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The Mental Game of Cyclocross

 

 

With Cyclocross Nationals approaching, freshly upgraded Cat 3 racer Bridgette Enarson is reminded to focus on her mental game. Read on to learn her strategy. 

By Bridgette Enarson

Too many of my races have gone like this: a great start to the race, in the top 5 and thinking “I’m a rockstar, I’ve got this”. Then bam, a couple of laps in I start falling apart. Whether it’s a turn taken too fast that ends in a slide out or my toes so frozen I can’t unclip before the runup and fall, two feet still attached to the pedals (insert blooper reel here).

And then it snowballs from there. I lose my lead. I get in my head and start mentally breaking down rather than focusing on regaining what distance I had on other racers. In turn, my performance dwindles and that third place slot becomes a seventh place finish. It’s a disheartening end to the race when I started so well. I’ve got the skills and power, but there are races where I’m too tired to think and when that occurs, I become sloppy. After too many of these races, I started focusing much more on my mental approach to cyclocross learning the hard way that you need more than power and fitness to carry you through after the first couple of laps. 

Bridgette Enarson on a run up at the US Open CX 2017

Bridgette Enarson on a run up at the US Open CX 2017

The mental approach is harder and takes getting out of your head and actually using your head. With each turn I’ve learned to say to myself, slow a bit, shift your body weight so your wheels stay up. Before that steep run up, I repeat to myself, “pedal, pedal, get your weight forward and just keep putting one pedal in front of the other”. The runups are hard and get your heartrate up, but on most courses there is a recovery so I just tell myself, “keep going, just let out an expletive or two and you’ll get your recovery soon”. I’ve learned to coach myself through every turn, every technical piece of the course. And it works. It keeps me calm and my attention is more on the course than the feeling of absolutely dying and wanting to walk away and get a DNF.

This is what makes cyclocross hard. In a race where you’re using up all of your energy in a 40 minute race, your mind gets foggy and it’s easy to focus on how much your lungs and legs are burning. The mental approach to cyclocross racing is just as important as the physical and is what carries you through to the end. Focus on the mental game in a cross race and your pain eases just a bit and your race is more successful.

Good luck to Bridgette at Cyclocross Nationals in Reno, NV Jan. 9-14

Good luck to Bridgette at Cyclocross Nationals in Reno, NV Jan. 9-14

The True Test of Endurance

Roberta Smith and Tina Ament win the 12 hour Tandem World TT Championships

Tandem racing for 12 hours. A test of what is possible mentally and physically. Roberta Smith and Tina Ament win the 12 hour world TT Tandem Championships and recount the experience.

I had the pleasure of racing with Tina Ament as a tandem pilot in the 12 Hour World TT Championships. The event was in Borrego Springs and would mark my last cycling race of the 2017 season. Although I trained on my “single” bike, I was going to be piloting the tandem with Tina for 12 hours. Our previous race, the ParaCycling Open had us on the bike together for only 44 miles. Thinking in my head about 12 hours, I knew we would be pushing the 200 mile mark by the end. To help my position on the tandem, Tina was able to ship her bike out to me so I could have it properly fit for the long race. George Mullen worked his magic and gave me 3 comfortable riding positions. i knew that an aero position for 12 hours was going to be a challenge.

Often times racing takes a village. I was grateful my husband, Paul, was able to come to the race, assemble the bike and provide pit assistance. Our tandem racing friends, Chuck and Lisa Mangus and son, Ben, and girlfriend, Brooke were racing the 12 hour race too. Jessica Mangus offered pit assistance with Paul and we were treated like rock stars.

We arrived in Borrego Springs, a desert town about 90 minutes from San Diego, CA, on Friday. Since we would be riding in the early morning, all bikes needed to meet race safety standards with reflective tape and lights. Again, Paul who has two years of crewing for the Race Across America (RAAM), had gone above and beyond to make our bike safety compliant. This 6-12-24 World TT Championships is a qualifier for RAAM so those doing the 24 hour race are hearty folks. The course was an 18-mile loop with total loops completed in the 12 hour timeframe determining results. At 3:00pm (2 hours to go for all of the racers) we were moved to a shorter 4.5 mile course.

Our first few 18 mile loops were in the dark. Perfect desert cool. On our first loop we missed a turn. I suddenly found us on a lone road and had to backtrack. The turn arrow had blown down with no course marshall providing direction. We called those 2 miles off course “bonus miles”.

