Category Archives: Cross

New places, New Faces

image1

Gayle tried out racing on the east coast’s muddy cyclocross courses. New places, new faces!

Knowing I would have a work trip around the corner (time to update the dreaded polygraph!) I looked into the cyclocross scene in the DC-Northern Virginia area. Luckily my trip dates were flexible enough I was able to negotiation work around the last race in the Super 8 CX series. In the few days leading up to the race I was watching the weather from Colorado…rain.  Cold rain!  When I landed the day before the race it was in fact cold and raining, and not CO kinda cold, it was that damp, chills you to the bone east coast kind of cold. Now that I’ve lived in Colorado for a few years I don’t think I even own an umbrella any more.

Luckily race day was clear skies, but the ground was definitely showing signs of all the rain. I geared up to pre-ride the course and see how the terrain varied from what I was used to in Colorado. It was a sweeping, hilly course with lots of natural challenges, but the mud was definitely going to be the biggest obstacle for me.

I hit the start line for the SW3 race and tried for a good start from the back of the line ups. I managed to get up in the top five and stay there for the first two laps, but every time I hit the thick, sludgy, grassy mud sections I was loosing time. My bike was getting heavier as the others were switching to pit bikes (there were actually two separate bike pits!).    I learned that I am not good at that mud, but was actually able to pass people in the fast, slick, just maintain your line and keep pedaling kind of mud!  

It was a fun course, a great experience and I met a some nice riders and as always got lots of great (and somewhat inappropriate) comments about the name “Naked Women’s Racing”!  

image3

image2

It’s all about the mojo…

image1

Gayle not only crushed her first SW3 race, she pulled a double racing the SW35+ race too! We’ll have the turkey that she made for Thanksgiving next year!

Photo Creds: Bo Bickerstaff

After a couple crashes, difficult riding conditions and some tough courses I had kinda lost my CX mojo.  I went into Turkey Cross a little nervous about the course due to the challenging run-ups and descents that were muddy and still had some icy patches on my Friday pre-ride.  Add to that it would be my first SW3 race…and then top it off with the MW35+ race directly after (also my first time racing that category)!  All I could think about Friday night and Saturday morning was coming through without injury – and that is not the way to go into race mode.  When I pulled into the parking lot there was an ambulance and a bunch of commotion.  Someone had broken their leg on the first descent.  Great, just what I needed to hear. 

As my race time grew closer I made a conscious decision to put all that out of my head and just ride.  I was pretty familiar with the course, I just bought toe spikes, the weather was great and I had nothing to prove.  I just wanted to ride and have fun.  I got to the line, no more call up now that I’m a SW3!  I hit the back and hoped for a clean start in the gravel.  My favorite part of the race was right in the beginning at the big run-up…I was probably in 10th place coming to the hill and while everyone was trying to find their place along the edges I decided to run straight up the middle and made it cleanly up and landed in second place behind Amanda Bye.  That felt pretty good.  There was a great vibe of people cheering and having fun.  I lost a little ground throughout the race, but every run-up was clean and I didn’t hesitate on any of the descents. 

I finished up 6th in the SW3 race and had a few minutes to decide whether to race MW35+.  I may have cut it a little close, but I rolled up to the line just in time and did it all again.  Although I was definitely tired, I found that I was still riding cleanly and managing to find some better lines in the second race.  I pulled through with a 4th place finish, but decided that may placement that day wasn’t the most important part.  It was how I felt afterwards.  I was a bit more confident and had shaken the nerves off.  I’m excited for my next race and hope to keep improving.

Cyclo X-Louisville Rec.

IMG_5342

Jenny fought to a top 10 finish at Cyclo X in one of the biggest fields to date! Four of the Naked ladies finished out the top 10!

The weeks leading up to the Louisville cross race I practiced at the course almost everyday. When it was finally time to race it, I have ridden it in every possible condition and I was ready for anything! The week before the race, it snowed a ton and the course was covered in ice and mud. But when I woke up on Saturday it completely dried out with only a few mud spots here and there. I was so excited for the race that I got up at 8, made pancakes, and Savannah and I rode down early to pre-ride the course a few times.

