Photo credit: Mark Woolcott
This past weekend I lined up for my first mountain bike race in over a year.
When someone asks how your race went, traditionally you want to tell them your place 1st or 5th out of 10, something to that tune. When you are in last place you want to list out all the other positives of the race, this was my race this past Sunday. My first race of any discipline in Colorado, my first cyclocross race of the season, and my first race as a Category 3.
Sure, I’m looking at most of this early season’s racing as practice and learning, but it was still a pretty brutal showing on my part.
I strongly believe that my carbon 29er hardtail would be been better suited for tearing up the 95% sand course that made up the Cross of the North. Up and down you went, a lot of sweeping turns that let me learn with 4 laps of racing practice, how to turn in sand (you don’t “turn”) and how to gracefully place your front wheel to force you to tumble off the bike.
I’m sure with the proper training in my legs the sand would have been easier to spin through and the necessary dismounts on two sandy hairpins would have been unnecessary, but for this race they were necessary and my legs were toast.
To be honest my biggest reason for nerves going into the race was the people, or lack there of knowing the people. Cyclocross is about the community to me. Shelling out and racing for 45 minutes is just the icing on the cake. Driving to races in the heat, cold, snow and rain is my own version of being a fan of football. Instead of being crowded around a TV or a grill at a tailgate, I’m at a cyclocross race surrounded by some of the best people I could ask for. This to me is cyclocross and I could only hope that Colorado would deliver like Maryland and North Carolina have.
Most of my teammates of Team Cycleton don’t start racing until October, so there isn’t that instant family to find when showing up in the morning but there was faces that I recognized and was greeted with warm smiles. There was the chatter before the whistle at the line and friendly talks in the parking lot with faces you don’t recognize but saw you racing and find the light in the wreckage of your failed race.
The race was hot, dusty and a bit shattering for me. I was happy with last place in SW3, which would have been top 10 in the SW4. I am happy that I didn’t submit a downgrade request when moving and I’m happy I showed up to race. One more step closer to making Colorado my home and to create the community I miss so badly from North Carolina.
I need to thank the handful of fast dudes from Boulder Cycle Sport that were all super friendly and eased my nerves when the talked it up in the parking lot at 8am.
Thank you to Megan Hottman of The Cyclist – Lawyer as she encouraged me when passing (after flatting, getting fixed and catching me)
This was the fourth year of testing my metal against the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek. Each year as half of a women’s duo, my partner Melissa has always been the ringer for us and I wanted to be able to pull my half of the race as strong as she could.
Originally, this race was supposed to be a tuning race for the Burn 24 in late May. As plans have changed, boxes are being packed and I realized this would be my last race in the southeast it became clear that this race mattered more to me than I originally thought.
I pre-rode the course a week before race day. The course was excellent. The rock gardens were much easier and the climbs seemed to pass with less time. All good signs.
Aligning with my coach on all workouts, making sure my legs were rested and “loaded.” Bike was safety checked and then as it rained a few days before race day, I installed my more aggressive Maxxis Ardent tires (which saved my ass first lap.)
It was my year to run first lap, which is a full lap plus some road section and singletrack in the beginning to break up the field. I did my best not to blow myself up on the road, and keep a steady pace for 3/4 of the lap. Putting in some effort on the last sections of climbing and downhill gnar rock gardens.
My partner, Melissa, was rocking a single speed and turned over a pretty fast first lap. I headed back on the trail hoping to maintain our 2nd place position. Quickly 3rd place overtook me and I never saw her until my lap was over (damn it, she was only 2 minutes a head!) Melissa held our 3rd position and we ended on the podium. I coulda/shoulda/woulda gone for a 3rd lap (5th for the team) but 2nd,4th and 5th place girls (and I) all agreed not to go out for a 5th lap. Thank god for negotiations.
• Melissa rocked a 1:16 lap on her single speed
• We were in the “money” in 3rd place and somehow I walked away with cash in hand
• My high visibility yellow shoes, and Lazer Magneto pink/yellow glasses were a big hit.
• The Foundry Broadaxe with SRAM XX1 performed flawlessly, compared to last year this was an AMAZING feeling as most of the day I was fearing some mechanical that I couldn’t fix with my multi
• First place women were 16 and 17 years old! Hopefully I’ll be able to rope one of the girls, Sophie, into a race report!
• Warrior Creek is one of my favorite trails on the east coast. The Garmin has a hard time tracking milage but Strava thinks that I rode 26.7 miles with 2,752 ft of elevation.
