Ashleigh ventured east to the Pisgah National Forest for the Pisgah Enduro Mountain Bike Race. Here her thoughts on the trail conditions and the epic-ness of this race!
I am fairly new to the Enduro racing world, but have done a couple of races in Colorado. While traveling in the South, my husband and I ended up in North Carolina the weekend of the Pisgah Enduro. I thought this would be a fun way to check out the biking scene in the Southeast. I had never biked in the south or east before this trip and did not know what to expect. My few expectations were that the trails might be rooty, slippery, and technical. Coming from Colorado, I expected the climbing to be no problem. Boy was I in for a surprise!
The Pisgah Enduro puts the endurance back into Enduro racing. The few enduro races I have done in Colorado were on ski areas with lift access that cut out the first 1,200 feet of climbing. On the other hand, the Pisgah Enduro is located in Pisgah National Forest, with no lift access, just surprisingly steep mountains. The pedal to the top of the first stage had us climbing over 1500 feet in a little over 2 miles on paved and dirt roads. That woke my legs right up! We continued to ride 30 miles (including the timed downhill portions) and climb 4,300 feet the first day. Between the climbing, the heat, and the humidity I was about as tired as I remember being in a long time! I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through day 2, with the daunting climb up Heart Break Ridge!
After an early dinner, a late dinner, a lot of Naked coconut juice, some time wearing my POD Sox compression stalkings, and a good night sleep, my legs felt better than I expected. I woke up ready for day 2. Initially, I was worried my quads were not going to get me up the 4,000 feet of climbing to the top of Heart Break Ridge for stage 1. Turns out, I should have been more worried about getting blisters on my heels because we did a lot of hike a biking! After riding about a third of the way up, it became obvious by the hoards of walking racers that the best way to save my legs for the rest of the day was to push my bike up the steep single track. So I joined the line and pushed my bike too…for a long time, but it was tolerable because I was not alone. Everyone was pushing their bike, having a good time yelling “Enduro!” and “Strava!” as we slowly pushed our bikes up through the temperate rainforest canopy. By the time we reached the top of heartbreak ridge it was 2 hours and 2,800 feet later.
The second day was also much more technically challenging, with larger rocky drops, a lot of slippery roots, some very narrow trail sections with close trees, and alarmingly steep drop offs. When all was said and done, the second day came to a close with lots of smiles, 28 miles on our bikes, and over 6,000 feet of climbing. The 2 day total for the race was 56 miles on our bikes and an impressive 11,000 feet of climbing!
The Pisgah Enduro was an incredible weekend with some amazing scenery, great people and great biking. This race is a true test of all around biking ability, needing to be a cardio killer and a downhill badass to compete. It is a true Enduro race.
Nicole is crushing her first year on the dirt. Read more about this podium performance at the Winter Park Epic Single Track Super Loop.
On Saturday June 27th, I raced my third ever mountain bike race. I have been racing now for two seasons, mostly on the road. I wanted to branch out this year to experience more disciplines and see how I would enjoy them and adapt. Saturday’s race was the Winter Park Epic Single Track Super Loop — marketed as a cross country race, I would be doing about 13 miles in the novice category. I was excited to race this as a prep for the following weekend’s Firecracker 50, as I wanted and needed to see how I would feel on my mountain bike at altitude. My start time was 10:55, giving me plenty of time to drive up that morning, get registered, and warm up.
Think one time trial effort is hard? Try doing two or three in a day. Read about how Katie Whidden and Gayle Connell raced the team time trials last weekend at Best on Hess.
Sometimes all we need is a little nudge to push harder or finish something that seems impossible. Other times you just need a wheel to suck. This past weekend I experienced just that, the need to just be dragged through a course. I found myself in a really tough spot, and slightly in over my head.
Last weekend I thought I was taking on the Hess time trial. Instead I took on the hills of Hess road. With 600 ft of gain over 9 miles this was the most challenging TT course I have ever competed in. Fellow teammate Gayle Connell suggested that we form a Naked womens cycling team for the team time trial. We asked Katie Harrer to join us and of course she wanted to race both retro and aero. So I signed up for what felt like the Ironman of time trials. I competed in 3 time trials in the same day: the individual aero category, team aero and team non-aero. At 9 miles in length one might expect this task to be doable but with temperatures in the 80s and a hillier course than expected it was quite a challenging day.
Due to poor timing of the races we were scheduled to do two back to back team time trials and Katie had signed up for two individual TTs which she had to do back to back. Unfortunately, she was not feeling good after her back to back individual races and had to go home. After the first TT I didn’t think I could make it through two more all-out efforts on this course. I knew with the two hour break between the events that I would get in the shade and recover as best I could.