A few hours later, they began the call-ups, and for some reason they didn’t call quite a few of us. I should’ve been in the second row, but ended up in the third. This already started to crush my spirits since I thought that there was no way that I would do great now and I would probably get a bad start. At the start line I was all the way on the far left. Once the whistle was blown everyone took off and started swarming towards the middle. I saw this as an opportunity as the side started to open up. I quickly sprinted harder and went around everyone on the left side and was in 3rd place going into the big hill. I was glad to be in the front so I could climb the hill and not get stuck in the pack. By the second lap, I got passed by a few racers and was just outside of top 10. The whole second lap I was tired and almost gave up as I moved down to 12th place. But my whole heckling crew was there and they cheered me on, giving me motivation to push harder. I started to catch more people and was able to work my way back into top 10. On the last lap, I finally passed one more person who I was playing cat and mouse with the entire race and finished the race in 8th! This was one of my best races of the season and four Naked Women finished top 10 out of 30 in the SW 3!

IMG_5340 IMG_5326 IMG_5355

​Chain of Events

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 3.37.00 PM

Jenny shows grit and determination despite a bad chain of events at the Sienna Lake cross race. She pushed through and managed to finish strong. No DNFs for this lady!

At the start line of Cyclo X-Sienna Lake I was in the second row of the Cat 3’s. There were more people there then normal, but I had been training hard and felt like I actually had a chance this time. I lined up behind Emily Z., knowing she was going to get a great start, and Tea was right next to her. Once the whistle was blown everyone immediately started sprinting, and I was able to keep up. On the grass I was in about 7th or 8th place with the front group within my grasp. I was feeling good as we approached the ditch and I was ready to ride it without a second thought. But as I got closer to the ditch, the person in front of me slowed down way too much that she was barely moving down the hill. Since she had no speed and had her breaks completely locked, she did an endo into the ditch and nearly took me down with her. I was just able to scoot by her and saw that the gap between me and the lead group wasn’t too big. My first three laps of the race were fast, consistent, and I didn’t make any mistakes. I was happy with how well I was doing and was just starting to gain some ground of the people in front of me. By the fourth lap I was flying through the ditch and learned all the best lines to take throughout the course. 

At the top of the big run up after the ditch, I set down my bike really fast and hopped back on only to learn that I dropped my chain. I panicked for a moment then thought, it’s fine! I’ve done this a million times before. But in my rush to get the chain back on, I only made it worse and it completely locked up. Then I really got worried. Everyone I passed and put a big gap between had finally started to pass me. I stood there for some time not knowing what to do and watched as the beginning of the 4’s started to come. I was so frustrated with the situation because I was doing so well in this race and had been improving throughout the season, only to have this happen to me. Another thing that made me concerned was the fact that my dad wasn’t there to help me. At that point I felt defeated and thought that it was pointless to finish the race since I was in last place. I finally decided to just pick up my bike and run. I ran a little ways until someone was able to help me. He was very nice and helpful, and fixed my chain in no time. I quickly hopped back on my race but felt no motivation to actually race. I passed the pit with a strong urge to get off and quit, but told myself that I should at least finish this lap then be done. Once I got to the finish line, I saw there was only one lap to go. I was about to stop and be done but I didn’t want to disappoint myself and my dad for not finishing. I got a quick jolt of hope and started racing hard again, determined to catch a few of the 4’s. On the grass I was flying around the corners and was actually catching a few people! I felt confident again and was sprinting hard with my head down on the gravel straightaway. 

IMG_5042

I was pushing down hard on my pedals and concentrating on the path in front of me when I looked up and realized that I had to turn right now! I quickly jerked my bike to the right and wiped out, crashing under the tape. After laying there for a few moments I got up and dusted myself off. I was so utterly disappointed that I said out loud “I’m done.” Some people near me came over and helped me fixed my bike and asked if I was alright. Shawn Curry (photographer that many of you know) also came over to make sure I was alright. When I told him that I was done, he told me that I was doing great and that I didn’t want a DNF. I got all pumped up again and jumped back on my bike and decided that I was going to finish the race even after all that happened. I managed to pass a few more 4’s and finish the race. Even though this was not one of my best races, I’m happy that finished the race and didn’t quit. 

#tireswinraces

1004551_10204913127049010_6724561002151440439_n

They say it’s not about the bike, but you bet your victory it is about the tires. Read about Emily‘s race and how the tires helped her get to the top step of the podium (along with some killer bike handling skills).

My brain doesn’t work the same way as other people’s when it comes to having fun, which is why I was delighted when I woke up before the sun on Saturday to inches of snow and temperatures that hadn’t yet hit the teens. The company I work for, Challenge Tires, was the presenting sponsor of the race, so I got to enjoy the crazy day from dawn until dusk in an expo tent with a propane heater and brewing hot cyder to keep me company as I reminded people all day long that in cyclocross, tires win races.