The day wouldn’t have been possible without a group of amazing friends. My girlfriend flew literally around the world from Turkey to get to the race. Shelley, Syd and Allen all were great support as Melissa and I came in and out of the pits. The guys from Bicycle Sport were there for mechanic assistance (though I didn’t need it) and the guys/girls from Total Cyclist had amazing encouraging words as they kicked our asses. Finally, thank you to Taryn and Jacob who watched the dogs for us so they didn’t have to be at the races all day!
Photo Credit: Lynn Willis (I purchased a full print version too!)
My main goal for the 2013 season was to move from Sport to the Expert class. That was THE goal.
Thanks to a killer performance at the Winter Short Track Series I was moved up to Expert or CAT1. If you aren’t familiar with the difference of the two categories, it often is double the distance and sometimes on a different/harder course. Racing 22 miles on a rough, rocky, course was a bit humbling.
My first true race as an expert was at this past Sunday’s Bouldergeist at San Lee Park as part of Southern Classic Series.
Starting at the line there was 6 of us split between the two age groups, all I need to do was finish and I would be third. The start was on pavement, up a driveway climb and then left over gravel into the woods. The climb felt great on my legs, and entering the woods I slowed down to let some of the faster girls in front of me. It was a great feeling to have the hole shot, but I knew I would be in peoples way.
The course was pretty fast with nice twists, switch back climbs and some “rock” sections that with a proper pre-ride I would be able to clear easier. There was one section that only the Pros and Experts had to ride called Free Fall. I believe I walked 1.5 miles through this rock invested “trail.” Again, maybe with proper pre-ride and guidance I could have ridden more of this section, but it made me feel like a beginner all over again.
After the long walk through woods and over the rocks I was pretty mentally fried. It seemed like I was getting dehydrated and pretty disappointed. After that first lap I was done. There was an 8 hour drive infront of me and the idea of another 1.5 hours on the bike was not exciting.
Thankfully I have a very supportive group around me. Constantly over the past 2 days I have been reminded that I made a big jump with my categories. It will take time to be able to hang, and then to be competitive. As an athlete this sounds bogus to me, but then I slow down and think of what I would tell someone else. They are right, I need a reality check and time towing the line. It will take time, I need to be patient and put more time on the saddle.
I don’t have another race until 6 Hours of Warrior Creek, here’s to as many long rides as I can fit in!
A race report that was almost forgotten, as I’m typing this 6 days later in the Philadelphia airport during a layover.
My last race of the Charlotte Winter Short Track Series had a handful of ups and downs. As I was only able to race 4 out of 5 races my placing of this last race would be a wash. Going into a race lacking motivation is difficult for me, so 20 minutes to start time I did some soul searching and finding that mission. Mission: fun, hard pace and working to help a couple key friends on their short track virginity.
This is going to be kept short and sweet.
2nd lap I found myself sitting comfortable in 2nd place. Pushing it hard. Working with a friend Jordan on the road section. Around lap 4 or 5 I decided to slow the hell down. My morning routine was off, and my stomach was feeling questionable. Letting my heart rate drop a zone made me drop two places. Sitting in 4th behind Patty Smith. I coasted along, catching breath and finding comfort in my tempo zone. Two laps to go I knew I needed to either find peace with my 4th place finish or attack.
Of course, I attacked. Put room between Patty and myself, I had 3rd locked in place. Trying to bridge the gap between 2nd place (Jordan) and myself, I pushed hard but needed another lap to make up the time I had lost. Losing 2nd place by 10 seconds was bitter but I learned a bit about myself, comfort zones and the punch that my legs have in these early pre-season races.
One last bitter sadness is that I am currently tied for 1st overall with Patty. If I was to race this weekend and beat her, I would have first in the expert category. Unfortunately I am sitting in PA on the way to MN, far away from the race course. I can say I ended the series much better than I ever expected. My goals were to hang on and not get lapped, in the end I was the one doing the lapping.
Photo credits: Cheryl Anne & Jodi’s Wife.
Could I keep consistent lap times? Could I make the podium? How did my skinsuit do under mountain bike conditions?
Mission, possible. 2nd place, behind a super strong (pro) Debbie, and in front of a damn good field.
I’m not going to give you play by play but here are cliff notes.
Went into the woods on first lap 3/4 behind the field. I simply didn’t have the gearing to power through the start which sucks as I’m normally good at stopped starts.