Gayle and I had a great first race but I finished the race exhausted and not sure my legs could sustain another effort like that. Of course, Gayle would not let me quit. Without any other teams competing in our category she suggested that we just go out and ride it as best we could. Not only was she a great teammate to push me to complete it but she also did most of the work. I was just trying to hold on and make it through. As expected after the race I was happy that I decided to complete the challenge that I set for myself but without Gayle there I wouldn’t have made it through that last one. Having teammates who know that you are capable of more and help you fight through the hard moments is what makes this team so wonderful. It’s true that we are capable of more as a team than as individuals. This series of races will stick with me for a while to come, while pain of racing has subsided I am still basking in the afterglow of our efforts. We were rewarded for our efforts with some of the best prizes cash, plenty of beer and the best part was the ice cream at the end of the event.
Heidi Wahl and Katey Martus attempted to take on this year’s 12 Hours of Mesa Verde. Read about the conditions they experienced and the fun they had.
Sometimes even with all the planning and preparation, things just don’t transpire as you had hoped. This was certainly the case with this year’s 12 Hours of Mesa Verde. Hold on, I am already jumping to the punch line…. Let’s go back to the beginning.
I have raced this exceptional event for the last 5 years and couldn’t wait to race this year’s event with some amazing women teammates that surprisingly have never raced the famous Phil’s World course in Cortez. Continuing with my “racing for fun” strategy for 2015, the Hoochie Coochie Mamas was comprised of women that were strong (and beautiful) but also were there to have fun regardless of the result: Katey Martus (Naked), Laurel Arndt (Vitesse (AZ)), and Lauren Costantini (Kappius). It had been raining all week in Denver, and the weather was forecasted to snow on Mother’s Day leading to many of the local races being cancelled. Our team virtually high-fived each other as the weather in Cortez was to be cool but dry, and we felt like we were escaping to warmer and dryer race conditions.
Katey and I drove down to Cortez together and enjoyed are road trip jamming out to a combination of dance/electronic and old 80s big-hair band music while sharing stories. We got our camp setup and were able to get in a pre-ride of the course before another wave of rain came through. Knowing it was recently forecasted to be below freezing that night with a high percentage of precipitation, 3 out of 4 of us wimped out from sleeping under the stars and stayed in a hotel that night to stay warm and dry while our 4th teammate was cozy in a RV at the race venue.
Race day arrived and so did the inclement weather. The temps were in the 30s, rain was turning to snow, but the race director reiterated that the course could handle a lot of water and the race was going to start as planned. We elected Katey to be our first person in rotation since she mistakenly mentioned that she had been jogging as part of her weekly training regime. She staged her bike in the corral and then jogged up to the start, but quickly realized she forgot the baton and ran back down to the car to grab it before returning to the start just as the gun (sounded more like a cannon) went off! As the racers ran an abbreviated course to avoid the mud, they were quickly on the single track vying for a position. With Katey on course, the rest of us watched the near-blizzard conditions start and started planning for the next lap realizing we didn’t bring enough warm winter riding gear.
The first racers came through with much slower lap times than normal, and a few teams were able to send out a second rider before they instituted a weather delay. The trails were slick as snot forcing racers to walk and carry their bikes over many of the obstacles, and the normally outrageously fun whoop-de-do sections (Maxxit, Vertebrae, and Ribcage) turned into a slip-n-slide mud fest. Drivetrains were caked with clay-like muck and racers were finishing looking like they had partaken in a cold, total body mud spa treatment. Katey came in and just looked at us with a resigned expression and said, “You couldn’t pay me enough to do that lap over again!” We laughed, expressed how awesome she was for being such a good sport about it, and quickly got her changed into dry clothing.
Race directors eventually (and regrettingly) cancelled the race to protect the trails and our bikes for which all of us were very thankful. Our tribe gathered and we enjoyed a pasta meal from Lotsa Pasta and beer from Oskar Blues, while we laughed about the situation and swapped stories with old and new girlfriends while planning the next biking adventure – hopefully with a more successful outcome.
Multi-sport athlete, Dana Platin, faces some challenges in the weeks leading up to and during her first race of the season. Read about how she overcomes this adversity and races to a 15 minute personal record at Galveston 70.3.
It was my first triathlon of 2015, 70.3 Galveston, Texas. The 70.3 triathlon consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile time trial followed by a 13 mile run. I was doubting my ability as I had missed a handful of trainings due to work, nasty colds, a strained hamstring and throw in some snow days. At one point, I considered not racing and then put myself ‘in-check’ with a ‘it is what it is’ and regardless of those setbacks I shifted my attitude from ‘you aren’t prepared’ to ‘bring it.”