The other people that made it out have the same types of brains as I do and were already high on the endorphins of numb digits. On the start line we sang an enthusiastic rendition of “Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya to Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama…” to go with our new dance moves, The Cyclocrosser. The moves go as such:

  • Swing your right leg up and behind your left foot and switch feet (The Dismount)
  • Reach your right arm down and make a fist and bring your fist up to your right shoulder (The Shoulder)
  • A couple delicate leaping butt kicks (The Double Barrier)
  • A few Jazzersize-style running steps and a double-legged butt kick (The Remount)

Over the next 40 minutes or so, I proceeded to slip and slide in a foot-out, flat-out riding style on sand, snow and ice and stay upright more often than not, taking high-fives from spectators who did the wave to all of us on the final lap. Coming through the start-finish on the bell lap, I heard the announcer explaining that I wasn’t literally riding naked, but riding for Team Naked Women’s Racing, and thank goodness because riding naked wouldn’t be a wise choice on a day like that. My 1x green Zinn Magster Cross was riding great, but after a lapped rider took me out and I twisted my brake lever I ended up finishing my race on a different bike (my 2x orange Zinn Magster Cross) than I started with and with enough time on second place to post up and point to my tires as the announcer confirmed that “This proves it, tires do win races!”

10406789_10204913126649000_2129802937521449469_n

It’s become clear after trying many times that explaining that this experience is a fully type-A fun for me is simply lost on most people, but I assure you that is exactly how I wanted to be spending my snowy Saturday – playing in the sand box at the Boulder Reservoir.

Racing Without Limits at Snowy Boulder Res

10806922_10205333148398687_891957767_n

The first official ‘cross weather’ race is in the books. Here’s Amanda B.’s take on the below freezing and beyond snowy race at the Boulder Res!

Starting the day by layering up with ample embrocation lotion and then 3-4 layers of clothing on all areas of the body does not always predict a good outcome. Below freezing temps, wind and snow blowing we lined up to start the race at Boulder Res. The temperatures had been dropping all day. Spending the day watching each group fall around the first icy corner did not inspire confidence in beginning this race. However, all the worries dissipated after the whistle blew and the ladies were off.

Around the first three icy corners and no falls.  So far, so good. This race did not disappoint with windy, icy, snowy corners, downhills, steep turns and icy sand to ride or run up. There was also a drop into sand that was even steep to run followed by several barriers on the uphill. More sand and stairs followed. I layered well and was never cold but my mittens were too thick and I could not brake or shift effectively. Last lap= gloves came off… watch out ladies. I had thinner gloves under the mittens and could finally shift while maintaining my warmth. I threw the mitten off the course and began shifting for the first time in the race. Fastest lap time for me.
Finishing the race I was so proud of the teammates for going out to race, of Emily Zinn who brought home the W and was happy to have completed such a mentally and physically challenging race.
Thank you to Without Limits for another stellar race at the Boulder Res and to all the ladies and gentleman who came out to race and cheer. The cheering kept us going. Also to the poor photographers who braved the weather to give us evidence of the insanity that ensued today.

5 reasons why racing in below freezing temps is better

10678819_10204913126889006_50712333518710905_n

Amanda B. may be the only one who could be crazy enough to turn our cold weather snap into a fun listicle for you! Read her top 5 reasons why racing in below freezing temps is better.

1. You seem more bad a$*/crazy than other cyclists. You also think your friends that are racing are pretty hardcore and you enjoy the company of others.
2. Sand is easier to ride when frozen.
3. Liquor and warm drinks (such as apple cider) taste so much better in the cold.
4. Cheers seem to be louder when it is cold out. It’s a physics thing.
5. The warmth of a shower post embrocation is one of the best feelings in the world. Being warm feels so much more enjoyable after being extraordinarily cold.

Trainer, Cookies or Lights

fatbike

Setting those clocks back doesn’t set Brittany back. Grab the lights and a fat bike and get out there!

Photo courtesy of Wayne Herrick

It always takes me a couple weeks to adapt when autumn sets in and the time changes. Even though there are still 24 hours in a day, I seem to always have less time to get things done. The truth is that I have the same amount of time, just less time with the sun.

