather, and Errin (aka the Mosaic squad) roll up, and I know I’m racing for mid-pack-off-the-podium at that point. I don’t care how many times you tell me I’ve beaten them or hung onto their wheels, I won’t believe it. CycloX Sienna Lake started out just like that. It downpoured rain during our pre-ride, and while I was giddy to race in more crappy conditions, I knew the “fast chicks” were there. BAM! We start and I’m 3rd wheel. Umm… where’s Errin? Well, ok, they’ll catch me soon enough. Pedal pedal pedal, run smartly, bang mud off my cleats, clip in and GOOOOOO. Errin is back there, but I’m holding her off. KEEP FIGHTING DAMMIT! And so I did, oh so hard on the slick course. Second to last lap I gave up hope of securely clipping in and took to single speeding on essentially flat pedals as I knew I was losing precious seconds. I ran the run ups, and rode smart. 3rd place!!! Time to stop with the start line prophecies.
I raced in Laramie the day after Sienna Lake. 50mph head winds and bitter cold temps. My mom came out to watch which was fun. Laprele Park is horribly bumpy, and tumbleweed kept getting stuck in my cantilever brakes on my geared bike. I won the women’s category, and ordered a new geared bike the next day with disc brakes. Whoops.
Finally it was time for the most wonderful weekend of the year: CROSS OF THE NORTH!!! Seriously, I LIVE for this weekend every fall. It’s the closest I get to a “hometown” race for cross, and I love how many are out there cheering and heckling me. I decided to be ultra ambitious this weekend, and registered for SSW and SW3 both days. I had the new geared bike and I love the course/venue so much that it seemed smart.
Saturday’s SSW race took place at a chilly 8am. Like Schoolyard, we had the luxury of starting behind the cat 5 men. And by luxury, I mean headache. Another fast start, so we soon began catching them. Errin had a good, clean, impressively fast race, and took to the front, and never looked back. I settled into second, with Liz and Sarah stalking me from behind. I felt odd during this race, like I was experiencing it from out of my body, and never really felt like I was in it. But I kept on pedaling, enjoying the technical features that I’ve use to racing on between the short track and weekday cross series held on the same course. Eventually on the second to last lap Liz, Sarah, and I would all end up together, and I knew it would important to get my crap together for the final lap. Sarah slipped into 2nd, and I all out sprinted to maintain my 3rd place over Liz. In the end, I think less than 3 seconds separated 2nd-4th places! Such an exciting race, but that final sprint was horribly painful! Most importantly, I kept my COTN podium streak alive, with my 4th year of appearing on a single speed podium! (2015 – 3rd SS4/5; 2016 – 3rd SS4/5; and 2017 – 1st SSW). I took to some recovery, and enjoyed a sloppy SW3 race in the afternoon, still trying to figure out what I’m suppose to do with a shifter. But my new bike rocked!
Sunday’s weather forecast held up its end of the bargain for COTN, and snow greeted me in the morning. Once again, I was giddy to be racing in sloppy, icy conditions, and wondered what I did to appease the weather gods as Colorado cross seasons are usually 70 degrees, dry, and horribly dusty. The cat 5 men ended up being a huge ordeal to deal with, especially on the first lap. Sarah got off the front, and once again Liz and I battled out for our positions, with Heather sneaking up on us. By the last lap a curvy section of the course turned into an ice skating rink, and Liz and I took turns wrecking in front of each other numerous times, getting to be so comical I was just laughing. Finally I was able to stay upright long enough to create a gap, and hold onto 2nd place. Yessssssssssss! My SW3 race in the afternoon was the muddiest bike affair I’ve been part of aside from the 2014 Rumble at 18 Road. New bike was given a thorough mud coating, along with my mouth, teeth, face, and every item of clothing. I managed to fight to hold my 6th place finish after the next girl getting pretty close to me a few times. I’m getting better at this fighting thing!