Taking advantage of the cool weather, we did three laps in a row before stopping in the pit zone. The moon was full and there were some incredible views. No time to stop for photos … In a tandem race when a straight-away presents itself with the opportunity to rev your machine to 25-28 mph, you take it!

Having completed 10 loops in total, all of the road conditions are now burned into my memory. Here’s a glimpse of my race thoughts:

Roberta and Tina on the podium

Once we do this turn, we will have a tailwind and slight down hill, right left turn and there’s shade and a nice smooth straightaway. Right turn and our time to turn it up and go hard until the stop sign. Ugh. Stop sign, we have to slow this machine to a halt. Next turn it up and hit the polkadot road (the chipseal was chipped away in tiny circles). Oh look there are the horses!. Turn right and start an “uphill” to the right turn headwind/ uphill, at the curve we get a slight downhill and can start to see the pit zone.

These thoughts went through my mind and reminded me of European Vacation when Clark Grizwald has the family stuck in a roundabout, “Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament!”  It started to get hot and windy. In desert racing and riding it is difficult to tell how much you are sweating. And hydration is key to performace. At every stop Paul had nylons filled with ice to put down the back of our jerseys. It was fantastic. The 10th large loop that we did was the hardest for sure. Our legs were tired. We had a horrible headwind. These are the moments that test your mental strength.

It was refreshing when we were directed to the 4 mile short loop. The 4 mile loop was like entering a criterium after a LONG century ride. I liked the change of pace. We got two loops clocked in 16 minutes. Our fastest loop!  When we crossed the Start/ Finish after the second 4 mile loop we only had 10 minutes left. After 11 hours and 50 minutes we decided to call it a day.

Thrilled that we had 189.6 miles (plus our bonus miles) and set a course record for the Solo Women’s Tandem. Tina and I were the first women ever to do it! Our mileage beat the two Solo Men’s Tandem teams.

Tina is amazing. This race is one of her training races for her RAAM race in 2018. It was a great experience with the time piloting a tandem giving me the confidence to do it again. Maybe after a bit of recovery.

Roberta Smith is a Cat 2 racer on Naked Women’s Racing and captain of the Masters Team.  She has been bike racing since the Deer Trail Road Race in 2006.   Tina Ament is an eight time Ironman finisher (including Kona).  Tina is a member of the 2018 RAAM team Team Sea to See.  Team Sea to See is a team of successful businesspeople and athletes who happen to be blind that are taking on one of the world’s most grueling endurance cycling races to raise awareness of the immense capabilities of people who are blind.

Get Ready for Your Spring Cycling “Big Event”

Show up fit and ready to take on a big event!

Show up fit and ready to take on a big event this spring!

The training road to your big event begins now. Include the following in your training program to make sure you show up fit and ready to enjoy the experience.

Include Strength Training Exercises for Fatigue Resistance and Increased Power

A training plan that includes cycling specific strength exercises is key to being fully prepared for the rigors of a high mileage endurance event. Dedicating training time to improving core strength and muscular endurance now, will assist your body in handling the fatigue associated with successive days on the bike later. Another reason for strength training? According to USA Cycling certified coach Mike Schultz, “The aerobically stronger your assistance muscles and core, the less fatigue you will experience late in a race, additionally, the more potential you will have for increasing power.”  Who doesn’t want more power? In the watts per kilogram game, increasing the power you can produce while maintaining body weight means getting to the top of a climb faster.

Improving watts per kg means getting to the top of a climb sooner!

Improving watts per kg means getting to the top of a climb sooner!

What exercises should you include? Exercises such as planks and stability ball pikes help to increase core strength. Core strength is key to a stable bike position and pain free lower back when the miles run into triple digits.  Other key exercises include lunges, which work one leg at a time, kettlebell swings, single-leg deadlifts and front squats. Focus on exercises which zero in on quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings. The glutes are the engine for muscular power.

 Put a little yoga in your life

Hip flexor tightness is common in many cyclists. The same muscles we want to strengthen for performance are also at risk for being tight. A steady training program of repetitive action (cycling!) performed through a limited range of motion, fuels this imbalance. Stretches that counteract the cycling posture may address it. More and more cyclists are including yoga in their cycling training program. If attending a class isn’t doable for you, Bike Radar has summarized 8 stretches to improve your flexibility and cycling performance including photos of stretches.