Through the woods, on the brakes, riding someone’s tire, over the rock and on the gravel. Picking off girls, calling my passes and not knowing how this was happening. I was “picking girls off”???? For a few laps I tried to work with Patty Smith. She’s fast in the short track, I could help her on the gravel and road but in the end I was giving up too much time on the road not pushing hard enough. Around lap 4 I put a gap between us, holding it steady (losing 5 seconds or so on the last last lap.) I could see Debbie through the trees, but the guys winner ended up between us, ending my last lap a lap down from her. I wish I knew the time gap better before that extra lap she did.
Yes, I am super proud of my accomplishments in a short amount of time. It is two days after the race and I still don’t believe I placed 2nd as my goals of this series was to not get lapped.
My goals are still lofty, but feel a little closer after this past weeks performance.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Anne & Paul
Lesbi-honest.…going into this race I was super pumped but had pretty realistic expectations. My legs would be loaded and weighed down from the previous day’s threshold test, plus I had a 3 hour mountain bike ride planned for Monday. I wanted to do well, but these Short Track races aren’t goals, they are pieces of a bigger puzzle!
This past weekend I honed in on a Pre-Race routine. Food, music choices and even received a few really stellar songs for my playlist from Facebook friends. I timed my ride to the race a bit closer, getting there around 1:15pm. I still ended up standing around for close to 45 minutes, so I’ll need to plan on being there even later next week. The 30 minute spin to the course is perfect, utilizing a couple spin up and short sprints right before the race line up.
A few key players including Bonnie and Elsa showed up, they hadn’t been there the week previous and replaced a couple girls that kicked my arse (Jane & Sarah.) It would be interesting to see what Bonnie did to the field and how I could respond.
I couldn’t get clipped in off the bat, but I still settled in 3rd going into the woods. I was happy, didn’t want to push it and needed to settle into a nice rhythm as we ticked off the laps. Finding my home between Jodi and Layla, I was putting time between Jodi (behind me) and trying to stay within a few seconds of Layla’s wheel. Going into the last lap I knew if I wanted 3rd I needed to make a move. Looking at my heart rate sitting at 185, I hadn’t hit my ceiling but my legs were. My quads simply did not have the snap left in them to attack that last lap full gas. Realizing no one was behind me, I slowed down a tick so that I would still have legs under me to get me home.
Several people have commented that I should have attacked the last lap, and I agree to a point. These races are part of an interval training and part of a bigger, endurance, plan. Wrecking my legs for one place, while glorious, if it means I can’t ride the next day… is pointless. Sometimes you have to lose a pawn in the long term plan of check mate.
To the 5 or 6 friends that purposely got in their car to simply be there on the side of the trail, I am super grateful and humble.
Here’s to next week of Short Track Domination!
Photo credit: CLT Photography
A guest blog from Laura Colbert of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA.
Saturday was a beautiful day in Atlanta, one of those occasional Southern winter days when it feels like spring–the opposite of what cyclocross weather should be. Other parts of the country have muddy, sloppy, cold cyclocross races. In Georgia, the weather always seems to provide us with boring, but beautiful race days. This pattern held true for Saturday’s 4th Annual AlleyCross race. It was 70 degrees and sunny, the kind of weather that’s perfectly suited for looking cute while riding your city commuter, but not so much for cyclocross. Luckily the 2 days before the race had been pretty rainy, so the course was sufficiently sloppy, even if the weather was behaving itself.
AlleyCross is organized by No Hipster Left Behind and is a fun combination of cyclocross and alley cat races.
The event started with mandatory parade lap to familiarize everyone with the route. That turned out to be fortunate, because it took the better part of an hour to complete (8.5 mile route…so slow) and included a couple wrecks. Parade laps are not usually that eventful. However, the extra time also gave us spectators plenty of opportunity to find a good spot for photos and get a head start on beer drinking. When the racers returned from the parade lap, they left their bikes at the mouth of an alley and were sent down a gravel hill for a Le Mans start.
The race consisted of two laps along the 8.5 mile race course, and it started and ended at Loose Nuts Cycles. The route sent cyclists through city parks, gravel and cobblestone alleys, grass run-ups, the relatively new Atlanta Beltline, and regular city streets. There were several notable obstacles/stops along the way:
3. Barriers—traditional cyclocross barriers (made out of PVC instead of wood planks
4. The Beltline—a neutral zone for the race. Racers were not allowed to attack in this section. The Beltline is full of children on bicycles, dogs on and off leashes, roller bladers, skateboarders, and a woman who walks her dog while playing violin. Even if it wasn’t against the rules, the Beltline is so crowded on nice days that usually it takes most of a cyclist’s attention to just avoid hitting anyone.
