Category Archives: General Stuff
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!
Nicole Jorgenson is a new racer but has no problem jumping right into the race scene. She knows that getting to the starting line is half the battle.
The most important thing I’ve learned thus far in my introduction to racing is that getting to the start line is half the race. It requires a good deal of preparation – the right gear, adequate food, ample hydration, allocating enough time for registration and number pinning, warming up – and it also requires ignoring all of those apprehensions about not being in good enough shape, not having eaten the right prerace food, not knowing the course, etc. In the end, you just have to show up to the start line and trust that getting there was half of it. You might not have done all your pre-race prep in perfect methodology and routine, but now all you can do is ride your hardest.
All of this may sound trivial to experienced racers who have their pre-race routine down to a science, but as a new racer I’m still trying to figure it all out. I showed up to my first race of the season – the Oredigger Classic Crit – with the attitude that I just needed to jump into my first race to get the season rolling. As it turned out, almost everything that could have gone wrong in my prerace preparations went wrong. I misread the start time causing myself to have to forfeit everything I had planned on doing before the race. Once I realized the start of my race was less than ten minutes away, I hadn’t pinned my number, used the restroom, eaten, or even warmed up. Not to mention, I wasn’t mentally prepared. I made a split second decision to race anyway, because what did I have to lose? I lined up with the rest of the ladies, made an attempt to compose myself despite feeling quite disheveled, and waited for the start whistle. About 20 seconds into the race, I dropped my chain on the first lap, and it was over. Aside from the embarrassing nature of the situation, I was pretty bummed I had messed up that badly in my first race of the season.
Somehow I was able to let that race go and adopt the attitude that I could just use it to learn how to better prepare for my next race. This past weekend at the CSU Oval Crit I triple checked my start time and left myself plenty of time to complete all my prerace activities. I still wasn’t in the best shape of my life and probably didn’t eat the exact foods or consume the exact liquids my body needed. But all I can do is keep getting myself to that start line and continue refining my prerace routine. I was pretty happy to have gotten 4th for Cat 4 women after the previous disastrous weekend!
Becky Howland shares an inspiring post about the new challenges she is taking on this year.
So, I’m turning 40 soon!
I’ve always been independent, athletic, full of wanderlust and a love of the outdoors. I’ve never been one to waste energy worrying about what life had in store or making too many plans about the future. Age has never been an issue: I’ve always felt that those who are young at heart and share a love for life are one and the same, 20 or 60 it didn’t matter. Then this year rolled around! Although I know it shouldn’t, 40 is bothering me. I can’t help but feel sad, nervous, and scared. My illogical heart is fighting my logical mind. I keep telling myself it doesn’t matter, but somehow the expectations of society are still whispering to my subconscious and causing anxiety.
Katie recaps the second clinic that the Naked Women’s Cycling team had with professional riders Alison Powers and Jennifer Sharp. In this clinic the ladies learned how to corner, sprint, and start.
After one understands how to balance on a bike the rest appears relatively easy. However, if one starts to race bikes they realize that there is a lot more to it than just spinning both legs in circles. We begin to realize that there is technique that can be learned and practiced.
Melissa recaps one of the perks of being Naked Women’s Racing team and club member – clinics taught by the pros! Thank you Jen Sharp and Alison Powers for helping us ride safer and smarter in the races to come!
One of the many benefits of being part of such a great women’s cycling team is having the opportunity to participate in skills clinics. We were fortunate to learn from the best of the best athletes and coaches, Alison Powers and Jennifer Sharp. The two coaches met up with 20 women from the Naked team and shared their expertise with us on riding and racing in a pack out on the road.
There were several ladies there that have been on the team for a few years, but there were also many new faces that participated. It was a great opportunity for us to meet our new teammates and share in this experience together.