Indoor SUP yoga, a fun way improve flexibility for water lovers

Indoor SUP yoga, a fun way improve flexibility for water lovers

Address Your Areas of Opportunity

Some people call these weaknesses. Instead, choose to view these as increased speed and power opportunities. Incorporating specific workouts into your training plan allows you to concentrate on these areas. What is the easiest way to do this? Train Indoors. Training indoors on rollers or a magnetic resistance trainer allows you to control the environment and focus on fitness and technique with targeted workouts. Mike Durner, Carmichael Training Systems Pro Coach, regularly incorporates trainer workouts into training plans for clients.  According to Mike, “doing some of your winter training on trainers or rollers with resistance allows for precise focus in areas of your fitness that are opportune for improvement without weather, traffic, or road surface. Additionally, spending time on the trainer or rollers can provide some quality mental training.”

Plan the Road to Success

Use an organized manner to plan, track and analyze workouts and progress. Many coaching services, including CTS, use Training Peaks as an online system to communicate between athlete and coach. It’s more than simply logging your workouts. Athletes use programs to plan a season and make continued informed decisions about progress and the need for recovery.  Consider it your GPS system for your big event. Training Peaks offers trials for their Premium version and the Athlete edition is Free.

Consider a Coach

For accountability, there’s nothing quite like having a coach. A qualified coach that clearly understands your goals and limitations can keep you on the fast track to improvement. Realizing your full potential, whether you are a novice or a seasoned athlete might be best achieved by including an expert in the process. For coaching services consider researching Training Peaks as well as personalized coaching from CTS.

The accomplishment of a big event is something that stays with you for a long time. Why not arrive fully prepared and able to take it on feeling fit and ready? Planning your training program for being strong on the bike is your best bet for success.

For a list of “big events” visit USA Cycling , Bicycle Racing of Colorado, Bicycle Colorado, Gran Fondo Calendar, Haute Route.

Author Kate Williams, MS, Certified Cycling Instructor, is a roadie with Naked Women’s racing. 

Suck It Up Buttercup – My Mantra for Cyclocross

Melissa Westergard at the US Open CX 2017

Melissa Westergard at the US Open CX 2017

Melissa Westergard, Cat 3 Roadie, describes her season of firsts as a newbie CX racer with two words; fun and terrifying. 

This was a season of firsts for me. First time to drop a chain in the middle of a race, first time to crash multiple times and get right back in the race, first time to quickly descend on a steep gravel slope, first time to ride off camber, and my first time to race in 28 degree weather! Each of these things is exactly why I have only ridden and raced road for the past 6 years and not even considered getting off the pavement. These things terrified me.

My secret motto for this Fall – Suck It Up Buttercup! Now I am gaining appreciation for the discipline of CX and finding that I actually enjoy this. I still hesitate every now and then and have many new skills that I need to learn and many that I need to continue to work on.

CX costume fun with Naked Women's Racing at the Feedback Cup 2017

CX costume fun with Naked Women’s Racing at the Feedback Cup 2017

The physical aspect is not the only reason I wanted to try out CX, there’s the fun factor too. I had always heard that CX was one of the most fun disciplines to race, but it didn’t come to fruition for me until I was in a race… in a Merida costume, complete with the bow and arrows and an unforgettable crazy red wig. The enjoyment that I have gained for CX is undeniable and I will most definitely be back next year!

Melissa Westergard Feedback Cup 2017

Melissa Westergard in Disney Costume at the Feedback Cup 2017

Visit our Cyclocross team page to view our team athletes. Read about how Naked Women’s Racing Keeps Cross Weird.

Naked Women's Racing CX - Fun is the Operative Word

Naked Women’s Racing CX – Fun is the operative Word

 

 

Finding Training Time When Life is Hectic

Starting medical school has forced Cat 3 Colorado State Road Champion Alexandra Morgan to adopt a new training strategy. Read on for tips to train when life is hectic. 

I started medical school in New Hampshire two months ago. When I moved I brought my bike, helmet and all of the clothes necessary to be comfortable and safe while riding. The last few months mother nature has brought a plethora of beautiful, sunny days and my new home has supplied endless quiet, incredible roads to ride. The one thing that I’m lacking right now? Time. School has been fast and furious the last eight weeks without any sign of letting up (I actually think it is getting harder!). With less than an hour of free time most days, I really struggled to find time to get out on rides and decided that I would take a brief hiatus from racing and riding while I made my way through school. But the open roads called to me as I drove to school each day and my bike sat in our entry way as a constant reminder of the sport I love so much. So a few weeks ago, I decided to make a training plan that would allow me to ride while still making school a priority. I wanted to share a few tips and tricks for anyone else struggling to find time to ride amidst a busy stage of life.