I kicked off the race swimming noticeably slower than normal due what seemed to be a current that I was swimming against. Faced with my first obstacle, I turned up my mental skills training, found my sea legs, persevered and pushed on.
I take off on the bike and felt good; real good. I know I am aiming for a negative split and have rock star cat 4 teammate Katie Whidden’s voice in my head ‘maintain 19-21mph for 28 miles and then go get that negative split.’ I followed the plan and was feeling strong at the 30 mile marker. It then began to rain, rain hard. I am usually a conservative rider and racer. I am the first to pull back and ‘call it a day’ when faced with rain or snow. As the rain was coming down, I noticed that my confidence went up. I was wondering ‘where did Dana go?’ I got more aggressive, determined and focused on the road and the goal. I left all fear on the race course. I increased my cadence and speed and went for it. I passed people one by one and kept going through the downpour. What is it that allows this confidence to shine through and crush the inner critic when rubber hits the road and we need to perform?
Thanks to Specialized and Turin bikes for my Shiv Race rocket as it brought me confidence, calm and speed. Thanks to Naked Women’s Cycling race team for the encouragement, support and training rides. Thanks to Inspired Training Center for providing sanctuary and insane power training sessions on the snowiest of winter days as well as Naked Juice and that kale blazer juice! As I stepped out of my comfort zone, took a calculated risk, I raced the 56 mile time trial the fastest time I had ever raced. After the rubber hit the road, I finished strong with the run.
Junior rider Ava Hachmann recaps her first time racing with her Naked women’s cycling team mates. Read about her best career finish ever.
A couple weekends ago I drove the 370 miles from my hometown of Durango up to Denver for Saturdays criterium, and for the USAFA road race on Sunday. Being a junior racer means my “mommy”/soigner/chauffeur came with me. Racing so far from home tends to be more stressful than when the race comes to you. Making sure to remember every piece of gear, equipment, charging cords, food and bikes is an art. And it was a good thing that I had all my cold-weather gear for my 8:30 am start time on Saturday. It was cold on the start line, but I had two teammates in the race to help get me going. The pace wasn’t too bad the first couple laps and the uphill part of the course broke up the field. Taking the opportunity to set the pace I moved up to the front and lead for lap after lap, never getting a gap but staying strong and confident and having fun hearing my team and name announced when I went across the line. In the final lap straightaway there was an attack and my small group became very spread out, due to poor timing we happened to be finishing at the same time as the chasing riders, so the finish line was very chaotic. I lost track of who I was trying to out sprint, so I just passed as many people as I could before the line. I ended up in fifth place, my best career finish. I am thankful for my teammates who stayed after their race and cheered me on!
The next day we drove out to the Air Force Academy for the Pro-open category road race. The course was rolling and hilly, with quite a bit of descending. There were five of us Naked women in the race all ranging from cat 4 to pro1/2’s, giving the race some depth. The race started slow, with Naked taking turns pulling the pack and keeping the pace down on the climbs. The finish line was on of a sustained climb and there was an attack before lap one was over, the field was blown apart and three groups formed. I worked hard to solo-bridge the gap between the third and second group, I worked hard to stay on the wheel of Katie Harrer, but I couldn’t hang on any longer after we began the final climb for the second time. I worked together with one of the Masters women to finish the race. After grabbing some lunch (and ice cream!) we drove all the way back home, thankfully I didn’t have school Monday. Overall I had a really good weekend of racing, and met more of my teammates! Looking forward to the Clasica De Rio Grande after an upcoming weekend of mountain biking in the desert!
New Naked Womens Cycling rider, Dana Platin, describes how she is adjusting to life back in America after 17 years in South America. Read about her journey and how she has found her place as part of this squad.
A couple of weeks ago, I was telling some work colleagues how excited I was to go pick up my new juice for cycling, I got a few empty stares. I go home that day and tell my husband the same ‘my juice has finally arrived, I am going to get so strong this cycling season.’ Another 3 second stare. That would be Naked Juice as I am a newcomer to their cat 4 Naked Women’s Cycling race team for the 2015 season!
Impressions and aspirations of a cat 4 ‘newbie’
I moved to Colorado a year and a half ago after living in South America for the past 17 years. While living in Ecuador, South America I was working with the Peace Corps, scaling the Andes Mountains, racing triathlon as well as discovered my passion for cycling. After some wear and tear from a running injury, I bought myself a road bike and found myself cycling in a velodrome and with the peloton at 9,000 feet elevation where the air was of so thin. I fell in love with cycling and spent my weekends riding long distances with girl friends and later raced road races on a women’s team. I found the camaraderie, community, and teamwork exhilarating, I was sold!