There were many skills that Alison and Jen taught us. The most valuable piece of information I took away from the clinic was “protecting your box.” This is the area from your headtube to drop bars to the edge of your front wheel. If you can keep this area clear from other riders, you can be more confident that you won’t go down in a crash. This was valuable to me because I went down in a crit last season and it has been a challenge for me to become comfortable positioning myself in the middle of a fast-paced pack of racers.
We also practiced various types of pacelines through Cherry Creek State Park. I know that something everyone was able to improve was “making your bubble smaller.” We practiced this by riding much closer to one another in the pacelines.
Today was about learning new skills and getting outside of our comfort zones. Most of us agreed that we gained a lot from this clinic and are eager to put it into practice!
Why race two or three events in one day when you can race a Pentathlon! Roberta is our veteran at off the wall sports – like a biathlon state champ and trail runner extraordinaire! Read more about her Pentathlon experience!
I have always been wanting to try the Steamboat Pentathlon. Although it seems like in past years I have always had an excuse- no mountain bike- not in Steamboat race weekend, etc. Well this year I had no excuses. I bought a mountain bike in the Fall and I had all the gear necessary and no trips planned. The stars were aligning so I am sure it was after a few glasses of wine that registering for the event actually sounded like a good idea.
So what is involved in the Pentathlon you ask, well the first of the events entailed running 500 meters up Howelson Hill in Steamboat and then alpine/telemark ski down. This involved placing my telemark gear at the top of the hill prior to the race. I got to walk down the steep hill I was going to eventually run up. Yikes.
The next four events were snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, mountain biking, and running.
In theory I had all of the sports down and had been “training” all winter. When I was getting my gear together the day before the race, I realized I had 5 different pieces of footwear that I was going to have to get quickly in and out of, two sets of skis and bike gear. Sheesh. I thought triathlons were gear intensive.
I laid out all of my gear in the transition area and looking at everyone else’s spot we were all remarking that it just looked like a gear swap. Several of the ladies I was racing against had never done the race before so we were all wondering what compelled us.
First Event- Alpine Ski
The run up Howelson was humbling. I wore an old pair of running shoes and my yax trax. When the gun went off I started running up the mountain and then I felt like I was in heart rate overload. Straight uphill- probably a 45 degree angle and many of us happy runners were forced to a grueling march to our gear that awaited us at the top of the hill. Once there, I strapped on my tele boots and headed downhill. So with this race, helmets were necessary, so to help reduce the gear load, I skiied in my bike helmet. Yes, I was one of those people that I make fun of on the skil hill.
Luckily no collisions happened and we were all safe.. now on to transition…
Second event snoweshoe (2.5 miles)
The snowshoe event was probaby my weakest link. Yes I have been runnig but not on snowshoes. That is a totally different story. Especially when you borrow them from your friend the week before and try on the day before the race! All was fine in the snowshoe with the exception of a few trips going uphill. Many of the ladies I was racing against were walking the uphills so when it was particullary steep I followed suit. The run/ walk pace went on and I would pass someone, they would pass me back. The best racer outfit award went to the racer wearing a lumberjack shirt, Carharts, and running in snowshoes that I am pretty certain were hanging on the wall in the cabin he was renting just the night before. I felt great that he was not beating me.
Third Event – (5.6 miles skate ski)
This is the event I felt the strongest in. I have been racing biathlon all season and I was racing strong this year. I knew I could take the girls that were ahead of me. Sure enough, I had better technique and a better glide to pass every gal, except one that was ahead of me. I was basking in my glory when all the sudden, when going downhill, I hit a snowmobile track and went tumbling (cue Wide Wide World of Sports montage). I hit the snow hard and seriously thought I was going to tumble down the side of Howelson. I picked myself up, and moved ahead. It was on the second lap of the nordic ski that I thought I was hitting myself in my calf with my poles. Then I realized I was cramping up. It dawned on me that I hadn’t really been eating or drinking during my transitions times. Oops. I tried to squeeze a gel into my mouth but it was hard logistically when your hands are attached to your poles. Without water, I was tempted to eat some snow but knew I would loose my lead. My thoughts went immediately to the bike. The bike portion seemed like a luxury awaiting were I could freely eat and drink and hopefully take care of this nagging calf cramp.
