Category Archives: General Stuff
Cathy has some great reminders about the off-season told through two stories of learning how to ride a bike. Worth a read!
Last winter we had an eye opening clinic with Julie Emmerman. She asked a simple question, “Why do you race?”. Everyone had a different reason and story, with various emotions that were stirred up. My reason was as simple as the question: I race because it’s fun! It’s probably safe to say that we all ride because bikes are fun or at least that’s why we start. If you have gotten caught up with training, racing, and everything that comes with this sport, take a step back. It is the off-season for the roadies, and a good time to reflect.
Remember when you first learned to ride? Do you remember the exhilaration of taking off and being free to go where your bike took you? I hope you can remember, or at least remind yourself of that time, and use it to refuel yourself for whatever goals and challenges you are facing. I had the distinct pleasure of helping two people learn to have more fun by learning to ride bikes this summer, and was reminded of the raw pleasure of riding.
My daughter had ridden a balance bike since she was two, but froze when we put pedals beneath her. They got in the way, and the coaster brake freaked her out. After a few frustrating practice rides my husband and I decided it wasn’t worth pushing her. We both love riding and didn’t want to turn her off by forcing her to ride. So this summer (nearly two years later) she mentioned taking her bike to a field to practice, and we go her to that field pronto! She banged up her shins, fell, cried, but kept getting up. Her tenacity was inspiring. She owned the whole experience and wasn’t giving up. After a few days she took off and squealed with joy while she yelled, “I’m doing it! I’m riding!”. And now, she’s tearing it up and loving every minute of it.
The second person I helped was considerably older than my six year old daughter, but no less inspirational. This professional woman sought out a cycling coach, me, to help her to learn to ride. This special client of mine had never ridden a bike – as in never ever. I jumped at the opportunity! How amazing is it to have an adult admit that she doesn’t know how to ride, face her fears, buy a bicycle, and actually learn to ride?!? Well, she did it, and in a very short amount of time. Our first session was about one and a half hours long. That was just to get the sensation of balance. No pedals, no steering, just balance. She struggled, but she slowly gained ground in between the fumbles. You could see her determination. Talk about being in the zone! She was focused and persisted even with strangers looking on. The next time we met she was pedaling! She learned to ride her bike! I could barely contain myself, and was so proud this woman I had met less than one week before.
I am honored that I could help these two ladies, and thankful that I could witness them both learn to overcome some pretty darn big challenges. I hope you can harness the fun as you tackle your own challenges next season!
*My client happily agreed to share her story publicly in the hopes that it will inspire other adults to learn to ride a bike. If you don’t know how to ride leave a comment and this supportive community of cyclists will answer!
Natalia climbed 10,023 feet in one fell swoop, tackling Maui’s Haleakala. Add this to your bucket list! Read more about her island adventures…
Hawaii was never on the list of places I wanted to visit. I like to travel off the beaten path and see places that most people wouldn’t dare visiting, but in 2012 it all changed. The ‘travel bug’ bit me and I had to pack my suitcase and go somewhere, anywhere. The problem was I could not find anyone to join me and I thought to myself why would no one want to go on a trip? But this didn’t stop me. I never traveled alone before so I wanted to go somewhere were a girl traveling solo would be safe. I also wanted to go somewhere where the roads are suitable for cycling. In 2006 my cousin moved to Maui so I thought I could go visit her. I’ve heard of the beautiful beaches, magnificent waterfalls, mountains, sea turtles, hot surfer dudes, but what had me convinced was the infamous ‘cycle to the sun’ bike race. Two weeks later I was on the plane.
When I arrived in Maui I was in a complete awe. While most people spend most of their Maui vacations sprawled on the beach perfecting their golden tan, I spent countless hours in the saddle sharpening my biker (not farmer!) tan lines. Since Maui is home to Haleakala, deemed the ‘world’s longest paved climb’ I had to check it out. The ride starts at sea level in a small beach town of Paia and ends at the top of a dormant volcano crater at 10,023 feet. If you are trying to do the math and are thinking is it over 10,000 feet of continuous climbing? You are correct. The 36-mile long silky smooth road takes you through several climate changes and the views are so breathtaking that you never notice the pain and lactic acid building up in every muscle of your body. The ride was everything and much more than I imagined. It was hard but also one of the rides I will never forget.
While I absolutely love discovering new place by bike, I am always amazed by how warm and welcoming cycling communities are anywhere I go. I don’t mind riding by myself but I rarely get to do that. Anywhere I ride I always meet people and we end up riding together. My new cyclist friends showed me the hidden gems around the island and made me feel like I was a local.