After being out of the country for so many years, coming back to the U.S. was at first scary, confusing and a bit overwhelming. I will never enter a Super Target again :). It took some time to readjust. As part of my readjustment stateside, I decided to set two goals and make ‘em happen in 2015:
- Find a women’s cycling team that I could race with and
- Surround myself with strong women who would help me grow as a cyclist
Thus far, I have accomplished both as I recently joined Naked Women’ s Cycling to race cat 4. My first impressions have been so positive. I know I am surrounded by some of Colorado’s toughest gals; they have all been so welcoming, supportive, encouraging and humble!
My goals for this first race season are to work hard for my team, learn and continue to help women’s cycling grow and flourish.
As I continue to adapt and adjust I am re-learning cycling language in English. As I first picked up a road bike living in Ecuador and learned all about cycling in Spanish, I still require a second in my head to translate that ‘plato grande’ is actually the big gear and ‘piñon’ is the cog, and when I want to yell ‘libre’ I need to actually say ‘clear’. Crossing borders and crossing finish lines have taught me that you can adapt, overcome and achieve.
And yes, I have found my juice!
Kim snags the top step in the CSU Oval Criterium! Read more on how riding a little less may have helped her ride to victory!
This Sunday I drove up to Fort Collins to race the CSU Oval Criterium. Although I had the opportunity to race twice in Arizona for the early season VOS and TBC races, this would be my first Colorado Race. As I was driving up, I made the decision that I wanted to start it off well, with exciting and aggressive racing, risk taking, trusting my training, and mental fortitude. I told Marcus, “I think I can win this race!” This goal was immediately threatened by a bit of unexpected traffic due to multiple accidents, adding a solid 30 minutes to what is typically an hour drive. I had even planned what I thought would plenty of margin for the drive. I began to feel a bit frazzled, compulsively glancing at the clock, as one by one, the minutes remaining before my race start elapsed. I took a breath… this entire year has been a lesson in controlling the controllables, and breathing deep and finding calm in the many variables that are outside my grasp. For anyone who thinks bike racing has no relevance to “real life”, you are mistaken. Bike racing has taught me invaluable lessons about planning well but taking the inevitable surprises in stride, in a way that has served me well far beyond the race course.
We arrived at the CSU campus 45 minutes before my start time, and Marcus dropped me off as close as he could get to race registration before finding a parking spot. Thankfully I’ve now developed quite a streamlined routine, so although 45 minutes from car to start line is far from ideal, it’s not impossible. Registration completed, bibs/jersey/shoes/helmet/sunglasses on and beet juice drinken (why Marcus, equally fluent in the pre-race checklist, pumped my tires and put chain lube on), and I still had 15 minutes to spin around before the start. I returned to my previously set goal, before the traffic and rushed preparation and premature adrenaline rush. Despite all those, I wanted to win this race, and there was no reason why I shouldn’t. One of my biggest challenges in racing has been learning to take risks and push beyond my comfort zone. Trusting that the training I’ve done is enough, and my legs can handle the load. So I decided that today, there would be no giving up. I would allow my body to get to a new level. Far too many people are held back by the fear of what they may not do that they never find out what they can do. I resolved that I would rather fail because I’d exceeded my limit then finish having not even attempted to reach it.
From the first lap I raced aggressively, driving pace, attacking, chasing, counter-attacking. I was in a glorious place of mental clarity, purpose and determination. I timed my moves well, and trusted my training. As the race went on, the field was slowly whittled down, with several riders losing contact with the group, and several more just hanging on the tail end. With five laps to go I was still feeling strong, and began to put myself in position for the finish. I marked two of the other riders, who I judged as among the strongest, and patiently waited, as the familiar cat and mouse interactions unfolded. With one lap to go, one rider went, attacking hard off the front, but my marked riders didn’t jump, and neither did I. We kept the pace steady, and I made sure to stay near the front. In too many races, I’ve been forced to let off the throttle in my finish as I tried to move around riders who’d run out of gas before the line, and I wanted to finish this race knowing that I had given it all. We were closing the gap between the lone rider ahead, and caught her with less than 500 meters before the finish. I began my sprint earlier than I typically do, before the final bend of the oval that the course is named for, and didn’t look back.