Fourth event- (12 mile MTN bike on River Road)
So I can’t say I have really ridden my MTN bike on the road. Oh wait, the Friday before the race, I commuted to work on my MTN bike. Appropriate training- check! River Road is the classsic “flat” road in Steamboat. I have ridden it several times and even Time Trialed it in the Steamboat Stage race. Trying to TT on a MTN bike is a different story. Some racers put aero bars on their MTN bikes but I just went with my set up. I was able to stay ahead of all of the women I passed in the Nordic portion except for the last 2 miles when I was passed by a very serious woman racer. I gave her a ring with my bell, cheered her on, and proceeded to pass her in the transition area.
Final Event (running 3.2 miles)
By the time I got to the run, I was hoping that my legs would not give out on me in cramps. I think I drank enough on the bike that all signs of cramping went away. I forgot that when you transition from the bike to run, your legs feel like rubber. When I came into transition, my husband Paul let me know that I was in second place overall. I couldn’t believe it! My goal on the run was to just hold everyone off the best that I could. Feeling a bit like Gumby I plodded away. Days before the race I couldn’t imagine finishing in less than 3 hours. With the clunky transitions, the same muscle groups being used, MTN biking on dry roads, how do people do it? I was running in disbelief that I was on the final event. At the turn around the race officials validated my current second place. I just had to keep up my plodding pace and I would do it.
I got to the finish line in 2 hours and 39 minutes. I was so excited. I was second female overall and got 1st in my age group. Now granted there were only 10 of us registered to do the full Pentathlon event but I was so excited. Racing in Steamboat on a beautiful day, who could complain. It was fun to challenge myself, get my mind ready for the road cycling season, and race with some really fun ladies. I can now cross this event off the event bucket list. Will I do it again? Maybe. The town of Steamboat directs this event and it was so well organized that that reason alone may bring me back.
Now I sit back, relax and drink from my race beer kozy that states “Keep Calm and Pentathl-on”
Naked Women’s Racing has a mission to grow the sport of women’s cycling from the ground up – through support of new racers in our various programs – and now at the top of the ranks too as we embark on our domestic elite status for 2015. Are you a Cat 1/2 female cyclist who is concerned with growing the sport too? Perhaps you can guest ride with us! Read more from our NRC/NCC veteran, Kim Johnson.
Although I am only 26 years old and wouldn’t consider myself even close to being a veteran in the sport, I’ve raced at the elite level for long enough to see a trend emerge. Every fall, social media is abuzz with the latest news about who is joining what team, which team is folding, new sponsors stepping up to support a women’s team, etc, and then usually late in the fall official rosters are posted. There seems to be a flaw in the system, and one that hinders the growth of high-level women’s racing (but a flaw, I will also note, that does not have an easy solution). The addition of new teams is excellent, but over the past few years, they have tended to replace teams that folded. So instead of a new sponsor bringing up a fresh group of talent to join the mix, riders seem to shuffle, in a musical-chairs type interchange based on what vacancies are available. As a rider who has worked incredibly hard over the past few years to make the jump to the next level, those spots seem to be painfully few.
I have hope that that can change. Despite my personal setback (a fractured C2 the day after Gila, which relegated the majority of my season to “brisk walking” in a neck brace), I saw stirrings in the world of professional cycling. More and more women rising up to call out inequality as they saw it and question the rationale of missed opportunities simply because of a second x chromosome. Momentum continued to build in women’s cycling; for the first since the 1980’s, women had a stage at the Tour de France, and by the end of the season, 3 major US Stage Races (the Tour of California, Tour of Utah, and US Pro Challenge) had committed to giving women several stages of their own in 2015.
Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to race at numerous professional level races throughout the US, and am incredibly thankful for Naked Women’s Racing’s support of my endeavors and the opportunities I have had to guest ride. At the same time, the logistical chaos and meticulous planning that it’s taken to get to these races have highlighted a challenge in women’s cycling that many of us know all too well: there are more talented, qualified riders than there are teams to support us. This year a new layer was added, when a large number of races were given UCI status, making them officially team-only events. In laymen’s terms, this means that in order to race at the Tour of the Gila, for example, a rider would need to be a registered member of a UCI or domestic elite team. Before this change, it was challenging to be a solo rider doing her best to stay in contention in a race dominated by team tactics and the UHC Blue Train, now it would be impossible to even show up at the start line.
I spent a few days in a state of inner turmoil, contemplating my upcoming season and my goals, and discussing this dilemma with my ever-supportive husband. On one hand, I could re-adjust my goals and expectations, plan a few regional stage races, but focus more on local races and maybe a few NCC criteriums here and there. That way, I would plan for what I knew I could do. On the other hand, I could target “dream big” races like the Redlands Bicycle Classic and the Tour of the Gila, and do everything in my power to secure a guest riding position, while accepting I may not be able to go. The idea that I could be training so incredibly hard for something that was completely out of my power to accomplish was heartbreaking, but the thought of letting go of a goal simply because of unknown was unacceptable.
A few nights later I lay in bed, far more alert than I ever want to be at midnight, and was struck by a thought. If you want to go, and it’s team only, make the team, and go! I pushed it out of my brain space of realistic options — never trust any seemingly brilliant solutions you come up with after midnight — but the next morning it was still there. The deep desire to race at my target events was what catalyzed my midnight problem solving session, but the realization that this could move beyond myself was what kept in there in the morning. Just as I’ve poured out blood, sweat, and tears just trying to get to races, so have many other talented, hardworking women. Cycling is as brutal a sport as it is glorious, and it can be easy to feel defeated or like luck is always against you. I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve seen my scars and asked casually if I should “probably just quit cycling?” But the reality is, far more cyclists ride waves of ups and downs than a fairytale-like rise to professional status. Evelyn Stevens is a lovely individual — but her tantalizing story is a rare one. I’m not here to whine — there’s plenty of that, and it does no good. Rather, I am trying to provide context to what Naked Women’s Racing is gearing up to do this year. One low-budget domestic elite team will not solve the problems that women’s cycling is facing, but it will provide a logistical way for 4-8 more women to show up at the start line than currently can.
I proposed this nascent idea to the leading ladies of Naked Women’s Racing, and they were on board! Over the next few weeks, we will be slogging through the paperwork that is required, and by the end of March we will appear on USA cycling’s list of Domestic Elite Teams. I am incredibly excited to see what will come of this step, and we are proud to be able to open up an opportunity for more qualified women to race at a National level. In addition to the category 1/2 riders already on the team, we are hoping to extend an guest-riding invitation to regional riders who would like to target NRC and NCC races. Please contact us if you would like to be considered, and stay tuned for updates!
Lori not only wrote her first blog post, she did her first fat bike race! And guess what? She crushes it. Read more:
In 2014, I wanted to enter the WinterBike at Copper race but my husband ended up in the ER that day (all is good). So it was on the agenda for 2015 especially since it was moved out 1 weekend which happened to be my birthday weekend – all activities revolved around me!
Join Colorado Women’s Cycling Project (Naked Women’s Racing) for National Ride for Reading Week! Now in our 5th year delivering books by bike, we hope you’ll join us to help make this event even bigger and better for the children of Valdez Elementary School! See below to find out what Ride for Reading week is all about and sign up to volunteer, donate books, or spread the word!
What: Colorado-based women’s competitive cycling team Naked Women’s Racing will deliver thousands of donated children’s books by bicycle to Valdez Elementary School Friday, May 1st for National Ride for Reading Week. Naked Women’s Racing partnered with the charity Ride for Reading, a non-profit with a mission to promote literacy and healthy living through the distribution of books via bicycle to children from low-income neighborhoods.