This means I have three options with regards to riding: take over the living room with my trainer, find more cookies to eat while I read on the couch, or charge up my lights. I don’t hate my trainer, per se, but I know that he and I will have plenty of time together before March arrives and I’d like to do what I can to keep that to a minimum. Cookies are great. I have almost nothing bad to say about cookies, except that I already eat too many of them.

That leaves lights. I’ll be honest, I kinda have to talk myself into it or let my boyfriend talk me into it. I mean, it’s dark out, the temperature ranges from not-warm to stupid-cold, and getting on the trail is a bit of a process. Not only do I need to layer appropriately, I need to charge lights, attach lights to my bars and helmet, position the battery cord into my pack so that it isn’t whacking me on the side of the head while I ride—and I always try to do all of this without actually opening the car door and letting the cold in. It doesn’t ever work. The cold comes in and I get out of the car.

The thing is though, I love mountain biking at night. The trails that I avoid all summer because they’re busy, easily accessible, close to home, or just not that exciting become really fun and new at night. Green Mountain is probably my favorite; the view you get of the Denver metro is awesome. It isn’t the au natural vistas that we all love and instagram, but it’s a lovely, sparkle-y, almost festive sight.

And the riding is fun! No, I don’t go the same speeds that I do in the summer during the day. But I’m riding outside. My lights are very bright, so I never feel like I’m riding blind. It’s more like a tunnel that just keeps moving with you. It’s exciting and it keeps things from getting boring.

So to make the best of November, the time change, and the many short days ahead, I will continue to pull myself off the couch to charge my lights and ride. I hope you do the same.

My First DNF: Mechanicals of the Mind and Body, Not the Bike

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 5.49.39 PM

Rachel explains some reasons behind her first DNF in today’s Interlocken Cyclocross Race. No bike mechanicals, just mechanicals of the mind. Don’t worry, she’ll be back at it tomorrow. 

Is a DNF still considered for a race report? Even when I quit pretty much in my first lap? I’ve had plenty of DFLs, a couple DNSs due to injuries, a couple of time cuts as well as some lackluster results in the 8 years of bike racing. But I have never had a DNF so I feel it deserves some explaining. Especially since I encourage all of our women to never quit a bike race no matter the circumstances. So this is not an unpacking of excuses as to why, but rather offer a comparison to life, losing and other “L” words. Don’t worry, it won’t be a diatribe either. But it will be heart-felt. It would be easier to accept my first DNF if it were due to a broken bike or mechanical of sorts, but unfortunately it’s due to a broken heart coupled with a mechanical of the mind.

This hasn’t been the best week of prep for a weekend of fun cross racing. Having consumed less than 1000 calories and getting less than five hours of interrupted sleep in the last three days and throw in a great deal of waterworks adding to the dehydration factor, I didn’t have stellar expectations for today. But I did expect to have a top 5 finish. This course was perfect for me and it was fun. My first two pre-laps of the Interlocken course, I rode the sand and was darn close with my first attempt at the mud pit. I was confident. I was tired and weak, but yeah, I was confident and looking forward to forcing pain upon my body, making it hurt as much as my heart. I choked a Gu down and couple swigs of Naked Juice as the only calories I had taken in that day despite riding an 1.5 to the race and it was approaching almost 3 pm. It was tasteless and hard to make myself eat lately, having lost 6 pounds in 3 days according to my Withings. Weird how the mind does that to the body.

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 9.12.11 PM

I’m a very private person with regard to my relationships or my family life. Though I’m very active socially more for my profession, most people would never know that I’ve even dated or anything about my family other than superficial info since living in Colorado unless you’re a considered a pretty close friend (not the Facebook, Strava or Twitter kind-sorry). I’ll spare details but it’s been a long time since I’ve suffered a broken heart. Around 12 years for it to hurt this much to be exact. Yes, I’ve been in relationships since then and have loved other partners since then, but this was a different type of feeling. I was beginning to question if I were capable of having emotions that would even remotely bump over or under a flatline until this person was in my life. Let alone have tear ducts that worked.

Anyway, this is a race report. Got my usual very back of the pack, last row call up and lined up behind my super fast starters of teammates Amanda and Emily. Also, had my usual bad start but was able to pick through the crowd of racers in front of me. I rode the sand but slowly through the congestion and got stuck on the hill behind some other riders. I still pushed, picking off riders knowing where my ranking among the other racers would be if I kept this pace as I had done in all my previous races. It felt good and my heart rate was stable but certainly at threshold. But then I saw THE person. I wasn’t sure if they saw me. I had never seen said-person at a race before because our start times are very different. We’ve never even crossed paths when I’ve raced, unless it’s intentional and long after my race is finished. Why was this person here this time?