Coming off 5 races of podiums and a great COTN weekend, I was optimistic for the rest of the season, but naturally cautious and still predicting my finish based on who I lined up with. CycloX Westminster was greeted with freezing rain. It was actually quite awful. I had a decent start, but suddenly my lungs gave me a big fact NO and I struggled to breathe in the moist, frozen 25-degree air. As racer after racer passed me in my category, I got a bit down, but eventually pulled on my big girl chamois and fought to stay not-last-place. Before the last lap I even had to toss my glasses as they had a thick ice layer over them. The bike was all icy, and even my chest and arms had an ice layer frozen to the fabric. I like bad conditions, but not freezing rain. I held on for 6th place, wheezing at the finish line and hightailing it home to set up an appointment with my doc. You need to breathe to race a bike…
The following day was the Wyoming Cyclocross State Championships here in Cheyenne. I hadn’t raced a state champs for Wyoming since 2015, when I easily pedaled to the win. I didn’t know what to expect this time around, as there’s some fast junior girls coming up in this area, and that sneaking fear Christy Olson could always appear, and I always am aware of the large target on my bike when I race in southeastern Wyoming. Luckily it was sunny, not too windy, and mid-30s, which turned Clear Creek Park into another mud fest. I swear I can’t keep the new bike clean! The course was very nicely designed, and utilized some good terrain features for off camber climbs and descents, sand pits, barriers, and tight turns. My plan was to go out hard, build a big lead, and then just hang on. Being non-USAC, Wyoming cross races tend to run a lot longer than the BRAC mandated 40-45 minutes the women see in Colorado. I knew I probably had an hour of racing to do. I executed my plan… and something totally cool happened… I finished on the lead lap of the open men! I wasn’t lapped by the fast dudes! Bad thing is I had a nearly 70 minute long race… but I wasn’t lapped! Wahooooo! Proud of this win for sure!
Then it was two weeks off before the Colorado State Championships. I briefly considered driving to Fruita to race the USAC double-header there to pad my CO Cross Cup standing, but realized I didn’t want to deal with I-70 traffic and wanted some quality family time (I’d curse when I’d see some SSW ladies go race it in the end… looked like an awesome course!). Kubo and I got out on the fat bikes for a ride, and otherwise we ate lots and relaxed.
The CO State Championships were at Salisbury Equestrian Park in Parker, where I rode to a 1st place finish last year on a muddy day. No mud this year, just hardback dirt and freezing cold temperatures. The single speed was at 4pm Saturday evening, meaning it was even colder, and getting dark fast (I’d finish after sunset). In what USAC is maintaining as “an honest mistake,” they intermixed the women in with the men, which meant one gal had a front row start and the rest of us were in rows 3-4. Not ideal and we all exchanged confused banter and looks at the start. I lucked out with a good start thanks to a parting of the men I could ride through and took off. I’d end up settling in 4th place, until the steep run up that was hard as concrete and slippery took my mojo and I was passed. So there I was in 5th, fighting, with a charging Liz, Sarah, and Melissa behind me. If this was a time to keep fighting, it was now with 1.5x cup points on the line, and a desire to at least say I was top 5. I once again came around the finish with Liz a few seconds off my back wheel and I nearly cried thinking of the pain of the COTN sprint. Luckily, it didn’t come down a full on sprint. Whew. 5th place!
Sunday of the state races I raced in SW3. I had the 3rd call up , which made me giggle as a junior girl thought they were calling her name instead. Big, tall 35 year old me in a sea of teenage girls! They took off fast at the start, and I hung to them, because hey, I have like 100 pounds of extra body weight which translates into one hell of a sprint and wattage cottage when needed. My great position ended at the steep wall run up, which everyone struggled to get up without slipping (100 extra pounds is a disadvantage when climbing straight up on slippery dirt apparently). So it was back to fighting for my mid-to-bottom pack finish. Racing with more than one gear available is super hard, and even harder on a fast course like Salisbury. On the last lap Lia would end up sneaking onto me, and into the tree portion coming into the finish she attempt to sprint past. I don’t know where I got the watts from, but I responded to the sprint and held her off through the sharp 180 turn into the finishing straight. Crap! I have to sprint again! Except we were sprinting straight into the back of the cat 4 winner who was posting up. Nonetheless we went for it, me getting the advantage in what felt like in my mind an impressive bike throw. I honestly wish I could’ve seen the finish line camera photo from it… cat 4 girl all posting up, two crazy cat 3’s behind her sprinting for 9th and 10th!