When: Delivery takes place Friday, May 1 from 7:00 am to 12 pm. We are collecting donations of books and/or cash donations for Ride for Reading from now until delivery date!
Why: In low-income neighborhoods, the ratio of books per child is one age-appropriate book for every 300 children. Reading is an integral part of education, and without books it is hard to build a strong academic base. Our children need materials to read at home and it is our goal to provide the means. And in the process, we can fight childhood obesity and nature deficit disorder through the power of cycling, too! Exercise the mind and body and lead through example.
Where: Valdez Elementary School located at 4250 Shoshone St, Denver, CO 80211
Meeting Location: Turin Bicycles at 700 Lincoln Street. Join us at 7 am if you want free breakfast and coffee! Be ready to ride by 8 am!
Bike Route: It will be doable by any person of any fitness level on any bike! We assure you, so please join us. It’s only 4.4 miles!
What to Bring: Bike (duh), helmet, backpack or panniers or some form of bag to carry books by bike. We could use chariots to load extra books so please bring if you have one!
How to Register to Volunteer:
How to Make a Donations: Cash donations are tax deductible so please provide your name, mailing address, and donation value with your donation so Ride for Reading can send you a tax exempt letter.
If you’d like to donate used or new age-appropriate books, please drop them off at one of our many DROP OFF LOCATIONS around Colorado and Wyoming. If you aren’t local and would still like to send us books, please mail them to the Quick Left to Attn: Rachel Scott, 902 Pearl Street, Boulder, Colorado 80301.
How can my business become a drop box location? Simple! Email us at info [at] nakedwomenracing.com to let us know so we can add you to our list of drop off locations and get you a poster notifying the public that you are an official Ride for Reading Book Drop location. You can also download our 2015 Book Drop Poster HERE and print it out to display.
Are you a member of the media and want to publish this story? If you are a member of the media, feel free to publish any of this information here. We welcome you to join us on the delivery too! We are available for personal interviews pre, during, or post event so please email us (info [at] nakedwomenracing.com) and a team representative will get back to you immediately. Video and photography are welcome at the school; however, you must contact the school to arrange parental waivers ahead of time. You can also contact us at least 2 weeks prior to the delivery date, and we can add your language to our photo/video release.
Read about each of our previous deliveries here: Includes recap, images and video from last year’s delivery. We had so many books that we got to do an impromptu delivery to two schools last year!
See what Ride for Reading is all about below:
More details if you’ve registered to deliver:
First, thank you kindly for volunteering your time (if you haven’t signed up to volunteer, do it now!) to give back to such a great organization and being a part of National Ride for Reading Week! We assure you, this will be the most fun you will have on two wheels! We’ll need help delivering nearly 4000 books so join us and your fellow cyclists in our 5th annual Ride for Reading delivery. We’re thankful you’ve chosen to volunteer your time to help us spread the Ride for Reading mission to our city. If you’re still on the fence about joining, check out this video from our delivery last year!
Here’s some additional information that will help the delivery go smoothly if you’re volunteering:
- We’re delivering books by bike to Valdez Elementary School. We’re departing
- Here’s a link to our route. We’ll also have printed cue sheets with a map and turn by turn directions in case you want one or have to leave early and don’t know how to get back.
- All kinds of bicycles are welcome! From cruisers to road bikes to frankenbikes. The Denver Public Library will be their with their mobile book library bicycle, too!
- Please arrive at Turin before 8 am. I’d encourage between 7-7:30 am to load up with books, chat it up with other volunteers and get specific directions prior to departure. We are rolling at 8 am sharp if not slightly before. Free breakfast and coffee in it for you if you come early!