In this moment of temporary pain, as I kept my eyes just beyond the finish line, I took my first win of not only this season, but of the last two. My entire being felt a rush of something I can only describe as gratitude, pride, resolution, and acceptance all rolled into one soul-warming experience. It was almost as if in this win, some of the broken pieces were coming back together. This year has been the most challenging one I’ve had in quite a while. A broken neck, sub-par race results, personal and professional challenges and changes, and set-back after set-back left me wondering if everything I was doing was in vain. Despite my best attempts, some of these circumstances and additional time commitments impacted my training, and my volume was slightly lower than it has been in previous years. I questioned whether I would have built enough base or be in form by race season, but I knew I could only do my best, which I had. After the race I jokingly said to my husband, “I guess not riding as much this year served me well!” He gently smiled, and replied, “I think adversity serves you well.” Although the circumstances of this year are far from what I have chosen, I have done my best to take them in stride and become a stronger person. I have been learning that measuring effort solely by outcome will sooner or later leave you feeling uncertain and discouraged. Hard work, integrity, and endurance in the face of trial is never in vain. It may take longer to see why or how, but it will come. This past Sunday I got a small taste of that delicious fruit that comes from never giving up.
Bodies of water and bridges are no match for this fearless Naked lady. Read how Heidi squashes those fears on two wheels.
So I have a huge fear of water. I mean, HUGE. Some call it irrational, I say it’s erring on the side of safety after a very scary incident when I was 6 or 7 years old. I won’t go in water over five feet deep, boats are not something I see as enjoyable, I will not put my face in water (my swim technique is fantastic, let me tell you), I won’t go in open bodies of water (everything besides a bathtub and pool are out, in other words), and later as an adult I hate driving over bridges over water. Aside from making sure I’ll never be a triathlete, I’ve gotten by quite alright in life without the deep watery stuff.
What does all this really have to do with anything, except making all y’all think I might be crazy? Well, in December 2011 an ex-boyfriend and I road tripped through Seattle. No one warned me that I-90 crossed Lake Washington via a “floating bridge.” Yes, a bridge over a mile long that sits on the surface of the water. I mean, the water is right there. I’m pretty sure I cried the entire way across, and my ex mentioned that people ride bicycles across the bridge. “Are they freakin’ crazy?! Who the heck would do that?” I exclaimed – I wasn’t a cyclist yet and that just seemed so absurd on so many levels.
Fast forward to March 2015. I’m a full blown cycling nut, that boyfriend is long gone, and wouldn’t you know, work was sending me to Seattle for eight days. Since I couldn’t possibly be without a bike for that period of time, I rounded up a rental road bike and set about planning out some rides. Of course, one of the better rides I could access from my downtown starting point would be going across the I-90 floating bridge to Mercer Island. Gulp. “Fine, I’ll ride across that damn bridge!” I exclaimed to myself.
Luckily the day I chose was sunny and not very windy. I made my way through Chinatown rush hour traffic successfully (an adventure in its own right) and found myself on the I-90 bike path. Soon the bridge was in sight, and half of me wanted to turn around. After stopping to catch my breath, I hesitantly pointed my front tire down the bridge and pushed off. As I descended down to the water level I felt tears welling up in my eyes, but I calmed my breathing and had such an intense focus on the ground 10 feet in front of the bike that I wouldn’t even move my eyes to check my Garmin. I’d take a couple of pedal strokes, and coast, couple of pedal strokes, and coast. The nearly calm cross wind felt like a hurricane. Then suddenly I realized I was ok, and it was just time to pedal pedal pedal all the way across. Before I knew it I was on Mercer Island and on solid ground. Woohoo, I made it!
The return trip was a bit more frightening to me as I would have to be on the closest side to the water. When a bike path is only nine feet wide to begin with, I just wasn’t comfortable. So I decided I was British and rode on the left side, only barely moving over when other cyclists approached. It probably didn’t help that the bike shop I rented the bike from scared me with the thoughts of hooking the handlebars in the simple metal rail that separates the bikes from the water. Once again intense concentration got me across to solid ground on the Seattle side. Two for two! I will admit to a happy dance at the observation point above the bridge and gushed to a random guy with a bike about how I rode over that silly scary floating bridge!
Bicycles have a funny way of pushing us to do stuff we never would’ve considered otherwise… I’ve only been riding shy of three years, and yet I’ve done so many things I never would’ve even thought of doing otherwise. Most people don’t think twice about going over bridges over water, but I’m still in awe I willed myself across one on a bicycle when usually I panic in a car. Might seem simple or silly to most, but I love the fact that a simple two wheel contraption powered by merely my legs has taken me to so many places and on so many adventures, and has helped me conquer some fears along the way!