Finally the final race of the year… the Rocky Mountain Regional Championships. Though a bit fitness course, I do enjoy it. My race ended up not going as well as I wanted. I had a pretty solid first two laps, staying on Errin’s wheel in 4th place. I managed to power past her on the 3rd lap, and had a great gap until I slid out on one of the off camber, grass downhills. This completely killed my mojo, and my heart spiked to 196 as I ran up the hill. I’d proceed to fall back and back, eventually finishing 5th. But not before I took a double beer hand up on the last lap! So not exactly the result I wanted to have (and almost did, if I didn’t wreck), but at least I finished, which is more than I can say for regionals last year! My placing was good enough to land me in 2nd place for the third year in a row for the Colorado Cross Cup for single speed women!!
So that’s my 2018 cyclocross season in one long nutshell. A season that taught me to never give up, fight for every position, whether it’s a podium or not-last-place. To never look at the women around me and determine what place I’ll finish on their race resume alone. A season to use oxyclean to get out all the mud and grime, and to never wear drop-tail Pearl Izumi thermal bibs ever again. A season that finally gave me my mantra: Keep fighting. And that applies to so many more aspects of the world than a cyclocross race.
A long, ambitious cyclocross season takes a village. Though an individual sport on the course, no one can do it alone. To my boyfriend, who came and cheered and held bikes, and otherwise dealt nicely with the weird ass world that is cyclocross and competitive cycling, and my parents for dealing with another “no, I have to race that weekend, I’ll see you in mid-December” answer to planning time together. My team, 9Seventy Racing, and awesome teammates who also raced cross, or who would volunteer, cheer, etc. My extended cross family, that feels like a team though we all hail from other teams.. .from Feedback Sports jumping in to helping with wheel issues both days of CO States, Tricia loaning me a heart rate monitor, Without Limits for granting volunteer opportunities. The awesome, amazing, STRONG women of Colorado’s single speed category, who aren’t afraid to fight for women’s cycling and ensure we have a better playing field to play on. Tailwind Nutrition for keeping me fueled and recovered, especially on those crazy back to back weekends, or double race days. Anthony Zegan of BikeWyo (best bike mechanic ever!!) for keeping my bikes running smoothly. Patrick and the team at the Bicycle Station for getting me my pretty new Specialized Crux in an amazingly quick time. To Alan and Seth for posting “mediocre” on all my podium photos as an inside joke.
It’s time to rest, and train up for my most ambitious year yet – 2019.
I like reading other people’s experiences with things. I’m beyond guilty of searching for people’s blogs and race reports before events to get an idea of the experience and course. Sometimes it’s just nice to know others feel/see/whatever the same things I do. But one area is missing… and that’s finding out the experience of an early-30s-childless-athlete who had a laparoscopic total hysterectomy. So here’s my story… mostly just to document my recovery and story, and hopefully maybe someone else will stumble upon it as well.
The whole mess really started in the late winter 2016/spring of 2017 with nagging pelvic pain that would come and go. I trudged on, until the months of nonstop bleeding started occurring. I had been on oral birth control for nearly 15 years and had very regulated periods and what not, so I knew things were not normal. I finally scheduled an appointment with my OB-GYN in early August 2017, and she ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed a cyst on one of my ovaries and polyp in my uterus. I was put on “old school” high dose oral birth control pills. I stayed on the pills for about two and a half months, but then the side effects became too severe that I went back to my old, low dose formulation. My doc and I agreed on some watching and waiting, but by December 2017 the pain was becoming more intense. Another ultrasound was scheduled, and it showed the cyst was gone, but the polyp still remained.
I have never wanted to have kids, it was never in the cards for me for a multitude of reasons, so I was “ok” with having a hysterectomy, but my doctor did not want to jump to that right away. When I was 3 years old I had both of my ureters reimplanted onto my bladder, and she had concerns about anatomy and scarring that could make a hysterectomy high risk. So we agreed with proceeding with a hysteroscopy to remove the polyp and also take a better look at what was going on in my pesky uterus. I underwent that procedure in mid January 2018. Overall it was quite easy, I was ready to go home like 20 minutes after leaving recovery, and had just very mild cramping which I took ibuprofen for. The polyp was removed, but the doctor did see suspected fibroids.