- If you have to drive to our departure location at Turin Bicycles located at 700 Lincoln Street, there is free unlimited street parking on 7th, 9th, 10th. Most other spots are limited by time.
- Please obey traffic laws and on busier streets, ride no more than two abreast. We’ll have women in Naked Women’s Racing kits helping direct traffic and blocking some intersections as well as a lead and follow car to ensure rider safety and groupo compacto. 7th Street will be slow going with the traffic lights, but if our group doesn’t make it all the way through a light, our ride leaders will wait until the group is together.
- Remember, please bring a bike trailer or backpack to load down with books. Also, please be prompt. It takes a few minutes to load the books and (wo)man the troops!
- Wear a helmet! We are trying to set a good example for the children and if they don’t protect their brain when they ride, they won’t be reading any books.
- We’ll arrive at the school hopefully around 9 and be greeted outside by all the kids. Definitely interact, give high fives and show off your bicycle! I’ll give a very quick speech to the kids and we all take the Ride for Reading pledge.
- We will bring bikes inside the school to park in the gym so you don’t have to worry about locking it up.
- We distribute books in the cafeteria. The first lunch for the children starts at 10:50 so we hope to have each class come through to pick up 3 books per student to keep before first lunch starts. Help the kids pick out books! Teachers also get to keep 5 books for their classroom if they ask you.
- You can take pictures/video with the children and we encourage this; however, please don’t photo any child wearing a bright pink “no picture” label. This is very important.
- If you have to leave due to work or any other obligations, that is perfectly fine to leave early. We anticipate being out by 11:30 at the latest. All leftover books will be loaded into the cars (or back in your bags) and if you can stay, ride them over to a different elementary school in need that is TBD but will be close. That will take an additional 30-45 minutes and there is no interaction with kids at that school.
- We’ll have women on our team lead rides back to Turin following the delivery to the 1st school and also over to the additional elementary school so you can arrive to your car/destination safely whichever option you choose.
- Bring layers. It’s Colorado so it could rain, snow, sleet, hail or have unicorns fall from the sky. We want you to be comfortable during the delivery. Also, bring water and a snack just in case. It’s a 9 mile bike ride so you’ll probably be hungry and thirsty on your way home.
- Want to learn more about Ride for Reading? Watch this video about the experience.
- There’s a chance we’ll be featured on the news. Just a heads up because we get press every year we deliver!
- If you think a friend would enjoy this ride, then please send them the registration link!
Disclaimer: My teammates asked that I (Katey M.) write up this team race report and I acquiesced. While I can’t rightfully speak for the group, I can only provide my amateur insight, my thoughts and in return, hope I don’t piss the hell out of anyone. Enjoy!
I am not your typical racer – I prefer long solo rides, hiking tall peaks and taking Reposado shots over carbon fiber wheels, Strava kudos and Garmin stats. However, when an email was sent out to the team about a 24 hour mountain bike race in Tuscon, I jumped at the chance thinking it was time to kick start my season. 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo is known for being the largest national MTB race and hosts some 4,000 mountain bikers, gathering a mosh pit of amateur and pro racers from around the country. A windswept cacti- clad dessert is transformed into a prickly mecca of motorhomes, tents and porta potties. The course is a fast, furious 16.1 mile loop with small bouts of technical sections and 1,200ft climb. It hosts a few namesakes too. “The Bitches” are a series of small punchy climbs and decent in the first few miles of the course. While they seem mundane during a pre-ride, they are hellish at race pace. Lots of flesh has been lost on The Bitches and helicopters evacuate racers every year. Also, an aptly named “Whiskey Tree” houses bottles of moonshine, Hot Damn and various other adult libations mid-course and many a sauced fellow can be seen hooting happily by the tree as you pass. The course also hosts a rock drop. While it’s not terribly daunting, pack a handful of bikers close together and if one slightly balks, it could spell broken bones. The course offers a choice – to rock drop or not. A life size Justin Bieber cutout points to the “Belieber” route which avoids the drop, while the “Biker” route includes it. Belieber or not, you can tell, mountain bike racing is not for the fanatically clean of mouth or body. While gorgeous, expensive mountain bikes are appreciated; how you ride your beast is even more important. Tattoos, beards and beer guts are commonplace yet despite the looks, these folks can seriously rip but they also play hard too.