My time spent in Maui was an unforgettable experience. I rode my bike, I hiked the mountains, I saw waterfalls, rainbows, painted trees, pineapple fields, huge see turtles, and I even got to do some kiteboarding. I almost forgot, I did see some hot surfers too
After that trip I was hooked on Maui! It has become my favorite vacation destination, but it wasn’t until this fall when I returned to the island.
My second trip to Maui was just as good as the first one and it was the perfect way to end the racing season and prolong my summer. I kept in touch with the cyclists I met during my first visit and I got to ride with them again and they showed me new roads around the island. By now I can say that I have explored most of the island by bike, but unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to tackle the infamous Haleakala climb again. I’ll just have to come back again soon!
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.
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.
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.”
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!
Brittany tried a few tactics to get through the mud as cleanly as possible this weekend, but there was no escaping it whether you ran, rode or did a combination of both. She still managed a 5th place spot! Read more about the muck and fun!
Try it and see what happens.
I’ve said that two weeks in a row with very different results.
I’m typically very conservative during races. The old rule of “don’t try new things on race day” extends to technical obstacles and even so far as not deviating from a line or approach that seems to have been at least OK the previous lap.
Every year that I can remember Primalpalooza has had a section of baby barriers. Lots (if not most) people ride right over them. I’d never been brave enough to attempt it before, but this year I tried it in my warm-up. Not only was it doable, I found it remarkably easy! That little move saved me a ton of time in the race and ultimately helped me land a spot on the podium. I know I wouldn’t have been able to ride those barriers in years past, so it’s nice to have a tangible marker of skill progression.
This week at Cross of the North race 2 however, I had a slightly different experience. No barrier experimentation, but I changed up my approach mid-race. The race featured a long, slightly turn-y stretch of deep, sloppy, thick clay mud. During my warm-up, I’d muscled through the first corner without needing to dismount and was able to again power through the last bad corner. I wasn’t racing at that point—I was mostly just trying to keep mud out of my cleats and pedals before the race started. It was hard and I didn’t ride through it quickly. But I rode at least part of it, and for the rest of my warm-up I stewed on whether to try it during the race. Would it be faster than running or would it be better to carry my bike and not add twenty pounds of mud to the rims right before I try to accelerate up a climb?
The first lap, the woman in front of me dismounted and I was forced to brake, dismount and run. I passed at least one person and was closing down the gap on 3rd place, so running the entire long stretch seemed to be at least OK. I still felt slower than I wanted to be. By the time we came to that stretch on the 2nd lap, I was sitting in 3rd with a 12-year old close behind me. I again dismounted and ran the entire stretch. I opened up the gap a bit more, but was worried I was working too hard trying to sprint through the over-the-ankle deep mud.
The 3rd time through the mud pit I decide to change my tactic. I had a solid hold on 3rd place at this point, and it looked like 2nd place was fading a bit. My race-addled brain kept saying, “It’s rideable! Ride it! The sun is out, it’s warm—the mud is drying up and you can ride through it faster than you can run with twenty pounds of mud on your feet!” So I rode…until my bike just stopped moving and stuck in place. I awkwardly bailed off, un-suctioned the wheels from the slop, and clumsily dropped a twenty-pound heavier bike on my perpetually bruised shoulder. Then, I “ran” through the mud, gaining another several pounds on my feet. Back on the bike, and the mud-covered wheels refused to get up the hill without considerably more effort on my part. The 12-year old in 4th place had closed down the gap between us. I managed to stay in front for the remainder of that lap, but she and another rider came around me on the final lap (on which I reverted to my previous tactic of running the entire mud stretch), knocking me from 3rd to 5th.
I can’t say I that if I’d consistently run the mud I would have—without question—won a podium spot, but trying to ride it clearly and certainly did not help me hang on to that 3rd position. So, I guess you take chances and sometimes they pan out and sometimes they don’t.
Photo Credits: Ilavee Jones
Susan A. raced under the lights for Cross of the North. Just take a peek at those shoes and you can decide the conditions on the course that night!
Today’s (or rather tonight’s) race was under the lights and in the mud. I have raced at night once before, but that course was dry, so tonight’s conditions brought an extra challenge. I was well prepared for this race as I had everything I needed including a headlamp. The sun has been going down around 6pm and my race started at 7:30pm, so getting dressed in the dark required patience, which is sometimes hard when those race nerves start kicking in. But I did a great job of remaining calm and the whole process reminded me of camping.