Unfortunately the pain and bleeding increased significantly in the month following what was hopefully going to be a solution, so I decided to proceed with scheduling a hysterectomy with ureteral stents (to aid in visualizing my ureters so hopefully they would remain unharmed). By then I had waffled between “I’m not training at all!” to doing intervals on the trainer in the basement. Really my whole spring, and resulting summer race season, was in limbo and from an athletic point of view I was really lost at what to do. So I skied, kinda rode, and was lazy a lot. And naturally, I wasn’t feeling well, so motivated to really hammer on the training plan wasn’t there. A date was set, and suddenly there was just waiting. And hoping 5 weeks would be enough recovery to still race the Gunnison Growler…
Some people think that because I didn’t want kids that this was an easy decision to make, but let me tell you, it was NOT! It’s one thing to not have kids by choice, it’s another when it’s anatomically impossible anymore. I had more than several occasions where I seriously considered canceling the surgery, wondering if I was making too serious of a decision. I’m only 34, and have plenty of friends who had babies at 38, 39, 40… I don’t know what the future holds, and what might change. So it was tough. Luckily, I would keep both of my ovaries, which means keeping eggs so if I win the lottery, the chance is always there for a biological child. (Oh hell, who am I kidding… cats and bikes all the way!)
So after a hectic April of multiple work travel trips, personal vacation to Florida, one last ski day at A-Basin, surgery day came on April 20th. Pre-op was all the standard stuff, and soon enough I was in the OR and out within minutes. I woke up screaming that I had to pee and confused why I wasn’t on the beach anymore. My bladder was spasming awfully from the cystoscopy and stents. My amazing PACU nurse was quick to bring warm blankets to help soothe the pain and I finally really realized I wasn’t on a beach for reals, and that after months and months of tests, ultrasounds, pills here and there, and what not it was all over. There was no going back, it was done and done. Kinda freaky…
I eventually was transferred to my room that I would stay in overnight. So… I went into this surgery thinking the pain wouldn’t be any worse than finishing out a mountain bike race with a few cracked ribs, and that I would refuse all opioid pain meds after PACU. Ummm, chalk that up to one of the worse ideas I’ve had in a long time…
First time I tried to pee I was in tears due to all the trauma in my bladder and ureters. I wasn’t even really being bothered by my three laparoscopic incisions or the big one in my woman parts internally. Sitting up felt like everything was going to fall out of the bottom of me. I walked to the bathroom hunched over like a 100 year old granny with bad posture. I was pissed off I was in pain, but remained stubborn and took only Tylenol. By 6pm, a few hours after getting to my room, I finally agreed to a hydrocodone pain pill. I ate some dinner, and settled into feeling crappy, as the gas pains from them inflating my belly were starting to begin.
This was not some cracked ribs, or deep lacerations from decomposed granite, or even landing head first at 30mph.
So, pretty much, I didn’t know how to deal with it. I felt like a big baby. Dammit, I can push on and ride bikes and race injured, why couldn’t I handle a hysterectomy?!
I was barely able to get any sleep thanks to unnecessary things beeping in my room (I was a night shift surgical nurse for years, so that added to my grumpiness about all the unnecessary noises). Finally got some good sleep from 4-7:30am and woke up really excited for breakfast. I had taken myself (whoops… what does high fall risk mean again?!) to the bathroom a few times overnight and the pain was less and less (and also meant peeing less blood), and was feeling a bit better. My doctor came in right as breakfast came and took the bandages off the lap incisions and gave me scripts and instructions for home. Naturally I asked when I could exercise, and she told me not to even think about it. Sigh. (My doctor has no idea that I’m a competitive cyclist actually… probably should’ve told her – communicate this with your physician!)
My Boy and parents got me home by 9 or 10am and we settled in for movies and laziness. The gas pain was becoming my main issue, along with an intense fear on my part about becoming constipated (nurses are a bit poop obsessed if they’ve ever worked post-surgical). Luckily The Boy was ever so attentive, running and getting me meds, and feeding me, and helping me through intense bouts of pain when the gas would irritate the phrenic nerve and give me crazy awful shoulder and neck pain. Laughing hurt, I was deathly afraid of sneezing, and I thought my belly button was the grossest looking thing in the world.
Before surgery I had grand plans of returning to work by Monday possibly (reminder, surgery was on Friday), and just getting back to normal life immediately, but that just wasn’t the case. After all, I had a uterus, cervix, and both fallopian tubes removed, and those are like… you know… organs. The Boy took me on a mile long stroll in the park on Sunday afternoon in the sun, which felt good. Monday and Tuesday post surgery I slept in, laid around, and reminded myself that it was completely okay that I just sit back and rest. I’m a highly Type A “I must be doing something!” type of person, so this was beyond challenging.