  1. Trainer rides can be your best friend. Before this year the trainer was my enemy. It signaled bad weather that kept me off the beautiful Boulder roads. Now, I love my trainer. It gives me the freedom to ride early mornings or late evenings. Getting comfortable with trainer rides helps create flexibility during your day. This way you can focus on what’s important and squeeze in a ride when there’s time. You won’t be dependent on weather or sunlight which can help take some pressure away from finding time to ride. If you’re in the market for a new trainer, independent product reviewer DC Rainmaker puts out an annual list of trainer recommendations.
  2. No ride is too short. Even if you only have 30 minutes to get out, take advantage of that time and get in a short, hard ride. You can really maximize this time if you set out everything you need and get your bike ready the night before.
  3. Take advantage of slower days to get in long rides. Getting out for 2 hours to break up the monotony of 1 hour (or shorter) rides can really help to breathe some life into a training plan.
  4. Plan your rides. If I don’t plan out the specific time that I will get in a ride each day it likely won’t happen. I have learned that the busier my day is, the more intentional I have to be about carving out free time to exercise.
  5. Ride with some friends or get out for a group ride whenever you get the chance. Just riding the trainer can get very monotonous at times and I have found that my passion for the sport comes back full force when I ride with other people. There is something so wonderful about the sense of community that cycling creates!

note: if you live in the Denver area consider joining us for a group ride! Our calendar lists our group rides.

Keep Cyclocross Weird – A Roadie’s POV

cyclocross

Naked Women’s Racing Cyclocross Team as Alice in Wonderland, Schoolyard CX.

I admit it. I’m completely jealous of Cyclocross.

Us uptight roadie types don’t hear much laughter at our races. The only heckling we get is from fellow racers if we don’t hold our line. The weirdness of cross speaks to the athlete in me that also wants to have fun. Too much time spent concentrating on power to weight ratios does that to a person.

cyclocross

Amanda Bye, NWR co-captain

I asked Amanda Bye, Cx co-captain for Naked Women’s Racing Cyclocross team, her opinion about a cross staple; heckling. I imagine good-natured heckling would be like throwing fuel on the burning metabolic fire, helping take it up a notch.

Here’s the gospel according to Amanda: “Heckling in good fun should never interfere in someone’s race (throwing beer, shots, donuts, crossing course tape, etc) and should not be demeaning or mean. It also helps to know your audience. Some people love being heckled (case in point -me), others get their feelings hurt. So, as in all of life – – know your audience”.

Ok, so there’s at least two of us that think the right kind of heckling has its place at CX races. What’s the right kind?

Cyclocross

Emily Zinn, NWR Cx co-captain as Jesse Mile High Urban Cx Chaos

Beginner sampling of mild, good-natured heckles as heard by Emily Zinn and Amanda Bye:

“C’mon it is early season but not THAT early season, get on your bike.”

“If you are going to walk your bike that much, get a leash for it.”

“Maybe in war nobody gets left behind, but this is cyclocross!”

“The only way you manage to hold off racers is by blowing snot rockets!”

“The only time you’ve ever been called fast was by your prom date!”

“Maybe you could swim through the mud and call it a triathlon. Then you could be dead last and still win.”

Have a good one to add? Let us know. But remember the rules: The art of heckling is to be funny without being mean.  And as cyclocross pro Adam Myerson said in an interview with Bicycling magazine, “One, don’t be a d**k. Two, “business at the front, party in the back”. Give the people racing the respect of racing”.

I’m all for respect. And for keeping cross weird.

 cyclocross, keep cross weird, heckling
Kate Williams is a roadie for Naked Women’s Racing. Feel free to let her know how much faster her Grandma can ride.

Women’s Cycling: 5 Things to Know Before Joining a Team

A Beginner’s Guide to Joining a Women’s Cycling Team

Beginners Guide Joining a Women's Cycling Team

Joining a Team for the First Time

When it comes to joining a women’s cycling team, some are easy than others. Many open applications in the fall for a window of time. Others offer rolling admission at any time throughout the year. If you have a team in mind, make sure you know the deadline to apply.