After warming up on my trainer, chomping down on some scones and a triple shot of espresso, I hopped on my race bike to take a few laps on the road. It was hard to see anything or anyone, especially those wearing their all black “ninja” skinsuits. There was a full moon, but it was hiding under the thick layer of clouds. I head over to the start line to find out that my race is delayed, because several lights on the course have blown out. The officials are in the process of getting cars parked next to the course so the headlights can provide some light.
My focus for this race is to test out my new tubular wheels and to have a strong start. The whistle blows and we are off and I can’t get my left foot clipped in, it’s frustrating… it’s not like it’s the first time I’ve had this problem, I say to myself, but maybe I’m overthinking it, just like swinging a golf club, the more one thinks about hitting the ball the more likely one will miss it.
Anyway, I move on from that and focus on the race. Is it difficult to see? Yes, at times, but I think that is a good thing because it narrows one’s focus to the task at hand, and removes some of the distractions from seeing the entire course. On the first lap, I get hung up behind a few racers, but I was able to pass them when I chose to ride through the mud bog while they ran it…I didn’t want to get my shoes dirty
And so far I’m loving my tires and wheels, but as the race continues and the mud gets caked on, my front wheel starts acting strange. For some reason I think that it’s the mud causing the problem. (after the race I realize the problem was actually a flat tire) so I reach my hand over the handlebar, configure my fingers in an upside down peace sign and place them on either side of my tire to get the extra mud off. I do this several times and then decide maybe I should switch to my pit bike? I start having an internal dialog, debating whether or not I should. I finally decide to swap bikes. The pit is right next to the big mud bog and I know will have to ride a portion of it before I can go into the pit zone.
A bit distracted and not focusing on the best line in the mud, I go down, sliding across the mud. I get up, grab my bike, run into the pit, swap bikes and off I go. Awhhhh…much better! A fresh clean bike, but it’s a lap too late. The next thing I know, Amanda Miller (Hudz-Subaru) and Katie Clouse (Canyon Bicycles-Shimano) are inching up on a few of us. I’m about to get lapped by the leaders who have a 3+ minute lead on the next racer in the group…these ladies are flying. The race announcer is giving a play by play of the battle between these two ladies, one a seasoned Pro and the other a young teenager. Who wins this battle?? Katie Clouse, the teenager, the future of professional women’s racing…impressive!
Gayle suffered through the mud in day 1 of a 3-day cross weekend. Here’s to hoping tomorrow is a bit less peanut-buttery!
Notes to Self:
1. Win lottery so you have enough money for a second bike.
2. Put said lotto bike in the pit at SludgeFest…aka Cross of the North
2. Bring pit people to powerwash your sludgey bike each lap and return to you a clean one.
Inevitably it rained Thursday night, a lot! At 1:00 I rode a preview lap and it was so muddy I had to stop and clean my bike a bunch of times an powerwash mid-way through the lap. I finished it off, cleaned my bike and finished my warm up on the road. By 2:30 the course had firmed up a little with the help of the sun and crazy wind.
I was first off the line and held a lead the first lap and a half or so…I even managed to get the prime (score!) I managed to stay relatively free of mud build until the second lap. This is when the smart ladies swapped to their pit bikes and smartly to mtn bikes too. As the mud built up more and more I could barely spin my wheels. Looking back I probably should have hopped off and cleared out the mud from my wheels and shoes real quick, but I didn’t.
I finished 4th, not bad, but I was certainly a little bummed. I learned a lot and look forward to my next adventure in SludgeLand. Good Luck to everyone who races later this weekend. As the course dries out a little you will be fast and furious!
Jenny – our youngest super star on the team – is coming back from injury. Hard to do especially when your season pre-injury is on fire! But it didn’t keep her down. Read more:
In one of the last races of an amazing road season, I had a bad crash. I was racing in the SW4’s in the Littleton Crit. when the person in front of me went down suddenly. She took me out near the end of the race and I broke a small bone in my right hand. Three days later I was getting an x-ray and off the bike! I was out for the rest of the season and had a cast for four weeks. Even though I couldn’t ride outside I was on the trainer everyday getting ready for the upcoming cross season!
As soon as I got my cast off and got the ‘okay’ from my doctor I was on my bike and had already signed up for my first cross race barely a week later. My first race of the season wasn’t only my first time racing in over 5 weeks, it was also my first cross race as a 3! I was quite nervous to get back out there, but once I lined up and the race started I remembered how much fun cyclocross is! Even though I was dying the entire time I had an amazing time racing with all my teammates again. In the end I got last place but I couldn’t be happier with just finishing!