Wednesday, post op day 5, I probably overdid it. I did 4 hours of work from home, and then walked 2 miles in the park by my house, cooked a decently big dinner, and this just wiped me out. Thursday I didn’t really feel well, so The Boy loaded me up in my car and we went out to Curt Gowdy State Park to enjoy the sun and warm weather and did a small walk on one of my favorite mountain bike trails. Which let me tell you, 60+ degree weather, sunshine, and my favorite mountain bike trail just meant I was super sad I wasn’t riding a bicycle. Seriously, why couldn’t there have been like two feet of snow during my recovery instead of sunshine and 60-70 degree weather?! Friday and Saturday was followed up with more hikes and sunshine, and by Saturday morning I was feeling a lot more like myself, with just soreness around my incisions on my belly. Sunday I decided to talk myself back to Gowdy where I walked Stone Temple Circuit for the first time ever, and saw so many things I miss while riding a bike… mainly a very phallic rock feature, but hey, whatever, LOL. I also scouted out some new lines on features I struggle with, so it was like training, right?
At my 1 week follow up appointment (post op day 10) my doctor removed the knots on the stitches on my belly. I asked about when I could ride a bike, and she told me to wait. DAMMIT.
And that kinda brings us up to current day (post op day 11). I returned to work, and realized having to fully sit up in a chair and wear pants was awful and created a lot of soreness. So I’m opting for dresses the rest of the week. Ever since post op day 3 I’ve been taking 800mg of ibuprofen twice daily for pain control, and occasionally heat packs. I’m feeling more of the “internal” stitches and trauma now, with dull pelvic pain. The incisions really only smart with clothing rub on them or I move in just the wrong way.
So yeah.. the cycling. It’s been an awful wait. The weather has been gorgeous and the looming Gunnison Growler keeps creeping closer and closer. I’m not sure when I can ride, and how it’s even going to feel. I’m thinking I’ll start with gentle road rides, or possibly even the trainer. I’m accepting that it is quite a real possibility that my first time back on a mountain bike will be in Gunnison. Is it smart to do a 35 mile tough as hell mountain bike race after not riding for 2 months, and 5 weeks after a major ass surgery? I have no idea, but I’m going with a solid NO. I do still have a few more weeks to cancel my entry if I have to. Life is in limbo, and I’m kinda just having to learn to live with that. You never know what you got, until you don’t got it anymore, and that’s where I am with the cycling nonsense. I wasn’t riding because I burned out and didn’t want to, and now that I can’t, I want nothing more than to ride a bike. Sigh.
That, in a long winded nutshell, is my story thus far. I’ve learned “hysterectomy” can be a dirty, or feared, word. I don’t like that. Women shouldn’t have to suffer through pain and other symptoms. Or wonder if they’re alone. So here’s my story. I’ll updated it as necessary. Fingers crossed for salvaged a meager race season with no expectations aside from fun and shenanigans!
Updates since originally written…
I returned to riding bike on Post Op Day 17. I was not cleared for exercise by my surgeon. Don’t be me.
I raced the 2018 Gunnison Half Growler five weeks post op.
At 6 weeks post op, I was cleared to resume all normal activities – exercise, lifting, sex, etc. I never once I had mentioned I was already back to racing a mountain bike…
The hardest thing for me after the incisions healed was dealing with my body returning to not being on birth control after 15 years. Technically I still have periods, just without the bleeding to tell me it’s arrived. Even two years after the fact, I get incredibly sore breasts during that time of the month, and I do fairly regularly get alternating pain from my ovaries during my cycle. I did discuss this with my doc, and a possibility was going back on birth control, which I declined because I felt like I can just deal with the tender breasts. I really had never had a normal adult womanhood period, as I went on the Pill my freshman year of college, so I was just not prepared for some of the symptoms I hadn’t experienced.
Other than that, now that I am almost two years out, I am doing okay. My bike fitness came back around eventually. I do occasionally have pelvic pain, which I blame my ovulating ovaries for, but it is not impacting my life like my uterus was.
I have had some comments about the sudden return to cycling. All I can say is this was MY experience and is absolute no way medical advice or guidance you should follow. I was a naughty patient, and disregarded instructions not to exercise (luckily all my bikes were lighter than my lifting restrictions after a week post op, ha!). Follow what your doctor tells you, and make sure you actually tell them if working out/cycling/whatever is a huge part of your life so they can have that understanding!