1. Try Before You Apply

Most teams offer special group rides during the open enrollment period. This is the perfect opportunity to meet those on the team as well as others looking to join. Many of your questions can be answered in the casual environment of a group road ride.  “If a social group ride turns into a hammerfest in the first mile, you’ve learned something important about the team already,” says CWCP co-founder Joan Orgeldinger. Fellow team members have a huge impact on the fun and success of your riding and racing season. Take the time to make sure you like the fit.

2. Find out Where the Action Is

If group riding is tops on your list for joining, then where the rides are held and how often is key. Can you access a team calendar and see when group rides are offered? If you can ride to the start, it makes it easy to join in. Close proximity to events plus frequent group rides equal greater team involvement. After all, joining a women’s cycling team is about the camaraderie and what can be learned from riding with others who share your passion.

3. Investigate the Must-Do’s

Teams have sponsors. This is usually a good thing. It might mean you receive a discount at the local bike shop associated with team. Or it can be a stressor if the requirement is not something in your comfort wheelhouse. Some teams require fundraising efforts or racing a required number of criteriums. Make sure you understand the commitment being asked of you before you join. CWCP; Naked Women’s Racing, asks team members for a volunteer commitment. Giving back to the community and promoting women’s cycling is a core value for CWCP. Do the core values of the team resonate with you and are the requirements do-able? The answer needs to be a resounding yes.

4. Sample the Kit

Some swear that looking fast on the bike makes them ride faster. Maybe so, but more important is the material between you and the saddle. Insufficiently padded bike shorts mean uncomfortable and shortened rides. Is the team kit of good quality and one you will proudly (and comfortably) wear? Most teams want you to buy and wear their team “kit” (jersey and shorts or bibs) during training and racing. You’ll probably need more than one. Ask about the expense and see if you can try on a sample or similar model at a local shop. It’s all about the bike AND the kit.

5. Are There “Experts” who will Help You?

The sport of cycling can be intimidating. Shoes with cleats, tubeless tires, chains that need lube …. and that is just a sampling of cycling equipment. What about skills such as learning to ride in a paceline, descending safely, and working with other team mates during a race? If you want to take your skills to the next level, join a team that mentors and supports your growth. Look for clinics, team camps and workshops offered by the team. Practice makes perfect and learning from experts on your team or professionals hired to coach, will help make you a faster and safer-on-the-road cyclist.

For more information about joining CWCP, Naked Women’s Racing, click here.

Kate Williams racer with Naked Women's Racing

Kate Williams is a masters racer with Naked Women’s Racing who enjoys suffering on hill climbs and helping more women love all things bike.

Is your saddle to blame for an injury?

Lori Antolec Racer for Naked Women's Race Team

The culprit to the nagging hamstring and knee injury of Lori Antolec was an unexpected discovery. Can a bike fit be the answer to injury? Sometimes, yes!

I ended my 2016 mountain bike season on a high note.  I competed in the Steamboat Stinger as part of a duo-team with my rockstar teammate Amanda who decked us out in bee costumes!

Lori with Amanda Bye and Emily Zinn in Bee costumes at the Steamboat Stinger

Lori with Amanda Bye and Emily Zinn in Bee costumes at the Steamboat Stinger

A few weeks later I finished my first ever 50mile race, the Dakota Five-0.

Between those two races, I signed up for the Breck Epic 3-day.  It has been on my bucket list for many years and I was happy with the base I had built up, so sign up I did!  The plan was to ride my fat bike  during the winter to ensure I would be set for the BreckEpic.

Unfortunately, my body had a different plan – my hamstring and knee fell apart in January.  I took days off.  I rode different bikes but the debilitating pain would not go away.  I started PT and increased the cadence of my massage and chiropractic appointments.  I continued PT for 6-8 weeks with minimal improvement.  I scheduled an appointment with a traditional doctor to confirm I had not caused significant damage that required more attention than the PT I was receiving.  He sent me home with similar exercises to my PT regimen.

I was lost on how to solve this issue until discussing it with a coworker who suggested a thorough bio-mechanic bike fit.  I had been riding this bike for three seasons but, at this point, was willing to try anything.  I was amazed at the amount of information I learned during the fit but the most important piece of information was…I was riding on the wrong saddle size!  I was riding on a stock 143 and should be on a wider 155 to properly support my sit bones.  On the narrower saddle, I was only supported by soft tissue which causes rocking and numerous other compensations.  I drove straight to the bike shop to buy a new saddle.