Heidi2 (Heidi Gurov) and I made our way to Tucson Thursday morning. The race was scheduled to start Saturday at noon. Heidi1 (Heidi Wahl) and Rachel decided to make the 18 hour trek by car. Heidi2 peppered me with stats about the race and her coach’s training schedule. She was prepared and truthfully, I felt sick. I hadn’t been on my mountain bike in three months. The last time I was actually on my MTB was a drunken pub crawl where I flipped a guard rail and broke my hanger. She was anxious to get there early, build her beloved Fate, and get out on the course. Sadly, even with our 85 mile an hour tailwind, we had a minor hiccup which forced a five and a half hour delay [read: RV trouble] We were to be picked up in our rented RV at the airport by Rachel’s friend, John. John had been working quietly behind the scenes along with Heidi1 to organize this trip and help with RV procurement, delivery, and tying up loose ends for us. Truly this man became our kit clad angel. Our RV, the Flying Dutchman, had other ideas because this behemoth decided to lie down and play dead in the airport’s cell phone waiting area with a dangerously bald, stripped to the steel belts, remains of a tire. After an abundance of calls, a tow truck, and stop at Discount Tire, we were back on course. John had befriended a race bound fellow who held anot RV spot for us. Camp space fills up wicked fast so this was music to our ears. I hugged the guy and his girlfriend even though I didn’t know them from Adam.
We made our way to the site careening down dusty roads, we looked like an episode from Breaking Bad. “Let’s cook!” Heidi2 posted keeping the world appraised of our status. My cell service left me in Tucson and wouldn’t return until after I got back to civilization a few days later. Damn you, T-Mobile.
Camp was set, bikes were built, beer was welcomed along with an odd assortment of foodstuffs including one jar of dill pickles; a request from Heidi1 which made me question an impending pregnancy but no, I found that they were simply salty, crunchy goodness after an especially mind bending lap. God bless you, jar o’ pickles.
The next day was a bluebird day and our pre-ride. I had heard about the cactus and it prickly fangs but my tires had seen nor heard nothing about these Arizona natives. ” YOU DONT HAVE STANS? DUDE,YOU NEED STANS. Behind my back whispers: “She’s running tubes! She’s gonna diiiiie.” Bewildered looks and shaking heads. “My first thought was “uh…who is Stan and why does he care so very much about my bike”. Between the group of very patient and kind souls in my group, they explained tubeless tires and that it was virtually impossible to ride the course without them. I converted that morning to Stans while Heidi2, Rachel, and Kalan (a twitterpated soul who kept us laughing the entire time) rode the course. Heidi2 shopped in 24 Hour town and I spun in circles on a Green Machine while they converted my bike. I have to say that was the best impromptu decision I’ve made in years and it ticked off another niggling inadequacy I had about racing my bike.
Race day came quickly, Bikes were staged at the bottom of a hill where the Lemans start ended. Hilarity ensued. Fit and fearsome men in pro team kits fought their way down the hill in slippery bike shoes, some were trampled and still fought their way to their bikes. Heidi2 waved our makeshift Naked flag for Rachel to see while she came down the hill. Rachel was far ahead of the masses and one of the first out on her bike and on the course. We hooted and hollered and cheered her on. A few minutes later a Pooh Bear skipped merrily along looking for his bike. Not everyone was taking this race seriously.