The race brought out a great mix of people–serious cyclocross racers, cyclists who have never raced before, and everyone in between. The 49 race entrants (including 6 women) showed up in everything from full race kits to jeans and tshirts. The spectators were just as diverse–Grant Park and Inman Park residents, other cyclists, friends of cyclists, and future cyclists.
The race went smoothly for the most part, with relatively little drama (only one emergency room visit). There were comments from experienced riders and new racers alike about how challenging the course was. It was a well-designed course that really pushed everyone. Even cyclists who just rode the parade route commented on how much effort the route required. Race organizer, Dustin Morado said, “After organizing most of the city races in Atlanta for the last year and a half it was so rewarding to see so many people come out to really push themselves, go fast, and get competitive.”
At the end of the 2 laps, Gary Gomez (male winner), Elizabeth Lee (female winner) and Tim Barrett (single speed winner) beat out everyone else to earn the $40 payout for first place. (Second and third places earned $30 and $10 respectively in all categories.) Their success was celebrated by everyone by emptying a keg’s worth of Fat Tire beer cans (Thanks Chip!) and then floating another keg in addition. Needless to say, at the end of the day, lots of bicycle fun was had and everyone needed a beer recovery nap.
Luckily we don’t have to wait too long for another great event like this. Here are the next race events from the two race organizers.:
Going into the first race of the Charlotte Winter Short Track series I was nervous and unsure. How shell’ed off the back would I get? Would I clog up the berms for the fast single speed boys that needed to blow past me?
The morning routine was off. I’m not used to racing in the afternoons, so I was up and “Ready” about 3 hours earlier than I needed to be. The plan was to ride to the course around 12:15, race time at 1:50. Next week I plan on making it a lot closer as there was a lot of sitting around and getting nervous.
Lining up among 9 other pretty fast women I knew I could hold a strong line in the trail, but half of a lap is on a gravel road or asphalt parking lot. At the moment of go I settled in quickly. My starts from cyclocross paid off , though I could have easily been 2-3 in to the woods and I was comfortably seated behind fast girl, Sarah Matchett, in maybe 5-6th position. I was faster in the woods, she was faster on the straights. 9 laps, Sarah left me in her dust after the first lap. I settled into my heart rate, trying not to spew Perpetuam all over as it was 70 or so degrees. My body wasn’t used to zone 4/5 in these temperatures!!
Slowly I was picking girls off. My lap times were pretty consistent, but not as consistent as I would like. A goal for the series is to find my “pace” so that my lap times get faster, not slower, as we tick them off. I found myself in 4th with two girls within eye sight behind me. Going through the finish line with “Two laps to go!” I was trying to hit a hard effort through the parking lot and look across to the finish line to see the two girls being lapped by the finisher of single speed. I still had a lap to go, but does that mean they are done? Do I just need to stay up right?? With a fear of them working together and chasing after me I kept going. Not full effort, but pretty hard.
Pulling through the finish in 4th out of 10 pretty fast women I feel ecstatic with my results, along with knowing internally I’ve only been training “consistently” since Thanksgiving time. I’m sure these girls aren’t on their top game, but it feels pretty good to be in front of girls that have normally lapped me in the past! I realize it isn’t a true Expert field or length, but my goals of being able to CAT up this year to Expert seem a bit more obtainable!
Amazing motivation to continue to hit training hard, listen to my coach and make healthy decisions. I can say this is my best start of a racing season ever and the most overwhelmed feeling of encouragement and motivation from my friends.
Photo Credit: CLTPhotography.com
Your first of a season are always nerve wracking. First group ride. First wreck. First long ride and so on. First are scary for the unknown and for the stress you put on yourself.
Tomorrow is my first race of 2013. The first race of the Charlotte Winter Short Track Series. A training race if you could call it that. A 45 minute interval set in the middle of a 3 hour ride. Riding to the course, pre-ride, race, and then another hour of riding after.
I can tell you now that I’m nervous, but in a healthy “I can’t wait to get my adrenaline pumping” kind of way. This afternoon, after I drive home from Chattanooga/Atlanta, I’ll be swapping out a front tire and riding down to the course to preview. From there I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, I don’t know where my legs stand against the girls that will show up and in a hyper focused way – I’m not too worried. This short track series holds so meaning to me and I’m super stoked to be able to race all 5 Sundays of the series!