Lori Antolec at the Dakota Five-0

Lori Antolec at the Dakota Five-0

Wow, what a difference!  The proper saddle size provided a more solid foundation and the improvement of power transfer was noticeable with the first pedal stroke.  I could not wait to get out and ride.  I was able to increase my riding duration and miles for the first time in 5 months.   Although I saw immediate improvement, my knee and hamstring are taking longer to return to 100%.  I was not able to participate in the BreckEpic 3-day as planned, but I’m on the path to recovery which will allow me to participate in the future!

Saddle size – do not underestimate it!  You don’t need to schedule a bike fit to confirm what size is right for you (although I highly recommend it).  Most shops have an ‘ass-o-meter’ that will guide you on the correct size.  And don’t forget saddles wear out and periodically need to be replaced just like other parts on the bike.  I was lucky until this year that I never gave much thought to saddles as I didn’t have any issues with the saddle that came with my bikes.  I hope sharing this info prevents at least one person from learning the hard way, like I did.

For more info about our race team, click here.

To inquire about a bike fit, contact Turin Bicycles.

BASIC BIKE FIT
Cleat fore/aft and rotational adjustments.
Correct saddle height ,fore/aft adjustments.
Stem length/angle adjustments.
Handlebar rotation and position.
Suggest solutions to improve your fit and overall cycling experience.
COST: $100

 

Cycling after Babies – Getting Back on the Bike

Cycling after pregnancy, racing the Beti Bike Bash

Nicole Braddock, cyclist for Naked Womens Racing, womens cycling team for racers and enthusists.

New Mom and cyclist Nicole Braddock on managing expectations and getting back on the bike after twins. 

As an athlete, especially as a competitive women’s cycling racer, you go into pregnancy with so many preconceived ideas of maintaining fitness, eating healthy, and getting back to your sport as soon as possible. Flash back to a year ago sitting in the doctor’s office with my husband, ultrasound images up on the screen, and my OB says, “there were twins in here at one point.” Okay. What does that mean? She zoomed in on one area, heartbeat going along at 170 beats per minute. She went back to the other area to investigate, and after several seconds, there’s heartbeat number two.  Yup, twins.

We hopped on our cruiser bikes that evening to meet friends and passed on the very surprising news that we’d be expecting twins the following May. We rode our bikes home. Little did I know, I wouldn’t sit on a bike again for 12 more weeks.I would have ridden a lot longer had I known 🙂

Despite every desire to have a fit and healthy pregnancy, mine was fraught with nausea, vomiting, and complications. I had read so many womens cycling blogs about womens racing bikes throughout pregnancy, or at least riding all the way through, maintaining strength, and then being able to get right back at it as soon as the doctor allowed. These women were my inspiration for my pregnancy and I wanted to be such inspiration for others. But early on in pregnancy I was put on activity restriction and those hopes went out the window. Not to mention, all I could stomach eating for several months was some variety of potatoes, usually mashed or fried. When I was finally allowed to get back on a bike, I borrowed my husband’s Primal jersey, and headed over to Inspired Training Center one weekend. I rode two days in a row, and it felt glorious. My knees were already bumping my belly, and my cardiovascular fitness had plummeted, but boy did it feel good.

Inspired Training Center training session

Inspired Training Center training session

It didn’t last. I got sick, then got sick again, and in just a few weeks would find myself on bedrest for the remainder of the pregnancy. The farther along I got, I could barely walk or put on pants, let alone do any other strenuous activity.

At midnight on March 19th, my water broke and the babies arrived at 33 weeks and 2 days. We spent 6 weeks in the NICU learning to breathe, eat. and grow. Needless to say, riding bikes was not a priority. The day before the babies came home, Stuart and I hopped on bikes and rode to the park knowing we would be so busy starting the next day.

Since Hank and Juniper have been home, we have tried really hard to ride bikes every now and then, but it doesn’t happen often. After getting a text from a friend saying she was going to race the Beti Bike Bash and I should join, I decided, what the heck? What is there to lose getting back out there? I had done one 25-mile ride two weeks prior (the longest it has probably ever taken me to ride 25 miles), and felt good enough then that I knew I would at least survive.

The cool thing about the Beti Bike Bash is that they have a “New Mom” category. To qualify, you must have had your baby no longer than 18 months ago. I was 11 weeks out to the day from my c-section. The ride up that stupidly steep fire road to the registration was enough to get my hamstrings burning and second guess my decision to race, but I persisted. At the start line, the category was bigger than I expected. Fourteen new moms would be racing. They all looked great, and I felt blah, barely fitting into my one-size-up kit that I bought for my post-partum size.