Rachel raced hard pressing for fastest female lap and came through with a mind altering 1:09 lap time. I was next in line. I stood in the staging area with music vibrating in my ears to calm my nerves. For a 24 hour race, each relay team is given a small wooden baton. You are required to pass this baton from teammate to teammate. Lose your baton and well, you DNF. Point is: don’t lose the baton. We tried shoving it down sport bras (didn’t work) and settled for the front of leg or back jersey pocket. In the staging area where you wait for your teammate to pass the baton, a large projector screen displays arriving team numbers on the ceiling along with an emcee who also doles out bad jokes (ie What do you call a cow with three legs? Ground Beef) Rachel came flying in and our transition was smooth. I had staged my bike outside the tent further than the multitudes because I knew I could run through the first section faster and have more room to hop on my bike. The course was fast and hellishly narrow through a variety of cactus – some have cruel fishing hooks covering their bodies, some look like soft little teddy bears but with razor sharp paws and some cactus just want to kiss you for no apparent reason. Know this, if you are not dead center on the trail, the cactus gods become enraged. They will gather, display their meaty, needle sharp armored bodies and eat you alive. No, seriously dude, they will.
Even giving cactus wide berth, I knew this race was going to be tough. I hadn’t properly trained and I got passed by a multitude of men flying by me at staggering speeds. It seemed like they were floating through the air while I mashed my pedals. The headwind was brutal and sadly I became the one to pull everyone through the cactus corridors. Letting all these men pass me was humbling. I told one racer to pass on the left, he passed on the right and knocked me into a cactus. It stung but I kept going with this large thorny mass attached to my glove. It took pliers and a steady hand from Heidi1 to pull them out after my lap. I came into the staging area with a 1:22 lap time. Heidi2 took off like a rabbit on her lap and came in with an impressive 1:14 time. Heidi1 was next in line and crushed it with a 1:23. We were already in the lead with sub 1:30 laps and it gave us incentive to keep it that way. Rachel went out for her second lap with night lights just in case but she came in so quickly with a 1:13 that dusk had barely begun. I took our first official night lap. I can’t speak for the others, but I prefer riding at night. By this second lap, racers has spread out significantly making it easier to maneuver however, my head lamp burned out part way through so I eeked my way to the finish and came in with a 1:24. Heidi2 came in for her first night lap with 1:18 and Heidi1 with a 1:33. We were still almost an entire lap ahead of the second place team.
Nutrition and recovery is critical for these longer races – that is, if you want to win. You rest, you eat, you digest best you can, repair any bike issues and before you know it you’re dressed again and on your way to the staging area. For me, sleep was elusive as was digestion. Somehow it behooved me to eat about 2lbs of pork with green chilis after the second lap. In those wee hours in the morning, my stomach decided to revolt. I found out this is called “gut rot”. When really you should just throw up, I rolled around like a flatulent otter in the RV. One of the guys gave me a shot of Pepto. I didn’t have the wherewithal to ask if this pink goo was gluten free cause the porta potty was my BFF already. We still pulled off some amazing night times and kept our lead but it started to get a little closer with a bad crash on The Bitches that kept Rachel at a standstill for a spell.
Since three of my four laps were at night, I feel I got the best deal watching the sun come over the horizon to start the new day. The sky was this amazing blood red. While I rode, this guy and I talked about how vivid, saturated, and beautiful the sky was. I was tired yet I realized I was blessed to be a part of this community of fast fit women cyclists and this temporary 24 hour community of mountain bikers.
Final laps were made and the line up changed toward the end leaving Heidi2 and Rachel to secure our win (despite getting a flat in the final lap two miles in on The Bitches). Heidi1 gave us 3 impressive laps, me with 4 laps, Heidi2 with 5 and Rachel with 6. 288 miles and 18 laps brought us the first place win. We were ecstatic and very proud Naked girls on the podium. We celebrated briefly, packed up quickly and 24 hour town deconstructed in moments. What once was brimming with activity a few hours earlier became a quiet, sleepy venue with an epic trail– restored to what it is year round. This race has become a memory of comradery, patience, a few scratches, and one remaining half jar of pickles.