Crashing in a race and getting a bad injury can be very discouraging. You just have to jump on the trainer and let yourself heal so you can come back next season stronger than ever!
Melanie Wong rips the bandaid off and gets her first cyclocross race of the season under her belt.
You know that moment of panic when you realize you’re completely unprepared for what’s about to happen? Yeah, that was me at the start of the Boulder Cup cyclocross race at Valmont Bike Park in Boulder.
It was my first cyclocross race of the season, and the first one I had done for almost an entire year. It was a brisk morning and I was still slightly groggy from the 8 a.m. start time, but I jerked to attention when the announcer counted down 10 seconds.
“Wait, I’m not ready!” I wanted to yell.
Off we went, and after clipping in and grabbing onto the back of the pack, things began to feel familiar. Valmont is a fun course with a lot of climbing and mountain-bike style dirt track. I charged up some of the steep, but short grass climbs, squirreled my way through the sand, and was pleased to find I was not only keeping up but picking off riders one by one.
My favorite part of the course was the grand staircase, where people would gather to watch the action. For some reason those stairs were just the right height for my short legs to bound up them.
Alas, I lost some time on the gravel-y turns and corners, and I only worked my way about 1/3 of the way up the pack before succumbing to tired legs.
I finished, wide awake and grinning. Let the cross season begin!
Perfect title for Katie Whidden one of our road teammates as she competed in her first cyclocross this past weekend.
This weekend I competed in my first cross race and felt a certain level of vulnerability that I have not felt in a while. One of my blessings is that I am typically confident enough to try different sports or athletic activities because I have always been able to pick up on them quickly. For some reason though I was more nervous about this race than I usually am. I started out in endurance sports as a triathlete and have only been mountain biking for 8 months so I am still learning how a bike responds on dirt. I have fallen a few times and while I now understand I won’t die if I fall, I do know that it can really hurt and take a few days or weeks to heal. After some nudging from teammate Brittany Jones I finally decided this was a perfect fall day to try cyclocross.
Before the race I was feeling pre-race nerves that I hadn’t had in a while. I had signed up for the unknown. Would I embarrass myself and eat it into a barrier on a dismount, would I slide out in a corner or worse yet hold up an entire line of girls trying to race? These were all thoughts that passed through my mind before the race. Having Naked teammates to warm up with and talk with before the race really helped. Katie Harrer, Helen Prieto, and Cathy Goodheart were racing in category 4 with me. Emily Zinn and Brittany Jones were our seasoned mentors in category 3. All of them have raced cross at least once and provided advice that was able to calm some of the nerves.
One thing I was never warned about was call ups. I know positioning is important before you hit the dirt so I was planning on having a good starting spot but the USAC official came by to call us up into specific rows. This surprised me and I was unfortunately called in the 2nd to last line out of the 50 girls that were racing in my category. The start played out exactly opposite as I was hoping. I got stuck behind a pile up the moment we hit dirt. I managed to stay on my bike but continued to have a messy first lap. I was braking in every corner, nervous of all the girls behind me hating me for my bad handling skills and slightly nervous that I would blow up because I wasn’t sure if my fitness was ready for cross. However, something happened on the 2nd lap. I played to my strengths and powered up every asphalt section to pass as many racers as possible. I knew my cornering and lack of dismounting skills would slow me down so I needed to be smart and suffer when I could and stay upright through everything else. I ended up feeling much more confident and flowing through the corners with more ease. This race alone has forced me to sharpen up my skills in a way that I wasn’t doing during training rides with friends. My competitive drive took over and I knew I had to put my big girl pants on and start racing like I know how to ride bikes. By the last lap of the race I knew I would be back for more. This was way too fun and I could tell there was tons of improvement that I could do to help me go faster.
For those of you who are struggling to convince yourself to make the leap to actually race cyclocross I suggest you step out of your comfort zone and experience another fun way to ride bikes. It is important for us to put ourselves in situations in our life where we know we aren’t going to see immediate success and where we will potentially embarrass ourselves. This is how we grow and add excitement to our life. Being what I consider a “freshman” at something doesn’t end in college. We should put ourselves into these types of situations as much as possible. This will keep us mentally and physically fresh because learning something new should never end. I challenge you to embrace the feeling of vulnerability and try something new whether that be cross or any other activity that puts you in an uncomfortable place.