I had a great start, sitting about 4th wheel back on the initial climb, but it didn’t last. I soon was passed by all my competitors but two. It didn’t matter. I was on a mountain bike (which I hadn’t ridden since the previous July), I was outside on a beautiful day, and I was doing it. My goals that morning were to finish, to not stop and walk the climbs, and to be finish sub-50 minutes. I accomplished all three. My time was 4 minutes slower than when I did the same course 3 years ago in my first mountain bike race ever, but it didn’t matter. I can tell my kids years down the road that I raced a mountain bike less than three months after bringing them into this world.

New Mom Nicole racing the Beti Bike Bash mountain bike race

Nicole races in the New Mom Category at the Beti Bike Bash.

The other new moms were painfully fast that day. I look forward to next year when I will race the category again, hopefully proving to be a much faster “new” mom. Time will tell as feeding, changing, cuddling and playing all comes first now before riding bikes. And one day, should Hank and Juniper be so inclined, we will all be out there on the trails loving every minute.

Nicoles twins Juniper and Hank Braddock

Juniper and Hank

 

 

 

If you would like information about joining our club to ride with Nicole and a few other “new moms” visit our club page.

Toughing it out in Tulsa

If you are looking to become a better crit racer then Cat 3 racer Allie Morgan recommends racing Tulsa Tough next year.  She recaps her experience below.

In early June I travelled down to Tulsa, Oklahoma for three days of criterium racing at Tulsa Tough. I have never been very comfortable in crits, so I figured three days of back to back races would be the perfect opportunity to hone my skills and build some confidence.

The first race took place in the Brady Arts District in downtown Tulsa. The course was lined with restaurants and bars and by the time I was heading toward the start line there were already hundreds of people standing on the periphery of the course. With the larger crowd also came a larger number of women in my race. There were nearly 40 women that started, a little over two times larger than any field I had raced against previously. I quickly learned that being in a large group required more careful planning and left little room for error. I started out a little cautiously and ended up at the back for the first few laps. Although it would have been comfortable to hang out towards the back, I wanted to try my hand at some race tactics so I made my way up to the front. I spent the next 20 minutes covering attacks and trying counter attacks of my own. Although none of them stuck, it was a lot of fun to make moves and I learned a lot from just trying.

Alli Morgan racing the CSU Oval Crit

Almost half way through the race, the woman in front of me skidded on a sharp left turn at the bottom of the hill. I was on the pavement before I recognized what was happening. Most of the group was able to work their way around us and only 5 were taken out in the crash. Three of us trotted our bikes to the pit and got back in the race on the next lap. It took almost three laps to catch the group and another two laps to make it up to the front again. I was not quite as bold after the crash, but I continued to cover moves made by other riders and worked to ensure that I had a good position coming into the final two laps. That was a race that took courage from the start to finish. Although my place at the end was not what I had hoped, I learned an incredible amount about bike racing, group dynamics and tactics that day.

The second race took place at Cry Baby Hill, a famous two block steep hill outside of downtown Tulsa. The hill was famous for its rigor and for the massive parties that were thrown there during the races each year. Because the hill added a significant degree of difficulty to each lap, my race was only 30 minutes long. Coming from a background of hill climbs, I felt as though the hill was my best chance for success so I decided to hammer the hill hard each lap. In the first two laps we dropped almost half of the group. The remainder of the race was a battle for position near the front and the opportunity to control the pace for the hill. The race flew by and before I knew it the bell was being rung for the last lap. I sprinted to the top of the hill, cognizant that being in good position for the final descent and corner was imperative. The finishing stretch was about 200 meters long coming off from a sharp right turn at the bottom of a steep hill. I was lined up with eight other women coming out of the corner and sprinted for a fifth place finish. Although it was not a traditional criterium because of the hill, I learned valuable pack skills during the race and had the chance to practice tactics for the last lap.

I would highly recommend the Tulsa Tough races for anyone interested in becoming a better crit racer. Even if you do not have much experience or confidence in crits, these races are great places to build skills and challenge yourself, especially if you approach them as places to practice tactics. The support from the city for the races is also incredible; the races are all well attended by spectators and the city does a great job taking care of the cyclists throughout the weekend.

Alli Morgan wins the 2017 CO State SW3 Road Championship at Salida