And at that precise moment, I proceeded to fall a part. My mind completely shut off, and I forgot how to ride my bike. That has never happened before. Ever. In looking at my heart rate, it was the highest it had been all year and it wasn’t even a difficult part of the course. It couldn’t come back down and then…I nailed a root driving me into the tape and knocking my chain from my bike. I struggled even getting off of my bike because my body didn’t want to work. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t swallow. My chest felt like it was going to explode, and I was going to spew that Gu everywhere. An eternity passed while trying to get my chain back on my rings with hands that weren’t working.  Then I was quickly the very last person in the race. I thought I could give it another try, and passed three more folks to charge my way back. Heart rate still through the roof and getting higher, I then rounded the corner through the sand (terribly might I add) and at the top I saw that person on a different part of the course. Cheering me on. Why? Why now and never before? Was it an accidental crossing of paths? A lot more why’s ran through my head in the 1 minute it took for me to get out of eye shot. Heart rate hit 182 which it hasn’t done since moving to altitude. Once out of sight, I slipped through the blue tape and told my kind teammate I needed to go home but to finish strong. She understood.

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 5.49.39 PM

I returned my timing chip and left quickly with my tail between my legs, tears streaming down my face. Thank everything holy that cycling isn’t my job because I would have surely been fired from the team that day. I’ve always prided myself on strength and determination. Why had my mind told my body to give up? I remember talking my teammate earlier this year through a tough experience, and she had the mental fortitude to push through and challenge her body and mind in a way she had never done before on much more technical terrain. How hypocritical of me that I can’t eat my own dog food? Perhaps this experience will provide me more empathy for others who have a bad day on the bike, no matter the circumstances.

In any event, I’m certain this won’t be my last DNF. It won’t stop me from riding or racing again either. I love the bike and all it provides: freedom, experiences, transportation, memories, career opportunities, exercise, camaraderie, passion, opportunities to give back. My heart will still be heavy, but I will go back out tomorrow, and I will finish that bike race, even if I’m DFL. I will also love and likely lose again. But that’s a part of life. It won’t stop me from giving 100% and allowing myself to be vulnerable again (I just hope it’s not another 12 years). Breaking up is like a big fat DNF – the probability that it will happen again is high throughout the course of your life or racing career. It’s how you choose to deal with it, learn from it, and grow from it that matters.

From this experience, I am also thankful that I “get” to feel this way. No longer do I walk the flatlined life that I had thought was going to be my eternal purgatory. I get to experience excruciating pain because that means I truly felt the opposing yang. The same could be said for a bike race, especially the grueling cyclocross style of racing. How amazing does it feel once you’ve finished the hardest race you’ve ever done in your life: your body hates you, you want to throw up, and you’re already thinking about your next race? I’ve been reading a lot of Rumi lately and am grateful his words are still relevant nearly eight centuries later. This one excerpt in particular really sticks out, especially as it pertains to the season and the roots that knocked my chain from my bike :)

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”
Rumi

Giddyup – Cowboy Cross

1901491_1582573315304456_6969360662849909863_n

Cathy channeled her inner cowboy (or cowgirl) at the Cowboy Cross Race. From the looks of the pictures, seems like this was one event you didn’t want to miss! Yee-haw!

What do you get when you throw some yellow tape up and a huge pile of dirt at the site of the National Western Stock Show?  A cyclocross race, of course!

I have to admit that the sight of the monster truck -like jumps in the arena was a little intimidating, but once I was out there it was ridiculously fun.  The course was a short, quick, and crazy loop that meandered inside, outside, through stables (that smelled much better than the last time I was at the Stock Show), and up and down enough runs to make you think you signed up for a running event.  Oh, and there were three devilishly placed barriers just after a crazy roller coaster of an embankment.  All super fun!

And just as in previous races, the women’s field was fairly large – 28 or so starters! I love that there are so many new crossy friends showing up. My goal at every race is to chat it up with a new face, and it’s inspiring to find out that many of these cowgirls are stepping up for their first races.  I love it – especially when I can cheer them on as they pass me!

If you didn’t make it to this year’s Cowboy Cross mark your calendars for next year.  And if the women’s fields keep growing it will have to be renamed the Cowgirl Cross!

Check out all the great Cyclocross photos on RacerShots.com!